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.

*

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

This article was originally published on 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

AOpinionLeave a comment

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

فيديوات متعلقة

مقالات متعلقة

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.

Why the New Silk Roads are a ‘threat’ to US bloc

Modern day traders on the ancient Silk Road track in Central Asia. Photo: Facebook

The Middle East is the key to wide-ranging, economic, interlinked integration, and peace

By PEPE ESCOBAR

Under the cascading roar of the 24/7 news cycle cum Twitter eruptions, it’s easy for most of the West, especially the US, to forget the basics about the interaction of Eurasia with its western peninsula, Europe.

Asia and Europe have been trading goods and ideas since at least 3,500 BC. Historically, the flux may have suffered some occasional bumps – for instance, with the irruption of 5th-century nomad horsemen in the Eurasian plains. But it was essentially steady up to the end of the 15th century. We can essentially describe it as a millennium-old axis – from Greece to Persia, from the Roman empire to China.

A land route with myriad ramifications, through Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, linking India and China to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea, ended up coalescing into what we came to know as the Ancient Silk Roads.

By the 7th century, land routes and sea trade routes were in direct competition. And the Iranian plateau always played a key role in this process.

The Iranian plateau historically includes Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia linking it to Xinjiang to the east, and to the west all the way to Anatolia. The Persian empire was all about land trade – the key node between India and China and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Persians engaged the Phoenicians in the Syrian coastline as their partners to manage sea trade in the Mediterranean. Enterprising people in Tyre established Carthage as a node between the Eastern and Western Mediterranean. Because of the partnership with the Phoenicians, the Persians would inevitably be antagonized by the Greeks – a sea trading power.

When the Chinese, promoting the New Silk Roads, emphasize “people to people exchange” as one of its main traits, they mean the millenary Euro-Asia dialogue. History may even have aborted two massive, direct encounters.

The first was after Alexander The Great defeated Darius III of Persia. But then Alexander’s Seleucid successors had to fight the rising power in Central Asia: the Parthians – who ended up taking over Persia and Mesopotamia and made the Euphrates the limes between them and the Seleucids.

The second encounter was when emperor Trajan, in 116 AD, after defeating the Parthians, reached the Persian Gulf. But Hadrian backed off – so history did not register what would have been a direct encounter between Rome, via Persia, with India and China, or the Mediterranean meeting with the Pacific.

Mongol globalization

The last western stretch of the Ancient Silk Roads was, in fact, a Maritime Silk Road. From the Black Sea to the Nile delta, we had a string of pearls in the form of Italian city/emporia, a mix of end journey for caravans and naval bases, which then moved Asian products to Italian ports.

Commercial centers between Constantinople and Crimea configured another Silk Road branch through Russia all the way to Novgorod, which was very close culturally to the Byzantine world. From Novgorod, merchants from Hamburg and other cities of the Hanseatic League distributed Asian products to markets in the Baltics, northern Europe and all the way to England – in parallel to the southern routes followed by the maritime Italian republics.

Between the Mediterranean and China, the Ancient Silk Roads were of course mostly overland. But there were a few maritime routes as well. The major civilization poles involved were peasant and artisanal, not maritime. Up to the 15th century, no one was really thinking about turbulent, interminable oceanic navigation.

The main players were China and India in Asia, and Italy and Germany in Europe. Germany was the prime consumer of goods imported by the Italians. That explains, in a nutshell, the structural marriage of the Holy Roman Empire.

At the geographic heart of the Ancient Silk Roads, we had deserts and the vast steppes, trespassed by sparse tribes of shepherds and nomad hunters. All across those vast lands north of the Himalayas, the Silk Road network served mostly the four main players. One can imagine how the emergence of a huge political power uniting all those nomads would be in fact the main beneficiary of Silk Road trade.

Well, that actually happened. Things started to change when the nomad shepherds of Central-South Asia started to have their tribes regimented as horseback archers by politico-military leaders such as Genghis Khan.

Welcome to the Mongol globalization. That was actually the fourth globalization in history, after the Syrian, the Persian and the Arab.    Under the Mongolian Ilkhanate, the Iranian plateau – once again playing a major role – linked China to the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia in the Mediterranean.

The Mongols didn’t go for a Silk Road monopoly. On the contrary: during Kublai Khan – and Marco Polo’s travels – the Silk Road was free and open. The Mongols only wanted caravans to pay a toll.

With the Turks, it was a completely different story. They consolidated Turkestan, from Central Asia to northwest China. The only reason Tamerlan did not annex India is that he died beforehand. But even the Turks did not want to shut down the Silk Road. They wanted to control it.

Venice lost its last direct Silk Road access in 1461, with the fall of Trebizond, which was still clinging to the Byzantine empire. With the Silk Road closed to the Europeans, the Turks – with an empire ranging from Central-South Asia to the Mediterranean – were convinced they now controlled trade between Europe and Asia.

Not so fast. Because that was when European kingdoms facing the Atlantic came up with the ultimate Plan B: a new maritime road to India.

And the rest – North Atlantic hegemony – is history.

Enlightened arrogance

The Enlightenment could not possibly box Asia inside its own rigid geometries. Europe ceased to understand Asia, proclaimed it was some sort of proteiform historical detritus and turned its undivided attention to “virgin,” or “promised” lands elsewhere on the planet.

We all know how England, from the 18th century onwards, took control of the entire trans-oceanic routes and turned North Atlantic supremacy into a lone superpower game – till the mantle was usurped by the US.

Yet all the time there has been counter-pressure from the Eurasian Heartland powers. That’s the stuff of international relations for the past two centuries – peaking in the young 21st century into what could be simplified as The Revenge of the Heartland against Sea Power. But still, that does not tell the whole story.

Rationalist hegemony in Europe progressively led to an incapacity to understand diversity – or The Other, as in Asia. Real Euro-Asia dialogue – the de facto true engine of history – had been dwindling for most of the past two centuries.

Europe owes its DNA not only to much-hailed Athens and Rome – but to Byzantium as well. But for too long not only the East but also the European East, heir to Byzantium, became incomprehensible, quasi incommunicado with Western Europe, or submerged by pathetic clichés.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as in the Chinese-led New Silk Roads, are a historical game-changer in infinite ways. Slowly and surely, we are evolving towards the configuration of an economically interlinked group of top Eurasian land powers, from Shanghai to the Ruhr valley, profiting in a coordinated manner from the huge technological know-how of Germany and China and the enormous energy resources of Russia.

The Raging 2020s may signify the historical juncture when this bloc surpasses the current, hegemonic Atlanticist bloc.

Now compare it with the prime US strategic objective at all times, for decades: to establish, via myriad forms of divide and rule, that relations between Germany, Russia and China must be the worst possible.

No wonder strategic fear was glaringly visible at the NATO summit in London last month, which called for ratcheting up pressure on Russia-China. Call it the late Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski’s ultimate, recurrent nightmare.

Germany soon will have a larger than life decision to make. It’s like this was a renewal – in way more dramatic terms – of the Atlanticist vs Ostpolitik debate. German business knows that the only way for a sovereign Germany to consolidate its role as a global export powerhouse is to become a close business partner of Eurasia.

In parallel, Moscow and Beijing have come to the conclusion that the  US trans-oceanic strategic ring can only be broken through the actions of a concerted block: BRI, Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), BRICS+ and the BRICS’ New Development Bank (NDB), the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Middle East pacifier

The Ancient Silk Road was not a single camel caravan route but an inter-communicating maze. Since the mid-1990s I’ve had the privilege to travel almost every important stretch – and then, one day, you see the complete puzzle. The New Silk Roads, if they fulfill their potential, pledge to do the same.

Maritime trade may be eventually imposed – or controlled – by a global naval superpower. But overland trade can only prosper in peace. Thus the New Silk Roads potential as The Great Pacifier in Southwest Asia – what the Western-centric view calls the Middle East.

The Middle East (remember Palmyra) was always a key hub of the Ancient Silk Roads, the great overland axis of Euro-Asia trade going all the way to the Mediterranean.

For centuries, a quartet of regional powers – Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and Persia (now Iran) – have been fighting for hegemony over the whole area from the Nile delta to the Persian Gulf. More recently, it has been a case of external hegemony: Ottoman Turk, British and American.

So delicate, so fragile, so immensely rich in culture, no other region in the world has been, continually, since the dawn of history, an absolutely key zone. Of course, the Middle East was also a crisis zone even before oil was found (the Babylonians, by the way, already knew about it).

The Middle East is a key stop in the 21st century, trans-oceanic supply chain routes – thus its geopolitical importance for the current superpower, among other geoeconomic, energy-related reasons. But its best and brightest know the Middle East does not need to remain a center of war, or intimations of war, which, incidentally, affect three of those historical, regional powers of the quartet (Syria, Iraq and Iran).

What the New Silk Roads are proposing is wide-ranging, economic, interlinked integration from East Asia, through Central Asia, to Iran, Iraq and Syria all the way to the Eastern Mediterranean. Just like the Ancient Silk Roads. No wonder vested War Party interests are so uncomfortable with this real peace “threat.”

The New Russian Government

A much needed evolution but not a revolution

THE SAKER • JANUARY 22, 2020 

The suspense is over and we now know the names of all the members of the new Russian government. You can, for example, take this good summary published by RT.

What is important right now is not only what did happen, but also what did NOT happen. I will begin with two extremely important things which did NOT happen:

First, the Russian government has NOT remained unchanged. The naysayers had predicted that nothing at all would change, that the same folks who be sitting in maybe different seats, but that the changes would be primarily cosmetic. That did not happen. In reality 12 people kept their seats and another 9 were replaced.

Second, this was NOT a total gutting of the Atlantic Integrationist block. Most visibly, Anton Siluanov remained as head of the Finance Ministry. However, Siluanov was demoted from his position as First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia which has now been taken by Andrei Belousov, a huge change indeed. As for Medvedev, he was given a “golden promotion” to the largely technical position as Vice Chairman of the Security Council of Russia.

So what has taken place?

Most Russian observers notice two key things:

First, this is a highly competent, technically skilled, government. Truly, and arguably for the first time, each position in the new cabinet is now occupied by a professional whose expertise is recognized by all.

Second, this is very much a non-ideological government. This is not to say that the social and economic policies of Russia will not change, they will and the new government clearly indicates that, especially with the nominations of Prime Minister Mishustin and his First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov: these are both on record as very much proponents of what is called “state capitalism” in Russia: meaning an economic philosophy in which the states does not stifle private entrepreneurship, but one in which the state is directly and heavily involved in creating the correct economic conditions for the government and private sector to grow. Most crucially, “state capitalism” also subordinates the sole goal of the corporate world (making profits) to the interests of the state and, therefore, to the interests of the people.

In other words, goodbye turbocapitalism à la Atlantic Integrationists!

Russia has now made the fight against poverty a national strategic priority, something which the Russian people had wanted for years and which the previous “economic block” never considered a priority.

Furthermore, the entire Eurasian Sovereignists block of the government has remained unchanged. This indicates two things:

First, the Russian national security and foreign policy will remain unchanged.

Second, the Eurasian Sovereignists have finally weakened the Atlantic Integrationists to such a degree that a Medvedev nicely “boxed in” in the Russian Security Council or a Siluanov “boxed in” in the new Russian government have ceased to represent a serious threat to the future of Russia.

In other words – we can expect the new government to put even much more efforts into the ultimate goal of the full sovereignization of Russia (this goal is also reflected in the new Constitutional changes which will now place Russian national laws above any international treaty or agreements, another longtime goal of the Eurasian Sovereignists).

All I can say here is “finally!!”.

Another important thing which we can note is that Putin decided to work through evolution, not revolution. In fact, he has described this new government as a “balanced” one. There are many, including myself, who would have preferred not to see the names Medvedev and Siluanov again, but there are also many (possibly many more) who seeing these names still present might be reassured that Russia is not about to embark on a radically different political course. Frankly, I think that over the past century Russia has had enough revolutions, wars, big upheavals and terrible tragedies. There IS something to be said for stability and a gradual correction of course.

Furthermore, a new government which appears to have been formed purely on the merit of its individual members can probably generate much more support than a radically ideological one.

Where does all this leave Russia?

I would say that the Eurasian Sovereignists have finally secured their full control over the Russian state and that the demise of the Atlantic Integrationists is now a new fact of life. Since in this new government the only clearly identifiable group besides the Eurasian Sovereignists are the technocrats, this give Russia a much better chance to stand strong and united in the face of an AngloZionist Empire which has now clearly become unpredictable and therefore very dangerous (the murder of Soleimani is the best example of the actions of an Empire which has totally lost any sense of reality).

It is also interesting to note the reaction of the propaganda outlets for the Empire. Here are two of my favorite ones:

* * *

While the western “Russia experts” are usually folks who know close to nothing about Russia and the little they do not, they don’t understand, it is reassuring (and, let’s be honest here, heart warming) to see the impotent rage felt by the defenders of the AngloZionist Empire who clearly have lost control of Russia (in spite of being in TOTAL control of the Russia of the 1990s!).

Finally, the appointment of this new government leaves the Russian opposition – both the “official” parliamentary opposition and the so-called “non-system” opposition – in total disarray: the former only pretends to oppose the policies of the Kremlin while the latter is so terminally discredited that it can’t even make it into the Duma. This lack of any credible opposition might appear desirable, especially for those who, like myself, support the Kremlin, but in reality it is just another facet of a much deeper problem: Russia remains a country defined by one person, Putin, and not by a healthy and stable political system. The latest reforms did take a few very good steps in the right direction (the Duma’s powers and responsibilities have been increased), but Russia will remain “Putin’s country” for the foreseeable future.

MILITARY AND POLITICAL TRENDS OF 2019 THAT WILL SHAPE 2020

South Front

In the year 2019 the world was marked with a number of emerging and developing crises. The threat of terrorism, conflicts in the Middle East, expanding instability in South America, never-ending military, political and humanitarian crises in Africa and Asia, expansion of NATO, insecurity inside the European Union, sanction wars and sharpening conflicts between key international players. One more factor that shaped the international situation throughout the year was the further collapse of the existing system of international treaties. The most widely known examples of this tendency are the collapse of the INF and the US announcement of plans to withdraw from the New START. Meanwhile, the deterioration of diplomatic mechanisms between key regional and global actors is much wider than these two particular cases. It includes such fields as NATO-Russia relations, the US posture towards Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, unsuccessful attempts to rescue vestiges of the Iran nuclear deal, as well as recent setbacks in the diplomatic formats created to de-escalate the Korean conflict.

One of the regions of greatest concern in the world, is the Middle East. The main destabilizing factors are the remaining terrorist threat from al-Qaeda and ISIS, the crises in Libya, Syria and Iraq, the ongoing Saudi invasion of Yemen, the deepening Israeli-Arab conflict, and a threat of open military confrontation involving the US and Iran in the Persian Gulf. These factors are further complicated by social and economic instability in several regional countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and even Iran.

After the defeat of ISIS, the war in Syria entered a low intensity phase. However, it appears that the conflict is nowhere near its end and the country remains a point of instability in the region.

ISIS cells are still active in the country. The announced US troop withdrawal appeared to be only an ordinary PR stunt as US forces only changed their main areas of presence to the oil-rich areas in northeastern Syria. Washington exploits its control over Syrian resources and influence on the leadership of the Syrian Kurds in order to effect the course of the conflict. The Trump administration sees Syria as one of the battlegrounds in the fight against the so-called Iranian threat.

The province of Idlib and its surrounding areas remain the key stronghold of radical militant groups in Syria. Over the past years, anti-government armed groups suffered a series of defeats across the country and withdrew towards northwestern Syria. The decision of the Syrian Army to allow encircled militants to withdraw towards Idlib enabled the rescue of thousands of civilians, who were being used by them as human shields in such areas as Aleppo city and Eastern Ghouta. At the same time, this increased significantly the already high concentration of militants in Greater Idlib turning it into a hotbed of radicalism and terrorism. The ensuing attempts to separate the radicals from the so-called moderate opposition and then to neutralize them, which took place within the framework of the Astana format involving Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia, made no progress.

The Summer-Fall advance of the Syrian Army in northern Hama and southern Idlib led to the liberation of a large area from the militants. Nevertheless, strategically, the situation is still the same. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly the official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, controls most of the area. Turkish-backed ‘moderate militants’ act shoulder to shoulder with terrorist groups.

Turkey is keen to prevent any possible advances of the government forces in Idlib. Therefore it supports further diplomatic cooperation with Russia and Iran to promote a ‘non-military’ solution of the issue. However it does not seem to have enough influence with the Idlib militant groups, in particular HTS, to impose a ceasefire on them at the present time. Ankara could take control of the situation, but it would need a year or two that it does not have. Therefore, a new round of military escalation in the Idlib zone seems to be only a matter of time.

Syria’s northeast is also a source of tensions. Turkey seized a chunk of territory between Ras al-Ayn and Tell Abyad in the framework of its Operation Peace Spring. The large-scale Turkish advance on Kurdish armed groups was halted by the Turkish-Russian ‘safe zone’ agreement and now the Syrian Army and the Russian Military Police are working to separate Kurdish rebels from Turkish proxies and to stabilize Syria’s northeast. If this is successfully done and the Assad government reaches a political deal with Kurdish leaders, conditions for further peaceful settlement of the conflict in this part of the country will be created. It should be noted that Damascus has been contributing extraordinary efforts to restore the infrastructure in areas liberated from terrorists by force or returned under its control by diplomatic means. In the eyes of the local population, these actions have an obvious advantage over approaches of other actors controlling various parts of Syria.

Israel is another actor pursuing an active policy in the region. It seeks to influence processes which could affect, what the leadership sees as, interests of the state. Israel justifies aggressive actions in Syria by claiming to be surrounded by irreconcilable enemies, foremost Iran and Hezbollah, who try to destroy Israel or at least diminish its security. Tel Aviv makes all efforts to ensure that, in the immediate vicinity of its borders, there would be no force, non-state actors, or states whose international and informational activities or military actions might damage Israeli interests. This, according to the Israeli vision, should ensure the physical security of the entire territory currently under the control of Israel and its population.

The start of the Syrian war became a gift for Israel. It was strong enough to repel direct military aggression by any terrorist organization, but got a chance to use the chaos to propel its own interests. Nonetheless, the rigid stance of the Israeli leadership which became used to employing chaos and civil conflicts in the surrounding countries as the most effective strategy for ensuring the interests of the state, was delivered a blow. Israel missed the moment when it had a chance to intervene in the conflict as a kind of peacemaker, at least on the level of formal rhetoric, and, with US help, settle the conflict to protect its own interests. Instead, leaders of Israel and the Obama administration sabotaged all Russian peace efforts in the first years of the Russian military operation and by 2019, Tel Aviv had found itself excluded from the list of power brokers in the Syrian settlement. Hezbollah and Iran, on the other hand, strengthened their position in the country after they, in alliance with Damascus and Russia, won the war on the major part of Syrian territory, and Iran through the Astana format forged a tactical alliance with Turkey.

Iran and Hezbollah used the preliminary outcome of the conflict in Syria, and the war on ISIS in general, to defend their own security and to expand their influence across the region.  The so-called Shia crescent turned from being a myth exploited by Western diplomats and mainstream media into a reality. Iran and Hezbollah appeared to be reliable partners for their regional allies even in the most complicated situations.

Russia’s strategic goal is the prevention of radical Islamists from coming to power. Russia showed itself ready to enter dialogue with the moderate part of the Syrian opposition. Its leadership even demonstrated that it is ready to accept the interests of other actors, the US, Israel, Kurdish groups, Turkey, Iran, and Hezbollah, if this would help in reaching a final deal to settle the conflict.

Summing up the developments of 2019, one might expect that the current low-intensity state of the Syrian conflict would continue for years. However, several factors and developments could instigate the renewal of full-fledged hostilities:

  • A sudden demise or forceful removal of President Bashar al-Assad could create a situation of uncertainty within the patriotic component of the Syrian leadership;
  • Changes within the Russian political system or issues inside Russia which could lead to full or partial withdrawal of support to the Syrian government and withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria;
  • A major war in the Middle East which would turn the entire region into a battlefield. In the current situation, such a war could only start by escalation between the US-Israeli-led bloc and Iran.

The Persian Gulf and the Saudi-Yemen battleground are also sources of regional instability. In the second half of 2019, the situation there was marked by increased chances of open military confrontation between the US-Israeli-Saudi bloc and Iran. Drone shoot-downs, oil tanker detentions, open military buildups, and wartime-like rhetoric became something common or at least not very surprising. The US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel point to Iran as the main instigator of tensions.

Iran and its allies deny responsibility for the escalation reasonably noting that their actions were a response to aggressive moves by the US-Israeli-Saudi axis. From this point of view, Iran’s decision to limit its commitments to the already collapsed Nuclear Deal, high level of military activity in the Persian Gulf, shoot down of the US Global Hawk spy drone, and increased support to regional Shia groups are logical steps to deter US—led aggression and to solidify its own position in the region. Iran’s main goal is to demonstrate that an open military conflict with it will have a devastating impact to the states which decide to attack it, as well as to the global economy.

The US sanctions war, public diplomatic support of rioters, and the Trump administration’s commitment to flexing military muscle only strengthen Tehran’s confidence that this approach is right.

As to Yemen’s Houthis, who demonstrated an unexpected success in delivering retaliatory strikes to Saudi Arabia, they would continue to pursue their main goal – achieving a victory in the conflict with Saudi Arabia or forcing the Kingdom to accept the peace deal on favorable terms. To achieve this, they need to deliver maximum damage to Saudi Arabia’s economy through strikes on its key military and infrastructure objects. In this case, surprising missile and drone strikes on different targets across Saudi Arabia have already demonstrated their effectiveness.

The September 14 strike on Saudi oil infrastructure that put out of commission half of the Saudi oil output became only the first sign of future challenges that Riyadh may face in case of further military confrontation.

The unsuccessful invasion of Yemen and the confrontation with Iran are not the only problems for Saudi Arabia. The interests and vision of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East have been in conflict for a long time. Nonetheless, this tendency became especially obvious in 2019. The decline of influence of the House of Saud in the region and inside Saudi Arabia itself led to logical attempts of other regional players to gain a leading position in the Arabian Peninsula. The main challenger is the UAE and the House of Maktoum.

Contradictions between Saudi Arabia and the UAE turned into an open military confrontation between their proxies in Yemen. Since August 29th, Saudi Arabia has provided no symmetric answer to the UAE military action against its proxies. It seems that the Saudi leadership has no will or distinct political vision of how it should react in this situation. Additionally, the Saudi military is bogged down in a bloody conflict in Yemen and struggles to defend its own borders from Houthi attacks.

The UAE already gained an upper hand in the standoff with Saudi Arabia in the economic field. This provided motivation for further actions towards expanding its influence in the region.

During the year, Turkey, under the leadership of President Recep Erdogan, continued strengthening its regional positions. It expanded its own influence in Libya and Syria, strengthened its ties with Iran, Qatar, and Russia, obtained the S-400, entered a final phase in the TurkStream project, and even increased controversial drilling activity in the Eastern Mediterranean. Simultaneously, Ankara defended its national interests -repelling pressure from the United States and getting off with removal from the F-35 program only. Meanwhile, Turkish actions should not be seen as a some tectonic shift in its foreign policy or a signal of ‘great friendship’ with Russia or Iran.

Turkish foreign policy demonstrates that Ankara is not seeking to make ‘friends’ with other regional and global powers. Turkey’s foreign policy is mobile and variable, and always designed to defend the interests of Turkey as a regional leader and the key state of the Turkic world.

Developments in Libya were marked by the strengthening of the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and backed by the UAE, Egypt, and to some extent Russia. The LNA consolidated control of most of the country and launched an advance on its capital of Tripoli, controlled by the Government of National Accord. The LNA describes its main goal as the creation of the unified government and the defeat of terrorism. In its own turn, the Government of National Accord is backed by Turkey, Qatar, the USA and some European states. It controls a small part of the country, and, in terms of military force, relies on various militias and even radical armed groups linked with al-Qaeda. Ankara signed with the Tripoli government a memorandum on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, it sees the GNA survival as a factor which would allow it to justify its further economic and security expansion in the region. This clash of interests sets conditions for an escalation of the Libyan conflict in 2020.

Egypt was mostly stable. The country’s army and security forces contained the terrorism threat on the Sinai Peninsula and successfully prevented attempts of radical groups to destabilize the country.

By the end of the year, the Greater Middle East had appeared in a twilight zone lying before a new loop of the seemingly never-ending Great Game. The next round of the geopolitical standoff will likely take place in a larger region including the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Consistently, the stakes will grow involving more resources of states and nations in geopolitical roulette.

The threat that faces Central Asia is particularly severe since the two sets of actors have asymmetrical objectives. Russia and China are rather interested in the political stability and economic success of the region which they view as essential to their own political and security objectives. It is not in the interest of either country to have half a dozen failed states in their immediate political neighborhood, riven by political, economic, and religious conflicts threatening to spread to their own territories. In addition to being a massive security burden to Russia and China, it would threaten the development of their joint Eurasian integration projects and, moreover, attract so much political attention that the foreign policy objectives of both countries would be hamstrung. The effect would be comparable to that of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on the US political and military establishment. The monetary price of these wars, the sheer political distraction, wear and demoralization of the armed forces, and the unfortunately frequent killings of civilians amount to a non-tenable cost to the warring party, not to mention damage to US international “soft power” wrought by scandals associated with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and “black sites”. Even now, shock-waves in the US military hierarchy continue to be felt regarding the court-martialed senior-ranking US Navy “SEAL” commando charged for the wanton killing of civilians in Northern Iraq during the US military’s anti-ISIS operations.

By contrast, this dismal scenario would be enough to satisfy the US foreign policy establishment which, at the moment, is wholly dominated by “hawks” determined to assure the continuation of US hegemony.  Preventing the emergence of a multi-polar international system by weakening China and Russia is their desire.  This sets the stage for another round of great power rivalry in Central Asia. While the pattern is roughly the same as during the 19th and late 20th centuries—one or more Anglo-Saxon powers seeking to diminish the power of Russia and/or China—the geography of the battlefield is considerably larger for it encompasses the entirety of post-Soviet Central Asian republics.  Also included is China’s province of Xinjiang which has suddenly attracted considerable Western attention, manifested, as usual, by concern for “human rights” in the region.  Historically, such “concern” usually precedes some form of aggressive action. Therefore the two sets of great power actors—the US and other interested Western powers on the one hand, with Russia and China on the other—are locked in a standoff in the region.

The key security problem is militancy and the spread of terrorism. The US and its NATO partners remain unable to achieve a military victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban reached a level of influence in the region, turning it into a rightful party to any negotiations involving the United States. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that a fully-fledged peace deal can be reached between the sides. The Taliban’s main demand is the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country. For Washington, conceding to this would amount to public humiliation and a forceful need to admit that the superpower lost a war to the Taliban. Washington can achieve a military victory in Afghanistan only by drastically increasing its forces in the country. This will go contrary to Trump’s publicly declared goal – to limit US participation in conflicts all around the world. Therefore, the stalemate will continue with the Taliban and the US sitting at the negotiating table in Qatar, while Taliban forces slowly take control of more and more territory in Afghanistan.

Besides fighting the US-backed government, in some parts of the country, the Taliban even conducts operations against ISIS in order to prevent this group from spreading further. Despite this, around 5,000 ISIS militants operate in Afghanistan’s north, near the border with Tajikistan. Member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization are concerned that ISIS militants are preparing to shift their focus to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Russia. The terrorists are infiltrating CIS states, incorporating with organized crime, creating clandestine cells, brainwashing and recruiting new supporters, chiefly the socially handicapped youth and migrants, [and] training them to carry out terrorist activities. The worsening situation in Central Asia contributes to the spread of radical ideas. Now the main threat of destabilization of the entire Central Asian region comes from Tajikistan. This state is the main target of militants deployed in northern Afghanistan.

Destabilization of Central Asia and the rise of ISIS both contribute to achievement of US geopolitical goals. The scenario could devastate Russia’s influence in the region, undermine security of key Russian regional ally, Kazakhstan, and damage the interests of China. The Chinese, Kazakh, and Russian political leadership understand these risks and engage in joint efforts to prevent this scenario.

In the event of further destabilization of Central Asia, ISIS sleeper cells across the region could be activated and a new ISIS self-proclaimed Caliphate could appear on the territory of northern Afghanistan and southern Tajikistan. Russia and China would not benefit from such a development. In the case of China, such instability could expand to its Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, while in Russia the main targets could be the Northern Caucasus and large cities with high numbers of migrant laborers from Central Asian states.

Armenia now together with Georgia became the center of a US soft power campaign to instigate anti-Russian hysteria in the Caucasus. Ethnic groups in this region are traditionally addicted to US mainstream propaganda. On the other hand, the importance of the South Caucasus for Russia decreased notably because of the strong foothold it gained in the Middle East. 2020 is looking to be another economically complicated year for Georgia and Armenia.

Throughout 2019, China consolidated its position as a global power and the main challenger of the United States. From the military point of view, China successfully turned the South China Sea into an anti-access and area-denial zone controlled by its own military and moved forward with its ambitious modernization program which includes the expansion of China’s maritime, airlift, and amphibious capabilities. The balance of power in the Asia-Pacific has in fact shifted and the Chinese Armed Forces are now the main power-broker in the region. China appeared strong enough to fight back against US economic and diplomatic pressure and to repel the Trump Administration’s attempts to impose Washington’s will upon Beijing. Despite economic war with the United States, China’s GDP growth in 2019 is expected to be about 6%, while the yuan exchange rate and the SSE Composite Index demonstrate stability. The United States also tried to pressure China through supporting instability in Hong Kong and by boosting defense aid to Taiwan. However, in both cases, the situation appears to still be within Beijing’s comfort zone.

An interesting consequence of US-led pressure on China is that Washington’s actions provided an impetus for development of Chinese-Russian cooperation. In 2019, Moscow and Beijing further strengthened their ties and cooperation in the economic and military spheres and demonstrated notable unity in their actions on the international scene as in Africa and in the Arctic for example.

As to Russia itself, during the year, it achieved several foreign policy victories.

  • The de-facto diplomatic victory in Syria;
  • Resumption of dialogue with the new Ukrainian regime and the reanimation of the Normandy format negotiations;
  • Improvement of relations with some large European players, like France, Italy, and even Germany;
  • Implementation of the Nord Stream 2 project despite opposition from the US-led bloc;
  • Implementation of the Turkish Stream project with Turkey;
  • Strengthening of the Russian economy in comparison with previous years and the rubble’s stability despite pressure from sanctions. Growth of the Russian GDP for 2019 is expected to be 1.2%, while the Russia Trading System Index demonstrated notable growth from around 1,100 points at the start of the year to around 1,500 by year’s end.

The salient accomplishment of the Russian authorities is that no large terrorist attack took place in the country. At the same time, the internal situation was marked by some negative tendencies. There was an apparent political, media, and social campaign to undermine Chinese-Russian cooperation. This campaign, run by pro-Western and liberal media, became an indicator of the progress in Chinese-Russian relations. Additionally, Russia was rocked by a series of emergencies, corruption scandals linked with law enforcement, the plundering of government funding allocated to the settlement of emergency situations, the space industry, and other similar cases. A number of Russian mid-level officials made statements revealing their real, rent-seeking stance towards the Russian population. Another problem was the deepening social stratification of the population. Most of the citizens experienced a decrease in their real disposable income, while elites continued concentrating margin funds gained through Russia’s successful actions in the economy and on the international level. These factors, as well as fatigue with the stubborn resistance of entrenched elites to being dislodged, caused conditions for political instability in big cities. Liberal and pro-Western media and pro-Western organizations exploited this in an attempt to destabilize the country.

Militarization of Japan has given the US a foothold in its campaign against China, Russia, and North Korea. The Japan Self-Defense Forces were turned into a fully-fledged military a long time ago. Japanese diplomatic rhetoric demonstrates that official Tokyo is preparing for a possible new conflict in the region and that it will fight to further expand its zone of influence. The Japanese stance on the Kuril Islands territorial dispute with Russia is an example of this approach. Tokyo rejected a Russian proposal for joint economic management of four islands and nearby waters, while formally the islands will remain within Russian jurisdiction -at least for the coming years. Japan demands the full transfer of islands a term which is unacceptable to Russia from a military and political point of view. The social and economic situation in Japan was in a relatively stable, but guarded state.

Denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea reached a stalemate after the North Korean leadership claimed that Washington was in no hurry to provide Pyongyang with acceptable terms and conditions of a possible nuclear deal. The example of the US unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran also played a role. The positive point is that tensions on the Korean Peninsula de-escalated anyway because the sides sat down at the negotiation table. Chances of the open military conflict involving North Korea and the United States remain low.

In February 2019, the Indian-Pakistani conflict over the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir put the greater region on the brink of a large war with potential for the use of nuclear weapons. However, both India and Pakistan demonstrated reasonable restraint and prevented further escalation despite an open confrontation between their militaries which took place at the same moment. Meanwhile, the February escalation demonstrated the growing power of Pakistan. In the coming years, look to Jammu and Kashmir as a point of constant instability and military tensions, with very little chance that the sides will find a comprehensive political solution to their differences.

The threat of terrorism is another destabilizing factor in the region. In 2019, ISIS cells made several attempts to strengthen and expand their presence in such countries as Malaysia and Indonesia. Law enforcement agencies of both countries are well aware of this threat and contribute constant and active efforts to combat this terrorism and radicalism. It should be noted that Malaysia is in conflict with the Euro-Atlantic elites because of its independent foreign policy course. For example, its government repeatedly questioned the mainstream MH17 narrative and officially slammed the JIT investigation as politicized and nontransparent. So, the leadership of the country is forced to be in a state of permanent readiness to repel clandestine and public attempts to bring it into line with the mainstream agenda.

While the European Union is, theoretically, the world’s biggest economy using the world’s second most popular currency in international transactions, it remains to be seen whether, in the future, it will evolve into a genuine component of a multi-polar international system or become a satellite in someone else’s—most likely US—orbit. There still remain many obstacles toward achieving a certain “critical mass” of power and unity. While individual EU member states, most notably Germany and France, are capable of independent action in the international system, individually they are too weak to influence the actions of the United States, China, or even Russia. In the past, individual European powers relied on overseas colonial empires to achieve great power status. In the 21st century, European greatness can only be achieved through eliminating not just economic but also political barriers on the continent. At present, European leaders are presented with both incentives and obstacles to such integration, though one may readily discern a number of potential future paths toward future integration.

Continued European integration would demand an agreement on how to transfer national sovereignty to some as yet undefined and untested set of European political institutions which would not only guarantee individual rights but, more importantly from the point of view of national elites, preserve the relative influence of individual EU member states even after they forfeited their sovereignty. Even if the Euro-skeptics were not such a powerful presence in EU’s politics, it would still be an insurmountable task for even the most visionary and driven group of political leaders. Such a leap is only possible if the number of EU states making it is small, and their level of mutual integration is already high.

The post-2008 Euro zone crisis does appear to have communicated the non-sustainability of the current EU integration approach, hence the recent appearance of “two-speeds Europe” concept which actually originated as a warning against the threat of EU bifurcation into well integrated “core“ and a less integrated “periphery”. In practical terms it would mean “core” countries, definitely including Germany, France, and possibly the Benelux Union, would abandon the current policy of throwing money at the less well developed EU member states and, instead, focus on forging “a more perfect Union” consisting of this far more homogeneous and smaller set of countries occupying territories that, over a thousand years ago, formed what used to be known as the Carolingian Empire. Like US territories of the 19th century, EU states outside of the core would have to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” to earn membership in the core, which would require them to adopt, wholesale, the core’s political institutions.

The deepening disproportion of EU member state economies, and therefore sharpening economic disputes, are the main factor of instability in Europe. The long-delayed withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the union, which is finally expected to take place in 2020, might trigger an escalation of internal tensions over economic issues which might blow up the EU from the inside. Other cornerstones of European instability are the extraordinary growth of organized crime, street crime, radicalism, and terrorism, most of which were caused by uncontrolled illegal migration and the inability of the European bureaucracy to cut off the flows of illegal migrants, integrate non-radicalized people into European society, and detect all radicals and terrorists that infiltrate Europe with migrants.

The situation is further complicated by the conflict in Ukraine and the destruction of international security treaties, such as the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and its planned withdrawal from the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). These developments go amid constant military and political hysteria of micro-states and Poland instigated by the Euro-Atlantic elites. The EU bureaucracy is using this state of hysteria and ramping up speculations about a supposed military threat from Russia and an economic and political threat from China to distract the public and draw attention away from the real problems.

The return of Russia as the diplomatic and military great power to Africa marked a new round of the geo-economic standoff in the region. The apparent Russian-Chinese cooperation is steadily pushing French and British out of what they describe as their traditional sphere of influence. While, in terms of economic strength, Russia cannot compete with China, it does have a wide range of military and diplomatic means and measures with which to influence the region. So, Beijing and Moscow seem to have reached a non-public deal on a “division of labor”. China focuses on implementation of its economic projects, while Russia contributes military and diplomatic efforts to stabilize the security situation, obtaining revenue for its military and security assistance. Moscow plays a second violin role in getting these guaranteed zones of influence. Terrorism is one of the main threats to the region. The Chinese-Russian cooperation did not go without a response from their Western counterparts that justified their propaganda and diplomatic opposition to Beijing-Moscow cooperation by describing Chinese investments as “debt-traps” and the Russian military presence as “destabilizing”. In 2019, Africa entered into a new round of great powers rivalry.

The intensification of US “soft power” and meddling efforts, social, economic tensions, activities of non-state actors, and organized criminal networks became the main factors of instability in South America. Venezuela and Bolivia were targeted by US-backed coups. While the Venezuelan government, with help from China and Russia, succeeded in repelling the coup attempt, Bolivia was plunged into a violent civil conflict after the pro-US government seized power. Chile remained in a state of social economic crisis which repeatedly triggered wide-scale anti-government riots. Its pro-US government remained in power, mainly, because there was no foreign ‘democratic superpower’ to instigate the regime change campaign. Actions of the government of Colombia, one of the key US regional allies, undermined the existing peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and forced at least a part of the former FARC members to take up arms once again. If repressions, killings, and clandestine operations aimed at the FARC members committed to the peace continue, they may lead to a resumption of FARC-led guerrilla warfare against the central government. The crisis developing in Mexico is a result of the growth of the drug cartels-related violence and economic tensions with the United States. The right-wing Bolsonaro government put Brazil on track with the US foreign policy course to the extent that, the country worked with Washington against Venezuela, claiming that it should not turn into ‘another Cuba’. A deep economic crisis in Argentina opened the road to power for a new left-centric president, Alberto Fernandez. Washington considers South America as its own geopolitical backyard and sees any non pro-US, or just national-oriented government, as a threat to its vital interests. In 2020, the US meddling campaign will likely escalate and expand, throwing the region into a new round of instability and triggering an expected resistance from South American states. An example of this is the situation in Bolivia. Regardless of the actions of ousted President Evo Morales, the situation in the country will continue escalating. The inability of the pro-US government to deliver positive changes and its simultaneous actions to destroy all the economic achievements of the Morales period might cause Bolivia to descend into poverty and chaos causing unrest and possibly, a civil war.

During 2019, the world superpower, led by the administration of President Donald Trump, provided a consistent policy designed to defend the interests of US domestic industry and the United States as a national state by any means possible. This included economic and diplomatic pressure campaigns against both US geopolitical competitors and allies. The most widely known Trump administration move of this kind was the tariff war with China. However, at the same time, Washington contributed notable efforts in almost all regions around the globe. For example, the United States opposed Chinese economic projects in Africa, Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Europe, tried to limit exports of the Russian defense industry, pressured NATO member states who did not want to spend enough on defense, and proposed that US allies pay more for the honor and privilege of provided “protection”. Additionally, Trump pressured the Federal Reserve Board of Governors into lowering interest rates and announced plans to lower interest rates even further to weaken the dollar in order to boost national industry and increase its product availability on the global market. These plans caused strong resistance from international corporations and global capitalists because this move may undermine the current global financial system based upon a strong US dollar. This straightforward approach demonstrated that Trump and his team were ready to do everything needed to protect US security and economic interests as they see them. Meanwhile, it alienated some “traditional allies”, as in the case of Turkey which decided to acquire Russian S-400s, and escalated the conflict between the Trump Administration and the globalists. The expected US GDP growth in 2019 is 2.2%. The expected production growth of 3.9% reflects the policy aimed at supporting the real sector. In terms of foreign policy, the White House attempted to rationalize US military presence in conflict zones around the world. Despite this, the unprecedented level of support to Israel, confrontation with Iran, China, and Russia, militarization of Europe, coups and meddling into the internal affairs of sovereign states remain as the main markers of US foreign policy. Nevertheless, the main threat to United States stability originates not from Iranians, Russians, or Chinese, but rather from internal issues. The constant hysteria in mainstream media, the attempt to impeach Donald Trump, and the radicalization of different social and political groups contributes to destabilization of the country ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

The year 2019 was marked by a number of dangerous developments. In spite of this, it could have been much more dangerous and violent. Political leadership by key actors demonstrated their conditional wisdom by avoiding a number of open military conflicts, all of which had chances to erupt in the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, South America, and even Europe. A new war in the Persian Gulf, US military conflict with North Korea, an India-Pakistan war -none of these were started.  A peaceful transfer of power from Petro Poroshenko to Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine allowed for the avoidance of a military escalation in eastern Europe. China and the United States showed their restraint despite tensions in the Asia-Pacific, including the Hong Kong issue. A new global economic crisis, expected for some time by many experts, did not happen. The lack of global economic shocks or new regional wars in 2019 does not mean that knots straining relations among leading world powers were loosened or solved. These knots will remain a constant source of tension on the international level until they are removed within the framework of diplomatic mechanisms or cut as a result of a large military conflict or a series of smaller military conflicts.

Chances seem high that 2020 will become the year when a match will be set to the wick of the international powder keg, or that it will be the last relatively calm year in the first quarter of the 21st century. The collapse of international defense treaties and de-escalation mechanisms, as well as accumulating contradictions and conflicts among world nations give rise to an especial concern.

Review of 2019 and Preview for 2020: the Final Combat of Western Hegemonism

December 26, 2019

By Paul Schmutz Schaller for The Saker Blog

The world situation is changing very fast and one needs to make an effort in order to keep pace with the events. The end of a year is a welcome opportunity for an assessment of the current situation. I shall concentrate on two main subjects.

2019: The West has lost the supremacy in the Middle East

I think that this was the most important change in the year drawing to a close. Iran has successfully and creatively defended herself against the „maximal pressure“ from the USA and has kept her distance with the West European countries. Economically, the country has suffered from the US-sanctions, but she has now passed the biggest crisis. The country took the imposed problems as a motivation to improve the economical governance and to diminish the dependance from petrol. While in June, say, there was a more or less real danger of an aggressive war against Iran, now, this treat haas faded into the background. The report of UN-Secretary-General Guterres of Desember 10 saying that the UN, after an investigation in Saudi Arabia, cannot verify the US and Saudi claims that Iran was behind the strikes on Aramco in September, is a diplomatic victory for Iran. As for the Iranian trade, an official recently said that, during the last 9 months, China, Iraq, UAE, Afghanistan and Turkey were major destinations for the Iranian exports while Turkey, UAE and Germany are biggest Iranian trade in terms of imports.

Syria has made further important progress in the fight against terrorism, in particular in the province Idleb. Moreover, the government and the army were able to utilize the partial withdrawal of the US occupying army in the north-east of the country. The reconstruction in Syria moves forward, Russian and Chinese enterprises will thereby play an important role. Hundreds of thousands refugees have come back. In short, as President Assad said in the interview with Italian Rai News 24: „[… ] the situation is much, much better […] and I think that the future of Syria is promising; we are going to come out of this war stronger.“

In the absurd war of Saudi Arabia against Yemen, the strategic situation has completely changed. Saudi Arabia has lost the initiative and different Arabian and African countries have stopped the support for the Saudi army. The Ansarallah movement of the Houthis has made important attacks, in particular against Aramco, and the movement has now strong official relations with Iran.

The West and Israel are still trying hard to exploit the economical and political crisis in Lebanon and Iraq. However, the patriotic forces in both countries were able to keep a positive outlook of the situation and could avoid to fall into the traps.

There is no reason to think that the positive development in the Middle East will change in the next months. Quite the contrary. One can expect that the fight in Afghanistan against terrorism and US occupation will make important progress. Moreover, the influence of China and Russia will further increase. However, the general situation will remain tense. This is of course due to the fact that there is a country like Israel in this region which is utterly hostile against the neighboring countries and tyrannizes the indigenous population.

Asia a a whole has already widely casted off the yoke of Western hegemonism. As of South America, the developments in 2019 show – despite of the coup in Bolivia – a movement to more independence which very probably will continue. I would assume that this vague will also grow in Africa, in particular in Western and central Africa, due to the fight against terrorism and the beneficial influence of China and Russia.

2020: The fight between the American national imperialism and Western hegemony will come to a decision

Trump has won in 2016, based on his program of „America first“. Since then, it has become more and more clear that this program is in fact a program of an American national imperialism. Trump is not interested in a „Western“ perspective. A typical example are the US sanctions against numerous countries, even against traditional allies. This is a crucial change. Since the end of World War 2, the USA were constructed as a worldwide leading power. During the cold war, this has developed into the collective Western hegemony – including countries like Japan, Australia and others – with the USA as the undisputed leader. The emergence of an American national imperialism is a somewhat unexpected challenge for all other Western countries. Nevertheless, it is a logical evolution, provoked among other things by the declining power of Western hegemony and the appearance of China, the new Russia, as well as their strategic collaboration.

The traditional Western hegemonic forces have never accepted the election of Trump in 2016. They are very strong inside the US Democratic Party and in the US parliament in general, but also in Western Europe. With the impeachment and the US election in 2020, the fight between the both tendencies will reach a decision. One should expect that this fight will be very hard. The only logical outcome will be a victory of Trump; however, it is still to be seen whether this will be a clear victory or not. In other words, will the Western hegemonic forces be obliged to accept it this time? I think that these questions will be very crucial in 2020.

Also for Western Europe, the influence of this fight will be immense. Concerning this matter, the UK is the most advanced country in Western Europe. After a struggle of 3 and half years, the population has given a clear mandate to the Johnson government to deliver Brexit. It is probable that now, where this central question is resolved, the development in the UK will be quite dynamical. The formation of a national imperialism will advance quickly. France also is rather well prepared for a victory of the American national imperialism; with the period of de Gaulle in the 1960s, she has a historical model.

On the other hand, I believe that Germany is the less prepared country. Germany is very anti-Trump. In 2016, polls in Germany indicated that up to 90% would vote for Hillary Clinton and only 4% for Donald Trump. The polls during the last years have clearly confirmed this rejection of Trump in the German population. Also, German Chancellor Merkel has been widely seen as a stronghold of the traditional Western hegemony and against American national imperialism. However, the situation is changing. Merkel has lost her authority and is now rather isolated. The awareness is growing that Trump does not stand for a parenthesis in history, but for a fundamental change. The impeachment is not judged as positive as one could await. Moreover, the German industry would like to have better relations with Russia. The US sanctions against Nord Stream 2 will only reinforce the will in Germany to become more autonomous.

There is still another problem. While national imperialism has a long tradition in the UK and in France and will probably be accepted without too much of resistance, in Germany, national imperialism is not popular, for historical reasons. Therefore, one may predict that Germany will have a big debate on her political identity; even a profound crisis is possible. This is certainly complicated by the fact that Merkel has to be replaced and that there is – actually – no convincing successor. I am however quite confident that Germany will be able to find a way for playing a quite positive role in the future world.

We therefore may anticipate that Western hegemony is replaced by national imperialisms. Of course, they will remain a big problem for the world, even if the classical Western hegemony will suffer an important defeat. But the contradictions of other Western countries with the USA will strongly expand. This gives the remaining world much better perspectives.

From my point of view, 2019 was a very positive year and I am convinced that the same will be the case for 2020.

You Say You Want a (Russian) Revolution?

Image result for You Say You Want a (Russian) Revolution?
December 27, 2019

Andrei Martyanov’s latest book provides unceasing evidence about the kind of lethality waiting for U.S. forces in a possible, future war against real armies (not the Taliban or Saddam Hussein’s).

Pepe ESCOBAR

Once in a blue moon an indispensable book comes out making a clear case for sanity in what is now a post-MAD world. That’s the responsibility carried by “The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs,” by Andrei Martyanov (Clarity Press), arguably the most important book of 2019.

Martyanov is the total package — and he comes with extra special attributes as a top-flight Russian military analyst, born in Baku in those Back in the U.S.S.R. days, living and working in the U.S., and writing and blogging in English.

Right from the start, Martyanov wastes no time destroying not only Fukuyama’s and Huntington’s ravings but especially Graham Allison’s childish and meaningless Thucydides Trap argument — as if the power equation between the U.S. and China in the 21stcentury could be easily interpreted in parallel to Athens and Sparta slouching towards the Peloponnesian War over 2,400 years ago. What next? Xi Jinping as the new Genghis Khan?

(By the way, the best current essay on Thucydides is in Italian, by Luciano Canfora (“Tucidide: La Menzogna, La Colpa, L’Esilio”). No Trap. Martyanov visibly relishes defining the Trap as a “figment of the imagination” of people who “have a very vague understanding of real warfare in the 21st century.” No wonder Xi explicitly said the Trap does not exist.)

Martyanov had already detailed in his splendid, previous book, “Losing Military Supremacy: The Myopia of American Strategic Planning,” how “American lack of historic experience with continental warfare” ended up “planting the seeds of the ultimate destruction of the American military mythology of the 20thand 21stcenturies which is foundational to the American decline, due to hubris and detachment of reality.” Throughout the book, he unceasingly provides solid evidence about the kind of lethality waiting for U.S. forces in a possible, future war against real armies (not the Taliban or Saddam Hussein’s), air forces, air defenses and naval power.

Do the Math

One of the key takeaways is the failure of U.S. mathematical models: and readers of the book do need to digest quite a few mathematical equations. The key point is that this failure led the U.S. “on a continuous downward spiral of diminishing military capabilities against the nation [Russia] she thought she defeated in the Cold War.”

In the U.S., Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) was introduced by the late Andrew Marshall, a.k.a. Yoda, the former head of Net Assessment at the Pentagon and the de facto inventor of the “pivot to Asia” concept. Yet Martyanov tells us that RMA actually started as MTR (Military-Technological Revolution), introduced by Soviet military theoreticians back in the 1970s.

One of the staples of RMA concerns nations capable of producing land-attack cruise missiles, a.k.a. TLAMs. As it stands, only the U.S., Russia, China and France can do it. And there are only two global systems providing satellite guidance to cruise missiles: the American GPS and the Russian GLONASS. Neither China’s BeiDou nor the European Galileo qualify – yet – as global GPS systems.

Then there’s Net-Centric Warfare (NCW). The term itself was coined by the late Admiral Arthur Cebrowski in 1998 in an article he co-wrote with John Garstka’s titled, “Network-Centric Warfare – Its Origin and Future.”

Deploying his mathematical equations, Martyanov soon tells us that “the era of subsonic anti-shipping missiles is over.” NATO, that brain-dead organism (copyright Emmanuel Macron) now has to face the supersonic Russian P-800 Onyx and the Kalibr-class M54 in a “highly hostile Electronic Warfare environment.” Every developed modern military today applies Net-Centric Warfare (NCW), developed by the Pentagon in the 1990s.

No Escape From the Kinzhal

Martyanov mentions in his new book something that I learned on my visit to Donbass in March 2015: how NCW principles, “based on Russia’s C4ISR capabilities made available by the Russian military to numerically inferior armed forces of the Donbass Republics (LDNR), were used to devastating effect both at the battles of Ilovaisk and Debaltsevo, when attacking the cumbersome Soviet-era Ukrainian Armed Forces military.”

Martyanov provides ample information on Russia’s latest missile – the hypersonic Mach-10 aero-ballistic Kinzhal, recently tested in the Arctic.

Crucially, as he explains, “no existing anti-missile defense in the U.S. Navy is capable of shooting [it] down even in the case of the detection of this missile.” Kinzhal has a range of 2,000 km, which leaves its carriers, MiG-31K and TU-22M3M, “invulnerable to the only defense a U.S. Carrier Battle Group, a main pillar of U.S. naval power, can mount – carrier fighter aircraft.” These fighters simply don’t have the range.

The Kinzhal was one of the weapons announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s game-changing March 1, 2018 speech at the Federal Assembly. That’s the day, Martyanov stresses, when the real RMA arrived, and “changed completely the face of peer-peer warfare, competition and global power balance dramatically.”

Top Pentagon officials such as General John Hyten,  vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, have admitted on the record there are “no existing countermeasures” against, for instance, the hypersonic, Mach 27 glide vehicle Avangard (which renders anti-ballistic missile systems useless), telling the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee the only way out would be “a nuclear deterrent.” There are also no existing counter-measures against anti-shipping missiles such as the Zircon and Kinzhal.

Any military analyst knows very well how the Kinzhal destroyed a land target the size of a Toyota Corolla in Syria after being launched 1,000 km away in adverse weather conditions. The corollary is the stuff of NATO nightmares: NATO’s command and control installations in Europe are de facto indefensible.

Martyanov gets straight to the point: “The introduction of hypersonic weapons surely pours some serious cold water on the American obsession with securing the North American continent from retaliatory strikes.”

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal; 2018 Moscow Victory Day Parade. (Kremilin via Wikimedia Commons)

Martyanov is thus unforgiving on U.S. policymakers who “lack the necessary tool-kit for grasping the unfolding geostrategic reality in which the real revolution in military affairs … had dramatically downgraded the always inflated American military capabilities and continues to redefine U.S. geopolitical status away from its self-declared hegemony.”

And it gets worse: “Such weapons ensure a guaranteed retaliation [Martyanov’s italics] on the U.S. proper.” Even the existing Russian nuclear deterrents – and to a lesser degree Chinese, as paraded recently — “are capable of overcoming the existing U.S. anti-ballistic systems and destroying the United States,” no matter what crude propaganda the Pentagon is peddling.

In February 2019, Moscow announced the completion of tests of a nuclear-powered engine for the Petrel cruise missile. This is a subsonic cruise missile with nuclear propulsion that can remain in air for quite a long time, covering intercontinental distances, and able to attack from the most unexpected directions. Martyanov mischievously characterizes the Petrel as “a vengeance weapon in case some among American decision-makers who may help precipitate a new world war might try to hide from the effects of what they have unleashed in the relative safety of the Southern Hemisphere.”

Hybrid War Gone Berserk

Beijing parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic, October 2019. (YouTube screenshot)

A section of the book expands on China’s military progress, and the fruits of the Russia-China strategic partnership, such as Beijing buying $3 billion-worth of S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missiles — “ideally suited to deal with the exact type of strike assets the United States would use in case of a conventional conflict with China.”

Because of the timing, the analysis does not even take into consideration the arsenal presented in early October at the Beijing parade celebrating the 70thanniversary of the People’s Republic.

That includes, among other things, the “carrier-killer” DF-21D, designed to hit warships at sea at a range of up to 1,500 km; the intermediate range “Guam Killer” DF-26; the DF-17 hypersonic missile; and the long-range submarine-launched and ship-launched YJ-18A anti-ship cruise missiles. Not to mention the DF-41 ICBM – the backbone of China’s nuclear deterrent, capable of reaching the U.S. mainland carrying multiple warheads.

Martyanov could not escape addressing the RAND Corporation, whose reason to exist is to relentlessly push for more money for the Pentagon – blaming Russia for “hybrid war” (an American invention)  even as it moans about the U.S.’s incapacity of defeating Russia in each and every war game. RAND’s war games pitting the U.S. and allies against Russia and China invariably ended in a “catastrophe” for the “finest fighting force in the world.”

Martyanov also addresses the S-500s, capable of reaching AWACS planes and possibly even capable of intercepting hypersonic non-ballistic targets. The S-500 and its latest middle-range state of the art air-defense system S-350 Vityaz will be operational in 2020.

His key takeway: “There is no parity between Russia and the United States in such fields as air-defense, hypersonic weapons and, in general, missile development, to name just a few fields – the United States lags behind in these fields, not just in years but in generations [italics mine].”

All across the Global South, scores of nations are very much aware that the U.S. economic “order” – rather disorder – is on the brink of collapse. In contrast, a cooperative, connected, rule-based, foreign relations between sovereign nations model is being advanced in Eurasia – symbolized by the merging of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the NDB (the BRICS bank).

The key guarantors of the new model are Russia and China. And Beijing and Moscow harbor no illusion whatsoever about the toxic dynamics in Washington. My recent conversations with top analysts in Kazakhstan last month and in Moscow last week once again stressed the futility of negotiating with people described – with  overlapping shades of sarcasm – as exceptionalist fanatics. Russia, China and many corners of Eurasia have figured out there are no possible, meaningful deals with a nation bent on breaking every deal.

Indispensable? No: Vulnerable

Martyanov cannot but evoke Putin’s speech to the Federal Assembly in February 2019, after the unilateral Washington abandonment of the INF treaty, clearing the way for U.S. deployment of intermediate and close range missiles stationed in Europe and pointed at Russia:

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy those types of weapons… against those regions from where we will face a direct threat, but also against those regions hosting the centers where decisions are taken on using those missile systems threatening us.”

Translation: American Invulnerability is over – for good.

In the short term, things can always get worse. At his traditional, year-end presser in Moscow, lasting almost four and a half hours, Putin stated that Russia is more than ready to “simply renew the existing New START agreement”, which is bound to expire in early 2021: “They [the U.S.] can send us the agreement tomorrow, or we can sign and send it to Washington.” And yet, “so far our proposals have been left unanswered. If the New START ceases to exist, nothing in the world will hold back an arms race. I believe this is bad.”

“Bad” is quite the euphemism. Martyanov prefers to stress how “most of the American elites, at least for now, still reside in a state of Orwellian cognitive dissonance” even as the real RMA “blew the myth of American conventional invincibility out of the water.”

Martyanov is one of the very few analysts – always from different parts of Eurasia — who have warned about the danger of the U.S. “accidentally stumbling” into a war against Russia, China, or both which is impossible to be won conventionally, “let alone through the nightmare of a global nuclear catastrophe.”

Is that enough to instill at least a modicum of sense into those who lord over that massive cash cow, the industrial-military-security complex? Don’t count on it.

consortiumnews.com

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

The Indo-‘Israeli’ Trans-Arabian Corridor Will Push Russia Closer to Pakistan

By Andrew Korybko

Global Research, December 19, 2019

India’s participation in “Israel’s” Trans-Arabian Corridor for connecting the Eastern Mediterranean and Afro-Asian (“Indian”) Ocean will render New Delhi’s North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) with Iran, Azerbaijan, and Russia economically redundant, consequently pushing Russia closer to Pakistan as Moscow seeks to ensure the viability of its southern connectivity vision through N-CPEC+ instead.

India Slaps Iran Yet Again

Sputnik reported earlier this month that “Israel” and India shared documents pertaining to the former’s Trans-Arabian Corridor for connecting the Eastern Mediterranean and Afro-Asian (“Indian”) Ocean during the meeting between the former’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Katz (who’s also interestingly the Minister of Intelligence) and the latter’s External Affairs Minister Jaishankar during the Mediterranean Dialogues forum. This development is strategically significant because the success of India’s participation in that “Israeli”-led initiative will render New Delhi’s North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) with Iran, Azerbaijan, and Russia economically redundant since there wouldn’t be much of a reason for the South Asian state to utilize it for exporting goods to Europe if it can reach its destination much quicker through the Trans-Arabian Corridor while transiting through territories much wealthier than Iran such as the GCC and “Israel” which are more capable of buying some of its wares en route.

NSTC Is Dead, Long Live N-CPEC+!

Nobody should be surprised this turn of events since India had already agreed to comply with the US’ unilateral anti-Iranian sanctions regime and cut off the Islamic Republic from what had at one time been among its largest energy customers, further exacerbating its ongoing economic crisis as a result. Moreover, India slashed its budget for the NSTC’s terminal port of Chabahar earlier this summer and even deployed its warships to the Gulf following the Ansaraullah’s attack on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco that the West incredulously blamed on Iran. India isn’t a formal member of the US’ so-called “coalition” but it de-facto behaves as such through these means. Adding some more context to its decision to strengthen its integration with the GCC and “Israel” is the fact that India recently rejected joining the Chinese-led “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership” (RCEP) last month, which the author analyzed at the time undermined Russia’s “Greater Eurasian Partnership” (GEP) too.

It’s therefore perfectly understandable why India is intensifying its alliance with “Israel”, especially since Prime Minister Modi praised the self-professed “Jewish State” last month for supposedly “sharing and valuing the same principles of democracy”, in spite of this move being aimed against Iranian and even Russian interests. The Islamic Republic is left in the lurch after having naively trusted India to fulfill its NSTC commitments and therefore relieve the country’s increasing US-imposed “isolation”, though Russia is much more strategically resilient because it’s not only interested in constructing the railway portion of the Trans-Arabian Corridor which the author analyzed in two analyses last year on this topic, but is also preparing itself to pioneer what his earlier cited RCEP-GEP analysis described as N-CPEC+. That neologism refers to the expansion of CPEC through post-war Afghanistan for connecting Russia with the Afro-Asian Ocean via the global pivot state of Pakistan.

The Fast-Moving Russian-Pakistani Rapprochement

This isn’t the author’s “wishful thinking” like some critics have alleged, but a serious project that’s proceeding apace after two extremely important developments in Russian-Pakistani relations in just as many months and possibly even a third one that might manifest itself next week. The Russian Trade Representative in Pakistan publicly announced his country’s intent to establish a “reliable and mutually acceptable” banking system following the resolution of their Soviet-era dispute last month, which the author analyzed represents the prerequisite towards making tangible progress on N-CPEC+. Earlier this month, a massive trade delegation from Russia visited Pakistan and committed to at least several billion dollars’ worth of investments, proving that progress on improving the economic dimension of Russian-Pakistani relations is proceeding faster than even the most optimistic observers expected.

As for the third instance, Iran invited Pakistan to participate in the joint naval drills that it’s hosting next week with Russia and China, which would build upon the growing closeness of the Russian and Pakistani navies in recent years which the author analyzed in his piece late last year about “Russia’s Naval Strategy In The Afro-Asian Ocean” should Islamabad take Tehran up on it. So concerned is India about this possible development that the Observer Research Foundation’s Head of the Maritime Policy Initiative Abhijit Singh wrote in his recent piece for Russia’s top think tank, the Valdai Club, that “many in New Delhi are worried over the prospect of Russia’s involvement in a naval exercise with both Pakistan and China in a sensitive Indian Ocean littoral region” and that “Russia’s engagement in the Indian Ocean has indeed grown but not quite in the way India’s maritime watchers had imagined”, which is exactly what the author predicted in his previously cited analysis a year ago.

Concluding Thoughts

Considering that India has all but officially bowed out of the NSTC by slashing its funding for Chabahar earlier this year and is now exploring the possibility of replacing that trade route with the “Israeli”-led Trans-Arabian Corridor instead (a trend that was obvious enough for any objective observer to discern), it makes perfect sense that Russia would take the necessary steps to ensure the viability its southern connectivity vision through N-CPEC+ in response. After all, its GEP is dependent on pioneering new axes of supercontinental connectivity, and with the NSTC no longer as promising as before, the only realistic recourse for Russia is N-CPEC+, which could also complement NSTC in the unlikely event that it’s revived by serving to diversify Moscow’s access to the Afro-Asian Ocean. India isn’t expected to be too happy about this development, but it was none other than its own decision to join the Trans-Arabian Corridor at the NSTC’s expense that inspired Russia’s N-CPEC+ outreaches to Pakistan.

*

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

This article was originally published on OneWorld.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from OneWorldRussia’s S-400 Sale to India Won’t Imperil Its Partnership with PakistanThe original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Andrew Korybko, Global Research, 2019

Cruising Pamir Highway, the heart of the Heartland (Part 2 of 2)

Cruising Pamir Highway, the heart of the Heartland (Part 2 of 2)

December 16, 2019

By Pepe Escobar, On the Pamir Highway, Tajikistan – Posted with permission

A privileged microcosm of what is evolving as the intersection between the New Silk Roads and Greater Eurasia

Chinese container cargo trucks after crossing the Kulma pass at the Tajik-China border. Photo: Pepe Escobar / Asia Times

This is the second of 2 parts. See part 1 here.

Traveling the Pamir Highway, we’re not only facing a geological marvel and a magic trip into ancient history and customs. It’s also a privileged window on a trade revival that will be at the heart of the expansion of the New Silk Roads.

Khorog is the only town in the Pamirs – its cultural, economic and educational center, the site of the multi-campus University of Central Asia, financed by the Agha Khan foundation. Ismailis place tremendous importance on education.

Badakhshan was always world-famous for lapis lazuli and rubies. The Kuh-i-Lal ruby mine, south of Khorog, was legendary. Marco Polo wrote that in “Syghinan” (he was referring to the historical district of Shughnan) “the stones are dug on the king’s account, and no one else dares dig in that mountain on pain of forfeiture of life”.

Shughnan worshipped the sun, building circular structures with the corresponding solar symbolism. This is what we see in Saka graves in the Eastern Pamir. As we keep moving east, the settled Pamiri culture, with its profusion of orchards of apricots, apples and mulberries, gives way to semi-nomadic Kyrgyz life and irrigated villages are replaced by seasonal yurt camps (not at this time of the year though, because of the bitter cold.)

At Langar, the last village of the Wakhan, rock paintings depict mountain goats, caravans, horse riders with banners, and the Ismaili symbol of a palm with five fingers. Archeologist A. Zelenski, in fascination, called the historical monuments of the Wakhan “the Great Pamir Route.” Aurel Stein stressed this was the main connection between Europe and Asia, thus between the whole classical world and East Asia, with Central Asia in between. We are at the heart of the Heartland.

Last stop before Xinjiang

Following the Wakhan all the way would lead us to Tashkurgan, in Xinjiang. The Pakistani border, close to the Karakoram Highway, is only 15 km to 65 km away, across forbidding Afghan territory.

It’s the Koyzetek pass (4,271 meters) that finally leads to the Eastern Pamir plateau, which the Chinese called Tsunlin and Ptolomy called Iamus, shaped like a giant shallow dish with mountain ranges at the edges and lakes at record altitudes. Marco Polo wrote, “The land is called Pamier, and you ride across it for twelve days together, finding nothing but a desert without habitations or any green thing, so that travelers are obliged to carry with them whatever they need. The region is so lofty and cold that you don’t even see any birds flying. And I must notice also that because of this great cold, fire does not burn so brightly and give out so much heat as usual, not does it cook effectually.”

Murghab, peopled by Kyrgyz – whose summers are spent in very remote herding camps – revolves around a mini-bazaar in containers. If we follow the Aksu river – once considered the source of both the water and the name of the Oxus – we reach the ultimate, remote corner of Central Asia: Shaymak – only 80 km from the tri-border of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China.

The Little Pamirs are to the south. As I reported for Asia Times way back in 2001, it was in this area, crammed with the most important Silk Roads passes of both China and Pakistan, that Osama bin Laden might have been hiding, before he moved to Tora Bora.

From Murghab, I had to inspect the Kulma pass (4,362 meters high), a New Silk Road border. The road – made by China – is impeccable. I found lonely Chinese container truck drivers and businessmen from Kashgar driving made-in-China minivans across the Pamirs to be sold in Dushanbe.

The deep blue waters of Lake Karakul, not far from Xinjiang. Photo: Pepe Escobar / Asia Times

On the High Pamirs we find around 800 ancient lakes created by earthquakes, tectonic activity and glaciers. Yashilkul lake (“Blue Water”), at 3,734 meters frozen this time of the year, sits in a plateau scouted by Stone Age hunters. Tajik archeologist V. Ranov found rock paintings of horses and carts, attributes of Mitra, the Persian god of the Sun. During the 10th to 3rd centuries B.C, the plateau was inhabited by nomadic tribes of the Persian-speaking Sakas.

From Shughnan to Ishkoshim, here we are in what the ancients called “The country of the Sakas.”

From Scythians to containers

The vast Scythian steppes that range from the Danube all the way to China were inhabited by a vast confederation of tribes. Then, in the 2nd to 1st centuries B.C., the tribes started moving to the east of the Greco-Bactrian state. Some of them settled in the Pamirs and became the ethno-genetic component of the Pamiri ethnicity. Alex, my driver, is a true Pamiri from Khorog. He’s also the real Pamir Highway Star with his badass black Land Cruiser. (“It’s a killing machine/ it’s got everything,” as Deep Purple immortalized it.)

Alex, Pamiri from Khorog, the Highway Star. Photo: Pepe Escobar / Asia Times

The highlight of the Eastern Pamirs is the spectacular blue inland, saltwater Karakul Lake, formed 10 million years ago by a meteor. Under the sun, it’s a radiant turquoise; this time of the year, I saw it deep, deep blue, not really the “Black Lake” that its name implies. Karakul because of its slight salinity was not frozen. This is chong (big) Karakul, the older brother of the kichi (small) Karakul across the border in Xinjiang, which I had the pleasure of visiting in my Karakoram Highway travels.

The High Pamirs are right behind Karakul, concealing the 77-km-long Fedchenko glacier. East of the lake, if you could survive a trek in Arctic conditions, is Xinjiang. The early Tang dynasty wandering monk Xuanzang was here in 642 (he thought the lake was people by dragons). Marco Polo was here in 1274.

It’s a tough life at Bulungkul, with the atmosphere of an Arctic station. Temperatures can drop as low as -63C in winter. Photo: Pepe Escobar / Asia Times

Our base to explore Yashilkul and later Karakul was Bulungkul – this time of the year a sort of Arctic station, with only 40 houses served by solar panels in the middle of nowhere, and temperatures hovering around minus 22 Celsius. It’s the toughest of lives. They told me that in winter the temperature drops to -63C.

Farther down the road, I took a diversion east to observe the Kulma pass, at 4,363 meters the official Tajik border with China, reached by a – what else? – made-by-China road, opened in 2004 following the ancient Silk Road.

The Tajik-Kyrgyz border at the Kyzyl-Art pass looked like a scene from Tarkovsky’s Stalker, utterly Soviet-style desolate except for a shared taxi loaded with Kyrgyz going to Khorog. From there, it’s a spectacular drive all the way to the crossroads of Sary Tash, and through the head-spinning, 3,615 meter-high Taldyk pass, towards Osh, the gateway to the Ferghana valley.

The Taldyk pass in southern Kyrgyzstan, all the way to Osh. Photo: Pepe Escobar / Asia Times

All across this mesmerizing Central Asia/Heartland journey, especially in the bazaars, we see in detail the crossroads of pastoral nomadism and irrigation culture, fertilized century after century by cross-cultural Silk Road trade involving herders, farmers, merchants, all of them part of commodity trading and provisioning for the caravans.

We delve into the vortex of immensely rich social, religious, scientific, aesthetic and ideological influences – especially from Persia, India, China and Iran. The shift from overland to sea trade in the 16th century – the start of European world domination – in fact never erased the traditional routes to India via Afghanistan, China via Xinjiang and Europe via Iran. Trade remains the top factor in Central Asian life.

Today the Pamir Highway is a privileged microcosm of what is slowly but surely evolving as the intersection between the New Silk Roads and Greater Eurasia – with its main hubs configured by Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and – it may be hoped – India.

The ultimate crossroads of civilizations, the Heartland, is back – once again at the heart of history.

This concludes the 2-part series. To read part 1 click here.

 

Trials and tribulations of Central Asia integration

Trials and tribulations of Central Asia integration

A man leads a horse on the Suu-Samyr plateau along the ancient Great Silk Road from Bishkek to Osh, some 200 km from Bishkek. Photo: Vyacheslav Oseledko / AFP

The pros and cons of being the Heartland in the 21st century

By PEPE ESCOBAR, NUR-SULTAN, KAZAKHSTAN

Trials and tribulations of Central Asia integration

Crossing Tajikistan from west to northeast – Dushanbe to the Tajik-Kyrgyz border – and then Kyrgyzstan from south to north all the way to Bishkek via Osh, is one of the most extraordinary road trips on earth. Not only this is prime Ancient Silk Road territory but now is being propelled as a significant stretch of the 21st century New Silk Roads.

In addition to its cultural, historical and anthropological pull, this road trip also lays bare some of the key issues related to the development of Central Asia. It was particularly enlightening to hit the road as previously, at the 5th Astana Club meeting in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, I had had the pleasure of moderating a panel titled Central Asia at the Intersection of Global Interests: pros and cons of being Heartland.

The Heartland in the 21st century could not but be a major draw. Any serious analyst knows that Central Asia is the privileged corridor for both Europe and Asia at the heart of the New Silk Roads, as the Chinese-led BRI converges with the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

Banking experts such as Jacob Frenkel, chairman of JP Morgan Chase International, insist that the path towards inclusive growth in Central Asia entails access for financial services and financial tech; Nur-Sultan, incidentally, happens to be the only financial center within a 3,000-mile radius. Only a few years ago it was basically a potato field.

So it will be up to Kazakhs to capitalize on the financial ramifications of their independent, multi-vector foreign policy. After all, aware that his young nation was a “child of complicated history,” First President Nursultan Nazabayev from the beginning, in the early 1990s, wanted to prevent a Balkans scenario in Central Asia – as proposed as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy by Zbigniew Brzezinski in The Grand Chessboard. Recently Kazakhstan mediated quite successfully between Turkey and Russia. And then there’s the Kazakh hosting of the Astana process, which quickly evolved as the privileged road map for the pacification of Syria.

A link or a bridge?

Frederick Starr, chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute in Washington, made a crucial point in the sidelines of our debate: the UN recently passed a unanimous resolution recognizing Central Asia as a world region. And yet, there is no structure for cooperation inside Central Asia. Tricky national border issues between the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya rivers may have been solved. There are very few pending questions between, for instance, the Uzbeks and the Kyrgyz. Most “Stans” are SCO members, some are EAEU members and all want to profit from BRI.

But as I later saw for myself on the road as I crossed Tajikistan and then Kyrgyzstan, tariff barriers still apply. Industrial cooperation is developing very slowly. Corruption is rife. Distrust against “foreigners” is inbred. And on top of it, the fallout of the US-China trade war affects mostly developing nations – such as the Central Asians. A solution, Starr argues, would be to boost the work of an established commission, and aim towards setting up a single market by 2025.

At the Nur-Sultan debate, my friend Bruno Macaes, former Minister for Europe in Portugal and author of the excellent The Dawn of Eurasia, argued that the thrust for the New Silk Roads remains sea transportation, and investment in ports. As Central Asia is landlocked, the emphasis should be on soft infrastructure. Kazakhstan is uniquely positioned to understand differences between trading bocks. Macaes argues that Nur-Sultan should aim to replicate the role of Singapore as a bridge.

Peter Burian, the EU Special Representative for Central Asia, chose to stress the positives: how Central Asia has managed to survive its new Heartland incarnation without conflict, and how it’s engaged in institutional building from scratch. The Baltics should be taken as an example. Burian insists the EU does not want to impose ready-made concepts, and would rather work as a link, not as a bridge. More EU economic presence in Central Asia means, in practice, an investment commitment of $1.2 billion in seven years, which may not amount to much but targets very specific, practical-minded projects.

Evgeny Vinokurov, chief economist of the Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Development, touched on a real success story: the 15 day-only transportation/connectivity rail between China’s central provinces, Central Asia and the EU – now running at 400,000 cargo containers a year, and rising, and used by anyone from BMW to all manner of Chinese manufacturers. Over 10 million tons of merchandise a year is already moving West while six million tons are moving East. Vinokurov is adamant that the next step for Central Asia is to build industrial parks.

Svante Cornell, from the Institute for Security and Development Policy, emphasized a voluntary process, possibly with six nations (Afghanistan also included), and well-coordinated in practice (way beyond mere political integration). Models should be result-oriented ASEAN and Mercosur (presumably before Bolsonaro’s disruptive practices). Key issues involve facilitating smoother border crossings and for Central Asia to position itself as not just a corridor.

Essentially, Central Asia should think eastwards – in an SCO/ASEAN symbiosis, keeping in mind the role Singapore developed for itself as a global hub.

What about tech transfer?

As I saw for myself days later, when for instance, visiting the University of Central Asia in Khorog, in the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan, set up by the Aga Khan foundation, there is a serious drive across Central Asia to invest in universities and techno centers. In terms of Chinese investment, for instance, the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is financing hydropower in Kyrgyzstan. The EU is engaged in what it defines as a “trilateral project” – supporting education for Afghan women and universities in both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

This may all be discussed and deepened in an upcoming, first-time-ever summit of Central Asian presidents. Not bad as a first step.

Arguably the most intriguing intervention in the debate in Nur-Sultan was by former Kyrgyz Prime Minister Djoomart Otorbaev. He remarked that the GDP of four “Stans,” excluding Kazakhstan, is still smaller than Singapore’s. He insisted the road map ahead is to unite – mostly geoeconomically. He emphasized that both Russia and China “are officially complementary” and that’s “great for us.” Now it’s time to invest in human capital and thus generate more demand.

But once again, the inescapable factor is always China. Otorbaev, referring to BRI, insisted, “you must offer to us the highest technological solutions.” I asked him point-blank whether he could name a project with inbuilt, top technological transfer to Kyrgyzstan. He answered, “I didn’t see any added value so far.” Beijing better go back to the drawing board – seriously.

The Road Toward Greater Eurasia

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

Global Research, November 26, 2019

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

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

Great stabilizer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From MAD to SAD

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

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

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

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

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

Global alliance

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

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

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

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

*

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

This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is Asia Times

Militarization of South America, Coup in Bolivia and Argentina’s rapprochement with the Eurasian powers

Militarization of South America, Coup in Bolivia and Argentina’s rapprochement with the Eurasian powers

By Fabio Reis Vianna for The Saker Blog

On October 29th, the Cycle of Seminars on World Economy Analysis, organized by professors Monica Bruckmann and Franklin Trein, received in the Noble Hall of the IFCS-UFRJ, in Rio de Janeiro, the illustrious presence of the former vice-president of the BRICS Development Bank, Professor Paulo Nogueira Batista.

In the midst of the peculiar moment of social upheavals that are spreading throughout the world, the New Silk Road was discussed, a major Chinese project of geo-economic integration of Eurasia through vast road networks, high-speed trains, gas pipelines, fiber optic cables and ports, and that will benefit millions of people (including Western Europe, and incidentally, the African continent and Latin America itself).

To this end, three institutions created in the orbit of this project would play a key role: the Silk Road Fund, the AIIB (Asian Investment and Infrastructure Bank), and the NBD (BRICS Development Bank).

As the Brazilian State is a shareholder and founder of the NDB, many financing projects from this global institution could already have been approved and would be very welcome to the staggering Brazilian economy. However, despite the fact that in recent years, specifically from 2003 to June 2018, Chinese companies have invested almost 54 billion dollars in more than 100 projects, according to data from the Brazilian government itself, as of 2017, investments have fallen sharply.

According to a study by the Brazil-China Business Council (CBBC), Chinese investments in Brazil totaled 8.8 billion dollars in 2017 and no more than 3 billion dollars in 2018. A drop of 66%.

The deepening of the Brazilian framing of the US imperial orbit says a lot about this.

With the institutionalization of the New Defense Strategy of the United States, enacted on December 18, 2017, what had been happening in practice since mid-2012 was made official, with the acceleration of the interstate dispute and the escalation of global competition: the American repositioning in global geopolitical chess in an increasingly aggressive and unilateral manner.

Leaving aside the multilateralist rhetoric promoted over the last century, the Americans, faced with the strengthening of the “revisionist” powers Russia and China – questioners of the American centrality in the use of the rules and institutions created and managed unilaterally throughout the 20th century -, now seek to impose their will, without concessions, on the countries of the so-called Western Hemisphere. This is a region to which the United States rightfully attributes itself to the full exercise of sovereignty, for considering its zone of direct influence, thus inadmitting any contestation to its supremacy, not even any strategic alliance of countries that can create an alternative pole of power; much less in the Southern Cone of the continent.

Thus, the position of total alignment of the current Brazilian government with the interests of the Trump administration is very much related to this framing of the Western Hemisphere to the strategy of containing the expansionism of Eurasian actors.

If the deepening of the Eurasian project and the Sino-Russian strategic partnership – within Mackinder’s theory of heartland control – would already be inadmissible on its own, then the participation of a large Western Hemisphere country as a protagonist of an institution contesting old rules established and regulated by the hegemon would be too much: Brazil had to be separated from Russia and China at all costs, even if for this the country had to bear the price of seeing its institutions destroyed and involved in the labyrinth of a near military closure of the regime.

The last few months have been very hectic in many different parts of the world, particularly in South America.

Even if for not exactly similar reasons, especially in the specific cases of Peru and Bolivia, the popular protests that took place in Ecuador and Chile would have in common the characteristics of an almost natural reaction of self-protection of these societies to neoliberal restrictive policies.

As if it were an old irony of history, at the very moment when we are experiencing the shredding of interstate competition, there emerges a transmission belt spreading over several countries, as distant as they are disparate among themselves, the spark of social protests.

Curiously, this powerful and dangerous combination of social dissatisfaction and the escalation of conflicts between countries, in other periods of history, would end up being configured in that period of transition between the final cycles and of reconfiguration of the great board of the world system.

In view of this, it is important to highlight the risk of a characteristic in common that is gradually emerging in some South American countries: militarization.

With the escalation of global conflicts, the framing of South America to the North American strategy of containment of Eurasian adversaries and in the face of popular agitations to the deterioration of living standards, the lamentable option for the imposition of naked and crude order arises, bringing back to the political scenario of these countries the presence of the military as guarantors of institutional stability.

The region is moving towards a scenario in which elected governments, facing growing internal unrest, would depend on the military to survive.

The recent events in Peru, Ecuador and Chile do not allow us to lie. Apart from the fact that Brazil already lives under the shadow of a veiled military tutelage of its institutions.

The off-curve point of this story is Argentina and the impressive electoral victory of the Peronist opposition (at a time when the use of destabilizing tools has been frequent to interfere in electoral results, as in the case of the mass spread of fake news via Whatsapp in favor of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil).

Against all odds, in a region harassed by increasingly aggressive interference from the United States, Argentina is heading towards the resumption of a project of an autonomous and sovereign nation.

Faced with the successful destruction of the Brazil-Argentina strategic alliance, which had been strengthening since the re-democratization of the two nations in the mid-1980s, Argentina will face the complex challenge of seeking to expand its international insertion without its former Mercosur partner.

Something interesting said by Professor Paulo Nogueira Batista, in the Cycle of Seminars on Analysis of the World Economy, concerns the current Chinese position in the face of the aggressiveness and truculence of the Trump administration: paradoxically, such aggressiveness would be containing the Chinese expansionist impetus of recent years in South America, which, according to the professor, could open great opportunities for the countries of the region to bargain more favorable agreements for the Chinese. With the paralysis of Brazil and its blind alignment with the New Defense Strategy of the United States, Argentina has the opportunity not only to bargain for favorable trade agreements, but also to occupy the space left vacant by Brazil in the Eurasian integration project.

As Professor Paulo Nogueira Batista rightly said, the BRICS, and especially their development bank (NBD), would be heading toward a process of expansion of their participants.

In the new global geopolitical configuration, in which the intensification of the dispute increases the need of competing powers to guarantee their energy security, South America is already seen by many analysts as the new center of gravity of world oil production, replacing the Middle East. The Coup d’état in Bolivia is a very clear sign that the game will tend to be heavier from now on.

As Professor José Luís Fiori, Brazil’s leading expert on geopolitical issues, warned, “Oil is not the cause of all the conflicts in the international system. There is no doubt, however, that the great centralization of power that is underway in the interstate system is also transforming the permanent struggle for energy security of national states into a war between the great powers for the control of the new energy reserves that are being discovered in recent years. A war that is developing hand in hand, and in any corner of the world, be it in the tropical territory of Black Africa or in the icy lands of the Arctic Circle; be it in the turbulent waters of the mouth of the Amazon or in the inhospitable Kamchatka Peninsula”. https://jornalggn.com.br/geopolitica/geopolitica-e-fe-por-jose-luis-fiori/?fbclid=IwAR1IEPB6xbYL9BOpClmpyeUbonPPsIRPP-BQS7L_dqxZI0sr05jTHQ1Av64

Curiously, shortly before the violent classic coup d’état against President Evo Morales, the government of that country had announced plans to nationalize its production of Lithium.

Global demand for Lithium, essential in the production of cell phone batteries, laptops and electric cars, is expected to triple in the next 15 years.

Not coincidentally, Lithium’s world’s largest reserves are in Bolivia.

If this trend is confirmed, there is no other alternative for whale countries like Brazil and Argentina than to take over the South American strategic project at the risk of ending their days fragmented and swallowed up by the interests and disputes of powers outside the region.

For now, it is up to Argentina to walk alone and out of necessity, to expand economic and geopolitical ties with China and Russia because the tendency is for the country to become the target of the next destabilizing campaigns, “fourth generation” wars and economic suffocation caused by the hegemon.

Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor in law, writer and geopolitical analyst. He is currently a columnist in international politics for the printed version of the centennial Brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil.

 

A blue dot barely visible from New Silk Roads

A blue dot barely visible from New Silk Roads

NOVEMBER 07, 2019

by Pepe Escobar : posted with permission

US-Australia-Japan alternative to Belt and Road helps explain why the US sent a junior delegation to Thailand and why India opted out of RCEP

China’s President Xi Jinping waves during the opening ceremony of the China International Import Expo in Shanghai on November 5. Photo: AFP/Hector Retamal

Chinese President Xi Jinping six years ago launched New Silk Roads, now better known as the Belt and Road Initiative, the largest, most ambitious, pan-Eurasian infrastructure project of the 21st century.

Under the Trump administration, Belt and Road has been utterly demonized 24/7: a toxic cocktail of fear and doubt, with Beijing blamed for everything from plunging poor nations into a “debt trap” to evil designs of world domination.

Now finally comes what might be described as the institutional American response to Belt and Road: the Blue Dot Network.

Blue Dot is described, officially, as promoting global, multi-stakeholder “sustainable infrastructure development in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world.”

It is a joint project of the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation, in partnership with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

Now compare it with what just happened this same week at the inauguration of the China International Import Expo in Shanghai.

As Xi stressed: “To date, China has signed 197 documents on Belt and Road cooperation with 137 countries and 30 international organizations.”

This is what Blue Dot is up against – especially across the Global South. Well, not really. Global South diplomats, informally contacted, are not exactly impressed. They might see Blue Dot as an aspiring competitor to BRI, but one that’s moved by private finance – mostly, in theory, American.

They scoff at the prospect that Blue Dot will include some sort of ratings mechanism that will be positioned to vet and downgrade Belt and Road projects. Washington will spin it as a “certification” process setting “international standards” – implying Belt and Road is sub-standard. Whether Global South nations will pay attention to these new ratings is an open question.

The Japanese example

Blue Dot should also be understood in direct comparison with what just happened at the summit-fest in Thailand centered on the meetings of East Asia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The advent of Blue Dot explains why the US sent only a junior delegation to Thailand, and also, to a great extent, why India missed the RCEP train as it left the pan-Asian station.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is still between a rock – Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy – and a hard place – Eurasia integration. They are mutually incompatible.

Blue Dot is a de facto business extension of Indo-Pacific, which congregates the US, Japan, Australia – and India: the Quad members. It’s a mirror image of the – defunct – Obama administration Trans-Pacific Partnership in relation to the – also defunct – “pivot to Asia.”

It’s unclear whether New Delhi will join Blue Dot. It has rejected Belt and Road, but not, finally and irrevocably, RCEP. ASEAN has tried to put on a brave face and insist differences will be smoothed out and all 16 RCEP members will sign a deal in Vietnam in 2020.

Yet the bottom line remains: Washington will continue to manipulate India by all means deemed necessary to torpedo – at least in the South Asian theater – the potential of Belt and Road as well as larger Eurasia integration.

And still, after all these years of non-stop demonization, the best thing Washington could come up with was to steal Belt and Road’s idea and dress it up in private bank financing.

Now compare it, for instance, with the work of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia. They privilege the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, an original Indonesian idea, instead of the American version. The institute’s president, Hidetoshi Nishimura, describes it as “a guideline for dialogue partners” and stresses that “Japan’s own vision of the Indo-Pacific fits very well with that of ASEAN.”

As much as Nishimura notes how “it is well known that Japan has been the key donor and a real partner in the economic development of Southeast Asia throughout the past five decades,” he also extols RCEP as “the symbol of free trade.” Both China and Japan are firmly behind RCEP. And Beijing is also firmly stressing the direct connection between RCEP and Belt and Road projects.

In the end, Blue Dot may be no more than a PR exercise, too little, too late. It won’t stop Belt and Road expansion. It won’t prevent China-Japan investment partnerships. It won’t stop awareness all across the Global South about the weaponization of the US dollar for geopolitical purposes.

And it won’t bury prevailing skepticism about the development project skills of a hyperpower engaged on a mission to steal other nation’s oil reserves as part of an illegal Syrian occupation.

%d bloggers like this: