Bye bye 1991-2022

January 10, 2023

by Pepe Escobar, posted with the author’s permission and widely cross-posted

2023 starts with collective NATO in Absolutely Freak Out Mode as Russian Defense Minister Shoigu announces that Russian Navy frigate Admiral Gorshkov is now on tour – complete with a set of Mr. Zircon’s hypersonic business cards.

The business tour will encompass the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, and of course include the Mediterranean, the Roman Empire’s former Mare Nostrum. Mr. Zircon on the prowl has absolutely nothing to do with the war in Ukraine: it’s a sign of what happens next when it comes to frying much bigger fishes than a bunch of Kiev psychos.

The end of 2022 did seal the frying of the Big Ukraine Negotiation Fish. It has now been served on a hot plate – and fully digested. Moscow has made it painfully clear there’s no reason whatsoever to trust the “non-agreement capable” declining superpower.

So even taxi drivers in Dacca are now betting on when the much- vaunted “winter offensive” starts, and how far will it go. General Armageddon’s path ahead is clear: all-out demilitarization and de-electrification on steroids, complete with grinding up masses of Ukrainians at the lowest possible cost to the Russian Armed Forces in Donbass until Kiev psychos beg for mercy. Or not.

Another big fried fish on a hot plate at the end of 2022 was the 2014 Minsk Agreement. The cook was no other than former chancellor Merkel (“an attempt to buy time for Ukraine”). Implied is the not exactly smokin’ gun: the strategy of the Straussian/neo-con and neoliberal-con combo in charge of US foreign policy, from the beginning, was to unleash a Forever War, by proxy, against Russia.

Merkel may have been up to something telling the Russians, in their face, that she lied like crypto-Soprano Mike Pompeo, then she lied again and again, for years. That’s not embarrassing for Moscow, but for Berlin: yet another graphic demonstration of total vassalage to the Empire.

The response by the contemporary embodiment of Mercury, Russian Foreign Ministry’s Maria Zakharova, was equally intriguing: Merkel’s confession could be used as a specific reason – and evidence – for a tribunal judging Western politicians responsible for provoking the Russia-Ukraine proxy war.

No one will obviously confirm it on the record. But all this could be part of an evolving, secret Russia-Germany deal in the making, leading to Germany restoring at least some of its sovereignty.

Time to fry NATO fish

Meanwhile, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, visibly relishing his totally unplugged incarnation, expanded on the Fried Negotiation Fish saga. “Last warning to all nations”, as he framed it: “there can be no business with the Anglo-Saxon world [because] it is a thief, a swindler, a card-sharp that could do anything….From now on we will do without them until a new generation of sensible politicians comes to power… There is nobody in the West we could deal with about anything for any reason.”

Medvedev, significantly, recited more or less the same script, in person, to Xi Jinping in Beijing, days before the zoom to end all zooms – between Xi and Putin – that worked as a sort of informal closure of 2022, with the Russia-China strategic partnership perfectly in synch.

On the war front, General Armageddon’s new – offensive – groove is bound to lead in the next few months to an undisputable fact on the ground: a partition between a dysfunctional black hole or rump Ukraine on the west, and Novorossiya in the east.

Even the IMF is now reluctant to throw extra funds into the black hole. Kiev’s 2023 budget has an – unrealistic – $36 billion deficit. Half of the budget is military-related. The real deficit in 2022 was running at about $5 billion a month – and will inevitably balloon.

Tymofiy Mylovanov, a professor at the Kiev School of Economics, came up with a howler: the IMF is worried about Ukraine’s “debt sustainability”. He added, “if even the IMF is worried, imagine what private investors are thinking”. There will be no “investment” in rump Ukraine. Multinational vultures will grab land for nothing and whatever puny productive assets may remain.

Arguably the biggest fish to be fried in 2023 is the myth of NATO. Every serious military analyst, few Americans included, knows that the Russian Army and military industrial complex represents a superior system than what existed at the end of the USSR, and far superior to that of the US and the rest of NATO today.

The Mackinder-style final blow to a possible alliance between Germany (EU), Russia and China – which is what is really behind the US proxy war in Ukraine – is not proceeding according to the Straussian wet dream.

Saddam Hussein, former imperial vassal, was regime-changed because he wanted to bypass the petrodollar. Now we have the inevitable rise of the petroyuan – “in three to five years”, as Xi Jinping announced in Riyadh: you just can’t prevent it with Shock’n Awe on Beijing.

In 2008, Russia embarked on a massive rebuilding of missile forces and a 14-year plan to modernize land-based armed forces. Mr. Zircon presenting his hypersonic business card across the Mare Nostrum is just a small part of the Big Picture.

The myth of US power

The CIA abandoned Afghanistan in a humiliating retreat – even ditching the heroin ratline – just to relocate to Ukraine and continue playing the same old broken records. The CIA is behind the ongoing sabotage of Russian infrastructure – in tandem with MI6 and others. Sooner or later there will be blowback.

Few people – including CIA operatives – may know that New York City, for instance, may be destroyed with a single move: blowing up the George Washington bridge. The city can’t be supplied with food and most of its requirements without the bridge. The New York City electrical grid can be destroyed by knocking out the central controls; putting it back together could take a year.

Even trespassed by infinite layers of fog of war, the current situation in Ukraine is still a skirmish. The real war has not even started yet. It might – soon.

Apart from Ukraine and Poland there is no NATO force worth mentioning. Germany has a risible two-day supply of ammunition. Turkey will not send a single soldier to fight Russians in Ukraine.

Out of 80,000 US troops stationed in Europe, only 10% are weaponized. Recently 20,000 were added, not a big deal. If the Americans activated their troops in Europe – something rather ridiculous in itself – they would not have any place to land supplies or reinforcements. All airports and seaports would be destroyed by Russian hypersonic missiles in a matter of minutes – in continental Europe as well as the UK.

In addition, all fuel centers such as Rotterdam for oil and natural gas would be destroyed, as well as all military installations, including top American bases in Europe: Grafenwoehr, Hohenfels, Ramstein, Baumholder, Vilseck, Spangdahlem, and Wiesbaden in Germany (for the Army and Air Force); Aviano Air Base in Italy; Lajes Air Base in Portugal’s Azores islands; Naval Station Rota in Spain; Incirlik Air Base in Turkey; and Royal Air Force stations Lakenheath and Mildenhall in the UK.

All fighter jets and bombers would be destroyed – after they land or while landed: there would be no place to land except on the autobahn, where they would be sitting ducks.

Patriot missiles are worthless – as the whole Global South saw in Saudi Arabia when they tried to knock out Houthi missiles coming from Yemen. Israel’s Iron Dome can’t even knock out all primitive missiles coming from Gaza.

US military power is the supreme myth of the fish to be fried variety. Essentially they hide behind proxies – as the Ukraine Armed Forces. US forces are worthless except in turkey shoots as in Iraq in 1991 and 2003, against a disabled opponent in the middle of the desert with no air cover. And never forget how NATO was completely humiliated by the Taliban.

The final breaking point

2022 ended an era: the final breaking point of the “rules-based international order” established after the fall of the USSR.

The Empire entered Desperation Row, throwing everything and the kitchen sink – proxy war on Ukraine, AUKUS, Taiwan hysteria – to dismantle the set-up they created way back in 1991.

Globalization’s rollback is being implemented by the Empire itself. That ranges from stealing the EU energy market from Russia so the hapless vassals buy ultra-expensive US energy to smashing the entire semiconductor supply chain, forcibly rebuilding it around itself to “isolate” China.

The NATO vs. Russia war in Ukraine is just a cog in the wheel of the New Great Game. For the Global South, what really matters is how Eurasia – and beyond – are coordinating their integration process, from BRI to the BRICS+ expansion, from the SCO to the INSTC, from Opec+ to the Greater Eurasia Partnership.

We’re back to what the world looked like in 1914, or before 1939, only in a limited sense. There’s a plethora of nations struggling to expand their influence, but all of them are betting on multipolarity, or “peaceful modernization”, as Xi Jinping coined it, and not Forever Wars: China, Russia, India, Iran, Indonesia and others.

So bye bye 1991-2022. The hard work starts now. Welcome to the New Great Game on crack.

Why the CIA attempted a ‘Maidan uprising’ in Brazil

The failed coup in Brazil is the latest CIA stunt, just as the country is forging stronger ties with the east.

January 10 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

A former US intelligence official has confirmed that the shambolic Maidan remix staged in Brasilia on 8 January was a CIA operation, and linked it to the recent attempts at color revolution in Iran.

On Sunday, alleged supporters of former right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro stormed Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court, and  presidential palace, bypassing flimsy security barricades, climbing on roofs, smashing windows, destroying public property including precious paintings, while calling for a military coup as part of a regime change scheme targeting elected President Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva.

According to the US source, the reason for staging the operation – which bears visible signs of hasty planning – now, is that Brazil is set to reassert itself in global geopolitics alongside fellow BRICS states Russia, India, and China.

That suggests CIA planners are avid readers of Credit Suisse strategist Zoltan Pozsar, formerly of the New York Fed. In his ground-breaking 27 December report titled War and Commodity Encumbrance, Pozsar states that “the multipolar world order is being built not by G7 heads of state but by the ‘G7 of the East’ (the BRICS heads of state), which is a G5 really but because of ‘BRICSpansion’, I took the liberty to round up.”

He refers here to reports that Algeria, Argentina, Iran have already applied to join the BRICS – or rather its expanded version “BRICS+” – with further interest expressed by Saudi Arabia, Turkiye, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Indonesia.

The US source drew a parallel between the CIA’s Maidan in Brazil and a series of recent street demonstrations in Iran instrumentalized by the agency as part of a new color revolution drive: “These CIA operations in Brazil and Iran parallel the operation in Venezuela in 2002 that was highly successful at the start as rioters managed to seize Hugo Chavez.”

Enter the “G7 of the East”

Straussian neo-cons placed at the top of the CIA, irrespective of their political affiliation, are livid that the “G7 of the East” – as in the BRICS+ configuration of the near future – are fast moving out of the US dollar orbit.

Straussian John Bolton – who has just publicized his interest in running for the US presidency – is now demanding the ouster of Turkey from NATO as the Global South realigns rapidly within new multipolar institutions.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his new Chinese counterpart Qin Gang have just announced the merging of the China-driven Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Russia-driven Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU). This means that the largest 21st century trade/connectivity/development project – the Chinese New Silk Roads – is now even more complex, and keeps expanding.

That sets the stage for the introduction, already being designed at various levels, of a new international trading currency aimed at supplanting then replacing the US dollar. Apart from an internal debate among the BRICS, one of the key vectors is the discussion team set up between the EAEU and China. When concluded, these deliberations will be presented to BRI-EAEU partner nations and of course the expanded BRICS+.

Lula at the helm in Brazil, in what is now his third non-successive presidential term, will offer a tremendous boost to BRICS+, In the 2000s, side by side with Russian President Putin and former Chinese President Hu Jintao, Lula was a key conceptualizer of a deeper role for BRICS, including trade in their own currencies.

BRICS as “the new G7 of the East,” as defined by Pozsar, is beyond anathema – as much for Straussian neo-cons as for neoliberal.

The US is being slowly but surely expelled from wider Eurasia by concerted actions of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Ukraine is a black hole – where NATO faces a humiliation that will make Afghanistan look like Alice in Wonderland. A feeble EU being forced by Washington to de-industrialize and buy US Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) at absurdly high cost has no essential resources for the Empire to plunder.

Geoeconomically, that leaves the US-denominated “Western Hemisphere,” especially immense energy-rich Venezuela as the key target. And geopolitically, the key regional actor is Brazil.

The Straussian neo-con play is to pull all stops to prevent Chinese and Russian trade expansion and political influence in Latin America, which Washington – irrespective of international law and the concept of sovereignty, continues to call “our backyard.” In times where neoliberalism is so “inclusive” that Zionists wear swastikas, the Monroe Doctrine is back, on steroids.

All about the ‘strategy of tension’

Clues for Maidan in Brazil can be obtained, for instance, at the US Army Cyber Command at Fort Gordon, where it’s no secret the CIA deployed hundreds of assets across Brazil ahead of the recent presidential election – faithful to the “strategy of tension” playbook.

CIA chatter was intercepted at Fort Gordon since mid-2022. The main theme then was the imposition of the widespread narrative that ‘Lula could only win by cheating.’

A key target of the CIA operation was to discredit by all means the Brazilian electoral process, paving the way for a prepackaged narrative that is now unraveling: a defeated Bolsonaro fleeing Brazil and seeking refuge at former US president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago mansion. Bolsonaro, advised by Steve Bannon, did flee Brazil, skipping Lula’s inauguration, but because he’s terrified he may be facing the slammer sooner rather than later. And by the way, he is in Orlando, not Mar-a-Lago.

The icing on the stale Maidan cake was what happened this past Sunday: fabricating a 8 January in Brasilia mirroring the events of 6 January, 2021 in Washington, and of course imprinting the Bolsonaro-Trump link on people’s minds.

The amateurish nature of 8 January in Brasilia suggests CIA planners got lost in their own plot. The whole farce had to be anticipated because of Pozsar’s report, which everyone-who-matters has read across the New York-Beltway axis.

What is clear, is that for some factions of the powerful US establishment, getting rid of Trump at all costs is even more crucial than crippling Brazil’s role in BRICS+.

When it comes to the internal factors of Maidan in Brazil, borrowing from novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, everything walks and talks like the Chronicle of a Coup Foretold. It is impossible that the security apparatus around Lula could not have foreseen these events, especially considering the tsunami of signs on social networks.

So there must have been a concerted effort to act softly – without any preventive big sticks – while just emitting the usual neoliberal babble.

After all, Lula’s cabinet is a mess, with ministers constantly clashing and some members supporting Bolsonaro even a few months ago. Lula calls it a “national unity government,” but it is more like a tawdry patchwork job.

Brazilian analyst Quantum Bird, a globally respected physics scholar who has returned home after a long stint in NATO lands, notes how there are “too many actors in play and too many antagonistic interests. Among Lula’s ministers, we find Bolsonarists, neoliberal-rentiers, climate interventionism converts, identity politics practitioners and a vast fauna of political neophytes and social climbers, all well aligned with Washington’s imperial interests.”

CIA-stoked ‘militants’ on the prowl

One plausible scenario is that powerful sectors of the Brazilian military – at the service of the usual Straussian neo-con think tanks, plus global finance capital – could not really pull off a real coup, considering massive popular rejection, and had to settle at best for a “soft” farce. That illustrates just how much this self-aggrandizing and highly corrupt military faction is isolated from Brazilian society.

What is deeply worrying, as Quantum Bird notes, is that the unanimity in condemning 8 January from all quarters, while no one took responsibility, “shows how Lula navigates virtually alone in a shallow sea infested by sharpened corals and hungry sharks.”

Lula’s position, he adds, “decreeing a federal intervention all by himself, without strong faces of his own government or relevant authorities, shows an improvised, disorganized and amateurish reaction.”

And all that, once again, after CIA-stoked “militants” had been organizing the “protests” openly on social media for days.

The same old CIA playbook though remains at work. It still boggles the mind how easy it is to subvert Brazil, one of the natural leaders of the Global South. Attempted old school coups cum regime change/color revolution scripts will keep being played – remember Kazakhstan in early 2021, and Iran only a few months ago.

As much as the self-aggrandizing faction of the Brazilian military may believe they control the nation, if Lula’s significant masses hit the streets in full force against the 8 January farce, the army’s impotence will be graphically imprinted. And since this is a CIA operation, the handlers will order their tropical military vassals to behave like ostriches.

The future, unfortunately, is ominous. The US establishment will not allow Brazil, the BRICS economy with the best potential after China, to be back in business with full force and in synch with the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Straussian neo-cons and neoliberals, certified geopolitical jackals and hyenas, will get even more ferocious as the “G7 of the East,” Brazil included, moves to end the suzerainty of the US dollar as imperial control of the world vanishes.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

De-dollarization: Slowly but surely

1 Jan 2023

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

What unites China and Russia in a trade/currency warfare against the US is the fact that they both oppose a unipolar world over a multipolar world.

It has been almost a year since the war in Ukraine began. Since then, talk of de-dollarization has picked up speed. Even prominent mainstream economists Galbraith (2022) and Eichengreen (2022) have joined the bandwagon, but they do not see an avalanche that could unseat the dollar yet, and rightly so, but as argued here, they do so for the wrong reasons.

Across the board, the mainstream peddles the point that the US financial market has depth that no other market has, and therefore, the dollar is irreplaceable. That is true for the moment. Where else can financial wealth be placed safely, traded and cashed in quickly other than the US market. I emphasized safely because such a market was not safe for confiscated Russian assets and it is proving to be unsafe for any would-be customer whose politics do not align with US imperial designs. Thus, the issue of depth and safety have subjective twists to them. Moreso, the occurrence of Russian asset seizure by Europe and the US begs the question: the financial market is deep for whom? 

Money, it ought to be remembered, is a social convention. It serves a function as a medium of exchange/reserve, as well as a savings medium. Money is also an idea (a form) with an aura whose very allure is to reproduce the social conditions for the creation of more money, through credit of course. Like all conventions, money also holds by some form of consensus. Any currency has to be recognized as value and it attains a status as a symbolic power by the knowledge people hold about it as both means of transaction and a social form. Of all the monies in circulation around the world, the dollar is unusual in the sense that it derives its legitimacy from the knowledge that the dollar is secure from many people of different nationalities around the globe.

The dollar and dollar instruments, like treasuries and bonds, are assumed risk-free. Pension funds for instance, which ensure against old age poverty, scramble to lodge in dollar assets that are set to grow and not lose but gain much value over time. People acknowledge that the dollar is a universal medium of exchange and savings, and such acknowledgment is the source of the power of the dollar. However, such common knowledge, which is the substance of dollar power, must also be constantly produced and reproduced. For that, there are theories that fit the bill.

For instance, instead of theorizing that money depends on real production capabilities, fiat money is said to depend on a capitalism of futurity and a tradability of debt. Although the US accounts for less than 20 percent of world output (production’s worth’, faith in the depth of its financial market and its credibility in the future as a state account for it covering the credit necessary for much of global transactions and savings.

Still, theories are pretty much ideological tools that show or hide some desired aspects of reality in order to serve the interests of different social groups. So, while it is true that the US nominally holds less than 20 percent of global output, much of global output depends on the US’ control of strategic resources and global chokepoints. These are delivered by the demonstrative power of its many military bases and capacity to destruct its foes.

As one can readily see, if the capacity to destruct and to infuse instability abroad are counted as production, then it is obvious that the US accounts for much more in production than the merely 20 percent it registers in its national accounts as GDP. Such a megalithic process is the true substance of the knowledge that upholds the dollar as the world reserve currency. It is this knowledge, reproduced on a global scale by the capacity to destruct, which is the real reason for the deep knowledge that props up the deep US financial market, as opposed to some hallucinatory moneyed economy whose debts are tradable, and it is the erosion of that capacity that is heralded by the rise of the multipolar world when Russia began its de-Nazification of Ukraine campaign. Changing that power structure behind the depth of US finance changes the acknowledgment that the US dollar is the sole undisputed universal currency on account of the universal power of the US. How so?

The resilience of Russia’s economy

When the Central Bank of Russia announced it pegged its national currency to gold, just a month after the conflict erupted, many saw the move as a blow to the dollar status quo – especially for the EU bloc, which heavily relied on Russia for supplies of cheap LNG. For them, it was out of the question to pay for oil in rubles. “We will not be blackmailed by Russia” to pay for gas in rubles, said Germany’s Finance Minister, Robert Habeck. In March 2022, US lawmakers introduced a bill to sanction Russian gold and then the EU followed suit. By June 2022, the Group of 7 agreed to implement a full-scale ban on the Russian gold market, completely sanctioning Moscow from exporting gold. By placing an embargo on Russia’s gold exports, freezing Russian assets and blocking Russian banks from using SWIFT, the West believed it could pressure Moscow. These sanctions against Russia threw Russia out of the dollar loop and were de-dollarizing Russia. The West was partially de-dollarizing the world by imposing more sanctions.  

Even though the sanctions did weaken the ruble at first, it did not take too long for the currency to rebound since many of the commodities Russia produces such as gas, wheat and fertilizers are priced in the ruble. In the span of ten months, the Ruble went from a volatile position in March to a stable currency by September. The ruble still stands stronger than pre-war levels, and as Russia keeps carrying out trade activities with third countries via new monetary channels, the situation of the ruble only serves to forecast that the crisis in Europe will exacerbate further and further. If anything, the fact that Russia still manages despite the sanctions proves that there is more to production estimated in dollar GDP to measure the real worth of an economy and its currency. It has become apparent that the commodity control-based standard of the dollar equally applies to the Ruble, which accounts for significant shares of wheat and oil. 

Furthermore, Russia’s new MIR payment system, which parallels SWIFT and MasterCard, said that by the end of September it issued more than 161 cards worldwide. By November, Russia decided to take a step further and called on all state members of the BRICS+ alliance to consider the possibility of establishing a single gold trade system. And just very recently, reports revealed that Russia was beginning to test international payments in digital currencies with companies. Unlike Iraq and Libya, and Venezuela, Russia is bigger and has proven resilient, especially with support from China. 

Getting ‘at’ China

Besides the vast amounts of money spent on financing Kiev, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky himself admitted that the war in Ukraine was a war ‘for’ the US. When he delivered an address at a joint session at the US Congress in December, he warned that if Russia were to win the war, the world order established by the US post-WWII would inevitably crumble – with it, the hegemony of the dollar. With China’s economy surpassing the US in real terms and commanding much of global production and trade, the possibility of an alternative financial system is around the corner – unless of course the balance of forces tilts in favor of the US as it defeats Russia in Ukraine and extends its hegemony to the Eurasian corridor.  

So what does the US really want with Russia? It wants Russia fragmented and China choked. China, Russia’s de facto ally, has been de-dollarizing its economy over the past decade. But that doesn’t necessarily imply both countries form ‘a bloc’ per se. Both Russia and China remain distinct governments with distinct policies and distinct ideologies. What really unites them in this trade/currency warfare is the fact that they both oppose a unipolar world over a multipolar world. They both want to develop at their own pace, their own way, without the interference of neoliberal or imperialist elements. In that sense, the conflict in Ukraine has a lot to do with China.

Even the most recent Pentagon defense strategy admits that Russia is not as threatening as China is, which it dubs as “the greatest security challenge for the US.” When that report was issued in October 2022, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that China “is the only competitor out there with both the intent to reshape the international order, and increasingly, the power to do so, while Russia on the other hand “can’t systematically challenge the US over the long term. But Russian aggression does pose an immediate and sharp threat to our interests and values.” Unlike the West, it took only seven decades for China to establish itself as a global superpower that has carried out the biggest poverty alleviation project in history.  It established such a record without enslaving or geocoding the planet and the environment.

Another important feature of the Chinese economy is the fact that it easily absorbs technologies from abroad and it’s good at meeting the standards of foreign markets. It’s a leading pioneer in a panoply of sectors which include space exploration, financial developments, medical advances, green technologies, urban construction, and military innovations. China’s economy is also relatively insulated from external shocks and capital flight by its non-convertible currency. It draws down on its massive currency reserves denominated in dollars – mainly US government debt – and invested in US treasury bonds, to protect against any short-term capital flow and to preserve the competitiveness of its own currency at times of crises. 

What really bothers the West is the fact that China was not only able to propel its entire population to higher standards of living, but it also assisted others in doing so. Through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China promoted infrastructural ventures in some of the world’s poorest economies in a way that complemented their productive assets in facilitating productivity, growth, and economic mobility. The Asian country has defied neoliberalism both as an ideology and as an economic policy by upholding its own brand of socialism based on “Chinese characteristics”.

As part of its commitment to the internationalism of Mao Zedong, China through the demonstration effect, exported that model based on an anti-imperialist and nationalist mode of development to countries of the Global South. Being the world’s largest trading country, the world’s largest exporter, and one of the world’s largest holders of US debt, China never forced anyone to borrow from it in order to financially enslave them and/or to finance its war effort. Adding all this to China’s defiance of abiding to western sanctions against Russia, and you will have Sino-Western relations hitting an all-time low – particularly in light of accusations that China helped Russia circumvent the effects of sanctions. 

Given the developmental trajectory of China’s growth, which is detached from militarism and built on a working-class-led resistance, it is rather an arithmetic certainty that China will never morph into a war-mongering nation. It simply does not depend on war to grow. Moreover, having itself been the target of imperialism for centuries is enough to suggest that China in no way intends to pursue such an agenda – but rather strives to resist it, as it always did. Its very existence as a powerful socialist nation is antithetical to the ideological, financial, and military dominance of the post-WW2 Western order.

This only adds to the reasons why the US has been recently waging a series of provocations against China, both economically and politically. On the economic front, the US constrained China from exporting semiconductors to western markets and suspended the transfer of chip technologies to China. It also plans to cut Huawei’s access to US banks over allegations that the company is engaged in “economic espionage” against the US. On the political front, there was the whole Taiwan fiasco which was short-lived after Tsai Ing-wen was humiliatingly defeated in Taiwan’s last election. 

China retaliates

At some point, it is only natural for China to retaliate. To strike back at the financial hegemon by decreasing the global demand for US dollars is one such measure of retaliation. China’s de-dollarization strategy can basically be summed up as follows: creating trade payment systems based on the national currencies of trading partners, dumping US treasuries, and breaking the petrodollar system while buying massive amounts of gold. 

It may be recalled that China stores a considerable portion of its surplus in US Bonds. The standard idea of weaponizing bonds is often reiterated in what pundits dub the ‘nuclear option’, a theory that supposes China could sell off all of its treasuries in an attempt to destabilize the American economy. But then again that seems like a mythical alternative, which is likely to harm everyone including China. The potential flooding of the global exchange market with billions of dollars of American debt may cause the price of US treasury bonds to decrease and reciprocally interest rates to increase. The interest rates on US treasury bonds are the benchmark for borrowing throughout the global economy. So, in case they are abruptly raised, this may precipitate another global slowdown. 

China, as well as others, seek a reasonable solution to the US debt problem and a transfer to a more representative multi-polar currency and world-saving medium. At some point in the past, China held $3 trillion in US debt. In October 2022, it recorded treasury holdings to a 12-year low below the $1 trillion mark. It has been slowly ridding itself of being indebted to the US in the US’s own currency.

Over fears that china will endure a fate similar to that of Russia, that it will lose all its assets and dollars in case tensions increase, China has resorted to converting its bonds into real assets and proceeded by investing them in the third world as a counter-hegemonical strategy. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is the gateway to transform US-denominated money capital into real capital. Whereas US imperialism is about the incapacitation and disempowerment of the developing world, the Chinese funded BRI, which turns Chinese saved US dollars into third world plans and equipment, turns US bonds into weapons against the US. 

Breaking the petrodollar system

While reducing transactions in dollars diminishes global demand for the dollar, China and others with trade surpluses need to save in US treasuries for lack of alternatives. Analytically, an alternative to the US savings instruments from a multi-currency saving bond is not difficult to envisage. In fact that is what John Maynard Keynes proposed at Bretton-wood in 1944, but the proposal was declined by the US. The alternative muti-national savings instrument would come as natural outcome of shifting balance of forces globally, especially as the principal strategic commodity, oil, becomes denominated in currencies other than dollars.

Xi’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia is one step towards provisioning an alternative oil payment system. The visit amounted to a diplomatic offensive and was hailed as a landmark event on the strengthening of Sino-Arab ties as on December 20, 2022, the Chinese head of state attended the first ever China-Arab state summit and delivered a key speech “underscoring the importance of carrying forward the spirit of China-Arab friendship featuring solidarity and mutual assistance, equality and mutual benefit, inclusiveness and mutual learning, and jointly building a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era.”

The move is clearly aimed at disrupting the petrodollar system, which has for the past 50 years upheld the US dollar as the sole currency to purchase oil. As is already known, the dollar-priced oil system is what redeemed the departure of the US from the gold standard in 1971. Being a source of energy upon which life depends, and a strategic commodity that accounts for about 20% of the global trade volume, having dollars is a prerequisite for an economy’s survival, and pricing the oil in dollars keeps the dollar high in demand. The more the US prints dollars to meet expanding trade demand, the more it could live off the rents of dollar seigniorage, or the ability to buy real assets from abroad with the credit it issues. No other empire in history enjoyed such privilege.

The modern imperial tributary system is that the US lends money in its own currency, and in return, it usurps the wealth produced by other nations. So when China says it wants to purchase oil using the Yuan and initiate separate deals, this means it is planning to lessen the global demand for the dollar, therefore lessen the capacity of the US to issue global credit, and hence, lessen its imperial rents.  

Gold is ok, but only partially

China has been hoarding much gold. It now has the highest gold reserves. For the first time since 2019, the central bank of China announced it increased its gold reserves with the purchase of 32 tons of gold in November, bringing the total up to 1980 tons amounting to $111.65 billion. Needless to say, the gold standard cannot supplant a fiat money system already based on commodities and production capabilities. However, having gold in addition to developing its own development bank and international lending institutions and payment system, China further securitizes its finance.  

Thus, gold demand in China is high because traders and investors consider the commodity as a buffer against extreme fluctuations and an effective store of value. The Chinese government monitors carefully the amount of gold that is brought in and out of the country. Being the biggest gold producer, China safeguards much of its gold production for itself. In addition, China intentionally uses the price arbitrage to get traders to purchase more gold from abroad. Most of that gold was purchased from the West, particularly the UK and the US, where gold is traded at a cheaper price. However, gold primacy alone is insufficient to create the acknowledgment of depth similar to that enjoyed by the US market.

Once more, that confidence in the dollar market is reproduced daily by the power of the US over strategic commodity channels around the world. The US is heir to the European colonial system and its control emerges from the transference between its physical and ideological powers. Therefore, gold alone is possibly only a gateway to dislodging a dollar system based on strategic commodity control.

The alternative to the US financial market is in the making

China has inked separate agreements, especially with Russia, with the aim of purchasing energy with a non-dollar currency. Though the de-dollarization of trade channels may achieve some results, one cannot deny the fact that the world still needs an alternative universal savings medium. On paper, designing a bond whose guarantors are the major powers is not a difficult task; however, such a task, if it were to materialize, undercuts the financial rents of US and US-associated elites.

A real de-dollarization requires a shift in the geopolitical context and an erosion of the consensus around the dollar. The war in Ukraine and the collapse of Europe augur the loss of the US and its dollar primacy. Unlike twentieth-century wars that caused the retreats of Europe to the benefit of the US, the current regression of Europe vis-à-vis Russia and China, also weakens the US. The case may be that the European working class, being more so a clone of capital than its antithesis, continues to self-harm at the behest of its bourgeoisie. It is then that the alternatives to the dollar and, more importantly, its bonds begin to take shape.

With 65 trillion dollars in off-balance sheet debts, and a CDO and Repo market rife with moral hazard, the chances of a major collapse are all too ominous. The transition will be gruesome given the fragile financial architecture. A smooth US debt workout is a must since the US is a huge net debtor in its own currency, which happens to be the world’s savings medium. Yet, the world must part with a system that pawns the future of man and nature by the power of the gun for the interests of so few. China and Russia have taken the bold decision to de-dollarize, to de-financialize wars and pollution and such must be the alternative for humanity.

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‘Peaceful modernization’: China’s offering to the Global South

Xi Jinping just offered the Global South a stark alternative to decades of western diktats, war, and economic duress. ‘Peaceful modernization’ will establish sovereignty, economy, and independence for the world’s struggling states

October 20 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

President Xi Jinping’s work report at the start of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) this past Sunday in Beijing contained not only a blueprint for the development of the civilization-state, but for the whole Global South. CPC (China Communist Party)

Xi’s 1h45min speech actually delivered a shorter version of the full work report – see attached PDF – which gets into way more detail on an array of socio-political themes.

This was the culmination of a complex collective effort that went on for months. When he received the final text, Xi commented, revised and edited it.

In a nutshell, the CPC master plan is twofold: finalize “socialist modernization” from 2020 to 2035; and build China – via peaceful modernization – as a modern socialist country that is “prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, and harmonious” all the way to 2049, signaling the centenary of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The central concept in the work report is peaceful modernization – and how to accomplish it. As Xi summarized, “It contains elements that are common to the modernization processes of all countries, but it is more characterized by features that are unique to the Chinese context.”

Very much in tune with Confucian Chinese culture, “peaceful modernization” encapsulates a complete theoretical system. Of course there are multiple geoeconomic paths leading to modernization – according to the national conditions of any particular country. But for the Global South as a whole, what really matters is that the Chinese example completely breaks with the western TINA (“there is no alternative”) monopoly on modernization practice and theory.

Not to mention it breaks with the ideological straitjacket imposed on the Global South by the self-defined “golden billion” (of which the really “golden” barely reach 10 million). What the Chinese leadership is saying is that the Iranian model, the Ugandan model or the Bolivian model are all as valid as the Chinese experiment: what matters is pursuing an independent path towards development.

How to develop tech independence

The recent historical record shows how every nation trying to develop outside the Washington Consensus is terrorized at myriad hybrid war levels. This nation becomes a target of color revolutions, regime change, illegal sanctions, economic blockade, NATO sabotage or outright bombing and/invasion.

What China proposes echoes across the Global South because Beijing is the largest trade partner of no less than 140 nations, who can easily grasp concepts such as high-quality economic development and self-reliance in science and technology.

The report stressed the categorical imperative for China from now on: to speed up technology self-reliance as the Hegemon is going no holds barred to derail China tech, especially in the manufacturing of semiconductors.

In what amount to a sanctions package from Hell, the Hegemon is betting on crippling China’s drive to accelerate its tech independence in semiconductors and the equipment to produce them.

So China will need to engage in a national effort on semiconductor production. That necessity will be at the core of what the work report describes as a new development strategy, spurred by the tremendous challenge of achieving tech self-sufficiency. Essentially China will go for strengthening the public sector of the economy, with state companies forming the nucleus for a national system of tech innovation development.

‘Small fortresses with high walls’

On foreign policy, the work report is very clear: China is against any form of unilateralism as well as blocs and exclusive groups targeted against particular countries. Beijing refers to these blocs, such as NATO and AUKUS, as “small fortresses with high walls.”

This outlook is inscribed in the CPC’s emphasis on another categorical imperative: reforming the existing system of global governance, extremely unfair to the Global South. It’s always crucial to remember that China, as a civilization-state, considers itself simultaneously as a socialist country and the world’s leading developing nation.

The problem once again is Beijing’s belief in “safeguarding the international system with the UN at its core.” Most Global South players know how the Hegemon subjects the UN – and its voting mechanism – to all sorts of relentless pressure.

It’s enlightening to pay attention to the very few westerners that really know one or two things about China.

Martin Jacques, until recently a senior fellow at the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University, and author of arguably the best book in English on China’s development, is impressed by how China’s modernization happened in a context dominated by the west: “This was the key role of the CPC. It had to be planned. We can see how extraordinarily successful it has been.”

The implication is that by breaking the west-centric TINA model, Beijing has accumulated the tools to be able to assist Global South nations with their own models.

Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, is even more upbeat: “China will become a leader of innovation. I very much hope and count on China becoming a leader for innovation in sustainability.” That will contrast with a ‘dysfunctional’ American model turning protectionist even in business and investment.

Mikhail Delyagin, deputy chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on Economic Policy, makes a crucial point, certainly noted by key Global South players: the CPC “was able to creatively adapt the Marxism of the 19th century and its experience of the 20th century to new requirements and implement eternal values with new methods. This is a very important and useful lesson for us.”

And that’s the added value of a model geared towards the national interest and not the exclusivist policies of Global Capital.

BRI or bust

Implied throughout the work report is the importance of the overarching concept of Chinese foreign policy: the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its trade/connectivity corridors across Eurasia and Africa.

It was up to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin to clarify where BRI is heading:

“BRI transcends the outdated mentality of geopolitical games, and created a new model of international cooperation. It is not an exclusive group that excludes other participants but an open and inclusive cooperation platform. It is not just China’s solo effort, but a symphony performed by all participating countries.”

BRI is inbuilt in the Chinese concept of “opening up.” It is also important to remember that BRI was launched by Xi nine years ago – in Central Asia (Astana) and then Southeast Asia (Jakarta). Beijing has earned from its mistakes, and keeps fine-tuning BRI in consultation with partners – from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Malaysia to several African nations.

It is no wonder, that by August this year, China’s trade with countries participating in BRI had reached a whopping $12 trillion, and non-financial direct investment in those countries surpassed $140 billion.

Wang correctly points out that following BRI infrastructure investments, “East Africa and Cambodia have highways, Kazakhstan has [dry] ports for exports, the Maldives has its first cross-sea bridge and Laos has become a connected country from a landlocked one.”

Even under serious challenges, from zero-Covid to assorted sanctions and the breakdown of supply chains, the number of China-EU express cargo trains keeps going up; the China-Laos Railway and the Peljesac Bridge in Croatia are open for business; and work on the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway and the China-Thailand Railway is in progress.

Mackinder on crack

All over the extremely incandescent global chessboard, international relations are being completely reframed.

China – and key Eurasian players at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), BRICS+, and Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) – are all proposing peaceful development.

In contrast, the Hegemon imposes an avalanche of sanctions – not by accident the top three recipients are Eurasian powers Russia, Iran and China; lethal proxy wars (Ukraine); and every possible strand of hybrid war to prevent the end of its supremacy, which lasted barely seven and a half decades, a blip in historical terms.

The current dysfunction – physical, political, financial, cognitive – is reaching a climax. As Europe plunges into the abyss of largely self-inflicted devastation and darkness  – a neo-medievalism in woke register – an internally ravaged Empire resorts to plundering even its wealthy “allies”.

It’s as if we are all witnessing a Mackinder-on-crack scenario.

Halford Mackinder, of course, was the British geographer who developed the ‘Heartland Theory’ of geopolitics, heavily influencing US foreign policy during the Cold War: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island commands the World.”

Russia spans 11 time zones and sits atop as much as one third of the world’s natural resources. A natural symbiosis between Europe and Russia is like a fact of life. But the EU oligarchy blew it.

It’s no wonder the Chinese leadership views the process with horror, because one of BRI’s essential planks is to facilitate seamless trade between China and Europe. As Russia’s connectivity corridor has been blocked by sanctions, China will be privileging corridors via West Asia.

Meanwhile, Russia is completing its pivot to the east. Russia’s enormous resources, combined with the manufacturing capability of China and East Asia as a whole, project a trade/connectivity sphere that goes even beyond BRI. That’s at the heart of the Russian concept of Greater Eurasia Partnership.

In another one of History’s unpredictable twists, Mackinder a century ago may have been essentially right about those controlling the Heartland/world island controlling the world. It doesn’t look like the controller will be the Hegemon, and much less its European vassals/slaves.

When the Chinese say they are against blocs, Eurasia and The West are the facto two blocs. Though not yet formally at war with each other, in reality they already are knee deep into Hybrid War territory.

Russia and Iran are on the frontline – militarily and in terms of absorbing non-stop pressure. Other important Global South players, quietly, try to either keep a low profile or, even more quietly, assist China and the others to make the multipolar world prevail economically.

As China proposes peaceful modernization, the hidden message of the work report is even starker. The Global South is facing a serious choice: choose either sovereignty – embodied in a multipolar world, peacefully modernizing – or outright vassalage. 

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

The thin red line: NATO can’t afford to lose Kabul and Kiev

October 13, 2022

by Pepe Escobar, posted with the author’s permission and widely cross-posted

Let’s start with Pipelineistan. Nearly seven years ago, I showed how Syria was the ultimate Pipelineistan war.

Damascus had rejected the – American – plan for a Qatar-Turkey gas pipeline, to the benefit of Iran-Iraq-Syria (for which a memorandum of understanding was signed).

What followed was a vicious, concerted “Assad must go” campaign: proxy war as the road to regime change. The toxic dial went exponentially up with the instrumentalization of ISIS – yet another chapter of the war of terror (italics mine). Russia blocked ISIS, thus preventing regime change in Damascus. The Empire of Chaos-favored pipeline bit the dust.

Now the Empire finally exacted payback, blowing up existing pipelines – Nord Stream (NS) and Nord Steam 2 (NS2) – carrying or about to carry Russian gas to a key imperial economic competitor: the EU.

We all know by now that Line B of NS2 has not been bombed, or even punctured, and it’s ready to go. Repairing the other three – punctured – lines would not be a problem: a matter of two months, according to naval engineers. Steel on the Nord Streams is thicker than on modern ships. Gazprom has offered to repair them – as long as Europeans behave like grown-ups and accept strict security conditions.

We all know that’s not going to happen. None of the above is discussed across NATOsan media. That means that Plan A by the usual suspects remains in place: creating a contrived natural gas shortage, leading to the de-industrialization of Europe, all part of the Great Reset, rebranded “The Great Narrative”.

Meanwhile, the EU Muppet Show is discussing the ninth sanction package against Russia. Sweden refuses to share with Russia the results of the dodgy intra-NATO “investigation” of itself on who blew up the Nord Streams.

At Russian Energy Week, President Putin summarized the stark facts.

Europe blames Russia for the reliability of its energy supplies even though it was receiving the entire volume it bought under fixed contracts.

The “orchestrators of the Nord Stream terrorist attacks are those who profit from them”.

Repairing Nord Stream strings “would only make sense in the event of continued operation and security”.

Buying gas on the spot market will cause a €300 billion loss for Europe.

The rise in energy prices is not due to the Special Military Operation (SMO), but to the West’s own policies.

Yet the Dead Can Dance show must go on. As the EU forbids itself to buy Russian energy, the Brussels Eurocracy skyrockets their debt to the financial casino. The imperial masters laugh all the way to the bank with this form of collectivism – as they continue to profit from using financial markets to pillage and plunder whole nations.

Which bring us to the clincher: the Straussian/neo-con psychos controlling Washington’s foreign policy eventually might – and the operative word is “might” – stop weaponizing Kiev and start negotiations with Moscow only after their main industrial competitors in Europe go bankrupt.

But even that would not be enough – because one of NATO’s key “invisible” mandates is to capitalize, whatever means necessary, on food resources across the Pontic-Caspian steppe: we’re talking about 1 million km2 of food production from Bulgaria all the way to Russia.

Judo in Kharkov

The SMO has swiftly transitioned into a “soft” CTO (Counter-Terrorist Operation) even without an official announcement. The no-nonsense approach of the new overall commander with full carte blanche from the Kremlin, General Surovikin, a.k.a. “Armageddon”, speaks for itself.

There are absolutely no indicators whatsoever pointing to a Russian defeat anywhere along the over 1,000 km-long frontline. The spun-to-death withdrawal from Kharkov may have been a masterstroke: the first stage of a judo move that, cloaked in legality, fully developed after the terrorist bombing of Krymskiy Most – the Crimea Bridge.

Let’s look at the retreat from Kharkov as a trap – as in Moscow graphically demonstrating “weakness”. That led the Kiev forces – actually their NATO handlers – to gloat about Russia “fleeing”, abandon all caution, and go for broke, even embarking on a terror spiral, from the assassination of Darya Dugina to the attempted destruction of Krymskiy Most.

In terms of Global South public opinion, it’s already established that General Armageddon’s Daily Morning Missile Show is a legal (italics mine) response to a terrorist state. Putin may have sacrificed, for a while, a piece on the chessboard – Kharkov: after all, the SMO mandate is not to hold terrain, but to demilitarize Ukraine.

Moscow even won post-Kharkov: all the Ukrainian military equipment accumulated in the area was thrown into offensives, just for the Russian Army to merrily engage in non-stop target practice.

And then there’s the real clincher: Kharkov set in motion a series of moves that allowed Putin to eventually go for checkmate, via the missile-heavy “soft” CTO, reducing the collective West to a bunch of headless chickens.

In parallel, the usual suspects continue to relentlessly spin their new nuclear “narrative”. Foreign Minister Lavrov has been forced to repeat ad nauseam that according to Russian nuclear doctrine, a strike may only happen in response to an attack “which endangers the entire existence of the Russian Federation.”

The aim of the D.C. psycho killers – in their wild wet dreams – is to provoke Moscow into using tactical nuclear weapons in the battlefield. That was another vector in rushing the timing of the Crimea Bridge terror attack: after all British intel plans had been swirling for months. That all came to nought.

The hysterical Straussian/neocon propaganda machine is frantically, pre-emptively, blaming Putin: he’s “cornered”, he’s “losing”, he’s “getting desperate” so he’ll launch a nuclear strike.

It’s no wonder the Doomsday Clock set up by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947 is now placed at only 100 seconds from midnight. Right on “Doom’s doorstep”.

This is where a bunch of American psychos is leading us.

Life at Doom’s doorstep

As the Empire of Chaos, Lies and Plunder is petrified by the startling Double Fail of a massive economic/military attack, Moscow is systematically preparing for the next military offensive. As it stands, it’s clear that the Anglo-American axis will not negotiate. It has not even tried for the past 8 years, and it’s not about to change course, even incited by an angelic chorus ranging from Elon Musk to Pope Francis.

Instead of going Full Timur, accumulating a pyramid of Ukrainian skulls, Putin has summoned eons of Taoist patience to avoid military solutions. Terror on the Crimea Bridge may have been a game-changer. But the velvet gloves are not totally off: General Armageddon’s daily aerial routine may still be seen as a – relatively polite – warning. Even in his latest landmark speech, which contained a savage indictment of the West, Putin made clear he’s always open for negotiations.

Yet by now, Putin and the Security Council know why the Americans simply can’t negotiate. Ukraine may be just a pawn in their game, but it’s still one of Eurasia’s key geopolitical nodes: whoever controls it, enjoys extra strategic depth.

The Russians are very much aware that the usual suspects are obsessed with blowing up the complex process of Eurasia integration – starting with China’s BRI. No wonder important instances of power in Beijing are “uneasy” with the war. Because that’s very bad for business between China and Europe via several trans-Eurasian corridors.

Putin and the Russian Security Council also know that NATO abandoned Afghanistan – an absolutely miserable failure – to place all their chips on Ukraine. So losing both Kabul and Kiev will be the ultimate mortal blow: that means abandoning the 21st Eurasian Century to the Russia-China-Iran strategic partnership.

Sabotage – from the Nord Streams to Krymskiy Most – gives away the desperation game. NATO’s arsenals are virtually empty. What’s left is a war of terror: the Syrianization, actually ISIS-zation of the battlefield. Managed by braindead NATO, acted on the terrain by a cannon fodder horde sprinkled with mercenaries from at least 34 nations.

So Moscow may be forced to go all the way – as the Totally Unplugged Dmitry Medvedev revealed: now this is about eliminating a terrorist regime, totally dismantle its politico-security apparatus and then facilitate the emergence of a different entity. And if NATO still blocks it, direct clash will be inevitable.

NATO’s thin red line is they can’t afford to lose both Kabul and Kiev. Yet it took two acts of terror – on Pipelineistan and on Crimea – to imprint a much starker, burning red line: Russia will not allow the Empire to control Ukraine, whatever it takes. That’s intrinsically linked to the future of the Greater Eurasia Partnership. Welcome to life at Doom’s doorstep.

The power troika trumps Biden in West Asia

The presidents of Russia, Iran, and Turkey convened to discuss critical issues pertaining to West Asia, with the illegal US occupation of Syria a key talking point

July 20 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

Oil and gas, wheat and grains, missiles and drones – the hottest topics in global geopolitics today – were all on the agenda in Tehran this week.

By Pepe Escobar

The Tehran summit uniting Iran-Russia-Turkey was a fascinating affair in more ways than one. Ostensibly about the Astana peace process in Syria, launched in 2017, the summit joint statement duly noted that Iran, Russia and (recently rebranded) Turkiye will continue, “cooperating to eliminate terrorists” in Syria and “won’t accept new facts in Syria in the name of defeating terrorism.”

That’s a wholesale rejection of the “war on terror” exceptionalist unipolarity that once ruled West Asia.

Standing up to the global sheriff

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his own speech, was even more explicit. He stressed “specific steps to promote the intra-Syrian inclusive political dialogue” and most of called a spade a spade: “The western states led by the US are strongly encouraging separatist sentiment in some areas of the country and plundering its natural resources with a view to ultimately pulling the Syrian state apart.”

So there will be “extra steps in our trilateral format” aimed at “stabilizing the situation in those areas” and crucially, “returning control to the legitimate government of Syria.” For better or for worse, the days of imperial plunder will be over.

The bilateral meetings on the summit’s sidelines – Putin/Raisi and Putin/Erdogan – were even more intriguing. Context is key here: the Tehran gathering took place after Putin’s visit to Turkmenistan in late June for the 6th Caspian summit, where all the littoral nations, Iran included, were present, and after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s travels in Algeria, Bahrain, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, where he met all his Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) counterparts.

Moscow’s moment

So we see Russian diplomacy carefully weaving its geopolitical tapestry from West Asia to Central Asia – with everybody and his neighbor eager to talk and to listen to Moscow. As it stands, the Russia-Turkey entente cordiale tends to lean towards conflict management, and is strong on trade relations. Iran-Russia is a completely different ball game: much more of a strategic partnership.

So it’s hardly a coincidence that the National Oil Company of Iran (NIOC), timed to the Tehran summit, announced the signing of a $40 billion strategic cooperation agreement with Russia’s Gazprom. That’s the largest foreign investment in the history of Iran’s energy industry – badly needed since the early 2000s. Seven deals worth $4 billion apply to the development of oil fields; others focus on the construction of new export gas pipelines and LNG projects.

Kremlin advisor Yury Ushakov deliciously leaked that Putin and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in their private meeting, “discussed conceptual issues.” Translation: he means grand strategy, as in the evolving, complex process of Eurasia integration, in which the three key nodes are Russia, Iran and China, now intensifying their interconnection. The Russia-Iran strategic partnership largely mirrors the key points of the China-Iran strategic partnership.

Iran says ‘no’ to NATO

Khamenei, on NATO, did tell it like it is: “If the road is open for NATO, then the organization sees no borders. If it had not been stopped in Ukraine, then after a while the alliance would have started a war under the pretext of Crimea.”

There were no leaks on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) impasse between the US and Iran – but it’s clear, based on the recent negotiations in Vienna, that Moscow will not interfere with Tehran’s nuclear decisions. Not only are Tehran-Moscow-Beijing fully aware of who’s preventing the JCPOA from getting back on track, they also see how this counter-productive stalling process prevents the collective west from badly needed access to Iranian oil.

Then there’s the weapons front. Iran is one of the world’s leaders in drone production: Pelican, Arash, Homa, Chamrosh, Jubin, Ababil, Bavar, recon drones, attack drones, even kamikaze drones, cheap and effective, mostly deployed from naval platforms in West Asia.

Tehran’s official position is not to supply weapons to nations at war – which would in principle invalidate dodgy US “intel” on their supply to Russia in Ukraine. Yet that could always happen under the radar, considering that Tehran is very much interested in buying Russian aerial defense systems and state of the art fighter jets. After the end of the UN Security Council-enforced embargo, Russia can sell whatever conventional weapons to Iran it sees fit.

Russian military analysts are fascinated by the conclusions Iranians reached when it was established they would stand no chance against a NATO armada; essentially they bet on pro-level guerrilla war (a lesson learned from Afghanistan). In Syria, Iraq and Yemen they deployed trainers to guide villagers in their fight against Salafi-jihadis; produced tens of thousands of large-caliber sniper rifles, ATGMs, and thermals; and of course perfected their drone assembly lines (with excellent cameras to surveil US positions).

Not to mention that simultaneously the Iranians were building quite capable long-range missiles. No wonder Russian military analysts estimate there’s much to learn tactically from the Iranians – and not only on the drone front.

The Putin-Sultan ballet

Now to the Putin-Erdogan get together – always an attention-grabbing geopolitical ballet, especially considering the Sultan has not yet decided to hop on the Eurasia integration high-speed train.

Putin diplomatically “expressed gratitude” for the discussions on food and grain issues, while reiterating that “not all issues on the export of Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea ports are resolved, but progress is made.”

Putin was referring to Turkiye’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who earlier this week assured that setting up an operations center in Istanbul, establishing joint controls at the port exit and arrival points, and carefully monitoring the navigational safety on the transfer routes are issues that may be solved in the next few days.

Apparently Putin-Erdogan also discussed Nagorno-Karabakh (no details).

What a few leaks certainly did not reveal is that on Syria, for all practical purposes, the situation is blocked. That favors Russia – whose main priority as it stands is Donbass. Wily Erdogan knows it – and that’s why he may have tried to extract some “concessions” on “the Kurdish question” and Nagorno-Karabakh. Whatever Putin, Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev may really think about Erdogan, they certainly evaluate how priceless is to cultivate such an erratic partner capable of driving the collective west totally bonkers.

Istanbul this summer has been turned into a sort of Third Rome, at least for expelled-from-Europe Russian tourists: they are everywhere. Yet the most crucial geoeconomic development these past few months is that the western-provoked collapse of trade/supply lines along the borders between Russia and the EU – from the Baltic to the Black Sea – finally highlighted the wisdom and economic sense of the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INTSC): a major Russia-Iran-India geopolitical and geoeconomic integration success.

When Moscow talks to Kiev, it talks via Istanbul. NATO, as the Global South well knows, does not do diplomacy. So any possibility of dialogue between Russians and a few educated westerners takes place in Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the UAE. West Asia as well as the Caucasus, incidentally, did not subscribe to the western sanctions hysteria against Russia.

Say farewell to the ‘teleprompter guy’

Now compare all of the above with the recent visit to the region by the so-called “leader of the free world,” who merrily alternates between shaking hands with invisible people to reading – literally – whatever is scrolling on a teleprompter. We’re talking of US President Joe Biden, of course.

Fact: Biden threatened Iran with military strikes and as a mere supplicant, begged the Saudis to pump more oil to offset the “turbulence” in the global energy markets caused by the collective west’s sanction hysteria. Context: the glaring absence of any vision or anything even resembling a draft of foreign policy plan for West Asia.

So oil prices duly jumped upward after Biden’s trip: Brent crude rose more than four percent to $105 a barrel, bringing prices back to above $100 after a lull of several months.

The heart of the matter is that if OPEC or OPEC+ (which includes Russia) ever decide to increase their oil supplies, they will do it based on their internal deliberations, and not under exceptionalist pressure.

As for the imperial threat of military strikes on Iran, it qualifies as pure dementia. The whole Persian Gulf – not to mention the whole of West Asia – knows that were US/Israel to attack Iran, fierce retaliation would simply evaporate with the region’s energy production, with apocalyptic consequences including the collapse of trillions of dollars in derivatives.

Biden then had the gall to say, “We have made progress in strengthening our relations with the Gulf states. We will not leave a vacuum for Russia and China to fill in the Middle East”.

Well, in real life it is the “indispensable nation” that has self-morphed into a vacuum. Only bought-and-paid for Arab vassals – most of them monarchs – believe in the building of an “Arab NATO” (copyright Jordan’s King Abdullah) to take on Iran. Russia and China are already all over the place in West Asia and beyond.

De-Dollarization, not just Eurasian integration

It’s not only the new logistical corridor from Moscow and St. Petersburg to Astrakhan and then, via the Caspian, to Enzeli in Iran and on to Mumbai that is shaking things up. It’s about increasing bilateral trade that bypasses the US dollar. It’s about BRICS+, which Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are dying to be part of. It’s about the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which formally accepts Iran as a full member this coming September (and soon Belarus as well). It’s about BRICS+, the SCO, China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) interconnected in their path towards a Greater Eurasia Partnership.

West Asia may still harbor a small collection of imperial vassals with zero sovereignty who depend on the west’s financial and military ‘assistance,’ but that’s the past. The future is now – with Top Three BRICS (Russia, India, China) slowly but surely coordinating their overlapping strategies across West Asia, with Iran involved in all of them.

And then there’s the Big Global Picture: whatever the circumvolutions and silly schemes of the US-concocted “oil price cap” variety, the fact is that Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela – the top powerful energy-producing nations – are absolutely in sync: on Russia, on the collective west, and on the needs of a real multipolar world.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

To Hell or Not to Hell?

July 16, 2022

Source

By Batiushka

The Barbarian West

By the fifth century AD the barbarians had moved into Western Europe in significant numbers, bringing about the fall of Old Rome in what is now Italy in 410. Curiously, the barbarianism they brought with them, combined with the systematic brutality of Old Rome by the most brutal of them, the Franks, survives today. Indeed, we can state quite clearly that many in Western Europe have remained barbarians, knowingly or unknowingly supporting the ‘Frankish’ warlord aristocracy/ oligarchy which administrates (but not controls –control is from elsewhere) the Western world till this day. At first the barbarians took over only Western Europe, but then they expanded to its immediate neighbours in Eastern Europe, the Near East and along the African coasts. However, from 1492 on there began the Western European occupation and exploitation of the New Worlds. Barbarianism had literally gone global.

As we have said, the Franks (literally meaning ‘freemen’, that is, not slaves) (1) led the field among the barbarians, even renaming one country, Gaul, after themselves, as ‘France’. The word ‘Frank’ was generalised after Charlemagne who in the late eighth century massacred other less violent barbarians, the Saxons. Charlemagne founded a ‘Holy Roman Empire’ (in reality an Unholy Frankish Empire), whose intellectuals had been trained by Jews in Spain. Thus, tenth-century Muslims used the word ‘Frank’ to mean an ‘aggressive Western European’, as did eleventh-century Orthodox Christians in New Rome. In 1100 Baldwin I was enthroned in Jerusalem as the ‘first King of the Franks’. In the late eleventh century, Welsh chroniclers called the invading Normans ‘Franks’, as did the Irish and the Scots in the twelfth century, as did the Spanish and Portuguese French invaders, and did Poles and Czechs German settlers. In the sixteenth century the Chinese called marauding Portuguese and Spanish ‘Fo-lang-ki’, taken from the Arabic ‘Faranga’, from the selfsame word ‘Frank’.

Soon after 1492 the second of the two Spanish Borgia/Borja Popes, Rodrigo Borgia, alias Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503), defined Non-Catholic European men as non-humans, permitting them to be robbed, enslaved and killed. In the twentieth century, this misogynistic and racist Western culture graciously extended its ‘superiority’ to Western women, then to the Jews, calling their ‘Western civilisation’ ‘Judeo-Christian’, and then extended it to all races (2), but on one condition: that these newcomers accept ‘Western values’ such as ‘democracy’ = a new word for Western supremacy, that is, Nazism. Thus, today Kiev’s barbarian troops, the New Vandals, are doing the same as Western barbarian marauders, the Old Vandals, genociding all who do not accept their Nazi ideology. Russia is fighting the West today, because the barbarians are at its gates in the Ukraine – again, just as they were eighty years ago.

In the Ukraine

In recent months, here and there in various Western European countries, I have seen two or three flags being flown together, the EU One Ring ‘to rule them all’, sometimes the local national flag, and beneath it the Ukrainian one. This represents Western supremacism, the Nazi ideology which proclaims the long-desired Westernisation of the Ukraine. It says that any who do not accept ‘Western values’ are to be destroyed or, as they say now, ’cancelled’ – with Western fake news, Western arms and Western death.

Who are today’s aristocratic warlords, today’s Franks, Lombards, Goths, Vandals and Vikings? They are Stoltenberg, Biden, Johnson, von der Leyen, Blinken, Nuland, Kagan, Scholz, Macron and all the other knowing and unknowing neocons who fly these flags together. The barbarians were there sacking civilisation in August 476 and in August 1914, they were there sacking civilisation in late 1492 and in early 2022. However, the world that started on 12 October 1492 died on 24 February 2022 and a new era has begun.

On 14 July 2022 the Serbian President Vucic said: ‘Now the whole Western world is at war with Russia through Ukrainian intermediaries and today’s armed conflict can almost be called a world war’. ‘I know what awaits us. As soon as Vladimir Putin has finished his work in Seversk, Bakhmut and Soledar and then reaches the second line in Slaviansk-Kramatorsk-Avdeevka, he will make an offer. And if they (the West) don’t accept – and they don’t intend to – we shall take the road to hell’.

After the Barbarians

So what happens if the Western world chooses not to go to hell? What happens after the barbarians, after the final demise of the myths of ‘The West and the Rest’ and ‘The West is Best’? At the moment, the alternative is an alphabet soup of BRI, BRICS, EAEU, SCO etc. BRICS itself is becoming old-fashioned, as it may well soon be joined by Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and maybe Argentina and then, who knows? Does that make BRICSITESAA? An alternative name like ‘The Anti-West’ is purely reactive, negative and refers to the 530 years before 24 February 2022. It is especially inappropriate since the EU is clearly collapsing and it is obvious that, at the very least, countries like Serbia, Hungary (whom the EU elite wishes to expel from the EU) and Germany, if it is to survive, will be joining the to-be-renamed BRICS.

Perhaps we could call the future bloc ‘The Free World’, but that also makes too close a reference to the past. We of course do not know the future name. But we could suggest some more realistic names like ‘The International Alliance’ (IA), or, ‘The Free Alliance of Sovereign Peoples’ (FASP). Such a bloc could help settle long-standing historic injustices, through the formation of new countries, new borders, new constitutions and new prosperity. The fact is that the world has not yet been decolonised. You can still see straight lines on maps, usually the work of tidy-minded colonial bureaucrats a century or so ago in London and Paris, who had little concept of history and geography, of rivers, mountains and the languages of different ethnicities, let alone of humanity, justice and prosperity.

There are still dispossessed peoples waiting to get or get back their own sovereign homelands, such as those in Scotland, Wales, Carpatho-Russia, Abkhazia, Ossetia, Kurdistan, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico. There are still peoples waiting to return to their real homelands, such as those in Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, Taiwan, American Samoa, Belize, French Guiana, the Falklands. There are still artificial countries which may well disappear entirely or else be federated, such as: USA, UK, France, Spain, Belgium, Kosovo, Ukraine, Morocco, Libya, Mali, Somalia, Israel, Lebanon, Kuwait, North Korea, South Korea. Finally, there are countries with disputed borders, not least in Europe, such as Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Turkey, Syria, the Jordan, Yemen, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India. If we are to go not towards Hell, let us go to Free and Sovereign Nations, lands for native peoples, and not for colonial powers, and let there be a World Alliance of Free and Sovereign Peoples.

Notes:

1. We are reminded of the anthem of eighteenth-century British slave-traders and slave-owners that they, at least, would ‘never, never, never be slaves’. Of course they would never be slaves, they were ‘Franks’, aggressive Western Europeans.

2. Just as most in the twenty-first century had no problem with Obama (a pale brown, definitely not a black, man and the useful and self-obsessed idiot who started all the problems in the Ukraine) becoming US President, so few have a problem with the idea that a man of Indian extraction is the current frontrunner to be the next UK Prime Minister. After all, the candidacy of Rishi (called by some ‘Richy’) Sunak, until recently UK Chancellor/Minister of Finance, from an Indian/East African merchant family, worked appropriately for Goldman Sachs, married the daughter of the sixth richest billionaire in India, their combined fortune approaching $1 billion, Member of Parliament for a town called, strangely enough, ‘Richmond’, is unsurprisingly supported by the British Establishment’s ‘Financial Times’.

The Empire is not done torturing Afghanistan

Despite its resounding defeat, NATO is not quite done with inflicting misery on the land of the Afghans

July 05 2022

By Pepe Escobar

Once upon a time, in a galaxy not far away, the Empire of Chaos launched the so-called “War on Terror” against an impoverished cemetery of empires at the crossroads of Central and South Asia.

In the name of national security, the land of the Afghans was bombed until the Pentagon ran out of targets, as their chief Donald Rumsfeld, addicted to “known unknowns,” complained at the time.

Operation ‘Enduring Captivity’

Civilian targets, also knows as “collateral damage,” was the norm for years. Multitudes had to flee to neighboring nations to find shelter, while tens of thousands were incarcerated for unknown reasons, some even dispatched to an illegal imperial gulag on a tropical island in the Caribbean.

War crimes were duly perpetrated – some of them denounced by an organization led by a sterling journalist who was subsequently subjected to years of psychological torture by the same Empire, obsessed with extraditing him into its own prison dystopia.

All the time, the smug, civilized ‘international community’ – shorthand for the collective west – was virtually deaf, dumb and blind. Afghanistan was occupied by over 40 nations – while repeatedly bombed and droned by the Empire, which suffered no condemnation for its aggression; no package after package of sanctions; no confiscation of hundreds of billions of dollars; no punishment at all.

The first casualty of war

At the peak of its unipolar moment, the Empire could experiment with anything in Afghanistan because impunity was the norm. Two examples spring to mind: Kandahar, Panjwayi district, March 2012: an imperial soldier kills 16 civilians and then burns their bodies. While in Kunduz, April 2018: a graduation ceremony receives a Hellfire missile greeting, with over 30 civilians killed.

The final act of the imperial “non-aggression” against Afghanistan was a drone strike in Kabul that did not hit “multiple suicide bombers” but instead eviscerated a family of 10, including several children. The “imminent threat” in question, identified as an “ISIS facilitator” by US intelligence, was actually an aid worker returning to meet his family. The ‘international community’ duly spewed imperial propaganda for days until serious questions started to be asked.

Questions also keep emerging on the conditions surrounding the Pentagon training of Afghan pilots to fly the Brazilian-built A-29 Super Tucano between 2016 and 2020, which completed over 2,000 missions providing support for imperial strikes. During training at Moody Air Force base in the US, more than half of the Afghan pilots actually went AWOL, and afterward, most were quite uneasy with the pile up of civilian ‘collateral damage.’ Of course the Pentagon has kept no record of Afghan victims.

What was extolled instead by the US Air Force is how the Super Tucanos dropped laser bombs on ‘enemy targets:’ Taliban fighters who “like to hide in towns and places” where civilians live. Miraculously, it was claimed that the “precision” strikes never “hurt the local people.”

That’s not exactly what an Afghan refugee in Britain, sent away by his family when he was only 13, revealed over a month ago, talking about his village in Tagab: “All the time there was fighting over there. The village belongs to the Taliban (…) My family is still there, I do not know if they are alive or died. I don’t have any contact with them.”

Drone diplomacy

One of the first foreign policy decisions of the Obama administration in early 2009 was to turbo-charge a drone war over Afghanistan and the tribal areas in Pakistan. Years later, a few intelligence analysts from other NATO nations started to vent off the record, about CIA impunity: drone strikes would get a green light even if killing scores of civilians was a near certainty – as it happened not only in ‘AfPak’ but also across other war theaters in West Asia and North Africa.

Nevertheless, imperial logic is ironclad. The Taliban were by definition “terra-rists” – in trademark Bush drawl. By extension, villages in Afghan deserts and mountains were aiding and abetting “terra-rists,” so eventual drone victims would never raise a ‘human rights’ issue.

When Afghans – or Palestinians – become collateral damage, that’s irrelevant. When they become war refugees, they are a threat. Yet Ukrainian civilian deaths are meticulously recorded and when they become refugees, they are treated as heroes.

A massive ‘data-driven defeat’

As former British diplomat Alastair Crooke has remarked, Afghanistan was the definitive showcase for technical managerialism, the test bed for “every single innovation in technocratic project management” encompassing Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and military sociology embedded in ‘Human Terrain Teams’ – this experiment helped spawn Empire’s ‘rules-based international order.’

But then, the US-backed puppet regime in Kabul collapsed not with a bang, but a whimper: a spectacular “data-driven defeat.”

Hell hath no fury like Empire scorned. As if all the bombing, droning, years of occupation and serial collateral damage was not misery enough, a resentful Washington topped its performance by effectively stealing $7 billion from the Afghan central bank: that is, funds that belong to roughly 40 million battered Afghan citizens.

Now, exiled Afghans are getting together trying to prevent relatives from 9/11 victims in the US to seize $3.5 billion of these funds to pay off debts allegedly owed by the Taliban – who have absolutely nothing to do with 9/11.

Unlawful does not even begin to qualify the confiscation of assets from an impoverished nation afflicted by a currency in free fall, high inflation and a terrifying humanitarian crisis, whose only ‘crime’ was to defeat the imperial occupation on the battleground fair and square. By any standards, would that persist, the qualification of international war crime applies. And collateral damage, in this case, will mean the termination of any “credibility” still enjoyed by the “indispensable nation.”

The full amount of foreign reserves should be unequivocally returned to the Afghan Central Bank. Yet everyone knows that’s not going to happen. At best, a limited monthly installment will be released, barely enough to stabilize prices and allow average Afghans to buy essentials such as bread, cooking oil, sugar and fuel.

The west’s own ‘Silk Road’ was dead on arrival

No one remembers today that the US State Department came up with its own New Silk Road idea in July 2011, formally announced by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a speech in India. Washington’s aim, at least in theory, was to re-link Afghanistan with Central/South Asia, yet privileging security over the economy.

The spin was to “turn enemies into friends and aid into trade.” The reality, however, was to prevent Kabul from falling into the Russia/China sphere of influence – represented by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – after the tentative withdrawal of US troops in 2014 (the Empire ended up formally being expelled only in 2021).

The American Silk Road would eventually allow the go-ahead for projects such as the TAPI natural gas pipeline, the CASA-1000 electricity line, the Sheberghan thermal power facility and a national fiber optic ring in the telecom sector.

There was much talk about  “development of human resources;” building infrastructure – railways, roads, dams, economic zones, resource corridors; promotion of good governance; building the capacity of “local stakeholders.”

A zombie of an empire

In the end, the Americans did less than nothing. The Chinese, playing the long game, will be leading Afghanistan’s resurgence, after patiently waiting for the Empire to be expelled.

Afghanistan for its part will be welcomed into the real New Silk Roads: the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), complete with financing by the Silk Road Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and interconnecting with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Central Asian BRI corridor, and eventually the Russian-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and the Iran-India-Russia-led International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC).

Now compare and contrast with imperial minions NATO, whose “new” strategic concept boils down to expanded warmongering against the Global South, and beyond – including the outer galaxies. At least we know that should NATO ever be tempted back into Afghanistan, then another ritual, excruciating humiliation awaits.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Behind the Tin Curtain: BRICS+ vs NATO/G7

June 28, 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

The west is nostalgically caught up with outdated ‘containment’ policies, this time against Global South integration. Unfortunately for them, the rest of the world is moving on, together.

The Cradle

Once upon a time, there existed an Iron Curtain which divided the continent of Europe. Coined by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the term was in reference to the then-Soviet Union’s efforts to create a physical and ideological boundary with the west. The latter, for its part, pursued a policy of containment against the spread and influence of communism.

Fast forward to the contemporary era of techno-feudalism, and there now exists what should be called a Tin Curtain, fabricated by the fearful, clueless, collective west, via G7 and NATO: this time, to essentially contain the integration of the Global South.

BRICS against G7

The most recent and significant example of this integration has been the coming out of BRICS+ at last week’s online summit hosted by Beijing. This went far beyond establishing the lineaments of a ‘new G8,’ let alone an alternative to the G7.

Just look at the interlocutors of the five historical BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa): we find a microcosm of the Global South, encompassing Southeast Asia, Central Asia, West Asia, Africa and South America – truly putting the “Global” in the Global South.

Revealingly, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s clear messages during the Beijing summit, in sharp contrast to G7 propaganda, were actually addressed to the whole Global South:

– Russia will fulfill its obligations to supply energy and fertilizers.

– Russia expects a good grain harvest – and to supply up to 50 million tons to world markets.

– Russia will ensure passage of grain ships into international waters even as Kiev mined Ukrainian ports.

– The negative situation on Ukrainian grain is artificially inflated.

– The sharp increase in inflation around the world is the result of the irresponsibility of G7 countries, not Operation Z in Ukraine.

– The imbalance of world relations has been brewing for a long time and has become an inevitable result of the erosion of international law.

An alternative system

Putin also directly addressed one of the key themes that the BRICS have been discussing in depth since the 2000s — the design and implementation of an international reserve currency.

“The Russian Financial Messaging System is open for connection with banks of the BRICS countries.”

“The Russian MIR payment system is expanding its presence. We are exploring the possibility of creating an international reserve currency based on the basket of BRICS currencies,” the Russian leader said.

This is inevitable after the hysterical western sanctions post-Operation Z; the total de-dollarization imposed upon Moscow; and increasing trade between BRICS nations. For instance, by 2030, a quarter of the planet’s oil demand will come from China and India, with Russia as the major supplier.

The “RIC” in BRICS simply cannot risk being locked out of a G7-dominated financial system. Even tightrope-walking India is starting to catch the drift.

Who speaks for the ‘international community?’

At its current stage, BRICS represent 40 percent of world population, 25 percent of the global economy, 18 percent of world trade, and contribute over 50 percent for world economic growth. All indicators are on the way up.

Sergey Storchak, CEO of Russian bank VEG, framed it quite diplomatically: “If the voices of emerging markets are not being heard in the coming years, we need to think very seriously about setting up a parallel regional system, or maybe a global system.”

A “parallel regional system” is already being actively discussed between the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and China, coordinated by Minister of Integration and Macroeconomics Sergey Glazyev, who has recently authored a stunning manifesto amplifying his ideas about world economic sovereignty.

Developing the ‘developing world’

What happens in the trans-Eurasian financial front will proceed in parallel with a so far little known Chinese development strategy: the Global Development Initiative (GDI), announced by President Xi Jinping at the UN General Assembly last year.

GDI can be seen as a support mechanism of the overarching strategy – which remains the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), consisting of economic corridors interlinking Eurasia all the way to its western peninsula, Europe.

At the High-level Dialogue on Global Development, part of the BRICS summit, the Global South learned a little more about the GDI, an organization set up in 2015.

In a nutshell, the GDI aims to turbo-charge international development cooperation by supplementing financing to a plethora of bodies, for instance the South-South Cooperation Fund, the International Development Association (IDA), the Asian Development Fund (ADF), and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Priorities include “poverty reduction, food security, COVID-19 response and vaccines,” industrialization, and digital infrastructure. Subsequently, a Friends of the GDI group was established in early 2022 and has already attracted over 50 nations.

BRI and GDI should be advancing in tandem, even as Xi himself made it clear during the BRICS summit that “some countries are politicizing and marginalizing the developmental agenda by building up walls and slapping crippling sanctions on others.”

Then again, sustainable development is not exactly the G7’s cup of tea, much less NATO’s.

Seven against the world

The avowed top aim of the G7 summit in Schloss Elmau at the Bavarian Alps is to “project unity” – as in the stalwarts of the collective west (Japan included) united in sustainable and indefinite “support” for the irretrievably failed Ukrainian state.

That’s part of the “struggle against Putin’s imperialism,” but then there’s also “the fight against hunger and poverty, health crisis and climate change,” as German chancellor Scholz told the Bundestag.

In Bavaria, Scholz pushed for a Marshall Plan for Ukraine – a ludicrous concept considering Kiev and its environs might as well be reduced to a puny rump state by the end of 2022. The notion that the G7 may work to “prevent a catastrophic famine,” according to Scholz, reaches a paroxysm of ludicrousness, as the looming famine is a direct consequence of the G7-imposed sanctions hysteria.

The fact that Berlin invited India, Indonesia, South Africa and Senegal as add-ons to the G7, served as additional comic relief.

The Tin Curtain is up

It would be futile to expect from the astonishing collection of mediocrities “united” in Bavaria, under de facto leader of the European Commission (EC), Fuehrer Ursula von der Leyen, any substantial analysis about the breakdown of global supply chains and the reasons that forced Moscow to reduce gas flows to Europe. Instead, they blamed Putin and Xi.

Welcome to the Tin Curtain – a 21st century reinvention of the Intermarium from the Baltic to the Black Sea, masterminded by the Empire of Lies, complete with western Ukraine absorbed by Poland, the Three Baltic Midgets: Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Czechia and even NATO-aspiring Sweden and Finland, all of whom will be protected from “the Russian threat.”

An EU out of control

The role of the EU, lording over Germany, France and Italy inside the G7 is particularly instructive, especially now that Britain is back to the status of an inconsequential island-state.

As many as 60 European ‘directives’ are issued every year. They must be imperatively transposed into internal law of each EU member-state. In most cases, there’s no debate whatsoever.

Then there are more than 10,000 European ‘rulings,’ where ‘experts’ at the European Commission (EC) in Brussels issue ‘recommendations’ to every government, straight out of the neoliberal canon, regarding their expenses, their income and ‘reforms’ (on health care, education, pensions) that must be obeyed.

Thus elections in every single EU member-nation are absolutely meaningless. Heads of national governments – Macron, Scholz, Draghi – are mere executants. No democratic debate is allowed: ‘democracy,’ as with ‘EU values,’ are nothing than smokescreens.

The real government is exercised by a bunch of apparatchiks chosen by compromise between executive powers, acting in a supremely opaque manner.

The EC is totally outside of any sort of control. That’s how a stunning mediocrity like Ursula von der Leyen – previously the worst Minister of Defense of modern Germany – was catapulted upwards to become the current EC Fuhrer, dictating their foreign, energy and even economic policy.

What do they stand for?

From the perspective of the west, the Tin Curtain, for all its ominous Cold War 2.0 overtones, is merely a starter before the main course: hardcore confrontation across Asia-Pacific – renamed “Indo-Pacific” – a carbon copy of the Ukraine racket designed to contain China’s BRI and GDI.

As a countercoup, it’s enlightening to observe how the Chinese foreign ministry now highlights in detail the contrast between BRICS – and BRICS+ – and the imperial AUKUS/Quad/IPEF combo.

BRICS stand for de facto multilateralism; focus on global development; cooperation for economic recovery; and improving global governance.

The US-concocted racket on the other hand, stands for Cold War mentality; exploiting developing countries; ganging up to contain China; and an America-first policy that enshrines the monopolistic “rules-based international order.”

It would be misguided to expect those G7 luminaries gathered in Bavaria to understand the absurdity of imposing a price cap on Russian oil and gas exports, for instance. Were that to really happen, Moscow will have no problems fully cutting energy supply to the G7. And if other nations are excluded, the price of the oil and gas they import would drastically increase.

BRICS paving the way forward

So no wonder the future is ominous. In a stunning interview to Belarus state TV, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov summarized how “the west fears honest competition.”

Hence, the apex of cancel culture, and “suppression of everything that contradicts in some way the neoliberal vision and arrangement of the world.” Lavrov also summarized the roadmap ahead, for the benefit of the whole Global South:

“We don’t need a new G8. We already have structures…primarily in Eurasia. The EAEU is actively promoting integration processes with the PRC, aligning China’s Belt and Road Initiative with the Eurasian integration plans. Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are taking a close look at these plans. A number of them are signing free trade zone agreements with the EAEU. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is also part of these processes… There is one more structure beyond the geographic borders of Eurasia.”

“It is BRICS. This association is relying less and less on the Western style of doing business, and on Western rules for international currency, financial and trade institutions. They prefer more equitable methods that do not make any processes depend on the dominant role of the dollar or some other currency. The G20 fully represents BRICS and five more countries that share the positions of BRICS, while the G7 and its supporters are on the other side of the barricades.”

“This is a serious balance. The G20 may deteriorate if the West uses it for fanning up confrontation. The structures I mentioned (SCO, BRICS, ASEAN, EAEU and CIS) rely on consensus, mutual respect and a balance of interests, rather than a demand to accept unipolar world realities.”

Tin Curtain? More like Torn Curtain.

The west’s Plan B: Secure the realm

Having failed in preserving the unipolar order, the west will resort to Plan B – reviving a bipolar world based on the ‘civilized’ west and the ‘barbarian’ rest.

June 27 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Fadi Lama

Plan A: Global Hegemony

By the late 1990s, it was clear that a China-led Asia would be the dominant economic, technological and military power of the 21st century.

The late Polish-American diplomat and political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski spelled out in 1997 that the way to control Asian growth, and China’s in particular, was to control global energy reserves.

The attacks on 11 September 2001 provided the “catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor” to set military intervention plans in motion. As noted by US General Wesley Clark, “in addition to Afghanistan, we’re going to take out 7 countries in 5 years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.”

Energy reserves of these countries – in addition to those already controlled by the west – would result in western control over 60 percent of global gas reserves and 70 percent of global oil reserves.

However, the west’s direct military intervention wars failed, and subsequent proxy wars using assorted Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamists failed as well.

Rise of the ‘RIC’

In the two decades since Brzezinski laid out his strategy and the west immersed itself in failed wars, the Eurasian sovereignist core of Russia, Iran, and China (RIC) were heavily focused on national development in all arenas, including the economic, technological and military fields, and physical and social infrastructure development.

By 2018, it was clear that plans for western control of global energy reserves had failed and that the RIC had overtaken the west in many, if not most, of the aforementioned sectors.

As a result, the RIC were able to project power, protecting sovereign nations from western interventionism in West AsiaCentral AsiaSouth America and Africa. In Iran’s case this also involved a direct military response against US forces, following the assassination of the late General Qassem Soleimani. Making matters worse, the gap between the west and the RIC is widening, with little chance for the former to catch up.

The impossibility of sustaining western global hegemony had become evident amid continuous erosion of western power and global influence, which coincide with a commensurate expansion of RIC global influence, both of which necessitated an alternative strategy: a Plan B, as it were.

Plan B: Securing the realm

In view of the irreversible widening of this gap, and the growing global influence of the RIC, the only feasible strategy for the west would be to ‘terminate the competition’ by splitting the world into two regions, one in which the west has ironclad control, where western “rules” reign, and is divorced from the RIC-influenced region.

The current geostrategy of the west is the imposition of an Iron Curtain with the inclusion of as many resource rich nations as possible. Only by realizing the west’s actual geostrategic objective is it possible to understand the reason behind its apparently self-defeating actions, specifically:

  • Imposition of draconian sanctions on Russia that hurt the west far more than Russia.
  • Increasing tensions with China and Iran whilst engaged in a proxy war with Russia.

While the world is fixated on the conflict in Ukraine, the geostrategic objective of the west is being steadily advanced.

Sanctions: the catalyst of crises and coercion

The widely accepted explanation is that the west imposed draconian sanctions with the expectation that it would turn the ruble into “rubble,” create a run on banks, crash the Russian economy, weaken President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power, and pave the way for a more amenable president to replace him.

None of these expectations materialized. On the contrary, the ruble strengthened against the dollar and the euro, and the Russian economy is faring better than most western economies, which are witnessing record inflation and recessionary indicators. To add insult to injury, Putin’s popularity has soared while those of his western counterparts are hitting record lows.

The west’s after-the-fact explanation that sanctions, and their repercussions, were not well thought out, do not hold water.

Often overlooked though, has been the devastating impact of these sanctions on the Global South. US economist Michael Hudson argues that the Ukraine war is merely a catalyst to impose sanctions that would result in global food and energy crises – allowing the US to coerce the Global South to be “with us or against us.”

Indeed the impact of these crises are compounded by the earlier detrimental impact of Covid lockdowns. Food, energy and economic crises are further exasperated by the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates which directly impact the debt servicing ability of Global South countries, placing them on the edge of bankruptcy and at the mercy of the western-controlled World Bank and International Monetary Fund — the instruments for effectively locking these nations within the western realm.

Thus, despite the very negative impact of sanctions on western countries, these nevertheless fit perfectly with the strategic objective of locking in as many Global South countries within the western sphere of influence.

Tensions with China and Iran:

Driving a wedge between Eurasian powers has been an axiom of western geostrategy, as expressed eloquently by Brzezinski: “The three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are:

  • to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals,
  • to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and
  • to keep the barbarians from coming together.”

In this regard, raising tensions with Beijing and Tehran, while the west is involved in a proxy war with Russia, appears contradictory.

However it starts to make more rational sense when contextualizing the strategy as one aiming to establish an “Iron Curtain” that separates the world into two: one is the western Realm, and the other is Brzezinski’s ‘Barbaria,’ at the core of which are the RIC.

Two worlds

The western realm will continue on its path of neoliberalism. Yet due to significantly smaller populations and resources under its control, it will be significantly impoverished compared to present, necessitating imposition of police states for which Covid-19 lockdowns provide a glimpse into the socio-political future of these states.

Global South countries under the western realm will continue down a path of increased poverty, requiring management by dictatorial governments. Political turbulence is expected as a result of deteriorating socioeconomic conditions.

‘Barbaria,’ as reflected in the very diverse political and economic models of the RIC, will have a variety of development models, reflecting the civilizational diversity within this realm and the mutually beneficial cooperation which currently exists between the RICs, and between the RIC and others.

What about the Global South?

Facing the perfect storm of food, energy, inflation and debt servicing crises, many Global South countries will be in a very weak position and may be readily coerced into joining the western realm. This will be facilitated by the fact that their economic, and consequently, political elites, have their interests aligned with the western financial construct – and will thus wholeheartedly embrace joining the west.

The inability of west to provide effective solutions to these crises, coupled with their colonial past, will make joining Barbaria more attractive. This can be further influenced by the RIC providing support during this crisis period.

Russia has already offered to assist in the provision of food to Afghanistan and African countries, while Iran notably provided gasoline to Venezuela during its fuel crisis. Meanwhile, China has a successful track record of infrastructure development in Global South countries and is spearheading the world’s most ambitious connectivity project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

As Russian economist and Minister of Integration for the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) Sergey Glazyev already hinted when describing the emerging alternative global financial network: “Countries of the Global South can be full participants of the new system regardless of their accumulated debts in dollars, euro, pound, and yen. Even if they were to default on their obligations in those currencies, this would have no bearing on their credit rating in the new financial system.”

How many Global South nations can the western realm realistically expect to hold onto when Barbaria offers a clean slate, with zero debt?

Where does this leave West Asia?

The Axis of Resistance will be further aligned with Barbaria; however, political elites in Iraq and Lebanon favor the western realm. Thus, a politically turbulent period is expected in such countries. Due to the inability of west to offer economic solutions, coupled with the clout of local Resistance parties in these countries, the end game for Iraq and Lebanon is ultimately to join Barbaria, along with the de-facto government of Yemen.

Oil sheikhdoms of the Gulf are creations of the west and therefore belong in the western realm. However due to events of the past two decades, this may not necessarily be where they all line up.  The west’s debacles in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen have convinced the sheikhdoms that the west has lost its military edge, and is no longer able to offer long term protection.

Furthermore, unlike the west, Barbaria has a track record of not directly meddling in the internal affairs of nations, a factor of significance for the sheikhdoms. Recent diplomatic tensions with the west have been evidenced by Saudi and UAE leaders rejecting the oil production demands of the US administration – an unprecedented development. If offered convincing protection by Barbaria, oil sheikhdoms may decide to join it.

End of an Era

Retrenchment of the west marks the end of a long era of western expansionism and oppression. Some date this era back six centuries to the start of European colonization in the fifteenth century. Others date it even further back to the Great Schism and the subsequent Crusades.

The latter are supported by a statement attributed to British Field Marshal Edmund Allenby on entering Jerusalem in 1917:  “only now have the crusades ended,” and the fact that church bells chimed worldwide in celebration of the occupation of Jerusalem.

During this era, hundreds of millions all over the globe were massacred, civilizations were wiped out, billions suffered and still suffer. To state that we are living in epochal times is a gross understatement.

Naturally the end of such an era cannot happen peacefully; the wars of the past 30 years are witness to this.

The regression of western initiated wars from direct military intervention (Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq) to wars by proxy (Syria, Iraq, Ukraine) augurs well, as it reflects the realization by the west that it is no match militarily to the RIC. Had there been any lingering doubts, the war in Ukraine has put them to rest. Thus it can be concluded that the worst is over.

Internal instability in some Global South countries will exist in the near future; a consequence of the struggle between diverging interests of populations and neoliberal ruling elites. Decline and impoverishment of the west vs. the rise of RIC will favour the resolving these struggles in favour of the peoples and alignment with RIC.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

The Sanctioned Ones: How Iran-Russia are setting new rules

While China, keen to ward off US sanctions as long as possible, is lagging, its RIC partners Iran and Russia are doing the legwork to break the west’s global financial grip.

May 31 2022

Iran and Russia are taking the lead in establishing alternative financial networks to bypass western sanctionsPhoto Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

The first Eurasia Economic Forum, held last week in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, should be regarded as a milestone in setting the parameters for the geoeconomic integration of the Eurasian heartland.

Sergei Glazyev, Russia’s Minister in Charge of Integration and Macroeconomics of the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), is coordinating the drive to design an alternative monetary-financial system – a de facto post-Bretton Woods III – in cooperation with China.

According to Glazyev, the forum “discussed the model of a new global settlement currency pegged to baskets of national currencies and commodities. The introduction of this currency instrument in Eurasia will entail the collapse of the dollar system and the final undermining of the US military and political power. It is necessary to start negotiations on signing an appropriate international treaty within the framework of the SCO.”

Glazyev described the initiative to upend the western global financial system in more detail during an exclusive interview with The Cradle in April.

It’s particularly relevant to understand how Glazyev interconnects the EAEU’s drive with the increasing geopolitical and geoeconomic role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which unites at the same table key Eurasian powers: China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Iran.

That connects directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, supporting the extension of a temporary free trade agreement between the EAEU and Iran, which is the newest (and only West Asian) full member of the SCO. Putin said this should go ahead despite the “confrontation by the collective West.”

The EAEU, inaugurated in 2015 with five full members – Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Armenia – represents a market of 184 million people and a collective GDP of over $5 trillion. The next step with Iran will be to implement a full free trade agreement, possibly before the end of the year, according to Iranian deputy trade minister Alireza Peymanpak. Egypt, Indonesia and the UAE are also candidates to strike deals with the EAEU.

Iran, which has for over four decades now been forced to find creative solutions to bypass serial, imperial sanction packages, may have a conceptual lesson or two to teach Russia. Barter arrangements are gaining ground: Tehran is offering spare parts and gas turbines to Moscow’s power plants in exchange for much needed zinc, aluminum, lead and steel for its metal and mining industries, according to Iranian trade and industries minister Reza Fatemi Amin.

And more barter on a wide range of commodities is ahead, as discussed during a recent visit to Tehran by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak.

The other ‘RIC’

Slowly but surely, the new RIC (Russia-Iran-China) – as opposed to the old RIC in BRICS (Russia-India-China) – is attempting to integrate their financial systems. Iran is a matter of national security strategy for China, as an energy provider and essential partner of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in West Asia.

Russia-China, though, is a much more complex matter. Extremely fearful of provoking US sanctions, Chinese banks are refraining – at least for the moment – to increase their deals with Russian banks, which brings us to the case of UnionPay:

The Chinese bank card provider – increasingly popular, especially across Asia – declined from partnering with Sberbank even before Russia’s largest bank was excluded by the EU and the US from the global bank messaging platform SWIFT. UnionPay also canceled plans with other Russian banks to issue UnionPay cards linked with the Russian Mir payment system, profiting from the exit of Visa and Mastercard from the Russian market.

This is still a careful balancing act for China. Earlier this year at the Boao Forum in Asia, President Xi Jinping was adamant in opposing the “wanton use of unilateral sanctions.” And over 80 percent of Chinese companies already established in Russia appeared to continue their business as usual.

Yet in practical terms, there are serious problems. The Bank of China and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) have restricted financing for Russian commodities. Even the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), absolutely essential for sustainable development projects, linked or not with BRI, decided to freeze all lending to Russia and Belarus in early March to “safeguard” its “financial integrity.”

On the financial front, cautious Chinese banks, with enormous western exposure, are always balancing the fact that nearly 80 percent of global cross-border transactions are still in dollars and euros, and only two percent in yuan. So the Russian market is not exactly a priority.

In parallel, the Russia-Iran front is quite lively. They are turbo-charging mutual settlements in their national currencies to “the highest possible level,” as highlighted by Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak: “We discussed together with central banks the spread and operation of the financial messaging system, as well as the connection of Mir and [Iranian] Shetab payment cards.”

As it stands, the Mir card is still not accepted in Iran, but that’s about to change – just as in Turkey, which this summer will start accepting Mir card payments from legions of Russian tourists. What this means in practice is that Russia and Iran will be connecting their banks to the System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS), the Russian equivalent to SWIFT. The Chinese will obviously be examining how seamlessly the transition works.

Now compare all of the above with the prospect that soon there won’t be any SWIFT at all, as Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach let slip in Davos.

Miebach was participating in a panel on Central Bank Digital Currencies, discussing cross-border payments, when he suggested that SWIFT might soon be a thing of the past. No question about it: Moscow is eyeing crypto and digital currencies already, and Beijing is dead set on setting up the digital yuan to work around SWIFT and its linked CHIPS (Clearing House Interbank Payment System).

The Sanctioned Ones, now moving fast

The Russia-Iran front has been fast evolving since January this year, when Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, on a visit to Moscow, handed a draft agreement to Putin on strategic cooperation for the next 20 years, building on “the very good experience of cooperation between Iran and Russia in Syria in combating terrorism,” and expanding to “economy, politics, culture, science, technology, defense, and military spheres, as well as security and space issues.”

Raisi also explicitly thanked Putin “for facilitating Tehran’s entry into the SCO.”

Iranian Oil Minister Javad Ouji went straight to the point in his meeting with Novak in Tehran last week: “Our countries are under strict sanctions, and we have the potential to neutralize them through the development of bilateral relations…We have created joint committees on banking, energy, transport, agriculture issues, as well as the issue of creation of nuclear power plants.”

And that brings us once again to the seemingly eternal soap opera of the Vienna-based Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) talks, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov now signaling the final draft “is at a high degree of readiness for adoption. There are some political problems, which are not related to the finalization of the text.”

Cutting through the proverbial fog of US swamp spin, Ryabkov stressed how “in terms of our interests, including in the context of peaceful nuclear cooperation with Iran, the text is quite satisfactory…there is nothing to ‘fine-tune’.” So when the Americans say that the deal is “out of reach,” Raybkov added, it means that they “broadcast the results of their internal discussions.”

The bottom line is that on the JCPOA, Tehran and Moscow are in sync: “We are what they call on edge, and it could happen very quickly if the political decision is made.”

Expanding on their synchronicity, Tehran even proposed to host negotiations between Moscow and Kiev over the Ukraine conflict – following the Turkish example. By now though, after Ankara’s failure, it is clear that Washington decision makers want no negotiation, but an endless war to the last Ukrainian.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian remains in sync with his counterpart Sergei Lavrov. At Davos, he said the Ukraine drama was caused by “the US and NATO’s provocative actions…they “provoked the Kremlin into this.” That’s essentially what Beijing has been discreetly implying.

All of the above shows some of the trials and tribulations of Eurasia integration, and the long and winding road to an EAEU-SCO new monetary system. But first things first: there’s got to be some action on the Mir-UnionPay front. When that news breaks, the die will be cast.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Balancing grenades: To contain China, the US will ignore Russia in India

May 26 2022

To keep India onside, the US will seek to focus on China with New Delhi, and underplay the latter’s close relations with Russia.Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Mobeen Jafar Mir

Divergent policies on Moscow will not get in the way of Indo-US efforts to counter Beijing’s regional influence.

Once referred to as ‘Enduring Global Partners in the 21st Century,’ the strategic alliance between India and the United States has entered a challenging phase since the February launch of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.

As the only ‘major democracy’ to maintain a neutral position on the Ukraine conflict, New Delhi’s ties with Washington are being tested over disagreements on how to deal with Moscow.

The duo’s ‘Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership’ is based purely on guaranteeing mutual national interests: securing international peace and security through regional cooperation in the Pacific, strengthening ‘shared democratic values,’ policing nuclear non-proliferation, and enhancing cooperation on economic and security priorities.

Today, although New Delhi and Washington are poles apart on Russia’s actions in Ukraine, one area where Indo-US relations remain in lockstep is the issue of containing China’s rising influence.

The Quad squad

This was illustrated in February during this year’s fourth Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) Foreign Ministers Meeting when India signalled its lack of enthusiasm for the Quad’s sharp criticism of Russia.

Initiated in 2007, the Quad is an informal alliance comprising the US, India, Australia and Japan, and was especially formed to collectively stand as a bulwark against Chinese ‘expansion’ in the region.

India, unlike its Quad allies, maintained silence on Ukraine, but continued its alignment with their positions against China’s growing role and ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.

The Leaders’ Meeting held in Tokyo this week comes amid growing concern over whether the US will take military action should China – theoretically emboldened by Russia – decide to invade Taiwan. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also held bilateral talks with US President Joe Biden, with greater emphasis on cooperation between their National Security Councils.

Mutual concerns over China

During February’s Quad meeting for foreign ministers, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also hinted that while punishing Russia for its Ukraine policy was ‘front and center’ of the US’ immediate foreign policy priorities, the long-term challenge was working closely with regional allies to “out-compete” China. In this context, India is a pivotal US ally.

The US and India are thus likely to soft pedal Russia-related differences for the sake of consolidating a ‘maritime rules-based order’ in the Pacific, where the US and its regional allies seek to thwart Chinese influence.

In its effort to bolster India as a potential counterweight to China, the US has inserted itself directly into Indo-Pacific affairs, a political development that has irked the Chinese and Russian leadership alike.

Why did India resist US pressure to condemn Russia?

India’s refusal to sanction Russia over Ukraine is understandable within the context of their decades of close relations, cooperation and commerce. In recent years, Moscow and Delhi have together increased their global clout as members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS, cooperative political platforms that have proactively advanced more multipolar agendas.

The fact is, while Washington may have pushed New Delhi to adopt a tough stance against Moscow, Russia is still India’s largest defence partner and the country’s weapons are heavily reliant on Russian spare parts for proper functioning.

Security interests for both countries have converged in neighbouring Afghanistan. After the chaotic US withdrawal from the war-torn country, India has also repositioned its priorities there.

After the Taliban’s accession to power in Kabul last summer, both India and Russia have further expanded their cooperation by establishing a ‘permanent bilateral channel for consultations’ on Afghan affairs.

Russia effectively aids India’s engagement with the Taliban-led government. Both countries have been actively engaging on Afghan terrorism and drug trafficking priorities, and bilateral intelligence cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi appears to also be expanding into Central Asia.

Despite the recent strengthening of Russian and Chinese strategic cooperation, competition continues to exist between the two states in Central Asia, the Arctic and the Russian Far East. A politically stable and economically powerful Russia is in Indian interests as it could potentially act as a counterbalance to rising Chinese power in these regions.

To this end, a maritime corridor between India and Russia has already been formalized. The corridor, upon functioning, can improve their mutual economic clout and allow the duo to potentially rival China in the South China Sea and Russian Far East.

A strong Russia is in India’s interests

Tanvi Madan, an Indian foreign policy expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, fears that Russia’s excessive reliance on China may damage Kremlin’s political and economic leverage and push it into China’s sphere of influence, thus costing New Delhi a viable mediator in the event Sino-Indian border tensions re-erupt. It is one of the reasons compelling India to oppose the US policy of weakening Russia through economic sanctions.

There are also widespread concerns in New Delhi that growing Chinese influence in Moscow may halt weapons supplies to India and make India vulnerable to any likely assault from Beijing in the future.

During a series of border skirmishes between Indian and Chinese armed forces, Washington issued mere boilerplate statements rather than playing a constructive role in diffusing the crisis. This, among other factors, has convinced Indian policy makers that the Kremlin can be a more reliable partner in resolving any future flare-ups with Beijing.

Indo-US cooperation on China

While the Biden administration remains unsure about whether or not to impose sanctions on India under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) for purchasing Russian S-400 missiles, both states continue to deepen their strategic partnership on China.

Similarly, against all western expectations during April’s 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue between the US and India, the latter again declined to condemn Russian military operations in Ukraine. India continues to buy oil from Russia at competitive prices and resents the US for admonishing it over this.

Despite US statements on deteriorating human rights conditions in India, increasing disquietness about trade policy matters, and India’s repeat abstentions on US-sponsored resolutions against Russia, their mutual rivalry against China has kept the relationship engaged and afloat.

The Indo-US focus on China has played out in various spheres. During the US administration of Donald Trump, India was granted a sanctions waiver to continue purchasing oil from Iran – part of efforts to support India’s INSTC (International North South Transport Corridor) which New Delhi presents as a counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Bilateral trade and investment between the US and India also hit record levels last year.  In their collective quest to contain Chinese economic influence in its own region, both duo appear unanimous in criticizing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a political development perturbing policy makers in Islamabad.

Why is the Sino-Indian rivlary intensifying?

The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has lately transformed into a major hotspot over the growing rivalry between Beijing and New Delhi, two of Asia’s biggest economic powerhouses. The region’s growing geostrategic importance – connecting energy-rich West Asia to energy-hungry East Asia – has compelled the two to vie for that dominance.

As both China and India are heavily reliant on hydrocarbons to shore up their economic engine, the IOR becomes pivotal for the uninterrupted flow of their seaborne trade and energy imports. The US naval presence in the region, however, has indisputably played a key role in the intensification of hostility between the two Asian giants.

The US considers the region crucial for its economic interests and security as any likely disruption to these seaborne lanes can have serious implications for US hegemony and the global economy at large.

The New Silk Road

In order to contain China’s rise, the US has inserted itself into the region by aggressively consolidating strategic, diplomatic, and military ties with regional allies – in it much-ballyhooed “Pivot to Asia.” Inevitably, this strategic move has heightened tensions between China and allies of the US, notably India.

Washington’s strategy is not necessarily working as seamlessly elsewhere. On Wednesday, the Japanese foreign ministry announced the results of a 2021 ASEAN survey that showed respondents selecting China as the G20’s most important future partner country. Japan slipped to second place for the first time since the survey launched in 2015, with the US coming in third.

To circumnavigate the threats posed to its sea lanes by the Indo-US presence in the IOR, China is diversifying its energy and trade routes. In this regard, the BRI has become an instrument of reducing strategic vulnerabilities through expansion of regional trade and infrastructural investments in areas falling outside the strategic choke point of the Strait of Malacca, a narrow sea area between the Indonesia island of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula through which China imports more than 80 percent of its oil.

As the rivalry between China and India is not limited to the Himalayan region and has largely become maritime-focused, the expansion of China’s BRI in South and Central Asia is reducing China’s vulnerability to possible future Indian and US attacks in the East China Sea and the South China Sea to disrupt Chinese seaborne trade.

Another relevant component of the BRI, is the aforementioned CPEC, connecting China’s Xinjiang region to Pakistan’s Gwadar seaport. Through CPEC, China aims to solve its ‘Malacca Dilemma’ while simultaneously consolidating its economic and political ties with New Delhi’s nemesis, Islamabad.

A Passage to India…or Bharat

India fears that after the Chinese encirclement of its sea lanes through growing strategic presence in Pakistan, Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka, and Djibouti, the BRI can also pose threats to India’s land trade routes while simultaneously mitigating the impact on China from a combined Indo-US assault on its sea lanes.

The current ‘Hindu nationalist’ government of India, with its own ideologically expansionist designs, has also been responsible for exacerbating the crisis with China. New Delhi’s ties with its neighbours are largely dictated by the idea of Akhand Bharat, a term used by right-wing Hindu nationalists for a vision to restore a unified Indian subcontinent.

By referring to India as Vishwa Guru or ‘teacher to the world’, Modi has convinced his devotees that only he can restore the lost greatness of Hindustan. This expansionist mindset has pitted the country against its many neighbors, while Modi has used the narrative to consolidate his Hindu support base.

Who needs who?

In addition to Washington’s efforts at propping up India as an outsourcing-alternative to China for US companies, the growing Indian middle class are also perceived as a desired and lucrative destination for US exports.

The ‘limitless friendship’ between Russia and China is seen as a threat to US hegemony and may even require India as a bridge to reach out to Russia in the future. In fact, some strategists in Washington even suggest a ‘wedge’ strategy of engaging Russia to prevent it becoming overly dependent on China, and thus fostering a sense of rivalry between these two great-power rivals in their shared Eurasian space.

In this context, India’s partnership with Russia in key parts of Eurasia – such as Afghanistan and Central Asia – make it an ideal bridge to Moscow.

India and the US are likely to compartmentalize their priorities without coercing each other to veer too far from their respective interests. While unhappy about it, the US understands India’s sensitivities towards Russia and will pragmatically tone down its criticism of New Dehli’s positions.

The alternative would drive a wedge between the two allies and compromise their collective effort to contain China. If the US needs India to counter China, India surely needs both Russia and the US to keep China at bay.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Pepe Escobar : Interview with The Press Project

May 22, 2022

From a unipolar to a multipolar world.  This is my itvw with the wonderful folks at The Press Project in Greece.  In English, with Greek subtitles.

China to receive two million barrels of Iranian oil, despite US sanctions

Iran has been cooperating with China, Russia, Venezuela, and Cuba in order to bypass the effects of US economic sanctions

May 19 2022

(Photo credit: Press TV)

ByNews Desk

China is scheduled to receive around two million barrels of Iranian crude oil this week that it will pump into an oil terminal in the Zhanjiang city of Guangdong province, southwest of the country.

The oil will be discharged by the Diona crude oil carrier owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), according to Vortexa Analytics, an agency that specializes in tanker tracking.

“This would be the third Iranian oil cargo destined for government stockpile following two similar-sized shipments in December and January,” the agency reported.

Despite ongoing economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the US, China has been purchasing large amounts of Iranian oil over the past two years.

Iran plays a crucial role in the Belt and Road Initiative, a mega-infrastructure and economic initiative launched by Beijing to link the economies of Europe, Asia, and Africa, with an eye on expanding to Latin America.

Over recent years, Iran has played an instrumental role in cooperating with other countries to overcome the effects of punitive US sanctions.

On 3 May, Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas to discuss energy relations and ways to overcome the repercussions of US sanctions unilaterally imposed on the two countries.

Venezuela and Iran have recently stepped up energy cooperation to overcome sanctions, with Venezuela importing condensate and thinners from Iran.

Back in January, an Iranian supertanker started discharging about two million barrels of Iranian condensate at the main port of Venezuela’s state-run oil company, as part of a bilateral deal that defies the US sanctions imposed on both nations.

On 17 May, UN Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan said the US must lift economic sanctions on Iran due to the harmful impact they have on the Iranian people.

“I call on the United States to abandon unilateral sanctions,” the UN special rapporteur told a press conference in Tehran.

Douhan went further, saying that the application of “extra-territorial sanctions on Iranian companies or companies working with Iran or paying Iran in dollars is illegal under international law.”

The UN official said she would address her concerns over the legality of US sanctions in her final report, to be published at a later date.

A New Order in West Asia: The Case of China’s Strategic Presence in Syria

9 May 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen

Mohamad Zreik 

As the world order shifts into a multipolar world, a new balance of power based on economic ties centered in Asia emerges.

A New Order in West Asia: The Case of China’s Strategic Presence in Syria

Unanimity on a new American century had gone unchecked for a decade. The warhawk John Bolton lambasted Xi’s authoritarianism, claiming the new crackdown has made it practically hard for the CIA to keep agents in China.

Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) has evolved enormously since its inception. Today, multipolarity has developed, promising long-term progress for everyone who follows its norms. And Syria is one among them, had lately returned to world prominence after defeating a decade-long military offensive by the traditional unipolar actors.

In spite of this, unlawful US sanctions continue to harm the hungry, impede the rehabilitation of essential infrastructure and access to clean water, and restrict the livelihood of millions in Syria.

“We welcome Syria’s involvement in the Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Development Initiative,” stated Xi Jinping to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on November 5.

In July 2021, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with the Arab League’s head to discuss Syria’s return to the fold. A four-point plan to end Syria’s multi-faceted crisis was signed by China at the end of the tour, which coincided with Assad’s re-election.

Surrounded by western-backed separatist movements, Syria reiterated its support for China’s territorial integrity. In 2018, China gave Syria $28 million, and in September 2019, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi proposed China-Iraq oil for rebuilding and greater BRI integration.

Events orchestrated by foreign forces halted this progress. Protests swiftly overthrew Abdul Mahdi’s administration and the oil-for-reconstruction scheme. In recent months, Iraq has rekindled this endeavor, but progress has been modest.

These projects are currently mostly channeled through the 25-year Comprehensive Strategic Partnership deal between China and Iran in March 2021. This might open the way for future rail and energy lines connecting Iran with Iraq and Syria.

At the first formal BRI meeting in April 2019, President Assad stated: “The Silk Route (Belt and Road Initiative) crossing through Syria is a foregone conclusion when this infrastructure is constructed, since it is not a road you can merely put on a map.”

China and Syria are now staying quiet on specifics. Assad’s wish list may be deduced from his previous strategic vision for Syria. Assad’s Five Seas Strategy, which he pushed from 2004 to 2011, has gone after the US began attacking Syria.

The “Five Seas Strategy” includes building rail, roads, and energy systems to connect Syria to the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, Black, Red, and Caspian Seas. The project is a logical link that connects Mackinder’s world island’s states. This initiative was “the most significant thing” Assad has ever done, he claimed in 2009.

Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon were among the countries Assad led delegations to sign agreements with in 2011. President Qaddafi of Libya and a coalition of nations including Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt were building the Great Man-Made River at the time.

We can’t comprehend why Qaddafi was killed, why Sudan was partitioned in 2009, or why the US is presently financing a regime change in Ethiopia until we grasp this tremendous, game-changing strategic paradigm. Diplomatic confidentiality between China and West Asia is so essential in the post-regime transition situation.

Over the last decade, BRI-compliant initiatives throughout West Asia and Africa have been sabotaged in various ways. This has been a pattern. Neither Assad nor the Chinese want to go back to that.

The Arab League re-admitted Syria on November 23, revealing the substance of this hidden diplomacy. They have proved that they are prepared to accept their humiliation, acknowledge Assad’s legitimacy, and adjust to the new Middle Eastern powers of China and Russia: the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Unlike decades of US promises that consider Arab participation as disposable short-term interests, the China-Russia cooperation provides genuine, demonstrable advantages for everybody.

The BRI now includes 17 Arab and 46 African countries, while the US has spent the last decade sanctioning and fining those who do not accept its global hegemony. Faced with a possible solution to its current economic problems and currency fluctuations, Turkey has turned to China for help.

Buying ISIS-controlled oil, sending extremist fighters to the region, and receiving arms from Saudi Arabia and Qatar were all known methods of supporting ISIS and Al Qaeda operations in Iraq and Syria. The CIA’s funding has dwindled in recent months, leaving ISIS with little else to work with.

Though US President Joe Biden reiterated US military backing for the Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), the Kurds’ hand has been overplayed. Many people now realize that the Kurds have been tricked into acting as ISIS’ counter-gang, and that promises of a Kurdish state are as unreal as Assad’s demise. For a long time, it was evident that Syria’s only hope for survival was Russia’s military assistance and China’s BRI, both of which need Turkey to preserve Syria’s sovereignty.

This new reality and the impending collapse of the old unipolar order in West Asia give reason to believe that the region, or at least a significant portion of it, is already locked in and counting on the upcoming development and connectivity boom.

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

US ‘coercive diplomacy’ with Saudi Arabia

While a carrot may advance US interests infinitely better than a stick at this sensitive juncture in US-Saudi relations, all indications are that Biden will resort to the stick.

May 07 2022

The US cannot budge oil production and prices with this geopolitical line-up blocking its path. So Washington may strike at the weakest link – in Riyadh. Photo Credit: The Cradle

By MK Bhadrakumar

Some three weeks after the reported meeting of CIA chief William Burns with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), the OPEC+ ministerial held a videoconference on Thursday.

The OPEC+ meeting drew satisfaction that “continuing oil market fundamentals and the consensus on the outlook pointed to a balanced market.” The press release issued in Vienna says the ministerial “further noted the continuing effects of geopolitical factors and issues related to the ongoing pandemic” and decided that OPEC+ should stick to the monthly production adjustment mechanism agreed in July last year “to adjust upward the monthly overall production by 0.432 million barrels/day for the month of June 2022.”

Former Wall Street Journal publisher Karen Elliott House says Burns came to Saudi Arabia for a “mating dance” with MbS — namely, the latter must cooperate on a new oil-for-security strategy to “increase production to save European nations from energy shortages.”

Burns’ visit to the kingdom took place just ahead of the fifth round of Saudi-Iranian normalization talks in Baghdad between the Saudi intelligence chief and the deputy head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi who acted as mediator and attended the talks, told state media last week, “Our brothers in Saudi Arabia and Iran approach the dialogue with a big responsibility as demanded by the current regional situation. We are convinced that reconciliation is near.”

In addition, Iranian outlet Nournews, affiliated with the country’s Supreme National Security Council, reported on 24 April that the fifth round of talks on a possible détente was “constructive,” that the negotiators managed “to draw a clearer picture” of how to resume bilateral relations, and that “given the constructive bilateral dialogue so far, there is a possibility of a meeting between the Iranian and Saudi top diplomats in the near future.”

Burns’ mission couldn’t have been indifferent toward the Saudi reconciliation track with Tehran. With the outcome of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) talks in Vienna still uncertain, Iran’s close ties with Russia and China remains a major worry for Washington. And with Tehran’s stubborn refusal to trim its regional policies to suit US regional strategies, Washington has fallen back on its usual default option to resuscitate an anti-Iran front of its regional allies. The US hopes that Saudi Arabia will come on board the Abraham Accords.

Soaring energy prices

Meanwhile, the issue of energy pricing has returned to centre stage. Indeed, high oil prices mean increased income for Russia. Russia’s sales of oil and natural gas far exceeded initial forecasts for 2021 as a result of skyrocketing prices, accounting for 36 percent of the country’s total budget. The revenues exceeded initial plans by 51.3 percent, totaling a whopping $119 billion. The Biden administration’s best-laid plans to cripple the Russian economy are unravelling. Equally, high energy prices is also a domestic issue for Biden who faces daunting elections this Autumn. Above all, unless Europe finds other oil sources, it will continue buying Russian oil.

The Saudi crown price, however, has a different agenda. After ascending to power, he is likely to rule the kingdom for many decades — half a century if he lives to 86, his father’s age. And MbS has been remarkably successful in creating his own Saudi ‘power base’ without US help. His lifestyle changes have been a smashing hit with Saudis 35 and under — 70 percent of the kingdom’s citizens — and his ambition to transform Saudi Arabia into a modern technological leader ignites the imagination of the youth.

Clearly, his refusal to punish Russia and his $2 billion ‘gesture’ toward a new, untested investment fund started by former US president Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, speak for themselves. MbS has his own reasons for these actions, starting with Biden’s contemptuous reference to Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” state and his refusal to deal with the crown prince in person.

MbS hit back recently by declining to take a call from Joe Biden. Besides the petty stuff, the US restrictions on arms sales to the kingdom; insufficient response assistance to attacks on Saudi Arabia by Yemeni forces; publication of a report into the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi — all these are in play here.

Even if the administration is able to obtain congressional approval for new security guarantees for Saudi Arabia (which is rather problematic), MbS might very well refuse to be swayed, since at the end of the day, high oil prices boost the ailing Saudi budget too.

The paradox is, both Saudi Arabia and Russia are stakeholders in OPEC+ as is evident from the explicit warning to the EU by OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo last month that it would be impossible to replace more than 7 million barrels per day of Russian oil and other liquids exports potentially lost due to current or future sanctions or voluntary actions.

Given the torrential geopolitical and economic crosscurrents at play here, what possibly unnerves the Biden Administration most is talk of an upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia by Chinese President Xi Jinping. There are persisting recent reports that Riyadh and Beijing are in discussions to price some of the kingdom’s oil sales in yuan rather than dollars, which would indeed mark a profound shift for global oil markets, and help advance China’s efforts to convince more countries and international investors to transact in its currency.

The Saudi explanation for the shift to the yuan is that the kingdom could use part of new currency revenues to pay Chinese contractors involved in domestic mega projects within Saudi Arabia, which would reduce the risks associated with the capital controls Beijing imposes on its currency. But, for Washington, that means certain sensitive Saudi-China transactions in yuan do not appear in the rearview mirror of the western-controlled SWIFT messaging infrastructure, making transaction monitoring unviable.

There are persistent US reports that with Chinese support, Saudi Arabia may be constructing a new uranium processing facility near Al Ula to enhance its pursuit of nuclear technology. Riyadh’s generous $8 billion in financial support for Pakistan, unveiled this week, will almost certainly raise hiccups in Washington.

Saudi Arabia is a central pillar of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and ranks in the top three countries globally for Chinese construction projects, according to the China Global Investment Tracker, run by the American Enterprise Institute. Suffice to say, the CIA chief’s call could not have been for a friendly chat with the Saudi crown prince.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

The Removal Of Imran Khan and the Popular Push Back. How Pakistan Helped Foster “The War on Terrorism”

May 07, 2022

Global Research,

By Michael WelchJunaid S. Ahmad, and Prof Michel Chossudovsky

All Global Research articles can be read in 51 languages by activating the Translate Website” drop down menu on the top banner of our home page (Desktop version).

Visit and follow us on Instagram at @crg_globalresearch.

***

“I am saying to you today, that for the first time, Pakistan’s policies won’t be for the few rich people, it will be for the poor, for our women, for our minorities, whose rights are not respected. My whole aim will be to protect our lower classes and to bring them up.”

–  Imran Khan, 2018 election campaign speech [1]

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In the early hours of April 9, the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi, faced a no-confidence motion in the country’s National Assembly resulting in his removal from power. This was the first time ever that an official of his stature was removed in such a manner. [2]

What makes this move so geopolitically significant was the unique significance of this state as a square on the tabletop of the grand chessboard between the United States, and Russia and China.

On the one hand, Pakistan has traditionally used the country’s military and the intelligence services, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), as partners. Over the course of the last twenty years, the Islamic State was a leading local site from which to launch air and ground operations in favor of America’s War on Terrorism. And as Michel Chossudovsky wrote back at the time of the infamous September 11th terrorist attacks, the ISI played a key role in acting as a “go-between” between the CIA and the Islamic jihadists in Afghanistan going back to 1979. This would in large part lead to the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. [3][4]

On the other hand, Pakistan has gained partners both in Russia and in China. There was a vital 1100km gas pipeline project between Lahore and Karachi in which the goods would be provided from Russia. And in November of 2014, Russia and Pakistan signed a defense cooperation pact followed by a military-technical cooperation agreement all of which would serve toward “Strengthening of mutual trust and international security, counter-terrorist and arms control activities.” [5][6][7]

And then there was China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative, which would ultimately help undermine dependence on the Strait of Malacca and building a conduit between China and West Asia and the Middle East. [8]

These alliances have been tightening under the new leader Khan. On the same night Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized the Ukraine intervention, Khan had been meeting with him to discuss a wide variety of subjects including economic and energy cooperation. He did not announce a formal disapproval of the intervention in Ukraine then, nor did he do it when he returned home. [9][10]

Did Khan then cross the rubicon and slot himself in the bad books of Washington? Maybe it’s a coincidence, but in the lead-up to the National Assembly vote of no confidence, Prime Minister Khan cited the following quote of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu as evidence the U.S. was behind this move:

“If Prime Minister Imran Khan remained in office, then Pakistan will be isolated from the United States and we will take the issue head on; but if the vote of no-confidence succeeds, all will be forgiven.” [11]

Was this yet another plot of regime change by the United States? And how would the people coming out in unprecedented number in support of their removed Prime Minister prevail in his return to power? We will examine these questions on this edition of the Global Research News Hour.

In Part One of our series, we will talk to Professor Junaid Ahmad, who has a background in Pakistan about the details of the coup, the reasons for Khan to go, and the resulting push back from the people of Pakistan. And in our second half hour, we present a repeat broadcast from October of 2012 of an interview with Professor Michel Chossudovsky, founder/director of the Centre for Research on Globalization. His talk mostly deals with Afghanistan and 9/11, although he touches also on Pakistan’s then pivotal role in the military-intelligent quagmire surrounding the whole affair.

Junaid S. Ahmad teaches Religion, Law, and Politics and is the Director of the Center for the Study of Islam and Decoloniality. He is a regular contributor to Global Research.

Michel Chossudovsky is the author of thirteen books including The Globalization of War: America’s Long War Against Humanity (2015), and the international best America’s “War on Terrorism”  Second Edition (2005). He is Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Center for Research on Globalization. 

(Global Research News Hour Episode 354)

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The Global Research News Hour airs every Friday at 1pm CT on CKUW 95.9FM out of the University of Winnipeg. The programme is also podcast at globalresearch.ca .

Other stations airing the show:

CIXX 106.9 FM, broadcasting from Fanshawe College in London, Ontario. It airs Sundays at 6am.

WZBC 90.3 FM in Newton Massachusetts is Boston College Radio and broadcasts to the greater Boston area. The Global Research News Hour airs during Truth and Justice Radio which starts Sunday at 6am.

Campus and community radio CFMH 107.3fm in  Saint John, N.B. airs the Global Research News Hour Fridays at 7pm.

CJMP 90.1 FM, Powell River Community Radio, airs the Global Research News Hour every Saturday at 8am. 

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Cowichan Valley Community Radio CICV 98.7 FM serving the Cowichan Lake area of Vancouver Island, BC airs the program Thursdays at 9am pacific time.

Notes:

  1. ‘Imran Khan’s speech in full’ (July 26, 2018), Al Jazeera;https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/7/26/imran-khans-speech-in-full
  2. No-Trust Motion: Imran Khan Becomes First Prime Minister To Be Voted Out Of Power (April 10, 2022), The Nation; https://nation.com.pk/2022/04/10/no-trust-motion-imran-khan-becomes-first-prime-minister-to-be-voted-out-of-pow/
  3. https://asiatimes.com/2021/05/pakistan-leans-towards-giving-us-military-bases/
  4. https://www.globalresearch.ca/september-11-2001-the-crimes-of-war-committed-in-the-name-of-911/5311561
  5. https://cscr.pk/explore/themes/trade-economics/pakistan-russia-china-emerging-coalition/
  6. https://www.ilaan.com/news/gas-pipelines-to-be-laid-from-lahore-to-karachi
  7. https://dsm.forecastinternational.com/wordpress/2019/05/03/russia-and-pakistan-a-new-arms-deal-on-the-horizon/
  8. https://cscr.pk/explore/themes/trade-economics/pakistan-russia-china-emerging-coalition/
  9. https://www.gulftoday.ae/news/2022/02/24/pakistan-prime-minister-imran-khan-in-russia-to-meet-putin
  10. https://www.globalresearch.ca/regime-change-islamabad/5776219
  11. https://www.globalresearch.ca/pakistan-pivot-russia-ouster-imran-khan/5777970?utm_campaign=magnet&utm_source=article_page&utm_medium=related_articles

The original source of this article is Global Research

Copyright © Michael WelchJunaid S. Ahmad, and Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2022

Sino-Pakistan relationship: A challenge for the new Pakistani government

6 May 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen English

Ruqiya Anwar 

Perhaps no other country in the region has seen China’s footprint grow more than Pakistan.

Sino-Pakistan Relationship: A challenge for New Pakistani Government

China’s interest in South Asia has grown dramatically in recent years, encompassing geostrategic and security objectives and economic and development projects. Perhaps no other country in the region has seen China’s footprint grow more than Pakistan.

After Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was dismissed from office by a historic no-confidence motion amid a significant political crisis in the South Asian country, China stressed that relations with Pakistan are unlikely to be harmed. According to the Chinese foreign ministry, China has been keeping a careful eye on the political situation in Pakistan. “As Pakistan’s close neighbor and staunch ally, China hopes that all groups in Pakistan remain together and work together to ensure the country’s general stability and development. Therefore, China would stick to its favorable stance toward Pakistan.” 

At the same time, security concerns in Pakistan will put the partnership’s strength to the test in the coming years. However, if the country’s internal security deteriorates or Chinese concerns about its political direction deepen, it will be a huge missed opportunity. Recently, three Chinese nationals were killed in a suicide attack in Pakistan. The director of the Confucius Institute, a Chinese government-run entity that conducts language and cultural programs worldwide, and two other faculty members in Pakistan were among the deceased, posing a challenge for Pakistan’s new government as it attempts to improve relations with China. On the other hand, the Pakistani government promptly stated that those responsible would be found and punished.

One of Pakistan’s most important military and economic assistance sources is China. This support from a major state is significant for Islamabad, which does not have many powerful allies. Moreover, Pakistan also hopes that Chinese initiatives will assist it in modernizing and transforming its economy while somehow keeping India in check.

Furthermore, as the geopolitical competition with the US increases and alliances form to confront China’s growing assertiveness both in the region and beyond, Islamabad is likely to remain a crucial strategic partner for China. One of the major beneficiaries of China’s rise as a global power should be Pakistan. However, the US has constantly tried to sabotage or disrupt China-Pakistan relations, particularly the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and China’s proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Khan’s government had tight relations with the US, particularly following his February travel to Russia, which the US saw as a clear signal of taking sides in the Ukraine issue between the US and Russia. Khan has previously claimed that the US was behind efforts to depose him because he had visited Moscow in February. China has never intervened like the US in other countries’ internal affairs: China and Pakistan can have an all-weather strategic cooperative partnership because China treats all parties that come to power equally and stays out of their internal affairs.

Relations with Beijing have only grown more significant as China’s investments in Pakistan have increased, particularly since establishing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which connects Pakistani ports to Chinese transportation networks.

Notably, the new Pakistani prime minister stated that the everlasting Pak-China friendship is firmly ingrained in the hearts of the two countries’ people and that Pakistan sees China as its best friend and values its strong friendship with the Chinese people. Pakistan and China have always stood by one other and worked together for mutual benefit, providing a positive example for international relations.

Most importantly, the new Pakistani government is willing to deepen bilateral cooperation in agriculture, science and technology, education, and poverty alleviation and accelerate the CPEC’s construction with more vigor and efficiency to benefit both countries and peoples.

Significantly, cooperation between China and Pakistan in counterterrorism and the fight against the coronavirus is critical for Pakistan to overcome its current challenges. This means China is the country’s most dependable, trustworthy, powerful, and irreplaceable partner. Moreover, China adheres to the concept of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Therefore, no matter how the international scene and their respective domestic situations evolve, China-Pakistan relations have always been unshakeable and rock-solid, as history has repeatedly demonstrated.

According to Chinese and Pakistani analysts, China-Pakistan relations will not be influenced by Pakistan’s internal political changes because safeguarding and developing bilateral relationships is a collective consensus of all parties and groups in Pakistan. Experts from both China and Pakistan are optimistic about the future of China-Pakistan relations, believing that the new government will respect the country’s long-standing history of safeguarding the country’s friendship with China and all China-Pakistan cooperation projects. China looks forward to working closely with the new Pakistani government to maintain historic friendships, improve strategic communication, progress the CPEC, and establish a closer China-Pakistan community with a common vision in the 21st century (CGTN, 2020). Pakistan’s current political troubles have nothing to do with the country’s strong connections with China. Thus collaboration between the two countries will be unaffected.

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

Terror from Balochistan: a menacing tool to disrupt Sino-Pakistani economics

A Baloch suicide bombing targeting Chinese workers in Karachi comes a mere month after the US-backed ousting of PM Imran Khan. Pakistan is a critical BRI hub in Beijing’s vast Eurasian connectivity project, and it looks like CPEC is the ultimate target of this disruption.

May 05 2022

Balochistan can only benefit from Chinese infrastructure investment in the immensely impoverished Pakistani province. But an uptick in attacks on Chinese workers by militant separatists suggests that external agendas may be in play. Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

This is the concise story of how a suicide bombing may carry the potential to subvert the whole, ongoing, complex process of Eurasia integration.

Recently, the Balochistan Liberation Movement (BLA) had released an ISIS-influenced video threatening “Chinese officials and installations” in Pakistan’s vast province.

Yet what actually happened in late April was a suicide bombing outside of the University of Karachi’s Confucius Institute – not Balochistan – and targeting Chinese teachers, not “officials and installations.”

The suicide bomber was a woman, Shaari Baloch, alias Bramsh, who detonated her vest just as a van carrying Institute staff members approached the entrance. The attack was claimed by the BLA’s Majeed Brigade, which stressed that this was the first time they used a female suicide bomber.

Shaari Baloch was a schoolteacher with a Zoology degree, enrolled to pursue a second Master’s degree, married to a dentist and professor at Makran Medical College in her hometown of Turbat, in southern Balochistan. Her three brothers include a doctor, a deputy director at a government-funded project, and a civil servant. So Shaari Baloch was far from being a mere destitute online-indoctrinated Salafi-jihadi.

The Pakistani Foreign Office had to stress the obvious: this was a “direct attack on the Pakistan-China friendship and ongoing cooperation,” always qualified, by both sides, as “iron brothers.” Pakistan is an absolutely key node of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to connect the Eurasian landmass.

This was no standard terrorist attack. Its reverberations are immense – not only in one of Pakistan’s provinces and South Asia regionally, but for the whole of Eurasia. It may be a harbinger of serious turbulence ahead.

Shaari Baloch’s act of desperation should be seen, to start with, as the embodiment of a deep-seated Baloch alienation felt by the educated middle classes, from lawyers and traders to students, constantly permeating the complex relationship with a distant Islamabad. A significant part of the puzzle is that 26 Pakistani intel agencies never saw it coming.

Baloch leaders instantly made the point that the best possible reaction would be to call a Grand Jirga – modeled on the Shahi Jirga practiced at the time of the partition of the subcontinent – that would unite all tribal elders to address the most pressing local grievances.

Round up the usual suspects

Balochistan, geostrategically, is as valuable as rare earth minerals: an immense desert positioned east of Iran, south of Afghanistan, and boasting three Arabian Sea ports, including Gwadar, practically at the mouth of the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Comprising nearly 48 percent of Pakistan’s area, Balochistan is rich in uranium and copper, potentially very rich in oil, produces more than one-third of Pakistan’s natural gas, and sparsely populated. The Baloch account for the majority of the population, followed by Pashtuns. Quetta, the large provincial capital, for years was considered Taliban Central by the Pentagon.

Gwadar, the port built by China on the southwestern Balochistan coast of the Arabian Sea – directly across from Oman – is the absolute key node of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and doubles as the essential link in a never-ending pipeline saga. The Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline, previously known as the “peace pipeline,” with plans to cross from Iranian to Pakistani Balochistan (India still has not made up its mind) is absolute anathema to Washington since the George W. Bush era.

CPEC remains an endless source of controversy even inside Pakistan. Beyond all the links planned between Gwadar and Xinjiang by the year 2030, most of this ambitious connectivity corridor deals with energy, industrial zones and road and rail projects in different parts of the country – an overall improvement of its lagging infrastructure. The Chinese, for years, have quipped that in fact “all of Pakistan is a corridor.”

The US security establishment, predictably, has been planning for years to instrumentalize an insurgency in Balochistan to – what else – “disrupt” first the possibility of an energy pipeline from Gwadar to Xinjiang, and then the overall CPEC project. Usual suspects like the US’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) are very much present in Balochistan. WikiLeaks had revealed a great deal of the game back in 2015.

A Carnegie Institute report noted how “many Baloch nationalist leaders now come from the urbanized districts of Kech, Panjgur, and Gwadar (and to a lesser extent from Quetta, Khuzdar, Turbat, Kharan, and Lasbela). They are well connected to Karachi and Gulf cities, where tribal structures are non-existent. In fact, while there is violence all over the province, the insurgency seems to concentrate mainly in these urbanized areas.”

Suicide bomber Shaari Baloch came from Turbat, the province’s second largest city, where the BLA is very much active. From the point of view of the usual suspects, these are choice assets, especially after the death of important tribal leaders such as Akbar Bugti. The report duly noted how “the educated and middle-class Baloch youth are in the forefront” of the insurgency.

The anti-China instrumentalization of the BLA also ties in with the regime-change parliament operation in Islamabad that recently deposed former prime minister Imran Khan, who was always a fierce adversary of the American “Forever War” in Afghanistan. Khan resolutely denied Pakistan’s use in “over the horizon” US military ops: that was one of the key reasons for him to be ousted.

Now, with a pliant, Washington-approved, new regime in town, a miracle has just happened: the Pentagon is about to clinch a formal agreement with Islamabad to use Pakistani airspace to – what else – keep interfering in Afghanistan.

Beijing, as well as other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), won’t be amused. Only weeks before the white coup, Khan had met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and once again underscored how Pakistan and China are “iron brothers.”

Imran Khan was a serious thorn in the side of the west because he kept impressing on Pakistanis that the Forever War in Afghanistan was militarily unwinnable. He knew how all the proxies – including the BLA – that destabilized both Afghanistan and Pakistan for decades were, and continue to be, part of US covert operations.

Not an Iran-India plot

Balochistan is as deeply tribal as the Pashtun tribal areas. Local tribal chiefs can be as ultra-conservative as Islamabad is neglectful (and they are not exactly paragons of human rights either). Most tribes though bow to Islamabad’s authority – except, first and foremost, the Bugti.

And then there’s the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), which both Washington and London used to brand as a terrorist group, and then forgot about it. The BLA operated for years out of Kandahar in Afghanistan (only two hours away from Quetta), and already in the previous decade – simultaneous to the announcement of the New Silk Roads and CPEC – stressed it was getting ready to attack non-Balochis (code for the government in Islamabad as well as Chinese foreigners).

Balochis are inclined to consider the BLA as a resistance group. But Islamabad has always denied it, saying their support is not beyond 10 percent of the provincial population.

An ample controversy has raged in Pakistan for years on whether the BLA was totally hijacked by the CIA, the MI6 and the Mossad. During a 2006 visit to Iran, I was prevented from going to the Sistan-Balochistan province in southeast Iran because, according to Tehran’s version, infiltrated CIA from Pakistani Balochistan were involved in covert, cross-border attacks. It was no secret to anyone in the region that since 9/11 the US virtually controlled the Baloch air bases in Dalbandin and Panjgur.

In October 2001, while waiting for an opening to cross to Kandahar from Quetta, I spent quite some time with a number of BLA associates and sympathizers. They described themselves as “progressive, nationalist, anti-imperialist” (and that would make them difficult to be co-opted by the US). They were heavily critical of “Punjabi chauvinism,” and always insisted the region’s resources belong to Balochis first; that was their rationale for attacks on gas pipelines.

Stressing an atrocious, provincial literacy rate of only 16 percent (“It’s government policy to keep Balochistan backward”), they resented the fact that most people still lacked drinking water. They claimed support from at least 70 percent of the Baloch population (“Whenever the BLA fires a rocket, it’s the talk of the bazaars”). They also claimed to be united, and in coordination with Iranian Balochis. And they insisted that “Pakistan had turned Balochistan into a US cantonment, which affected a lot the relationship between the Afghan and Baloch peoples.”

Two decades later, and after the whole ISIS saga in Syria and Iraq, it’s a completely different story. BLA sympathizers may still be prepared to remain within a Pakistani confederation, although with infinitely more autonomy. But now they seem to be willing to use western imperial help to strike not only at the central government in Islamabad, but also at the “near abroad” foreign profiteer (China).

After the Karachi suicide bombing, a narrative started to emerge in some Pakistani circles that Iran and India were in cahoots to destabilize Balochistan.

That makes absolutely no sense. Both Tehran and Islamabad are tightly linked to Beijing through several nodes of the New Silk Roads. Iran would draw less than zero benefit to collude with India to destabilize an area that borders Afghanistan, especially when the SCO is fully engaged in incorporating Kabul into the Eurasia integration process. Moreover, the IPI has its best chances ever to come to fruition in the near future, consolidating an umbilical cord from Southwest Asia to South Asia.

During the late years of Barack Obama’s administration, the BLA, though still a fringe group with a political wing and a military wing, was regrouping and rearming, while the chief minister of Balochistan, Nawab Raisani, was suspected of being a CIA asset (there was no conclusive proof).

Already at the time, the fear in Islamabad was that the government had taken its eye off the Balochistan ball – and that the BLA was about to be effectively used by the US for balkanization purposes. That seems to be the picture right now. Yet the heart of the matter – glaringly expressed by the Karachi suicide bombing – is that Islamabad still remains impervious to the key Baloch grievance: we want to profit from our natural wealth, and we want autonomy.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Pepe Escobar and Danny Haiphong; Russia, China, and the Post-Dollar World

April 28, 2022

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