You’re either with us or you’re a “systemic challenge”

June 30, 2022

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After all we’re deep into the metaverse spectrum, where things are the opposite of what they seem.

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

Fast but not furious, the Global South is revving up. The key takeaway of the BRICS+ summit in Beijing,  held in sharp contrast with the G7 in the Bavarian Alps, is that both West Asia’s Iran and South America’s Argentina officially applied for BRICS membership.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry has highlighted how BRICS has “a very creative mechanism with broad aspects”. Tehran – a close partner of both Beijing and Moscow – already had “a series of consultations” about the application: the Iranians are sure that will “add value” to the expanded BRICS.

Talk about China, Russia and Iran being sooooo isolated. Well, after all we’re deep into the metaverse spectrum, where things are the opposite of what they seem.

Moscow’s obstinacy in not following Washington’s Plan A to start a pan-European war is rattling Atlanticist nerves to the core. So right after the G7 summit significantly held at a former Nazi sanatorium, enter NATO’s, in full warmongering regalia.

So welcome to an atrocity exhibition featuring total demonization of Russia, defined as the ultimate “direct threat”; the upgrading of Eastern Europe into “a fort”; a torrent of tears shed about the Russia-China strategic partnership; and as an extra bonus, the branding of China as a “systemic challenge”.

There you go: for the NATO/G7 combo, the leaders of the emerging multipolar world as well as the vast swathes of the Global South that want to join in, are a “systemic challenge”.

Turkiye under the Sultan of Swing – Global South in spirit, tightrope walker in practice – got literally everything it wanted to magnanimously allow Sweden and Finland to clear their paths on the way of being absorbed by NATO.

Bets can be made on what kind of shenanigans NATO navies will come up with in the Baltics against the Russian Baltic Fleet, to be followed by assorted business cards distributed by Mr. Khinzal, Mr. Zircon, Mr. Onyx and Mr. Kalibr, capable of course of annihilating any NATO permutation, including “decision centers”.

So it came as a sort of perverse comic relief when Roscosmos released a set of quite entertaining satellite images pinpointing the coordinates of those “decision centers”.

The “leaders” of NATO and the G7 seem to enjoy performing a brand of lousy cop/clownish cop routine. The NATO summit told coke comedian Elensky (remember, the letter “Z” is verboten) that the Russian combined arms police operation – or war – must be “resolved” militarily. So NATO will continue to help Kiev to fight till the last Ukrainian cannon fodder.

In parallel, at the G7, German Chancellor Scholz was asked to specify what “security guarantees” would be provided to what’s left of Ukraine after the war. Response from the grinning Chancellor: “Yes … I could” (specify). And then he trailed off.

Illiberal Western liberalism

Over 4 months after the start of Operation Z, zombified Western public opinion completely forgot – or willfully ignores – that Moscow spent the last stretch of 2021 demanding a serious discussion on legally binding security guarantees from Washington, with an emphasis on no more NATO eastward expansion and a return to the 1997 status quo.

Diplomacy did fail, as Washington emitted a non-response response. President Putin had stressed the follow-up would be a “military technical” response (that turned out to be Operation Z) even as the Americans warned that would trigger massive sanctions.

Contrary to Divide and Rule wishful thinking, what happened after February 24 only solidified the synergistic Russia-China strategic partnership – and their expanded circle, especially in the context of BRICS and the SCO. As Sergey Karaganov, head of Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy noted earlier this year, “China is our strategic cushion (…) We know that in any difficult situation, we can lean on it for military, political and economic support.”

That was outlined in detail for all the Global South to see by the landmark February 4th joint statement for Cooperation Entering a New Era – complete with the accelerated integration of BRI and the EAEU in tandem with military intelligence harmonization under the SCO (including new full member Iran), key foundation stones of multipolarism.

Now compare it with the wet dreams of the Council on Foreign Relations or assorted ravings by armchair strategic “experts” of “the top national security think tank in the world” whose military experience is limited to negotiating a can of beer.

Makes one yearn for those serious analytic days when the late, great Andre Gunder Frank penned ” a paper on the paper tiger” , examining American power at the crossroads of paper dollar and the Pentagon.

The Brits, with better imperial education standards, at least seem to understand, halfway, how Xi Jinping “has embraced a variant of integral nationalism not unlike those that emerged in interwar Europe”, while Putin “skillfully deployed Leninist methods to resurrect an enfeebled Russia as a global power.”

Yet the notion that “ideas and projects originating in the illiberal West continue to shape global politics” is nonsense, as Xi in fact is inspired by Mao as much as Putin is inspired by several Eurasianist theoreticians. What’s relevant is that in the process of the West plunging into a geopolitical abyss, “Western liberalism has itself become illiberal.”

Much worse: it actually became totalitarian.

Holding the Global South hostage

The G7 is essentially offering to most of the Global South a toxic cocktail of massive inflation, rising prices and uncontrolled dollarized debt.

Fabio Vighi has brilliantly outlined how “the purpose of the Ukrainian emergency is to keep the money printer switched on while blaming Putin for worldwide economic downturn. The war serves the opposite aim of what we are told: not to defend Ukraine but to prolong the conflict and nourish inflation in a bid to defuse cataclysmic risk in the debt market, which would spread like wildfire across the whole financial sector.”

And if it can get worse, it will. At the Bavarian Alps, the G7 promised to find “ways to limit the price of Russian oil and gas”: if that doesn’t work according to “market methods”, then “means will be imposed by force”.

A G7 “indulgence” – neo-medievalism in action – would only be possible if a prospective buyer of Russian energy agrees to strike a deal on the price with G7 representatives.

What this means in practice is that the G7 arguably will be creating a new body to “regulate” the price of oil and gas, subordinated to Washington’s whims: for all practical purposes, a major twist of the post-1945 system.

The whole planet, especially the Global South, would be held hostage.

Meanwhile, in real life, Gazprom is on a roll, making as much money from gas exports to the EU as it did in 2021, even though it’s shipping much smaller volumes.

About the only thing this German analyst gets right is that were Gazprom forced to cut off supplies for good, that would represent “the implosion of an economic model that is over-reliant on industrial exports, and therefore on imports of cheap fossil fuels. Industry is responsible for 36% of Germany’s gas use.”

Think, for instance, BASF forced to halt production at the world’s biggest chemicals plant in Ludwigshafen. Or Shell’s CEO stressing it’s absolutely impossible to replace Russian gas supplied to the EU via pipelines with (American) LNG.

This coming implosion is exactly what Washington neocon/neoliberalcon circles want – removing a powerful (Western) economic competitor from the world trading stage. What’s truly astonishing is that Team Scholz can’t even see it coming.

Virtually no one remembers what happened a year ago when the G7 struck a pose of trying to help the Global South. That was branded as Build Back Better World (B3W). “Promising projects” were identified in Senegal and Ghana, there were “visits” to Ecuador, Panama and Colombia. The Crash Test Dummy administration was offering “the full range” of US financial tools: equity stakes, loan guarantees, political insurance, grants, technical expertise on climate, digital technology and gender equality.

The Global South was not impressed. Most of it had already joined BRI. B3W went down with a whimper.

Now the EU is promoting its new “infrastructure” project for the Global South, branded as Global Gateway, officially presented by European Commission (EC) Fuhrer Ursula von der Leyen and – surprise! – coordinated with the floundering B3W. That’s the Western “response” to BRI, demonized as – what else – “a debt trap”.

Global Gateway in theory should be spending 300 billion euros in 5 years; the EC will come up with only 18 billion from the EU budget (that is, financed by EU taxpayers), with the intention of amassing 135 billion euros in private investment. No Eurocrat has been able to explain the gap between the announced 300 billion and the wishful thinking 135 billion.

In parallel, the EC is doubling down on their floundering Green Energy agenda – blaming, what else, gas and coal. EU climate honcho Frans Timmermans has uttered an absolute pearl: “Had we had the green deal five years earlier, we would not be in this position because then we would have less dependency on fossil fuels and natural gas.”

Well, in real life the EU remains stubbornly on the road to become a fully de-industrialized wasteland by 2030. Inefficient solar or wind-based Green Energy is incapable of offering stable, reliable power. No wonder vast swathes of the EU are now Back to Coal.

The right kind of swing

It’s a tough call to establish who’s The Lousiest in the NATO/G7 cop routine. Or the most predictable. This is what I published about the NATO summit . Not now: in 2014, eight years ago. The same old demonization, over and over again.

And once again, if it can get worse, predictably it will. Think of what’s left of Ukraine – mostly eastern Galicia – being annexed to the Polish wet dream: the revamped Intermarium, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, now dubbed as a bland “Three Seas Initiative” (with the added Adriatic) and comprising 12 nation-states.

What that implies long-term is a EU breakdown from within. Opportunist Warsaw just profits financially from the Brussels system’s largesse while holding its own hegemonic designs. Most of the “Three Seas” will end up exiting the EU. Guess who will guarantee their “defense”: Washington, via NATO. What else is new? The revamped Intermarium concept goes back all the way to the late Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski.

So Poland dreams of becoming the Intermarium leader, seconded by the Three Baltic Midgets, enlarged Scandinavia, plus Bulgaria and Romania. Their aim is straight from Comedy Central: reducing Russia into “pariah state” status – and then the whole enchilada: regime change, Putin out, balkanization of the Russian Federation.

Britain, that inconsequential island, still invested in teaching Empire to the American upstarts, will love it. Germany-France-Italy much less. Lost in the wilderness Euro-analysts dream of a European Quad (Spain added), replicating the Indo-Pacific scam, but in the end it will all depend which way Berlin swings.

And then there’s that unpredictable Global South stalwart led by the Sultan of Swing: freshly rebranded Turkiye. Soft neo-Ottomanism seems to be on a roll, still expanding its tentacles from the Balkans and Libya to Syria and Central Asia. Evoking the golden age of the Sublime Porte, Istanbul is the only serious mediator between Moscow and Kiev. And it’s carefully micromanaging the evolving process of Eurasia integration.

The Americans were on the verge of regime-changing the Sultan. Now they have been forced to listen to him. Talk about a serious geopolitical lesson to the whole Global South: it don’t mean a “systemic challenge” thing if you’ve got the right kind of swing.

The BRICS+ show themselves as an alternative to the current international financial system, but still with caution

June 25, 2022

By Guilherme Wilbert

Since the beginning of Operation Z in Ukraine, unfortunately interpreted as an invasion or an occupation of Ukrainian territory by the Russians, realpolitik has accelerated integration among economic blocs of emerging countries, with several speeches by BRICS regional leaders speaking openly about the weight of emerging economies in global economic development.

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The last BRICS meeting on 06/23, with open criticism of western sanctions by China and Russia, showed well what the emerging economies are discussing at the moment: how to escape dollarized debt? Or better yet: how to implement an alternative system to the one established at Bretton Woods?

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who overnight became “persona non grata” in Europe, is already talking openly about a possible basket of BRICS own currencies as an alternative to strengthen the national economies, with the most advanced countries, for example Russia itself or China, working openly with an economy of real production based on resource ballast for their national currencies, in the Russian case the Gaso-Ruble becomes a character, in the Chinese case, the PetroYuan emerges as an alternative to strengthen the Chinese currency.

Caution is walking hand in hand with haste for the emerging countries

While emerging countries are trying to gain international prominence through economic blocs that can prove to be alternative to the current international financial system, the members of these blocs, especially China, despite acting as a kind of leadership in this global turn towards de-dollarization, do not show imperialistic intentions as seen in the U.S. within their geopolitical blocks. For example, NATO, where it is clearly an aggressive military alliance led by the US to impose its policies and state interests. On the other side, this is not seen within the BRICS or Mercosur for example with a military alliance led by China or with groupings supported by the Chinese establishment for color revolutions in non-aligned countries.

Therefore the caution: BRICS cannot emerge as an alternative to do the same things in the same ways committing the same Western mistakes, in fact the opposite, if negotiating with Westerners you would be willing one day to have to deal with Uncle Sam carrying out a lawfare in its territory to overthrow a legitimate government, with China the concern is much more diplomatic regarding Taiwan for example, with criticism much more focused on humanitarian aspects by some analysts.

Brazilian diplomacy has shown concern with the political intentions of the BRICS, wanting the strategic partnership to continue in a win-win system and not to mix geopolitical meanings in order to face the old system, but this is due to the fact that Brazil is still strongly influenced by Washington, despite its recent independent foreign policy.
We are witnessing a paradigm shift in all senses with this Russian police operation in Ukraine, which revealed the face of the irresponsible weak western leaders that have hurt the global economy by causing 1. sanctions to have the reverse effect to the desired one (of breaking the Russian economy) and 2. sanctions to have the opposite effect to the desired one (of breaking the Russian economy). Many countries that carry out military offensives on their neighbors (like Saudi Arabia in Yemen) even though supported by international law and ratifying humanitarian conventions on the battlefield saw that Westerners, unfortunately, can still simply loot the wealth of some countries they consider non-aligned like Russia, Iran, Venezuela… And given this the emerging countries logically seek an alternative, with the difference being that for Westerners to do what was accomplished in Libya when Gaddafi attempted the same, they will now have to deal with a bear sitting on just over 5,000 nuclear warheads. The conversation is now essentially different.


Guilherme Wilbert is a Bachelor’s Law with interests in geopolitics and international law.

References: https://investogist.com/president-putin-says-that-brics-are-developing-global-reserve-currency/
https://noticias.uol.com.br/colunas/jamil-chade/2022/06/23/brasil-ve-com-preocupacao-ambicao-da-china-para-expandir-brics.html

Exile on Main Street: The Sound of the Unipolar World Fading Away

June 22, 2022

The future world order, already in progress, will be formed by strong sovereign states. The ship has sailed. There’s no turning back.

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

Let’s cut to the chase and roll in the Putin Top Ten of the New Era, announced by the Russian President live at the St. Petersburg forum  for both the Global North and South.

The era of the unipolar world is over.

The rupture with the West is irreversible and definitive. No pressure from the West will change it.

Russia has renewed with its sovereignty. Reinforcement of political and economic sovereignty is an absolute priority.

The EU has completely lost its political sovereignty. The current crisis shows the EU is not ready to play the role of an independent, sovereign actor. It’s just en ensemble of American vassals deprived of any politico-military sovereignty.

Sovereignty cannot be partial. Either you’re a sovereign or a colony.

Hunger in the poorest nations will be on the conscience of the West and euro-democracy.

Russia will supply grains to the poorer nations in Africa and the Middle East.

Russia will invest in internal economic development and reorientation of trade towards nations independent of the U.S.

The future world order, already in progress, will be formed by strong sovereign states.

The ship has sailed. There’s no turning back.

How does it feel, for the collective West, to be caught in such a crossfire hurricane? Well, it gets more devastating when we add to the new roadmap the latest on the energy front.

Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, in St. Petersburg, stressed that the global economic crisis is gaining momentum not because of sanctions, but exacerbated by them; Europe “commits energy suicide” by sanctioning Russia; sanctions against Russia have done away with the much lauded “green transition”, as that is no longer needed to manipulate markets; and Russia, with its vast energy potential, “is the Noah’s Ark of the world economy.”

For his part Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller could not be more scathing on the sharp decline in the gas flow to the EU due to Siemens’ refusal and/or incapacity to repair the Nord Stream 1 pumping engine: “Well, of course, Gazprom was forced to reduce the volume of gas supplies to Europe by 20%+. But you know, prices have increased not by 20%+, but by several times! Therefore, I’m sorry if I say that we don’t feel offended by anyone, we are not particularly concerned by this situation.”

If this pain dial overdrive was not enough to hurl the collective West – or NATOstan – into Terminal Hysteria, then Putin’s sharp comment on possibly allowing Mr. Sarmat to present his business card to “decision-making centers in Kiev”, those that are ordering the current shelling and killing of civilians in Donetsk, definitely did the trick:

“As for the red lines, let me keep them to myself, because this will mean quite tough actions on the decision-making centers. But this is an area that shouldn’t be disclosed to people outside the military-political leadership of the country. Those who deserve appropriate actions on our part should draw a conclusion for themselves – what they may face if they cross the line.”

Baby please, stop breaking down

Alastair Crooke has masterfully outlined  how the collective West’s zugzwang leaves it lumbering around, dazed and confused. Now let’s examine the state of play on the opposite side of the chessboard, focusing on the BRICS summit this Thursday in Beijing.

As much as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and ASEAN, now it’s time for a reinvigorated BRICS to step up its game. In conjunction, these are the key organizations/instruments that will be carving the pathways towards the post-unipolar era.

Both China and India (which between them were the largest economies in the world for centuries before the brief Western colonial interregnum) are already close and getting closer to “the Noah’s Ark of the world economy”.

The G20 – hostages of the Michael Hudson-defined FIRE scam that is the core of the financialized neoliberal casino – is slowly fading away, while a potential new G8 ramps up: and that is directly connected to BRICS expansion, one of the key themes of this week’s summit. An expanded BRICS with a parallel G8 configuration is bound to easily overtake the Western-centric one in importance as well as GDP by purchasing power parity (PPP).

BRICS in 2021 already added Bangladesh, Egypt, the UAE and Uruguay to its New Development Bank (NDB). In May, at Foreign Ministry-level debates, Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Thailand were added to the 5 BRICS members. Leaders of some of these nations will be connected to the Beijing summit.

BRICS plays a completely different game from the G20. They aim for the grassroots, and it’s all about slowly “building trust” – a very Chinese concept. They are creating an independent Credit Rating Agency – away from the Anglo-American racket – and deepening a Currency Reserves Arrangement. The NDB – including its regional offices in India and South Africa – has been involved in hundreds of projects. Time will tell: one day the NDB will make the World Bank superfluous.

Comparisons between BRICS and the Quad, a U.S. concoction, are silly. Quad is just another crude mechanism to contain China. Yet there’s no question India treads on tightrope walker territory, as it’s a member of both BRICS and Quad, and made a vastly misguided decision to walk out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – the largest free trade deal on the planet – opting instead to adhere to the American pie-in-the-sky Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

Yet India, long term, skillfully guided by Russia, is being steered to find essential common ground with China in several key issues.

BRICS, especially in its expanded BRICS+ version, is bound to increase cooperation on building truly stable supply chains, and a settlement mechanism for resources and raw material trade, which inevitably has to be based in local currencies. Then the path will be open for the Holy Grail: a BRICS payment system as a credible alternative to the weaponized U.S. dollar and SWIFT.

Meanwhile, a torrent of bilateral investments from both China and India in the manufacturing and services sector around their neighbors is bound to lift up smaller players in both Southeast Asia and South Asia: think Cambodia and Bangladesh as important cogs in a vast supply wheel.

Yaroslav Lissovolik had already proposed a BEAMS concept as the core of this BRICS integration drive, uniting “the key regional integration initiatives of BRICS economies such as BIMSTEC, EAEU, the ASEAN-China free trade agreement, Mercosur and SADC/SACU.”

It’s only (BRICS) rock’n roll

Now Beijing seems eager to promote “an inclusive format for dialogue spanning all the main regions of the Global South via aggregating the regional integration platforms in Eurasia, Africa and Latin America. Going forward this format may be further expanded to include other regional integration blocks from Eurasia, such as the GCC, EAEU and others.”

Lissovolik notes how the ideal path from now on should be “the greater inclusivity of BRICS via the BRICS+ framework that allows smaller economies that are the regional partners of BRICS to have a say in the new global governance framework.”

Before he addressed the St. Petersburg forum on video, President Xi called Putin personally to say, among other things, that he’s got China’s back on all “sovereignty and security” themes. They also, inevitably, discussed the relevance of BRICS as a key platform towards the multipolar world.

Meanwhile, the collective West plunges deeper into the maelstrom. A massive national demonstration of trade unions this past Monday paralyzed Brussels – the capital of the EU and NATO – as 80,000 people expressed their anger at the rising and rising cost of living; called for elites to “spend money on salaries, not on weapons”; and yelled in unison “Stop NATO.”

It’s zugzwang all over again. The EU’s “direct losses”, as Putin stressed, provoked by the sanctions hysteria, “could exceed $400 billion a year”. Russia’s energy earnings have hit record levels. The ruble is at a 7-year high against the euro.

It’s a blast that arguably the most powerful cultural artifact of the entire Cold War – and Western supremacy – era, the perennial Rolling Stones, is currently on tour across a “caught in a crossfire hurricane” EU. On every show they play, for the first time live, one of their early classics: ‘Out of Time’.

Sounds much like a requiem. So let’s all sing, “Baby baby baby / you’re out of time”, as one Vladimir “it’s a gas, gas, gas” Putin and his sidekick Dmitry “Under My Thumb” Medvedev seem to be the guys really getting their rocks off. It’s only (BRICS) rock’n roll, but we like it.

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