Russia-China advance Asian roadmap for Afghanistan

Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pose for a family photo before a meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Contact Group on Afghanistan, in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry / Sputnik via AFP
Russia-China advance Asian roadmap for Afghanistan

July 15, 2021

Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s ‘facilitate, not mediate’ role could be the key to solving the Afghan imbroglio

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

Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting of Foreign Ministers on Wednesday in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, may have been an under-the-radar affair, but it did reveal the contours of the big picture ahead when it comes to Afghanistan.

So let’s see what Russia and China – the SCO’s heavyweights – have been up to.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi laid out the basic road map to his Afghan counterpart Mohammad Haneef Atmar. While stressing the Chinese foreign policy gold standard – no interference in internal affairs of friendly nations – Wang established three priorities:

1. Real inter-Afghan negotiations towards national reconciliation and a durable political solution, thus preventing all-out civil war. Beijing is ready to “facilitate” dialogue.

2. Fighting terror – which means, in practice, al-Qaeda remnants, ISIS-Khorasan and the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). Afghanistan should not be a haven for terrorist outfits – again.

3. The Taliban, for their part, should pledge a clean break with every terrorist outfit.

Atmar, according to diplomatic sources, fully agreed with Wang. And so did Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin. Atmar even promised to work with Beijing to crack down on ETIM, a Uighur terror group founded in China’s western Xinjiang. Overall, the official Beijing stance is that all negotiations should be “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led.”

There is no sign yet that the Taliban will enter a power-sharing arrangement with President Ashraf Ghani’s government. Photo: AFP/Wali Sabawoon/NurPhoto

It was up to Russian presidential envoy Zamir Kabulov to offer a more detailed appraisal of the Dushanbe discussions.

The main Russian point is that Kabul and the Taliban should try to form a provisional coalition government for the next 2-3 years while they negotiate a permanent agreement. Talk about a Sisyphean task – and that’s an understatement. The Russians know very well that both sides won’t restart negotiations before September.

Moscow is very precise about the role of the extended troika – Russia, China, Pakistan and the US – in the excruciatingly slow Doha peace process talks: the troika should “facilitate” (also Wang’s terminology), not mediate the proceedings.

Another very important point is that once “substantive” intra-Afghan negotiations resume, a mechanism should be launched to clear the Taliban of UN Security Council sanctions.

This will mean the normalization of the Taliban as a political movement. Considering their current diplomatic drive, the Taliban do have their eyes on the ball. So the Russian warning that they should not become a security threat to any of the Central Asian “stans” or there will be “consequences” has been fully understood.

Four of the five “stans” (Turkmenistan is the exception) are SCO members. By the way, the Taliban have sent a diplomatic mission to Turkmenistan to ease its fears.

Break for the border

In Dushanbe, a special meeting of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, established in 2005, for the first time was held at the foreign minister level.

This shows that the SCO as a whole is engaged in making its “facilitate, not mediate” role the prime mechanism to solve the Afghan drama. It’s always crucial to remember that no fewer than six SCO member-nations are Afghanistan’s neighbors.

During the main event in Dushanbe – the SCO Foreign Ministers Council – the Russians once again framed Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy as an attempt to deter China and isolate Russia.

Following recent analyses by President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the Russian delegation explained to its SCO counterparts its view counterposing Moscow and Beijing’s effort to develop a polycentric world system based on international law, on the one hand, with the Western concept of the so-called “rules-based world order.”

The Western approach, they said, puts pressure on countries that pursue independent foreign policy courses, ultimately legitimizing the West’s “neocolonial policy.”

On the ground

While the SCO was discussing the drive towards a polycentric world system, the Taliban, on the ground, kept doing what they’ve been doing for the past few weeks: capturing strategic crossroads.

The Taliban already controlled border crossings with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Turkmenistan. Now they have taken over ultra-strategic Spin Boldak, bordering Balochistan in Pakistan, which in trade terms is even more important than the Torkham border crossing near the Khyber Pass.

Taliban in Spin Boldak, the very busy commercial border between Afghanistan and Balochistan in Pakistan. Photo: AFP

According to Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, “the Spin Boldak district in Kandahar province has been cleared of the enemy” – Kabul’s forces – “and the district is now under the control of the mujahideen.” The term “mujahideen” in the Afghan context means indigenous forces fighting foreign invaders or proxies.

To have an idea of the importance of Spin Boldak for the Taliban economy during their years in power, see the third chapter of a series I published in Asia Times in 2010, here and here. Eleven years ago, I noted that “the Afghan-Pakistan border is still porous, and the Taliban seem to believe they may even get their Talibanistan back.” They believe that now, more than ever.

Meanwhile, in the northeast, in Badakhshan province, the Taliban are getting closer and closer to the border with Xinjiang – which has led to some hysteria about “terrorism” infiltrating China via the Wakhan corridor.

The Wakhan corridor in Afghanistan, seen from the Tajik side. Photo: Pepe Escobar, November 2019

Nonsense. The actual Afghanistan-China border in the Wakhan is roughly 90 kilometers. Beijing can exercise full electronic surveillance on everything that moves.

I crossed part of the Wakhan on the Tajik side, bordering Afghanistan, during my Central Asian loop in late 2019, and on some stretches of the Pamir Highway I was as close to Xinjiang as 30 kilometers or so through no man’s land. The only people I saw along the geologically spectacular, desolate landscape were a few nomad caravans. The terrain can be even more forbidding than the Hindu Kush.

If any terror outfits try to get to Xinjiang, they won’t dare cross the Wakhan; they will try to infiltrate via Kyrgyzstan. I met a lot of Uighurs in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital: mostly businessman, legally going back and forth. On the Kyrgyz-Xinjiang border, there was a steady flow of cargo trucks. ETIM was dismissed as a bunch of nutcases.

What’s way more relevant is that the Ministry of Public Works in Kabul is actually building a 50-kilometer road – for the moment unpaved –  between Badakhshan province and Xinjiang, all the way to the end of the Wakhan corridor. They will call it the Wakhan Route.

No imperial graveyard ahead

SCO member Pakistan remains arguably the key to solve the Afghan drama. The Pakistani ISI remains closely linked to every Taliban faction: never forget the Taliban are a creation of legendary General Hamid Gul in the early 1990s.

At the same time, for any jihadi outfit it’s easier to hide and lie low deep in the Pakistani tribal areas than anywhere else – and they can buy protection, irrespective of what the Taliban are doing in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan and his circle are very much aware of it – as much as Beijing. That will be the ultimate test for the SCO in its anti-terror front.

China needs an eminently stable Pakistan for all the long-term Belt and Road/China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects and to fulfill its goal of incorporating Afghanistan. Kabul would be bound to benefit not only from increased connectivity and infrastructure development but also from future mineral including rare earth exploration projects.

Meanwhile, Hindu nationalists would love to outflank Pakistan and extend their influence in Kabul, encouraged by Washington. For the Empire of Chaos, the ideal agenda is – what else? – chaos: disrupting Belt and Road and the Russia-China road map for Eurasian integration, Afghanistan included.

Added hysteria depicting Russia and China involved in Afghan reconstruction as but a new chapter in the never-ending “graveyard of empires” saga does not even qualify as nonsense. The talks in Dushanbe made clear that the Russia-China strategic partnership approach to Afghanistan is cautiously realistic.

Taliban negotiators Abdul Latif Mansoor (right), Shahabuddin Delawar (center) and Suhail Shaheen (left) walk to attend a press conference in Moscow on July 9, 2021. Photo: AFP / Dimitar Dilkoff

It’s all about national reconciliation, economic development and Eurasian integration. Not included are a military component, hubs for an Empire of Bases, foreign interference. Moscow and Beijing also recognize, pragmatically, that fulfilling those dreams will not be possible in an Afghanistan hostage to ethno-sectarianism.

The Taliban for their part seem to have recognized their own limits, hence their current inter-regional diplomatic drive. They seem to be paying close attention to the inevitable heavyweights – Russia and China – as well as the Central Asian “stans” plus Pakistan and Iran.

Whether all this interconnection dance will herald the beginning of a post-war Afghanistan as a real functioning state, all we can say is insha Allah.

How Eurasia will be interconnected

How Eurasia will be interconnected

April 04, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now get me some Lapis Lazuli

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

And here we go back to the always intriguing

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

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

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

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

Eastern Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INSTC or bust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belarus: Why Is Lukshenko Being Color Revolutioned Just Now?

By F. William Engdahl

Global Research, August 21, 2020

The globalist Powers That Be have clearly decided to topple the long-standing sole-ruler of Belarus, President Aleksander Lukashenko. The question is why at just this time? There is a case to be made that one reason is he is being destroyed for his unforgivable coronavirus defiance. In any case Belarus is being hit with a full force West-led Color Revolution. The protests over the August 9 election show every sign of the usual Color Revolution destabilization protests, manufactured by the usual Western NGOs, as well as private contractors using social media to steer the protests.

Under Lukashenko’s regime, the country defied WHO and the global coronavirus lockdown demands. He refused to order lockdown of his citizens or the economy. As of August 13 the country had recorded a total of 617 covid19 related deaths. Belarus stood together with Sweden and the US State of South Dakota as one of the very few places in the world to successfully disprove the bizarre and dangerous WHO demands for a global lockdown to control the pandemic. Belarus ordered no lockdown so most industry continued. Schools remained open other than a 3 week closing during Easter. There were no mask requirements, though volunteer groups distributed masks to some and in June the EU sent a shipment of PPE including masks to Health officials for distribution. Football and the May 9 Victory parade went as normal. And now the country stands as an example the WHO and friends do not want.

One very important point is that the Health Ministry ignored the very flawed WHO recommendations on loosely classifying deaths as Covid19 when only a “suspicion” is there. The basis for the Belarus pathologists to state the cause of death from coronavirus is the presence of a patho-morphological picture with laboratory confirmation of Covid-19.i

This all did not sit well with the globalist Powers That Be. The manifestly corrupt WHO, whose main private donor is the Gates Foundation, criticized Lukashenko’s government for lack of quarantine and in June, when announcing it would grant Belarus a $940 million loan, the IMF said it was conditional on the country imposing quarantine, isolation and closed borders, demands Lukashenko rejected as “nonsense.” He noted in a widely-quoted statement, “the IMF continues to demand from us quarantine measures, isolation, a curfew. This is nonsense. We will not dance to anyone’s tune.”

Color Revolution Begins

Clearly NATO and the Western globalist circles have been working on toppling Lukashenko well before the covid19 events. That coronavirus defiance may only have helped galvanize events. The West and its “democracy” NGOs have long had Lukashenko in their targets. During the Bush Administration in 2008 US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denounced Lukashenko as Europe’s “last dictator.” After that, Russia created the Eurasian Economic Union along with Kazakhstan and Belarus as members. Until now Lukashenko has refused Putin’s proposal to merge with Russia in one large Union State. That may soon change.

The protests broke out in Belarus after elections on August 9 gave Lukashenko some 80% of the vote against his last-minute opposition candidate, the ‘western’ candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Those protests are being run using the same model that the CIA and its various “democracy” NGOs, led by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) developed in Serbia, Ukraine, Russia and numerous other states whose leaders refused to bow to the globalist dictates. A co-founder of the NED, Allen Weinstein, declared in the Washington Post in 1991, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” The NED gets its financing from the US government, but poses around the world as a “private” democracy-promoting NGO, where it was instrumental in most every Washington-backed regime change destabilizations since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

In 2019, the NED listed on its website some 34 NED project grants in Belarus. All of them were directed to nurture and train an anti-Lukashenko series of opposition groups and domestic NGOs. The grants went for such projects as, “NGO Strengthening: To increase local and regional civic engagement… to identify local problems and develop advocacy strategies.” Another was to “expand an online depository of publications not readily accessible in the country, including works on politics, civil society, history, human rights, and independent culture.” Then another NED grant went, “To defend and support independent journalists and media.” And another, “NGO Strengthening: To foster youth civic engagement.” Another large NED grant went to, “training democratic parties and movements in effective advocacy campaigns.”ii Behind the innocent-sounding NED projects is a pattern of creating a specially-trained opposition on the lines of the CIA’s NED model.

Belarus Kicks Off Large-scale Military Drills Near Poland, Lithuania

The Murky Nexta

A key role in coordinating the “spontaneous” protests was played by a Warsaw-based texting and video channel called “Nexta,” based on the Telegram messaging app. Nexta, which is Belarusian for “somebody,” is nominally headed by a 22-year old Belarus exile based in Poland named Stepan Putila. With the Belarus Internet shut by the government since days, Nexta, operating from Poland, has posted numerous citizen videos of protest and police crackdown and claims now to have 2 million followers. It quickly became the heart of the Color Revolution once Belarus shut its Internet access.

Stepan Putila is also known under the moniker Stepan Svetlov. Putila previously worked for the Warsaw-based Belsat channel which broadcasts propaganda into Belarus and is funded by the Polish Foreign Ministry and USAID. The co-founder and Editor in Chief at Nexta since March, 2020 is a Belarus exile named Roman Protasevich who used to work for the US Government’s propaganda media, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Protasevich also worked for the Polish-based Euroradio which is partly funded by USAID. He was active in the CIA’s 2013-14 Maidan Square demonstrations in Kiev and according to his Facebook likes is close to Ukrainian neo-nazi Pahonia Detachment. In April 2018, Protasevich ends up at the US State Department in Washington, a notable contact. On his Facebook then he noted, “The most important week in my life begins.” The same day he posted a picture of himself inside the US State Department, stating “Never had so many important and interesting encounters in my life.”iii After he left Washington he went to work for the USAID-funded radio in Belarus Euroradio.fm on August 31, 2018. Two years later Protasevich is coordinating the anti-Lukashenko events from Warsaw via Nexta. Coincidence?

Nexta which uses the London-registered Telegram, and is in NATO-member Poland, outside the country, so far has eluded shutdown. Nexta has been sending out, via social media, such information as plans for protests, at what time and where to gather for a rally, when to start a strike, where police are assembled and so on. Nexta has also circulated texts of protesters’ demands, updates about arrests, locations of arrests by riot police, and contacts for lawyers and human rights defenders as well as maps showing where police are located and addresses for protesters to hide in.

It has also advised subscribers how to bypass internet blocking by using proxies and other means. As Maxim Edwards, a pro-opposition British journalist at Global Voices, describes Nexta, “It is clear that the channel does not merely report on the protests, but has played a substantial role in organising them.”iv

No doubt such coordination from abroad would not be possible unless Nexta had some very sophisticated assistance from certain intelligence services. Nexta claims it depends on “donations” and ads for funding, but claims to get no “grants” from governments or foundations. Whether true or not, it is an answer that gives little clarity. Is USAID one of their “donors” or the Open Society Foundations? The relevant point is that Nexta uses cyber technology that Belarus is not able to shut down. In 2018 the Russian governments unsuccessfully tried to ban Telegram for refusing to reveal their source codes.

Global Stakes

The opposition political candidates to Lukashenko is also surprisingly clever in tactics, suggesting they are being guided by professionals. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya the alleged “political novice” who stepped in when her husband was arrested and forbidden to run, claims she won the election based on exit pollers. On August 14 Tikhanovskaya announced that she was forming a “coordination council” to secure a peaceful transfer of power. It echoed the earlier call by another opposition candidate, Valery Tsepkalo, a former Belarus Ambassador to Washington who, like Tikhanovskaya’s husband Sergei Tikhanovsky, was barred from running for president. Tsepkalo called it a “national salvation front.”

Though Belarus is a small country of less than 10 million, the stakes of this destabilization effort of the West are enormous. In 2014 the Obama CIA head John Brennan led a US-backed coup d’etat in Ukraine to prevent Ukraine joining Russia’s economic union. That coup has not given Ukraine anything positive. Instead it has resulted in rule but by other corrupt oligarchs, but friendly with Washington, especially under Obama.

The NED tried in 2018 to destabilize Armenia, another part of the Russian Eurasian Economic Union. Were they now to break off Belarus, the military and political consequences for Russia could be severe. Whether or not the Lukashenko defiance of the WHO coronavirus dictates had a role in the timing of the ongoing Minsk Color Revolution attempt, clearly some powers that be in the West, including the EU and Washington would love to collapse Belarus as they did in Ukraine six years ago. If they succeed we can be sure they will be emboldened to try Russia after.

*

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

This article was originally published on the author’s blog site, williamengdahl.com.

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. 

Notes

Natalya Grigoryeva, How Belarus Ignored the WHO and Beat Coronavirus, FRN, June 21, 2020, https://fort-russ.com/2020/06/covid-19-psychosis-defeated-how-belarus-ignored-the-who-and-beat-coronavirus/

NED, Belarus 2019, https://www.ned.org/region/central-and-eastern-europe/belarus-2019/

Anonymous, Roman Protasevich, August 17, 2020, https://www.foiaresearch.net/person/roman-protasevich

Maxim Edwards, How one Telegram channel became central to Belarus protests, August 19, 2020, https://radioeonline.com/2020/08/19/how-one-telegram-channel-became-central-to-belarus-protests/

Featured image:  Protest rally against Lukashenko, 16 August. Minsk, Belarus License: The Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license Under Some Conditions https://bit.ly/325WwSw


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The author cogently reveals a diabolical world of profit-driven political intrigue, government corruption and coercion, where genetic manipulation and the patenting of life forms are used to gain worldwide control over food production. If the book often reads as a crime story, that should come as no surprise. For that is what it is.The original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © F. William Engdahl, Global Research, 2020

Kazakhstan may hold the secret for Greater Eurasia

Source

July 06, 2020

Kazakhstan may hold the secret for Greater Eurasia

Submitted by Pepe Escobar – source Asia Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

To make it even harder, Kazakhstan was landlocked.

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

Have soft power, will travel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the heart of Eurasia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Central Downtown Nur-Sultan: in center Bayterek tower

GEO-ECONOMIC BATTLE FOR RUSSIA

Geo-Economic Battle for Russia
REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Road Toward Greater Eurasia

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

Global Research, November 26, 2019

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

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

Great stabilizer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From MAD to SAD

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

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

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

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

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

Global alliance

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

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

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

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

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This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is Asia Times

CENTRAL ASIA’S RACE AGAINST TIME

South Front

Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson; Voiceover by Harold Hoover

The Great Game, Part 3

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

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

The Belt and Road Initiative

An example of the benefits that may accrue for Central Asian states is already visible in places like the Khorgos-Nurkent pair of cities on the border between China and Kazakhstan, a location which has recently become the world’s largest “dry port”. First opened in 2015, in 2016 it handled 45 thousand containers, a figure that grew to over 150,000 in 2018 and is projected to continue increasing. Job opportunities in the region are such that Nurkent, which barely existed even few years ago, is expected to become one of Kazakhstan’s largest cities in the coming decades.

The success of Khorgos-Nurkent will be replicated in other parts of Central Asia, as the growing volumes of trade necessitate construction of additional infrastructure. The job opportunities thus created offer the countries of Central Asia an opportunity to diversify their economies which, at the moment, are heavily dependent upon the exploitation of natural resources. Furthermore, infrastructure expansion will facilitate the growth of yet another industry hitherto largely missing from the region, namely tourism. The region is dotted with cultural attractions such as the ancient cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, and the beauty of its nature is also likely to attract many tourists.

Yet all of these are fragile developments and highly vulnerable to any negative security developments. The recent uptick in attention focused on Xinjiang cannot help but have an adverse impact on the international perception of the region’s security and stability.

Collective Security Treaty Organization

Thus far the main entity tasked with providing security for the region is the CSTO. The CSTO includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, with Afghanistan and Serbia being non-member observers states. Uzbekistan exited the CSTO for the second time in 2012. The armed forces of CSTO member states’ stage regular joint exercises focusing on combating armed non-state actor formations, followed by peace enforcement and restoration components. Russia’s recent combat experience in Syria is perfectly relevant to the problems faced by the CSTO, given that the openness and low population density of the potential theater of operations mirrors conditions around Palmyra and Deir-es-Zor, while the potential adversary is actually the same—the Islamic State. While ISIS was purportedly “defeated” in Iraq and Western Syria by the US-led coalition, the fact that we have not seen any evidence of these fighters being taken prisoner or, better yet, put on trial for the well-documented atrocities they perpetrated and posted on social media for all the world to see, one should not be overly surprised if these very same individuals start appearing in Central Asia in order to promote chaos in that part of the world.

Another important actor is China. It is evident that China does not appear eager to involve its armed forces in operations outside the borders of its own state and its level of inter-operability with Russian and Central Asian militaries remains very low. Even the large-scale Vostok-2018 exercise, held in September of 2018 in Russia’s Far East where Chinese troops were present, did not demonstrate any great level of inter-operability between these two armed forces. While these factors might change in the coming decades, there may be a political dimension here, in the form of an informal “division of labor” agreement between Russia and China on how to manage their cooperation. It is entirely possible that China is perfectly happy to allow Russia to leverage its superior military experience for the sake of shared economic and political interests. Finally, China’s restraint from sending its military into Central Asia for exercises may be motivated by a desire to avoid a “sphere of influence” rivalry with Russia. There is some concern within Russia about China’s aims in Central Asia, and construction of Chinese military bases in the region would almost inevitably complicate Sino-Russian relations.

European Research Area

The “Russia-centricity” of Central Asia’s security environment is exemplified by the efforts of the “ERA Technopolis”, a military research and development center launched in 2018 in Anapa, on the coast of the Black Sea.  Expected to be completed in 2020, the purpose of the ERA is to promote the military inter-operability of CSTO member states. The military aspect of the potential challenge facing the CSTO is largely the same as was faced by Russian and Syrian forces around Palmyra—highly trained, well equipped, and extremely mobile detachments of jihadists relying on hit-and-run tactics rather than a stubborn defense of urban areas. Dealing with such an adversary places a premium on intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, rapid communications, and, of course, high mobility. In order to ensure that armed forces of CSTO member states are up to the task, their representatives are participating in the development of relevant technological solutions and then incorporating those solutions into their own military and security forces.

Conclusion

All of these collective security measures appear to be intended to provide a deterrent effect which is all the greater thanks to Russia’s demonstrated ability at combating these kinds of threats in Syria. Experience has shown that the Western “regime collapse” specialists are attracted to weakness and shy away from strength. Indeed, as soon as the covert action or proxy warfare component fails, they call for military action in order to salvage the situation.  That is a step that even the Obama and Trump administrations shied away from when confronted with the prospect of an armed clash with Russia and China. The best possible outcome for Central Asia is if the collective security arrangements for the region are perceived as being strong enough that any attempt to challenge them runs the risk of becoming yet another embarrassing failure.

 

AFTER DEFEAT IN SYRIA ISIS MILITANTS’ INTERESTS DRIFT TO CIS STATES: RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY

Source

29.03.2019

After Defeat In Syria ISIS Militants’ Interests Drift To CIS States: Russian Interior Ministry

ILLUSTRATIVE IMAGE: Valery Sharufulin/TASS

The news agency TASS reports (source):

After the defeat in Syria the interests of the leaders of the Islamic State are drifting towards the CIS, the chief of the extremism resistance directorate of Russia’s Interior Ministry, Oleg Ilyinykh, said on Friday.

“Islamic State militants are hatching plots for creating a world terrorist network of sleeper cells, capable of demonstrating their ability to stage terrorist attacks around the world. The Caliphate’s strategic defeat in Syria and Iraq inevitably shifts the interests of the Islamic State to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia,” he said.

Ilyinykh noted the growing strength of the Taliban and IS militants in the northern provinces of Afghanistan bordering on the CIS countries and Central Asia.

“These processes are becoming particularly dangerous because several thousand CIS citizens had been fighting for the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and now they have plans for returning to their home countries. With this in mind we focus attention on cooperation with partners within the SCO, the CIS and BRCS,” Ilyinykh said.

‘Defeated ISIS’ Carries Out New Deadly Attacks Against US-Backed Forces

Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan: Emerging Alliance

Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan: Emerging Alliance

ALEX GORKA | 08.11.2017 | WORLD

Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan: Emerging Alliance

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Iran was covered as the top story worldwide. On November 1, the president was in Tehran to attend the tripartite summit of Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan. The event was held against the background of additional sanctions imposed against Russia and Iran on October 31 by the US Treasury Department. It’s only natural for the nations under sanctions to get closer to each other. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Vladimir Putin that Tehran and Moscow must step up cooperation to isolate the United States and help stabilize the Middle East.

At the end of the summit, the presidents of Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan signed the Tehran Declaration. The leaders announced joint plans to expand collaboration in the oil and gas sector as well as on electricity exchange plans and the formation of a single market. It is planned to use national currencies in trade transactions instead of US dollar.

The plans include the participation of Russian investors and private sectors in joining Iran’s infrastructural projects, including industry and energy, and rail networks. Russia holds the largest amount of natural gas reserves in the world. Iran holds the world’s second biggest natural gas reserves. Together the two nations account for around 50% of world reserves of hydrocarbons. By joining together they can significantly influence the world markets.

The Tehran Declaration declares the intent to develop three-way cooperation, including the long-awaited International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a 7,200km road, rail, and sea route to connect the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran, and is then to be connected to North Europe via Russia. The project includes ten other countries, connecting Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Caucasus, then moving north and west to Turkey, Belarus, Syria, and Bulgaria, to Oman in the Middle East, as well as north and east to reach Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

Iran also plans to build a railroad to the Mediterranean Sea through Iraq and Syria. Russia could take part in the implementation of the project.

A temporary agreement on establishing a free trade zone between the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and Iran is expected to be signed till the end of the year. A draft agreement between Iran and EEU was signed in Yerevan, Armenia, on July 5 after more than a year of negotiations for levying preferential export tariffs on 350 Iranian industrial products in return for 180 commodities from EEU. The negotiations on a free trade deal with the Eurasian Economic Union make it clear that other nations will not follow the US if it backs out of the nuclear accord with Iran. With global economic interest in Iran, and international commitment to the deal, Tehran looks set to continue its reintegration into the global economy.

Iran has joined Russia in taking control of the Syrian peace process, becoming a party to the Astana peace process. Russian arms supplies, including an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system delivered last year, help Tehran maintain the capability to defend itself, especially in view of potential US intervention.

Azerbaijan is a very important regional actor – a secular state obstructing the spread of religious extremism.

Baku would gain a lot by joining a free trade zone between the EEU and Tehran. The logic and the economic benefits of a free trade area are obvious. It would bring together highly compatible economies and consolidate economic and trade links in Central Asia and in southern Eurasia. It would also allow Azerbaijan to resume trade links with Armenia, a member of the EEU, facilitating a settlement of the currently frozen Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Moscow-Tehran-Baku format could be much more efficient than the OSCE in finding a peaceful solution to the problem.

The construction of a railroad from Iran to Russia through Azerbaijan was an issue on the agenda. Azerbaijan is ready to allocate 500 million euros to modernize its section of the railway corridor.

President Putin said Russia is ready to deliver gas to the northern part of Iran via Azerbaijan. According to him, Moscow and Baku should not compete when it comes to energy projects. This is a matter of special importance for Baku in view of obstructions created on the way of transporting Azeri gas to Europe. This summer, a group of influential NGOs, including Greenpeace, Bankwatch Network, Friends of the Earth Europe и Climate Action Network Europe, called on the European Commission to withdraw support for the 878-kilometer-long Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) stretching from Azerbaijan. The pretext used is possible damage to climate and increasing energy dependence on oppressive political regimes (meaning Azerbaijan).

Azerbaijan has good reasons to doubt the West’s reliability as an ally. Baku is routinely criticized in the West for being a “dictatorship”. Western NGOs in Azerbaijan have often openly backed anti-government opposition leaders in ways that must make Azerbaijan’s government wonder whether it is a target for a West-backed color revolution.

The burgeoning cooperation between the three powers is just one if the trends shaping the regional landscape. There is also an emerging alliance to involve Turkey-Iran-Qatar – all of them closely cooperating with Moscow.

The process of rapprochement between Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan will continue. The next trilateral meeting will be held in Moscow in 2018. If the plans agreed at the Tehran summit will go through, the landscape of the Middle East and South Asia will change with many countries of the regions united by economic interests. The influence of the United States will greatly diminish. China’s One Belt One Road initiative and the Russia-Azerbaijan-Iran energy bridge will create the conditions for a multipolar world.

China, Azerbaijan, Serbia, India, Kazakhstan to help Russia bring aid to Aleppo

Several nations to join Russian aid operation in Aleppo 

ALEPPO, SYRIA (11:30 A.M.) – A coalition of countries have agreed to help deliver humanitarian aid to the beleaguered civilians of Aleppo, Interfax News Agency reported on Tuesday morning.

“China, Azerbaijan, Serbia, India, Kazakhstan intend to join Russia’s humanitarian operation in Aleppo,” the Russian-based news agency stated.

Armenia and China have already sent humanitarian aid to Aleppo; however, they are reportedly expanding their participation with their Russian allies in Syria.

War has taken a toll on this historical Syrian city, as Aleppo’s current population has dwindled to 1.5 million inhabitants, with at least 1.35 million people still living in the government-held neighborhoods.

Kazakhstan SITREP June 20, 2016 by Scott Humor

June 20, 2016

Kazakhstan SITREP June 20, 2016 by Scott Humor

Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev and Putin say “we” at SPIEF 2016

On June 16-18 the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum took place in the Northern capital of Russia St. Petersburg

Om June 17, 2016 President Putin met with President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev. The presidents’ conversation took place at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum before the plenary session, in which they will take part.

On Friday Russian President Vladimir Putin, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev addressed a plenary session during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

 

 

The session was focused on the theme, “Capitalizing on the New Global Economic Reality,” and Nazarbayev called on the EU to cooperate with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), which is currently comprised of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.

“Disintegration and economic isolation don’t solve any of the internal problems, that’s just self-delusion,” Nazarbaev said.

“The EEU wants to see an effective, stable European Union, with which it wants to closely cooperate. In exactly the same way cooperation with our union is beneficial for Europe.”

“We propose the creation of a large Eurasian partnership with the participation of the EEU and also countries with which we have already developed close relations: China, India, Pakistan, Iran, and of course our partners in the Commonwealth of Independent States as well as other interested countries and unions,” Putin said.

 

Does it look like the president of Russia Putin and president of Kazakhstan Nazarbayev host a Russian economic forum together?  

So, what is behind Nazarbayev and Putin addressing as “we” guests of the Russian biggest economic forum?

Valery Pyakin, a political analyst with the Concept Technologies Foundation think tank, explains the situation in no uncertain terms.

 

 

“At first we had an agreement [between Russia and Kazakhstan] about the common economic zone. After that, Kazakhstan was hit with a Maidan style riots that were instantly diffused in a harsh manner by the government. Western Media didn’t know what to say about this upheaval. To support the upheaval, or to support the government? What to do?

Immediately after those mass riots, Medvedev has met with Nazarbayev, where Nazarbayev stated his dedication to the course of creating a common economic zone and a custom union, all the questions of integration. In other words, recreation of the Soviet Union (or Russian Empire, if you wish) with the new economic and political base. Of course, this move is absolutely rejected by the world deep government and by the US. Nevertheless, Nazarbayev stated that he supports and will continue to work towards this goal.

After that, the Western media, NGOs and politicians all at once came out with the scathing statements about the violation of “human rights” in Kazakhstan. However, all these talks about “human rights” completely stopped, after China and Japan have reached an agreement that both countries will not use dollar for their economic transactions.

In other words, China and Japan demonstrated that they understand this process [between Russia and Kazakhstan] and that they know what impact it will have on the international process. They have showed that they don’t want to be left out of these processes, they don’t want to be just observers in all these. They want to secure their sovereign interests. They want to stay alive.

[On May 23rd, China reconfirmed its support for reunification of Russia and Kazakhstan, or “Russia’s integrational initiatives” ]

In response to this, the West made the situation around Iran sharply worse. Iran is the main source of oil for China.  China and Japan have received an ultimatum to make them join the Western assault on Iran. China told to the West to go to hell. Japan in a very diplomatic form said that Japan is not going to stop using Iranian oil. They were joined by the South Korea. These countries showed to the US and the EU to stop blackmailing them and to stop interfere with Russia’s affairs. They told the West to get its foot off their throats, because if they don’t use Iran’s oil, they will use Russian oil.

For the US it’s becoming very expensive to continue its meddling in the integration processes between Russia and its southern historical part Kazakhstan. If the US won’t success in breaking down the national elites of China and Japan, as they successfully done with Europe, it will have to urgently diffuse this process. The US is already spreading too thin. They won’t be able to conduct further attacks.  Note how more and more countries are simply telling to the US to take a hike with their “peacemaking.” The US is collapsing.  They can only deal with one target at a time. If they get tied up with Syria, they will get Iran. If they get tied up with Iran, they will get Syria. Each one of these countries has relationship with  countries around them. Imagine that any question concerning Iran immediately touches interests of China and Japan.

That’s why the situation for the US and the Globalists is very, very difficult. They got themselves into a situation described in Russian fairy-tale.

“Guys, I’ve caught a bear.

Bring it here.

It wouldn’t go.

Why don’t you come back here, then?

I can’t. The bear holds me and wouldn’t let me go.”

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