‘Doomsday clock’: 90 seconds to midnight

Thursday, 26 January 2023 11:08 AM  [ Last Update: Thursday, 26 January 2023 11:17 AM ]

By Pepe Escobar

The Doomsday Clock, set by the US-based magazine Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, has been moved to 90 seconds to midnight.  

That’s the closest ever to total nuclear doom, the global catastrophe.

The Clock had been set at 100 seconds since 2020. The Bulletin’s Science and Security Board and a group of sponsors – which includes 10 Nobel laureates – have focused on “Russia’s war on Ukraine” (their terminology) as the main reason.

Yet they did not bother to explain non-stop American rhetoric (the US is the only nation that adopts “first strike” in a nuclear confrontation) and the fact that this is a US proxy war against Russia with Ukraine used as cannon fodder.

The Bulletin also attributes malignant designs to China, Iran and North Korea, while mentioning, only in passing, that “the last remaining nuclear weapons treaty between Russia and the United States, New START, stands in jeopardy”.

“Unless the two parties resume negotiations and find a basis for further reductions, the treaty will expire in February 2026.”

As it stands, the prospects of a US-Russia negotiation on New START are less than zero.

Now cue to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov making it very clear that war against Russia is not hybrid anymore, it’s “almost” real.

“Almost” in fact means “90 seconds.”

So why is this all happening?

The Mother of All Intel Failures

Former British diplomat Alastair Crooke has concisely explained how Russian resilience – much in the spirit of Iranian resilience past four decades – completely smashed the assumptions of Anglo-American intelligence.

Talk about the Mother of All Intel Failures – in fact even more astonishing than the non-existent Iraqi WMDs (in the run-up to Shock and Awe in 2003, anyone with a brain knew Baghdad had discontinued its weapons program already in the 1990s.) 

Now the collective West “committed the entire weight of its financial resources to crushing Russia (…) in every conceivable way – via financial, cultural and psychological war, and with real military war as the follow-through.”

And yet Russia held its ground. And now reality-based developments prevail over fiction. The Global South “is peeling away into a separate economic model, no longer dependent on the dollar for its trading needs.”

And the accelerated collapse of the US dollar increasingly plunges the Empire into a real existential crisis.

All that hangs over a South Vietnam scenario evolving in Ukraine after a rash government-led political and military purge. The coke comedian – whose only role is to beg non-stop for bags of cash and loads of weapons – is being progressively sidelined by the Americans (beware of traveling CIA directors). 

The game in Kiev, according to Russian sources, seems to be that the Americans are taking over the Brits as handlers of the whole operation.

The coke comedian remains – for now – as a sock puppet while military control over what is left of Ukraine is entirely NATO’s.

Well, it already was – but now, formally, Ukraine is the world’s first de facto NATO member without being an actual member, enjoying less than zero national sovereignty, and complete with NATO-Nazi Storm troopers weaponized with American and German tanks in the name of “democracy”.

The meeting last week of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group – totally controlled by the US – at the US Air Force base in Ramstein solidified a sort of tawdry remix of Operation Barbarossa.

Here we go again, with German Panzers sent to Ukraine to fight Russia.

Yet the tank coalition seems to have tanked even before it starts.  Germany will send 14, Portugal 2, Belgium 0 (sorry, don’t have them). Then there’s Lithuania, whose Defense Minister observed, “Yes, we don’t have tanks, but we have an opinion about tanks.”

No one ever accused German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock of being brighter than a light bulb. She finally gave the game away,  at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg:

“The crucial part is that we do it together and that we do not do the blame game in Europe because we are fighting a war against Russia.”

So Baerbock agrees with Lavrov. Just don’t ask her what Doomsday Clock means. Or what happened after Operation Barbarossa failed. 

The NATO-EU “garden”

The EU-NATO combo takes matters to a whole new level. The EU essentially has been reduced to the status of P.R. arm of NATO.

It’s all spelled out in their January 10 joint declaration.

The NATO-EU joint mission consists in using all economic, political and military means to make sure the “jungle” always behaves according to the “rules-based international order” and accepts to be plundered ad infinitum by the “blooming garden”.

Looking at The Big Picture, absolutely nothing changed in the US military/intel apparatus since 9/11: it’s a bipartisan thing, and it means Full Spectrum Dominance of both the US and NATO. No dissent whatsoever is allowed. And no thinking outside the box.

Plan A is subdivided into two sections.

1. Military intervention in a hollowed-out proxy state shell (see Afghanistan and Ukraine).

2. Inevitable, humiliating military defeat (see Afghanistan and soon Ukraine). Variations include building a wasteland and calling it “peace” (Libya) and extended proxy war leading to future humiliating expulsion (Syria).

There’s no Plan B.

Or is there? 90 seconds to midnight?

Obsessed by Mackinder, the Empire fought for control of the Eurasian landmass in World War I and World War II because that represented control of the world.

Later, Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski had warned: “Potentially the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition between Russia, China and Iran.”

Jump cut to the Raging Twenties when the US forced the end of Russian natural gas exports to Germany (and the EU) via Nord Stream 1 and 2.

Once again, Mackinderian opposition to a grand alliance on the Eurasian landmass consisting of Germany, Russia and China.

The Straussian neo-con and neoliberal-con psychos in charge of US foreign policy could even absorb a strategic alliance between Russia and China – as painful as it may be. But never Russia, China and Germany.   

With the collapse of the JCPOA, Iran is now being re-targeted with maximum hostility. Yet were Tehran to play hardball, the US Navy or military could never keep the Strait of Hormuz open – by the admission of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

Oil price in this case would rise to possibly thousands of dollars a barrel according to Goldman Sachs oil derivative experts – and that would crash the entire world economy.

This is arguably the foremost NATO Achilles Heel. Almost without firing a shot a Russia-Iran alliance could smash NATO to bits and bring down assorted EU governments as socio-economic chaos runs rampant across the collective West. 

Meanwhile, to quote Dylan, darkness keeps dawning at the break of noon. Straussian neo-con and neoliberal-con psychos will keep pushing the Doomsday Clock closer and closer to midnight.   

Pepe Escobar is a Eurasia-wide geopolitical analyst and author. His latest book is Raging Twenties.

(The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV)


Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

www.presstv.ir

www.presstv.co.uk

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Global South: Gold-backed currencies to replace the US dollar

The adoption of commodity-backed currencies by the Global South could upend the US dollar’s dominance and level the playing field in international trade.

January 19 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

Let’s start with three interconnected multipolar-driven facts.

First: One of the key take aways from the World Economic Forum annual shindig in Davos, Switzerland is when Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan, on a panel on “Saudi Arabia’s Transformation,” made it clear that Riyadh “will consider trading in currencies other than the US dollar.”

So is the petroyuan finally at hand? Possibly, but Al-Jadaan wisely opted for careful hedging: “We enjoy a very strategic relationship with China and we enjoy that same strategic relationship with other nations including the US and we want to develop that with Europe and other countries.”

Second: The Central Banks of Iran and Russia are studying the adoption of a “stable coin” for foreign trade settlements, replacing the US dollar, the ruble and the rial. The crypto crowd is already up in arms, mulling the pros and cons of a gold-backed central bank digital currency (CBDC) for trade that will be in fact impervious to the weaponized US dollar.

A gold-backed digital currency

The really attractive issue here is that this gold-backed digital currency would be particularly effective in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) of Astrakhan, in the Caspian Sea.

Astrakhan is the key Russian port participating in the International North South Transportation Corridor (INTSC), with Russia processing cargo travelling across Iran in merchant ships all the way to West Asia, Africa, the Indian Ocean and South Asia.

The success of the INSTC – progressively tied to a gold-backed CBDC – will largely hinge on whether scores of Asian, West Asian and African nations refuse to apply US-dictated sanctions on both Russia and Iran.

As it stands, exports are mostly energy and agricultural products; Iranian companies are the third largest importer of Russian grain. Next will be turbines, polymers, medical equipment, and car parts. Only the Russia-Iran section of the INSTC represents a $25 billion business.

And then there’s the crucial energy angle of INSTC – whose main players are the Russia-Iran-India triad.

India’s purchases of Russian crude have increased year-by-year by a whopping factor of 33. India is the world’s third largest importer of oil; in December, it received 1.2 million barrels from Russia, which for several months now is positioned ahead of Iraq and Saudi Arabia as Delhi’s top supplier.

‘A fairer payment system’

Third: South Africa holds this year’s rotating BRICS presidency. And this year will mark the start of BRICS+ expansion, with candidates ranging from Algeria, Iran and Argentina to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor has just confirmed that the BRICS do want to find a way to bypass the US dollar and thus create “a fairer payment system not skewed toward wealthier countries.”

For years now, Yaroslav Lissovolik, head of the analytical department of Russian Sberbank’s corporate and investment business has been a proponent of closer BRICS integration and the adoption of a BRICS reserve currency.

Lissovolik reminds us that the first proposal “to create a new reserve currency based on a basket of currencies of BRICS countries was formulated by the Valdai Club back in 2018.”

Are you ready for the R5?

The original idea revolved around a currency basket similar to the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) model, composed of the national currencies of BRICS members – and then, further on down the road, other currencies of the expanded BRICS+ circle.

Lissovolik explains that choosing BRICS national currencies made sense because “these were among the most liquid currencies across emerging markets. The name for the new reserve currency — R5 or R5+ — was based on the first letters of the BRICS currencies all of which begin with the letter R (real, ruble, rupee, renminbi, rand).”

So BRICS already have a platform for their in-depth deliberations in 2023. As Lissovolik notes, “in the longer run, the R5 BRICS currency could start to perform the role of settlements/payments as well as the store of value/reserves for the central banks of emerging market economies.”

It is virtually certain that the Chinese yuan will be prominent right from the start, taking advantage of its “already advanced reserve status.”

Potential candidates that could become part of the R5+ currency basket include the Singapore dollar and the UAE’s dirham.

Quite diplomatically, Lissovolik maintains that, “the R5 project can thus become one of the most important contributions of emerging markets to building a more secure international financial system.”

The R5, or R5+ project does intersect with what is being designed at the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), led by the Macro-Economics Minister of the Eurasia Economic Commission, Sergey Glazyev.

A new gold standard

In Golden Ruble 3.0 , his most recent paper, Glazyev makes a direct reference to two by now notorious reports by Credit Suisse strategist Zoltan Pozsar, formerly of the IMF, US Department of Treasury, and New York Federal Reserve: War and Commodity Encumbrance (December 27) and War and Currency Statecraft (December 29).

Pozsar is a staunch supporter of a Bretton Woods III – an idea that has been getting enormous traction among the Fed-skeptical crowd.

What’s quite intriguing is that the American Pozsar now directly quotes Russia’s Glazyev, and vice-versa, implying a fascinating convergence of their ideas.

Let’s start with Glazyev’s emphasis on the importance of gold. He notes the current accumulation of multibillion-dollar cash balances on the accounts of Russian exporters in “soft” currencies in the banks of Russia’s main foreign economic partners: EAEU nations, China, India, Iran, Turkey, and the UAE.

He then proceeds to explain how gold can be a unique tool to fight western sanctions if prices of oil and gas, food and fertilizers, metals and solid minerals are recalculated:

“Fixing the price of oil in gold at the level of 2 barrels per 1g will give a second increase in the price of gold in dollars, calculated Credit Suisse strategist Zoltan Pozsar. This would be an adequate response to the ‘price ceilings’ introduced by the west – a kind of ‘floor,’ a solid foundation. And India and China can take the place of global commodity traders instead of Glencore or Trafigura.”

So here we see Glazyev and Pozsar converging. Quite a few major players in New York will be amazed.

Glazyev then lays down the road toward Gold Ruble 3.0. The first gold standard was lobbied by the Rothschilds in the 19th century, which “gave them the opportunity to subordinate continental Europe to the British financial system through gold loans.” Golden Ruble 1.0, writes Glazyev, “provided the process of capitalist accumulation.”

Golden Ruble 2.0, after Bretton Woods, “ensured a rapid economic recovery after the war.” But then the “reformer Khrushchev canceled the peg of the ruble to gold, carrying out monetary reform in 1961 with the actual devaluation of the ruble by 2.5 times, forming conditions for the subsequent transformation of the country [Russia] into a “raw material appendage of the Western financial system.”

What Glazyev proposes now is for Russia to boost gold mining to as much as 3 percent of GDP: the basis for fast growth of the entire commodity sector (30 percent of Russian GDP). With the country becoming a world leader in gold production, it gets “a strong ruble, a strong budget and a strong economy.”

All Global South eggs in one basket

Meanwhile, at the heart of the EAEU discussions, Glazyev seems to be designing a new currency not only based on gold, but partly based on the oil and natural gas reserves of participating countries.

Pozsar seems to consider this potentially inflationary: it could be if it results in some excesses, considering the new currency would be linked to such a large base.

Off the record, New York banking sources admit the US dollar would be “wiped out, since it is a valueless fiat currency, should Sergey Glazyev link the new currency to gold. The reason is that the Bretton Woods system no longer has a gold base and has no intrinsic value, like the FTX crypto currency. Sergey’s plan also linking the currency to oil and natural gas seems to be a winner.”

So in fact Glazyev may be creating the whole currency structure for what Pozsar called, half in jest, the “G7 of the East”: the current 5 BRICS plus the next 2 which will be the first new members of BRICS+.

Both Glazyev and Pozsar know better than anyone that when Bretton Woods was created the US possessed most of Central Bank gold and controlled half the world’s GDP. This was the basis for the US to take over the whole global financial system.

Now vast swathes of the non-western world are paying close attention to Glazyev and the drive towards a new non-US dollar currency, complete with a new gold standard which would in time totally replace the US dollar.

Pozsar completely understood how Glazyev is pursuing a formula featuring a basket of currencies (as Lissovolik suggested). As much as he understood the groundbreaking drive towards the petroyuan. He describes the industrial ramifications thus:

“Since as we have just said Russia, Iran, and Venezuela account for about 40 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, and each of them are currently selling oil to China for renminbi at a steep discount, we find BASF’s decision to permanently downsize its operations at its main plant in Ludwigshafen and instead shift its chemical operations to China was motivated by the fact that China is securing energy at discounts, not markups like Europe.”

The race to replace the dollar

One key takeaway is that energy-intensive major industries are going to be moving to China. Beijing has become a big exporter of Russian liquified natural gas (LNG) to Europe, while India has become a big exporter of Russian oil and refined products such as diesel – also to Europe. Both China and India – BRICS members – buy below market price from fellow BRICS member Russia and resell to Europe with a hefty profit. Sanctions? What sanctions?

Meanwhile, the race to constitute the new currency basket for a new monetary unit is on. This long-distance dialogue between Glazyev and Pozsar will become even more fascinating, as Glazyev will be trying to find a solution to what Pozsar has stated: tapping of natural resources for the creation of the new currency could be inflationary if money supply is increased too quickly.

All that is happening as Ukraine – a huge chasm at a critical junction of the New Silk Road blocking off Europe from Russia/China – slowly but surely disappears into a black void. The Empire may have gobbled up Europe for now, but what really matters geoeconomically, is how the absolute majority of the Global South is deciding to commit to the Russia/China-led block.

Economic dominance of BRICS+ may be no more than 7 years away – whatever toxicities may be concocted by that large, dysfunctional nuclear rogue state on the other side of the Atlantic. But first, let’s get that new currency going.

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

‘Fragmented world’ sleepwalks into World War III

Wednesday, 18 January 2023 10:31 AM  [ Last Update: Saturday, 21 January 2023 4:22 PM ]

By Pepe Escobar

The self-appointed Davos “elites” are afraid. So afraid. At this week’s World Economic Forum meetings, mastermind Klaus Schwab – displaying his trademark Bond villain act – carped over and over again about a categorical imperative: we need “Cooperation in a Fragmented World.”

While his diagnosis of “the most critical fragmentation” the world is now mired in is predictably somber, Herr Schwab maintains that “the spirit of Davos is positive” and in the end we may all live happily in a “green sustainable economy.”

What Davos has been good at this week is showering public opinion with new mantras. There’s “The New System” which, considering the abject failure of the much ballyhooed Great Reset, now looks like a matter of hastily updating the current – rattled – operating system.

Davos needs new hardware, new programming skills, even a new virus. Yet for the moment all that’s available is a “polycrisis”: or, in Davos speak, a “cluster of related global risks with compounding effects.”

In plain English: a perfect storm.

Insufferable bores from that Divide and Rule island in northern Europe have just found out that “geopolitics”, alas, never really entered the tawdry “end of history” tunnel: much to their amazement it’s now centered – again – across the Heartland, as it’s been for most of recorded history.

They complain about “threatening” geopolitics, which is code for Russia-China, with Iran attached.

But the icing on the Alpine cake is arrogance/stupidity actually giving away the game: the City of London and its vassals are  livid because the “world Davos made” is fast collapsing.

Davos did not “make” any world apart from its own simulacrum.

Davos never got anything right, because these “elites” were always busy eulogizing the Empire of Chaos and its lethal “adventures” across the Global South.

Davos not only failed to foresee all recent, major economic crises but most of all the current “perfect storm,” linked to the neoliberalism-spawned deindustrialization of the Collective West.

And, of course, Davos is clueless about the real Reset taking place towards multipolarity.

Self-described opinion leaders are busy “re-discovering” that Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain was set in Davos – “against the backdrop of a deadly disease and an impending world war” – nearly a century ago.

Well, nowadays the “disease” – fully bioweaponized – is not exactly deadly per se. And the “impending World War” is in fact being actively encouraged by a cabal of US Straussian neo-cons and neoliberal-cons: an unelected, unaccountable, bipartisan Deep State not even subject to ideology. Centennary war criminal Henry Kissinger still does not get it.

A Davos panel on de-globalization was rife on non-sequiturs, but at least a dose of reality was provided by Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.

As for China’s vice-premier Liu He, with his vast knowledge of finance, science and technology, at least he was very helpful to lay down Beijing’s five top guidelines for the foreseeable future – beyond the customary imperial Sinophobia.

China will focus on expanding domestic demand; keeping industrial and supply chains “smooth”; go for the “healthy development of the private sector”; deepen state enterprise reform; and aim for “attractive foreign investment.”

Russian resistance, American precipice

Emmanuel Todd was not at Davos. But it was the French anthropologist, historian, demographer and geopolitical analyst who ended up ruffling all the appropriate feathers across the collective West these past few days with a fascinating anthropological object: a reality-based interview.

Todd spoke to Le Figaro – the newspaper of choice of the French establishment and haute bourgeoisie. The interview was published last Friday on page 22, sandwiched between proverbial Russophobic screeds and with an extremely brief mention on the bottom of the front page. So people really had to work hard to find it.   

Todd joked that he has the – absurd – reputation of a “rebel destroy” in France, while in Japan he’s respected, featured in mainstream media, and his books are published with great success, including the latest (over 100,000 copies sold): “The Third World War Has Already Started.”

Significantly, this Japanese best seller does not exist in French, considering the whole Paris-based publishing industry toes the EU/NATO line on Ukraine.

The fact that Todd gets several things right is a minor miracle in the current, abysmally myopic European intellectual landscape (there are other analysts especially in Italy and Germany, but they carry much less weight than Todd).

So here’s Todd’s concise Greatest Hits.

– A new World War is on: By “switching from a limited territorial war to a global economic clash, between the collective West on one side and Russia linked to China on the other side, this became a World War”.

– The Kremlin, says Todd, made a mistake, calculating that a decomposed Ukraine society would collapse right away. Of course he does not get into detail on how Ukraine had been weaponized to the hilt by the NATO military alliance.

– Todd is spot on when he stresses how Germany and France had become minor partners at NATO and were not aware of what was being plotted in Ukraine militarily: “They did not know that the Americans, British and Poles could allow Ukraine to fight an extended  war. NATO’s fundamental axis now is Washington-London-Warsaw-Kiev.”

– Todd’s major give away is a killer: “The resistance of Russia’s economy is leading the imperial American system to the precipice. Nobody had foreseen that the Russian economy would hold facing NATO’s ‘economic power’”.

– Consequently, “monetary and financial American controls over the world may collapse, and with them the possibility for the US of financing for nothing their enormous trade deficit”.

– And that’s why “we are in an endless war, in a clash where the conclusion is the collapse of one or the other.”

– On China, Todd might sound like a more pugnacious version of Liu He at Davos: “That’s the fundamental dilemma of the American economy: it cannot face Chinese competition without importing qualified Chinese work force.”

– As for the Russian economy, “it does accept market rules, but with an important role for the state, and it keeps the flexibility of forming engineers that allow adaptations, industrial and military.”

– And that bring us, once again, to globalization, in a manner that Davos roundtables were incapable of understanding: “We have delocalized so much of our industrial activity that we don’t know whether our war production may be sustained”.

– On a more erudite interpretation of that “clash of civilizations” fallacy, Todd goes for soft power and comes up with a startling conclusion: “On 75 percent of the planet, the organization of parenthood  was patrilineal, and that’s why we may identify a strong understanding of the Russian position. For the collective non-West, Russia affirms a reassuring moral conservatism.”

– So what Moscow has been able to pull off is to “reposition itself as the archetype of a big power, not only “anti-colonialist” but also patrilineal and conservative in terms of traditional mores.”

Based on all of the above, Todd smashes the myth sold by EU/NATO “elites” – Davos included – that Russia is “isolated,” stressing how votes in the UN and the overall sentiment across the Global South characterizes the war, “described by mainstream media as a conflict over political values, in fact, on a deeper level, as a conflict of anthropological values.”

Between light and darkness

Could it be that Russia – alongside the real Quad, as I defined them (with China, India and Iran) – are prevailing in the anthropological stakes?

The real Quad has all it takes to blossom into a new cross-cultural focus of hope in a “fragmented world.”

Mix Confucian China (non-dualistic, no transcendental deity, but with the Tao flowing through everything) with Russia (Orthodox Christian, reverencing the divine Sophia); polytheistic India (wheel of rebirth, law of karma); and Shi’ite Iran (Islam preceded by Zoroastrianism, the eternal cosmic battle between Light and Darkness).

This unity in diversity is certainly more appealing, and uplifting, than the Forever War axis.

Will the world learn from it? Or, to quote Hegel – “what we learn from history is that nobody learns from history” – are we hopelessly doomed?

Pepe Escobar is a veteran journalist, author and independent geopolitical analyst focused on Eurasia.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.


Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

www.presstv.ir

www.presstv.co.uk

‘Fragmented world’ sleepwalks into World War III

Wednesday, 18 January 2023 10:31 AM  [ Last Update: Wednesday, 18 January 2023 10:31 AM ]

By Pepe Escobar

The self-appointed Davos “elites” are afraid. So afraid. At this week’s World Economic Forum meetings, mastermind Klaus Schwab – displaying his trademark Bond villain act – carped over and over again about a categorical imperative: we need “Cooperation in a Fragmented World”.

While his diagnosis of “the most critical fragmentation” the world is now mired in is predictably somber, Herr Schwab maintains that “the spirit of Davos is positive” and in the end we may all live happily in a “green sustainable economy.”

What Davos has been good at this week is showering public opinion with new mantras. There’s “The New System” which, considering the abject failure of the much ballyhooed Great Reset, now looks like a matter of hastily updating the current – rattled – operating system.

Davos needs new hardware, new programming skills, even a new virus. Yet for the moment all that’s available is a “polycrisis”: or, in Davos speak, a “cluster of related global risks with compounding effects.”

In plain English: a perfect storm.

Insufferable bores from that Divide and Rule island in northern Europe have just found out that “geopolitics”, alas, never really entered the tawdry “end of history” tunnel: much to their amazement it’s now centered – again – across the Heartland, as it’s been for most of recorded history.

They complain about “threatening” geopolitics, which is code for Russia-China, with Iran attached.

But the icing on the Alpine cake is arrogance/stupidity actually giving away the game: the City of London and its vassals are  livid because the “world Davos made” is fast collapsing.

Davos did not “make” any world apart from its own simulacrum.

Davos never got anything right, because these “elites” were always busy eulogizing the Empire of Chaos and its lethal “adventures” across the Global South.

Davos not only failed to foresee all recent, major economic crises but most of all the current “perfect storm”, linked to the neoliberalism-spawned deindustrialization of the Collective West.

And, of course, Davos is clueless about the real Reset taking place towards multipolarity.

Self-described opinion leaders are busy “re-discovering” that Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain was set in Davos – “against the backdrop of a deadly disease and an impeding world war” – nearly a century ago.

Well, nowadays the “disease” – fully bioweaponized – is not exactly deadly per se. And the “impending World War” is in fact being actively encouraged by a cabal of US Straussian neo-cons and neoliberal-cons: an unelected, unaccountable, bipartisan Deep State not even subject to ideology. Centennary war criminal Henry Kissinger still does not get it.

A Davos panel on de-globalization was rife on non-sequiturs, but at least a dose of reality was provided by Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.

As for China’s vice-premier Liu He, with his vast knowledge of finance, science and technology, at least he was very helpful to lay down Beijing’s five top guidelines for the foreseeable future – beyond the customary imperial Sinophobia.

China will focus on expanding domestic demand; keeping industrial and supply chains “smooth”; go for the “healthy development of the private sector”; deepen state enterprise reform; and aim for “attractive foreign investment.”

Russian resistance, American precipice

Emmanuel Todd was not at Davos. But it was the French anthropologist, historian, demographer and geopolitical analyst who ended up ruffling all the appropriate feathers across the collective West these past few days with a fascinating anthropological object: a reality-based interview.

Todd spoke to Le Figaro – the newspaper of choice of the French establishment and haute bourgeoisie. The interview was published last Friday on page 22, sandwiched between proverbial Russophobic screeds and with an extremely brief mention on the bottom of the front page. So people really had to work hard to find it.   

Todd joked that he has the – absurd – reputation of a “rebel destroy” in France, while in Japan he’s respected, featured in mainstream media, and his books are published with great success, including the latest (over 100,000 copies sold): “The Third World War Has Already Started”.

Significantly, this Japanese best seller does not exist in French, considering the whole Paris-based publishing industry toes the EU/NATO line on Ukraine.

The fact that Todd gets several things right is a minor miracle in the current, abysmally myopic European intellectual landscape (there are other analysts especially in Italy and Germany, but they carry much less weight than Todd).

So here’s Todd’s concise Greatest Hits.

– A new World War is on: By “switching from a limited territorial war to a global economic clash, between the collective West on one side and Russia linked to China on the other side, this became a World War”.

– The Kremlin, says Todd, made a mistake, calculating that a decomposed Ukraine society would collapse right away. Of course he does not get into detail on how Ukraine had been weaponized to the hilt by the NATO military alliance.

– Todd is spot on when he stresses how Germany and France had become minor partners at NATO and were not aware of what was being plotted in Ukraine militarily: “They did not know that the Americans, British and Poles could allow Ukraine to fight an extended  war. NATO’s fundamental axis now is Washington-London-Warsaw-Kiev.”

– Todd’s major give away is a killer: “The resistance of Russia’s economy is leading the imperial American system to the precipice. Nobody had foreseen that the Russian economy would hold facing NATO’s ‘economic power’”.

– Consequently, “monetary and financial American controls over the world may collapse, and with them the possibility for the US of financing for nothing their enormous trade deficit”.

– And that’s why “we are in an endless war, in a clash where the conclusion is the collapse of one or the other.”

– On China, Todd might sound like a more pugnacious version of Liu He at Davos: “That’s the fundamental dilemma of the American economy: it cannot face Chinese competition without importing qualified Chinese work force.”

– As for the Russian economy, “it does accept market rules, but with an important role for the state, and it keeps the flexibility of forming engineers that allow adaptations, industrial and military.”

– And that bring us, once again, to globalization, in a manner that Davos roundtables were incapable of understanding: “We have delocalized so much of our industrial activity that we don’t know whether our war production may be sustained”.

– On a more erudite interpretation of that “clash of civilizations” fallacy, Todd goes for soft power and comes up with a startling conclusion: “On 75 percent of the planet, the organization of parenthood  was patrilineal, and that’s why we may identify a strong understanding of the Russian position. For the collective non-West, Russia affirms a reassuring moral conservatism.”

– So what Moscow has been able to pull off is to “reposition itself as the archetype of a big power, not only “anti-colonialist” but also patrilineal and conservative in terms of traditional mores.”

Based on all of the above, Todd smashes the myth sold by EU/NATO “elites” – Davos included – that Russia is “isolated”, stressing how votes in the UN and the overall sentiment across the Global South characterizes the war, “described by mainstream media as a conflict over political values, in fact, on a deeper level, as a conflict of anthropological values.”      

Between light and darkness

Could it be that Russia – alongside the real Quad, as I defined them (with China, India and Iran) – are prevailing in the anthropological stakes?  

The real Quad has all it takes to blossom into a new cross-cultural focus of hope in a “fragmented world”.

Mix Confucian China (non-dualistic, no transcendental deity, but with the Tao flowing through everything) with Russia (Orthodox Christian, reverencing the divine Sophia); polytheistic India (wheel of rebirth, law of karma); and Shi’ite Iran (Islam preceded by Zoroastrianism, the eternal cosmic battle between Light and Darkness).

This unity in diversity is certainly more appealing, and uplifting, than the Forever War axis.

Will the world learn from it? Or, to quote Hegel – “what we learn from history is that nobody learns from history” – are we hopelessly doomed?

Pepe Escobar is a veteran journalist, author and independent geopolitical analyst focused on Eurasia.

(The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)


Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

www.presstv.ir

www.presstv.co.uk

Bye bye 1991-2022

January 10, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to fry NATO fish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The myth of US power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The final breaking point

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why the CIA attempted a ‘Maidan uprising’ in Brazil

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

January 10 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter the “G7 of the East”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All about the ‘strategy of tension’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CIA-stoked ‘militants’ on the prowl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why BRI is back with a bang in 2023

January 06 2023

As Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative enters its 10th year, a strong Sino-Russian geostrategic partnership has revitalized the BRI across the Global South.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

The year 2022 ended with a Zoom call to end all Zoom calls: Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping discussing all aspects of the Russia-China strategic partnership in an exclusive video call.

Putin told Xi how “Russia and China managed to ensure record high growth rates of mutual trade,” meaning “we will be able to reach our target of $200 billion by 2024 ahead of schedule.”

On their coordination to “form a just world order based on international law,” Putin emphasized how “we share the same views on the causes, course, and logic of the ongoing transformation of the global geopolitical landscape.”

Facing “unprecedented pressure and provocations from the west,” Putin noted how Russia-China are not only defending their own interests “but also all those who stand for a truly democratic world order and the right of countries to freely determine their own destiny.”

Earlier, Xi had announced that Beijing will hold the 3rd Belt and Road Forum in 2023. This has been confirmed, off the record, by diplomatic sources. The forum was initially designed to be bi-annual, first held in 2017 and then 2019. 2021 didn’t happen because of Covid-19.

The return of the forum signals not only a renewed drive but an extremely significant landmark as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in Astana and then Jakarta in 2013, will be celebrating its 10th anniversary.

BRI version 2.0

That set the tone for 2023 across the whole geopolitical and geoeconomic spectrum. In parallel to its geoconomic breadth and reach, BRI has been conceived as China’s overarching foreign policy concept up to the mid-century. Now it’s time to tweak things. BRI 2.0 projects, along its several connectivity corridors, are bound to be re-dimensioned to adapt to the post-Covid environment, the reverberations of the war in Ukraine, and a deeply debt-distressed world.

Photo Credit: The Cradle
Map of BRI (Photo Credit: The Cradle)

And then there’s the interlocking of the connectivity drive via BRI with the connectivity drive via the International North South Transportation Corridor (INTSC), whose main players are Russia, Iran and India.

Expanding on the geoeconomic drive of the Russia-China partnership as discussed by Putin and Xi, the fact that Russia, China, Iran and India are developing interlocking trade partnerships should establish that BRICS members Russia, India and China, plus Iran as one of the upcoming members of the expanded BRICS+, are the ‘Quad’ that really matter across Eurasia.

The new Politburo Standing Committee in Beijing, which are totally aligned with Xi’s priorities, will be keenly focused on solidifying concentric spheres of geoeconomic influence across the Global South.

How China plays ‘strategic ambiguity’

This has nothing to do with balance of power, which is a western concept that additionally does not connect with China’s five millennia of history. Neither is this another inflection of “unity of the center” – the geopolitical representation according to which no nation is able to threaten the center, China, as long as it is able to maintain order.

These cultural factors that in the past may have prevented China from accepting an alliance under the concept of parity have now vanished when it comes to the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Back in February 2022, days before the events that led to Russia’s Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine, Putin and Xi, in person, had announced that their partnership had “no limits” – even if they hold different approaches on how Moscow should deal with a Kiev lethally instrumentalized by the west to threaten Russia.

In a nutshell: Beijing will not “abandon” Moscow because of Ukraine – as much as it will not openly show support. The Chinese are playing their very own subtle interpretation of what Russians define as  “strategic ambiguity.”

Connectivity in West Asia

In West Asia, BRI projects will advance especially fast in Iran, as part of the 25-year deal signed between Beijing and Tehran and the definitive demise of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – or Iran nuclear deal – which will translate into no European investment in the Iranian economy.

Iran is not only a BRI partner but also a full-fledged Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member. It has clinched a free trade agreement with the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), which consists of post-Soviet states Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

And Iran is, today, arguably the key interconnector of the INSTC, opening up the Indian Ocean and beyond, interconnecting not only with Russia and India but also China, Southeast Asia, and even, potentially, Europe – assuming the EU leadership will one day see which way the wind is blowing.

Map of INSTC (Photo Credit: The Cradle)

So here we have heavily US-sanctioned Iran profiting simultaneously from BRI, INSTC and the EAEU free trade deal. The three critical BRICS members – India, China, Russia – will be particularly interested in the development of the trans-Iranian transit corridor – which happens to be the shortest route between most of the EU and South and Southeast Asia, and will provide faster, cheaper transportation.

Add to this the groundbreaking planned Russia-Transcaucasia-Iran electric power corridor, which could become the definitive connectivity link capable of smashing the antagonism between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

In the Arab world, Xi has already rearranged the chessboard. Xi’s December trip to Saudi Arabia should be the diplomatic blueprint on how to rapidly establish a post-modern quid pro quo between two ancient, proud civilizations to facilitate a New Silk Road revival.

Rise of the Petro-yuan

Beijing may have lost huge export markets within the collective west – so a replacement was needed. The Arab leaders who lined up in Riyadh to meet Xi saw ten thousand sharpened (western) knives suddenly approaching and calculated it was time to strike a new balance.

That means, among other things, that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) has adopted a more multipolar agenda: no more weaponizing of Salafi-Jihadism across Eurasia, and a door wide open to the Russia-China strategic partnership. Hubris strikes hard at the heart of the Hegemon.

Credit Suisse strategist Zoltan Pozsar, in two striking successive newsletters, titled War and Commodity Encumbrance (December 27) and War and Currency Statecraft (December 29), pointed out the writing on the wall.

Pozsar fully understood what Xi meant when he said China is “ready to work with the GCC” to set up a “new paradigm of all-dimensional energy cooperation” within a timeline of “three to five years.”

China will continue to import a lot of crude, long-term, from GCC nations, and way more Liquified Natural Gas (LNG). Beijing will “strengthen our cooperation in the upstream sector, engineering services, as well as [downstream] storage, transportation, and refinery. The Shanghai Petroleum and Natural Gas Exchange platform will be fully utilized for RMB settlement in oil and gas trade…and we could start currency swap cooperation.”

Pozsar summed it all up, thus: “GCC oil flowing East + renminbi invoicing = the dawn of the petroyuan.”

And not only that. In parallel, the BRI gets a renewed drive, because the previous model – oil for weapons – will be replaced with oil for sustainable development (construction of factories, new job opportunities).

And that’s how BRI meets MbS’s Vision 2030.

Apart from Michael Hudson, Poszar may be the only western economic analyst who understands the global shift in power: “The multipolar world order,” he says,” is being built not by G7 heads of state but by the ‘G7 of the East’ (the BRICS heads of state), which is a G5 really.” Because of the move toward an expanded BRICS+, he took the liberty to round up the number.

And the rising global powers know how to balance their relations too. In West Asia, China is playing slightly different strands of the same BRI trade/connectivity strategy, one for Iran and another for the Persian Gulf monarchies.

China’s Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Iran is a 25-year deal under which China invests $400 billion into Iran’s economy in exchange for a steady supply of Iranian oil at a steep discount. While at his summit with the GCC, Xi emphasized “investments in downstream petrochemical projects, manufacturing, and infrastructure” in exchange for paying for energy in yuan.

How to play the New Great Game

BRI 2.0 was also already on a roll during a series of Southeast Asian summits in November. When Xi met with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit in Bangkok, they pledged to finally connect the up-and-running China-Laos high-speed railway to the Thai railway system. This is a 600km-long project, linking Bangkok to Nong Khai on the border with Laos, to be completed by 2028.

And in an extra BRI push, Beijing and Bangkok agreed to coordinate the development of China’s Shenzhen-Zhuhai-Hong Kong Greater Bay Area and the Yangtze River Delta with Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).

In the long run, China essentially aims to replicate in West Asia its strategy across Southeast Asia. Beijing trades more with the ASEAN than with either Europe or the US. The ongoing, painful slow motion crash of the collective west may ruffle a few feathers in a civilization that has seen, from afar, the rise and fall of Greeks, Romans, Parthians, Arabs, Ottomans, Spanish, Dutch, British. The Hegemon after all is just the latest in a long list.

In practical terms, BRI 2.0 projects will now be subjected to more scrutiny: This will be the end of impractical proposals and sunk costs, with lifelines extended to an array of debt-distressed nations. BRI will be placed at the heart of BRICS+ expansion – building on a consultation panel in May 2022 attended by foreign ministers and representatives from South America, Africa and Asia that showed, in practice, the global range of possible candidate countries.

Implications for the Global South

Xi’s fresh mandate from the 20th Communist Party Congress has signaled the irreversible institutionalization of BRI, which happens to be his signature policy. The Global South is fast drawing serious conclusions, especially in contrast with the glaring politicization of the G20 that was visible at its November summit in Bali.

So Poszar is a rare gem: a western analyst who understands that the BRICS are the new G5 that matter, and that they’re leading the road towards BRICS+. He also gets that the Quad that really matters is the three main BRICS-plus-Iran.

Acute supply chain decoupling, the crescendo of western hysteria over Beijing’s position on the war in Ukraine, and serious setbacks on Chinese investments in the west all play on the development of BRI 2.0. Beijing will be focusing simultaneously on several nodes of the Global South, especially neighbors in ASEAN and across Eurasia.

Think, for instance, the Beijing-funded Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, Southeast Asia’s first: a BRI project opening this year as Indonesia hosts the rotating ASEAN chairmanship. China is also building the East Coast Rail Link in Malaysia and has renewed negotiations with the Philippines for three railway projects.

Then there are the superposed interconnections. The EAEU will clinch a free trade zone deal with Thailand. On the sidelines of the epic return of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to power in Brazil, this past Sunday, officials of Iran and Saudi Arabia met amid smiles to discuss – what else – BRICS+. Excellent choice of venue: Brazil is regarded by virtually every geopolitical player as prime neutral territory.

From Beijing’s point of view, the stakes could not be higher, as the drive behind BRI 2.0 across the Global South is not to allow China to be dependent on western markets. Evidence of this is in its combined approach towards Iran and the Arab world.

China losing both US and EU market demand, simultaneously, may end up being just a bump in the (multipolar) road, even as the crash of the collective west may seem suspiciously timed to take China down.

The year 2023 will proceed with China playing the New Great Game deep inside, crafting a globalization 2.0 that is institutionally supported by a network encompassing BRI, BRICS+, the SCO, and with the help of its Russian strategic partner, the EAEU and OPEC+ too. No wonder the usual suspects are dazed and confused.

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

Can China help Brazil restart its global soft power?

December 23, 2022

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

Bolsonaro reduced Brazil to resources-exporter status; now Lula should follow Argentina’s lead into Belt and Road

Ten days of full immersion in Brazil are not for the faint-hearted. Even restricted to the top two megalopolises, Sao Paulo and Rio, watching live the impact of interlocking economic, political, social and environmental crises exacerbated by the Jair Bolsonaro project leaves one stunned.

The return of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for what will be his third presidential term, starting January 1, 2023, is an extraordinary story trespassed by Sisyphean tasks. All at the same time he will have to

  • fight poverty;
  • reconnect with economic development while redistributing wealth;
  • re-industrialize the nation; and
  • tame environmental pillage.

That will force his new government to summon unforeseen creative powers of political and financial persuasion.

Even a mediocre, conservative politician such as Geraldo Alckmin, former governor of the wealthiest state of the union, Sao Paulo, and coordinator of the presidential transition, was simply astonished at how four years of the Bolsonaro project let loose a cornucopia of vanished documents, a black hole concerning all sorts of data and inexplicable financial losses.

It’s impossible to ascertain the extent of corruption across the spectrum because simply nothing is in the books: Governmental systems have not been fed since 2020.

Alckmin summed it all up: “The Bolsonaro government happened in the Stone Age, where there were no words and numbers.”

Now every single public policy will have to be created, or re-created from scratch, and serious mistakes will be inevitable because of lack of data.

And we’re not talking about a banana republic – even though the country concerned features plenty of (delicious) bananas.

By purchasing power parity (PPP), according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Brazil remains the eighth-ranked economic power in the world even after the Bolsonaro devastation years – behind China, the US, India, Japan, Germany, Russia and Indonesia, and ahead of the UK and France.

A concerted imperial campaign since 2010, duly denounced by WikiLeaks, and implemented by local comprador elites, targeted the Dilma Rousseff presidency – the Brazilian national entrepreneurial champions – and led to Rousseff’s (illegal) impeachment and the jailing of Lula for 580 days on spurious charges (all subsequently dropped), paved the way for Bolsonaro to win the presidency in 2018.

Were it not for this accumulation of disasters, Brazil – a natural leader of the Global South – by now might possibly be placed as the fifth-largest geo-economic power in the world.

What the investment gang wants

Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr, a former vice-president of the New Development Bank (NDB), or BRICS bank, goes straight to the point: Brazil’s dependence on Lula is immensely problematic.

Batista sees Lula facing at least three hostile blocs.

  • The extreme right supported by a significant, powerful faction of the armed forces – and this includes not only Bolsonarists, who are still in front of a few army barracks contesting the presidential election result;
  • The physiological right that dominates Congress – known in Brazil as “The Big Center”;
  • International financial capital – which, predictably, controls the bulk of mainstream media.

The third bloc, to a great extent, gleefully embraced Lula’s notion of a United Front capable of defeating the Bolsonaro project (which project, by the way, never ceased to be immensely profitable for the third bloc).

Now they want their cut. Mainstream media instantly turned to corralling Lula, operating a sort of “financial inquisition,” as described by crack economist Luiz Gonzaga Belluzzo.

By appointing longtime Workers’ Party loyalist Fernando Haddad as finance minister, Lula signaled that he, in fact, will be in charge of the economy. Haddad is a political-science professor and was a decent minister of education, but he’s no sharp economic guru. Acolytes of the Goddess of the Market, of course, dismiss him.

Once again, this is the trademark Lula swing in action: He chose to place more importance on what will be complex, protracted negotiations with a hostile Congress to advance his social agenda, confident that all the lineaments of economic policy are in his head.

A lunch party with some members of Sao Paulo’s financial elite, even before Haddad’s name was announced, offered a few fascinating clues. These people are known as the “Faria Limers” – after the high-toned Faria Lima Avenue, which houses quite a few post-mod investment banks’ offices as well as Google and Facebook HQs.

Faria Lima Avenue in San Paulo. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Lunch attendees included a smattering of rabid anti-Workers’ Party investors, the proverbial unreconstructed neoliberals, yet most were enthusiastic about opportunities ahead to make a killing, including an investor looking for deals involving Chinese companies.

The neoliberal mantra of those willing – perhaps – to place their bets on Lula (for a price) is “fiscal responsibility.” That frontally clashes with Lula’s focus on social justice.

That’s where Haddad comes up as a helpful, polite interlocutor because he does privilege nuance, pointing out that only looking at market indicators and forgetting about the 38% of Brazilians who only earn the minimum wage (1,212 Brazilian real or US$233 per month) is not exactly good for business.

The dark arts of non-government

Lula is already winning his first battle: approving a constitutional amendment that allows financing of more social spending.

That allows the government to keep the flagship Bolsa Família welfare program – of roughly $13 a month per poverty-level family – at least for the next two years.

A stroll across downtown Sao Paulo – which in the 1960s was as chic as mid-Manhattan – offers a sorrowful crash course on impoverishment, shut-down businesses, homelessness and raging unemployment. The notorious “Crack Land” – once limited to a street – now encompasses a whole neighborhood, much like junkie, post-pandemic Los Angeles.

Rio offers a completely different vibe if one goes for a walk in Ipanema on a sunny day, always a smashing experience. But Ipanema lives in a bubble. The real Rio of the Bolsonaro years – economically massacred, de-industrialized, occupied by militias – came up in a roundtable downtown where I interacted with, among others, a former energy minister and the man who discovered the immensely valuable pre-salt oil reserves.

In the Q&A, a black man from a very poor community advanced the key challenge for Lula’s third term: To be stable, and able to govern, he has to have the vast poorest sectors of the population backing him up.

This man voiced what seems not to be debated in Brazil at all: How did there come to be millions of poor Bolsonarists – street cleaners, delivery guys, the unemployed? Right-wing populism seduced them – and the established wings of the woke left had, and still have, nothing to offer them.

Addressing this problem is as serious as the destruction of Brazilian  engineering giants by the Car Wash “corruption” racket. Brazil now has a huge number of well-qualified unemployed engineers. How come they have not amassed enough political organization to reclaim their jobs? Why should they resign themselves to becoming Uber drivers?

José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, the new head of the UN Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), may carp about the region’s economic failure as even worse now than in the “lost decade” of the 1980s: Average annual economic growth in Latin America in the decade up to 2023 is set to be just 0.8%.

Yet what the UN is incapable of analyzing is how a plundering neoliberal regime such as Bolsonaro’s managed to “elevate” to unforeseen toxic levels the dark arts of little or no investment, low productivity and less than zero emphasis on education.

President Dilma in da house

Lula was quick to summarize Brazil’s new foreign policy – which will go totally multipolar, with emphasis on increasing Latin American integration, stronger ties across the Global South and a push to reform the UN Security Council (in sync with BRICS members Russia, China and India).

Mauro Vieira, an able diplomat, will be the new foreign minister. But the man fine-tuning Brazil on the world stage will be Celso Amorim, Lula’s former foreign minister from 2003 to 2010.

In a conference that reunited us in Sao Paulo, Amorim elaborated on the complexity of the world Lula is now inheriting, compared with 2003. Yet along with climate change the main priorities – achieving closer integration with South America, reviving Unasur (the Union of South American Nations) and re-approaching Africa – remain the same.

And then there’s the Holy Grail: “good relations with both the US and China.”

The Empire, predictably, will be on extreme close watch. US national security adviser Jake Sullivan dropped in to Brasilia, during the fist days of the World Cup soccer tournament, and was absolutely charmed by Lula, who’s a master of charisma. Yet the Monroe Doctrine always prevails. Lula getting closer and closer to BRICS – and the expanded BRICS+ – is considered virtual anathema in Washington.

Jake Sullivan and Lula in Brasilia on November 28. Photo: Ricardo Stuckert

So Lula will play most overtly in the environment arena. Covertly, it will be a sophisticated balancing act.

The combo behind US President Joe Biden called Lula to congratulate him soon after the election results. Sullivan was in Brasilia setting the stage for a Lula visit to Washington. Chinese President Xi Jinping for his part sent him an affectionate letter, emphasizing the “global strategic partnership” between Brazil and China. Russian President Vladimir Putin called Lula earlier this week – and emphasized their common strategic approach to BRICS.

China has been Brazil’s top trade partner since 2009, ahead of the US. Bilateral trade in 2021 hit $135 billion. The problem is lack of diversification and focus on low added value: iron ore, soybeans, raw crude and animal protein accounted for 87.4% of exports in 2021. China exports, on the other hand, are mostly high-tech manufactured products.

Brazil’s dependence on commodity exports has indeed contributed for years to its rising foreign reserves. But that implies high concentration of wealth, low taxes, low job creation and dependence on cyclical price oscillations.

There’s no question China is focused on Brazilian natural resources to fuel its new development push – or “peaceful modernization,” as established by the latest Party Congress.

But Lula will have to strive for a more equal trade balance in case he manages to restart the nation as a solid economy. In 2000, for instance, Brazil’s top export item was Embraer jets. Now, it’s iron ore and soybeans; yet another dire indicator of the ferocious de-industrialization operated by the Bolsonaro project.

China is already investing substantially in the Brazilian electric sector – mostly due to state companies being bought by Chinese companies. That was the case in 2017 of State Grid buying CPFL in Sao Paulo, for instance, which in turn bought a state company from southern Brazil in 2021.

From Lula’s point of view, that’s inadmissible: a classic case of privatization of strategic public assets.

A different scenario plays in neighboring Argentina. Buenos Aires in February became an official partner of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative, with at least $23 billion in new projects on the pipeline. The Argentine railway system will be upgraded by – who else? – Chinese companies, to the tune of $4.6 billion.

The Chinese will also be investing in the largest solar energy plant in Latin America, a hydroelectric plant in Patagonia, and a nuclear energy plant – complete with transfer of Chinese technology to the Argentine state.

Lula, beaming with invaluable soft power not only personally when it comes to Xi but also appealing to Chinese public opinion, can get similar strategic partnership deals, with even more amplitude. Brasilia may follow the Iranian partnership model – offering oil and gas in exchange for building critical infrastructure.

Inevitably, the golden path ahead will be via joint ventures, not mergers and acquisitions. No wonder many in Rio are already dreaming of high-speed rail linking it to Sao Paulo in just over an hour, instead of the current, congested highway journey of six hours (if you’re lucky).

A key role will be played by former president Dilma Rousseff, who had a long, leisurely lunch with a few of us in Sao Paulo, taking her time to recount, in minutiae, everything from the day she was officially arrested by the military dictatorship (January 16, 1970) to her off-the-record conversations with then-German chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin, and Xi.

President Dilma Rousseff during a bilateral meeting with the president of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, at the G20 Saint Petersburg summit in 2013. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It goes without saying that her political – and personal – capital with both Xi and Putin is stellar. Lula offered her any post she wanted in the new government. Although still a state secret, this will be part of a serious drive to polish Brazil’s global profile, especially across the Global South.

To recover from the previous, disastrous six years – which included a two-year no man’s land (2016-2018) after the impeachment of president Dilma – Brazil will need an unparalleled national drive of re-industrialization at virtually every level, complete with serious investment in research and development, training of specialized work forces and technology transfer.

There is a superpower that can play a crucial role in this process: China, Brazil’s close partner in the expanding BRICS+. Brazil is one of the natural leaders of the Global South, a role much prized by the Chinese leadership.

The key now is for both partners to establish a high-level strategic dialogue – all over again. Lula’s first high-profile foreign visit may be to Washington. But the destination that really matters, as we watch the river of history flow, will be Beijing.

Pepe Escobar is a Brazilian journalist who has written for Asia Times for many years, covering events throughout Asia and the Middle East. He has also been an analyst for RT and Sputnik News, and previously worked for Al Jazeera.

Xi of Arabia and the petroyuan drive

Xi Jinping has made an offer difficult for the Arabian Peninsula to ignore: China will be guaranteed buyers of your oil and gas, but we will pay in yuan.

December 16 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

It would be so tempting to qualify Chinese President Xi Jinping landing in Riyadh a week ago, welcomed with royal pomp and circumstance, as Xi of Arabia proclaiming the dawn of the petroyuan era.

But it’s more complicated than that. As much as the seismic shift implied by the petroyuan move applies, Chinese diplomacy is way too sophisticated to engage in direct confrontation, especially with a wounded, ferocious Empire. So there’s way more going here than meets the (Eurasian) eye.

Xi of Arabia’s announcement was a prodigy of finesse: it was packaged as the internationalization of the yuan. From now on, Xi said, China will use the yuan for oil trade, through the Shanghai Petroleum and National Gas Exchange, and invited the Persian Gulf monarchies to get on board. Nearly 80 percent of trade in the global oil market continues to be priced in US dollars.

Ostensibly, Xi of Arabia, and his large Chinese delegation of officials and business leaders, met with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to promote increased trade. Beijing promised to “import crude oil in a consistent manner and in large quantities from the GCC.” And the same goes for natural gas.

China has been the largest importer of crude on the planet for five years now – half of it from the Arabian peninsula, and more than a quarter from Saudi Arabia. So it’s no wonder that the prelude for Xi of Arabia’s lavish welcome in Riyadh was a special op-ed expanding the trading scope, and praising increased strategic/commercial partnerships across the GCC, complete with “5G communications, new energy, space and digital economy.”

Foreign Minister Wang Yi doubled down on the “strategic choice” of China and wider Arabia. Over $30 billion in trade deals were duly signed – quite a few significantly connected to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects.

And that brings us to the two key connections established by Xi of Arabia: the BRI and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The Silk Roads of Arabia

BRI will get a serious boost by Beijing in 2023, with the return of the Belt and Road Forum. The first two bi-annual forums took place in 2017 and 2019. Nothing happened in 2021 because of China’s strict zero-Covid policy, now abandoned for all practical purposes.

The year 2023 is pregnant with meaning as BRI was first launched 10 years ago by Xi, first in Central Asia (Astana) and then Southeast Asia (Jakarta).

BRI not only embodies a complex, multi-track trans-Eurasian trade/connectivity drive but it is the overarching Chinese foreign policy concept at least until the mid-21st century. So the 2023 forum is expected to bring to the forefront a series of new and redesigned projects adapted to a post-Covid and debt-distressed world, and most of all to the loaded Atlanticism vs. Eurasianism geopolitical and geoeconomic sphere.

Also significantly, Xi of Arabia in December followed Xi of Samarkand in September – his first post-Covid overseas trip, for the SCO summit in which Iran officially joined as a full member. China and Iran in 2021 clinched a 25-year strategic partnership deal worth a potential $400 billion in investments. That’s the other node of China’s two-pronged West Asia strategy.

The nine permanent SCO members now represent 40 percent of the world’s population. One of their key decisions in Samarkand was to increase bilateral trade, and overall trade, in their own currencies.

And that further connects us to what has happening in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in full synchronicity with Riyadh: the meeting of the Supreme Eurasia Economic Council, the policy implementation arm of the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU).

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Kyrgyzstan, could not have been more straightforward: “The work has accelerated in the transition to national currencies in mutual settlements… The process of creating a common payment infrastructure and integrating national systems for the transmission of financial information has begun.”

The next Supreme Eurasian Economic Council will take place in Russia in May 2023, ahead of the Belt and Road Forum. Take them together and we have the lineaments of the geoeconomic road map ahead: the drive towards the petroyuan proceeding in parallel to the drive towards a “common paying infrastructure” and most of all, a new alternative currency bypassing the US dollar.

That’s exactly what the head of the EAEU’s macroeconomic policy, Sergey Glazyev, has been designing, side by side with Chinese specialists.

Total Financial War

The move towards the petroyuan will be fraught with immense peril.

In every serious geoeconomic gaming scenario, it’s a given that an enfeebled petrodollar translates as the end of the imperial free lunch in effect for over five decades.

Concisely, in 1971, then-US President Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon pulled the US from the gold standard; three years later, after the 1973 oil shock, Washington approached the Saudi oil minister, notorious Sheikh Yamani, with the proverbial offer-you-can’t-refuse: we buy your oil in US dollars and in return you buy our Treasury bonds, lots of weapons, and recycle whatever’s left in our banks.

Cue to Washington now suddenly able to dispense helicopter money – backed by nothing – ad infinitum, and the US dollar as the ultimate hegemonic weapon, complete with an array of sanctions over 30 nations who dare to disobey the unilaterally imposed “rules-based international order.”

Impulsively rocking this imperial boat is anathema. So Beijing and the GCC will adopt the petroyuan slowly but surely, and certainly with zero fanfare. The heart of the matter, once again, is their mutual exposure to the Western financial casino.

In the Chinese case, what to do, for instance, with those whopping $1 trillion in US Treasury bonds. In the Saudi case, it’s hard to think about “strategic autonomy” – such as what’s enjoyed by Iran – when the petrodollar is a staple of the Western financial system. The menu of possible imperial reactions includes everything from a soft coup/ regime change to Shock and Awe over Riyadh – followed by regime change.

Yet what the Chinese – and the Russians – are aiming at goes way beyond a Saudi (and Emirati) predicament. Beijing and Moscow have clearly identified how everything – the oil market, global commodities markets – is tied to the role of the US dollar as reserve currency.

And that’s exactly what the EAEU discussions; the SCO discussions; from now on the BRICS+ discussions; and Beijing’s two-pronged strategy across West Asia are focused to undermine.

Beijing and Moscow, within the BRICS framework, and further on within the SCO and the EAEU, have been closely coordinating their strategy since the first sanctions on Russia post-Maidan 2014, and the de facto trade war against China unleashed in 2018.

Now, after the February 2022 Special Military Operation launched by Moscow in Ukraine and NATO has devolved into, for all practical purposes, war against Russia, we have stepped beyond Hybrid War territory and are deep into Total Financial War.

SWIFTly drifting away

The whole Global South absorbed the “lesson” of the collective (institutional) west freezing, as in stealing, the foreign reserves of a G20 member, on top of it a nuclear superpower. If that happened to Russia, it could happen to anyone. There are no “rules” anymore.

Russia since 2014 has been improving its SPFS payment system, in parallel with China’s CIPS, both bypassing the western-led SWIFT banking messaging system, and increasingly used by Central Banks across Central Asia, Iran and India. All across Eurasia, more people are ditching Visa and Mastercard and using UnionPay and/or Mir cards, not to mention Alipay and WeChat Pay, both extremely popular across Southeast Asia.

Of course the petrodollar – and the US dollar, still representing under 60 percent of global foreign exchange reserves – will not ride into oblivion overnight. Xi of Arabia is just the latest chapter in a seismic shift now driven by a select group in the Global South, and not by the former “hyperpower.”

Trading in their own currencies and a new, global alternative currency is right at the top of the priorities of that long list of nations – from South America to Northern Africa and West Asia – eager to join BRICS+ or the SCO, and in quite a few cases, both.

The stakes could not be higher. And it’s all about subjugation or exercising full sovereignty. So let’s leave the last essential words to the foremost diplomat of our troubled times, Russia’s Sergey Lavrov, at the international interparty conference Eurasian Choice as a Basis for Strengthening Sovereignty:

“The main reason for today’s growing tensions is the stubborn striving of the collective West to maintain a historically diminishing domination in the international arena by any means it can… It is impossible to impede the strengthening of the independent centers of economic growth, financial might and political influence. They are emerging on our common continent of Eurasia, in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.”

All aboard…the Sovereign Train.

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

The Global South births a new game-changing payment system

November 30, 2022

by Pepe Escobar, first published at The Cradle and posted with the author’s permission

Challenging the western monetary system, the Eurasia Economic Union is leading the Global South toward a new common payment system to bypass the US Dollar.

The Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) is speeding up its design of a common payment system, which has been closely discussed for nearly a year with the Chinese under the stewardship of Sergei Glazyev, the EAEU’s minister in charge of Integration and Macro-economy.

Through its regulatory body, the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), the EAEU has just extended a very serious proposal to the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) which, crucially, are already on the way to turning into BRICS+: a sort of G20 of the Global South.

The system will include a single payment card – in direct competition with Visa and Mastercard – merging the already existing Russian MIR, China’s UnionPay, India’s RuPay, Brazil’s Elo, and others.

That will represent a direct challenge to the western-designed (and enforced) monetary system, head on. And it comes on the heels of BRICS members already transacting their bilateral trade in local currencies, and bypassing the US dollar.

This EAEU-BRICS union was long in the making – and will now also move toward prefiguring a further geoeconomic merger with the member nations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The EAEU was established in 2015 as a customs union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, joined a year later by Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. Vietnam is already an EAEU free trade partner, and recently enshrined SCO member Iran is also clinching a deal.

The EAEU is designed to implement free movement of goods, services, capital, and workers between member countries. Ukraine would have been an EAEU member if not for the Maidan coup in 2014 masterminded by the Barack Obama administration.

Vladimir Kovalyov, adviser to the chairman of the EEC, summed it all up to Russian newspaper Izvestia. The focus is to establish a joint financial market, and the priority is to develop a common “exchange space:” “We’ve made substantial progress and now the work is focused on such sectors as banking, insurance, and the stock market.”

A new regulatory body for the proposed joint EEU-BRICS financial system will soon be established.

Meanwhile, trade and economic cooperation between the EAEU and BRICS have increased 1.5 times in the first half of 2022 alone.

The BRICS share in the total external trade turnover of the EAEU has reached 30 percent, Kovalyov revealed at the BRICS International Business Forum this past Monday in Moscow:

“It is advisable to combine the potentials of the BRICS and EAEU macro-financial development institutions, in particular the BRICS New Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), as well as national development institutions. This will make it possible to achieve a synergistic effect and ensure synchronous investments in sustainable infrastructure, innovative production, and renewable energy sources.”

Here we once again see the advancing convergence of not only BRICS and EAEU but also the financial institutions deeply involved in projects under the China-led New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Halting the Age of Plunder

As if all that was not game-changing enough, Russian President Vladimir Putin is raising the stakes by calling for a new international payment system based on blockchain and digital currencies.

The project for such a system was recently presented at the 1st Eurasian Economic Forum in Bishkek.

At the forum, the EAEU approved a draft agreement on cross-border placement and circulation of securities in member states, and amended technical regulations.

The next big step is to organize the agenda of a crucial meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council on 14 December in Moscow. Putin will be there – in person. And there’s nothing he would love more than to make a game-changing announcement.

All of these moves acquire even more importance as they connect to fast increasing, interlocking trade between Russia, China, India, and Iran: from Russia’s drive to build new pipelines serving its Chinese market – to Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan discussing a gas union for both domestic supplies and exports, especially to main client China.

Slowly but surely, what is emerging is the Big Picture of an irretrievably fractured world featuring a dual trade/circulation system: one will be revolving around the remnants of the dollar system, the other is being built centered on the association of BRICS, EAEU, and SCO.

Pushing further on down the road, the recent pathetic metaphor coined by a tawdry Eurocrat boss: the “jungle” is breaking away from the “garden” with a vengeance. May the fracture persist, as a new international payment system – and then a new currency – will aim to halt for good the western-centric Age of Plunder.

US paralyzed by Islamic Republic of Iran’s strategic swing

Monday, 28 November 2022 6:18 PM  [ Last Update: Monday, 28 November 2022 6:21 PM ]

By Pepe Escobar

Iran’s parliament has just approved the accession of the Islamic Republic to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), previously enshrined at the Samarkand summit last September, marking the culmination of a process that lasted no less than 15 years.  

Iran has already applied to become a member of the expanding BRICS+, which before 2025 will be inevitably configured as the alternative Global South G20 that really matters. 

Iran is already part of the Quad that really matters – alongside BRICS members Russia, China and India. Iran is deepening its strategic partnership with both China and Russia and increasing bilateral cooperation with India. 

Iran is a key Chinese partner in the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It is set to clinch a free trade agreement with the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and is a key node of the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), alongside Russia and India.     

All of the above configures the lightning-fast emergence of the Islamic Republic of Iran as a West Asia and Eurasia big power, with vast reach across the Global South. 

That has left the whole set of imperial “policies” towards Tehran lying in the dust.

So it’s no wonder that previously accumulated strands of Iranophobia – fed by the Empire over four decades — have recently metastasized into yet another color revolution offensive, fully supported and disseminated by Anglo-American media.

The playbook is always the same. Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei actually came up with a concise definition. The problem is not bands of oblivious rioters and/or mercenaries:  “the main confrontation”, he said, is with “global hegemony.”

Ayatollah Khamenei was somewhat echoed by American intellectual and author Noam Chomsky, who has remarked how an array of US sanctions over four decades have severely harmed the Iranian economy and “caused enormous suffering.”

Using Kurds as expendable assets

The latest color revolution overdrive overlaps with the manipulation of Kurds in both Syria and Iraq. From the imperial perspective, the proxy war in Syria, which is far from over, not only works as an additional front in the fight against Russia but also allows the instrumentalization of highly dependent Kurds against both Iran and Turkey.   

Iran is currently being attacked according to a perverse variation of the scheme applied to Syria in 2011. A sort of “permanent protest” situation has been imposed across vast swathes of northwestern Iran.

What changed in mid-November is that armed gangs started to apply terrorist tactics in several towns close to the Iraqi border, and were even believed to be weaponized enough to take control of some of the towns.  

Tehran inevitably had to send IRGC troops to contain the situation and beef up border security. They engaged in operations similar to what has been done before in Dara’a, in the Syrian southwest.

This military intervention was effective. But in a few latitudes, terror gangs continue to attack government infrastructure and even civilian property. The key fact is that Tehran prefers not to repress these unruly demonstrations using deadly force.

The really critical issue is not the protests per se: it’s the transfer of weapons by the Kurds from Iraq to Iran to bolster the color revolution scenario.

Tehran has issued a de facto ultimatum to Baghdad: get your act together with the Kurds, and make them understand the red lines.    

As it stands, Iran is massively employing Fateh ballistic missiles and Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 kamikaze drones against selected Kurdish terrorist bases in northern Iraq.

It’s debatable whether that will be enough to control the situation. What is clear is that the “Kurdish card”, if not tamed, could be easily played by the usual suspects in other Iranian provinces, considering the solid financial, military and informational support offered by Iraqi Kurds to Iranian Kurds.   

Turkey is facing a relatively similar problem with the Syrian Kurds instrumentalized by the US.

In northern Syria, they are mostly armed gangs posing as “Kurds”. So it’s quite possible that these Kurdish armed gangs, essentially played by Washington as useful idiots, may end up being decimated, simultaneously, in the short to medium term, by both Ankara and Tehran.

If all fails, pray for regime change

A geopolitical game-changer which was unthinkable until recently may soon be on the cards: a high-level meeting between Turkish President Recep Erdogan and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad (remember the decade-long refrain “Assad must go”?) in Russia, with mediation by none other than Russian president Vladimir Putin.

What would it take for Kurds to understand no state – be it Iran, Syria or Turkey – will offer them land for their own nation? Parameters could eventually change in case Iraqis in Baghdad finally manage to expel the US.

Before we get there, the fact is Iran has already turned West Asian geopolitics upside down – via its smart cruise missiles, extremely effective kamikaze drones, electronic warfare and even state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles.

Empire “planners” never saw this coming: a Russia-Iran strategic partnership that not only makes total sense geo-economically, but is also a military force multiplier.

Moreover, that is inscribed in the looming Big Picture on which the expanded BRICS+ is focusing: Eurasia (and beyond) integration via multimodal economic corridors such as the INTSC, pipelines and high-speed rail.   

The Empire’s Plan A, on Iran, was a mere nuclear deal (JCPOA), devised by the Barack Obama administration as nothing but a crude containment scheme.

Trump actually blew it all up – and there’s nothing left: a JCPOA revival, which has been – in theory – attempted for months in Vienna, was always a non-starter because the Americans themselves don’t know anymore what they want from it. 

So what’s left as Plan B for the Straussian neocon/neoliberal psychos in charge of US foreign policy is to hurl all manner of fall guys – from Kurds to the toxic MEK – into the Iran cauldron and, amplified 24/7 by hysterical mainstream media, pray for regime change.

Well, that’s not going to happen. Tehran just needs to wait, exercise restraint, and observe how so much color revolution virtue signaling will eventually fizzle out.

Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst and author, focused on Eurasia integration. His latest book is Raging Twenties.

(The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)


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Electric War

November 24, 2022

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

Current Russian tactics are the absolute opposite of the military theory of concentrated force developed by Napoleon, Pepe Escobar writes.

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

Spare a thought to the Polish farmer snapping pics of a missile wreckage – later indicated to belong to a Ukrainian S-300. So a Polish farmer, his footfalls echoing in our collective memory, may have saved the world from WWIII – unleashed via a tawdry plot concocted by Anglo-American “intelligence”.

Such tawdriness was compounded by a ridiculous cover-up: the Ukrainians were firing on Russian missiles from a direction that they could not possibly be coming from. That is: Poland. And then the U.S. Secretary of Defense, weapons peddler Lloyd “Raytheon” Austin, sentenced Russia was to blame anyway, because his Kiev vassals were shooting at Russian missiles that should not have been in the air (and they were not).

Call it the Pentagon elevating bald lying into a rather shabby art.

The Anglo-American purpose of this racket was to generate a “world crisis” against Russia. It’s been exposed – this time. That does not mean the usual suspects won’t try it again. Soon.

The main reason is panic. Collective West intel sees how Moscow is finally mobilizing their army – ready to hit the ground next month – while knocking out Ukraine’s electricity infrastructure as a form of Chinese torture.

Those February days of sending only 100,000 troops – and having the DPR and LPR militias plus Wagner commandos and Kadyrov’s Chechens do most of the heavy lifting – are long gone. Overall, Russians and Russophones were facing hordes of Ukrainian military – perhaps as many as 1 million. The “miracle” of it all is that Russians did quite well.

Every military analyst knows the basic rule: an invasion force should number three times the defending force. The Russian Army at the start of the SMO was at a small fraction of that rule. The Russian Armed Forces arguably have a standing army of 1.3 million troops. Surely they could have spared a few tens of thousands more than the initial 100,000. But they did not. It was a political decision.

But now SMO is over: this is CTO (Counter-Terrorist Operation) territory. A sequence of terrorist attacks – targeting the Nord Streams, the Crimea Bridge, the Black Sea Fleet – finally demonstrated the inevitability of going beyond a mere “military operation”.

And that brings us to Electric War.

Paving the way to a DMZ

The Electric War is being handled essentially as a tactic – leading to the eventual imposition of Russia’s terms in a possible armistice (which neither Anglo-American intel and vassal NATO want).

Even if there was an armistice – widely touted for a few weeks now – that would not end the war. Because the deeper, tacit Russian terms – end of NATO expansion and “indivisibility of security” – were fully spelled out to both Washington and Brussels last December, and subsequently dismissed.

As nothing – conceptually – has changed since then, coupled with the Western weaponization of Ukraine reaching a frenzy, the Putin-era Stavka could not but expand the initial SMO mandate, which remains denazification and demilitarization. Yet now the mandate will have to encompass Kiev and Lviv.

And that starts with the current de-electrification campaign – which goes way beyond the east of the Dnieper and along the Black Sea coast towards Odessa.

That brings us to the key issue of reach and depth of Electric War, in terms of setting up what would be a DMZ – complete with no man’s land – west of the Dnieper to protect Russian areas from NATO artillery, HIMARS and missile attacks.

How deep? 100 km? Not enough. Rather 300 km – as Kiev has already requested artillery with that kind of range.

What’s crucial is that way back in July this was already being extensively discussed in Moscow at the highest Stavka levels.

In an extensive July interview, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov let the cat – diplomatically – out of the bag:

“This process continues, consistently and persistently. It will continue as long as the West, in its impotent rage, desperate to aggravate the situation as much as possible, continues to flood Ukraine with more and more long-range weapons. Take the HIMARS. Defense Minister Alexey Reznikov boasts that they have already received 300-kilometre ammunition. This means our geographic objectives will move even further from the current line. We cannot allow the part of Ukraine that Vladimir Zelensky, or whoever replaces him, will control to have weapons that pose a direct threat to our territory or to the republics that have declared their independence and want to determine their own future.”

The implications are clear.

As much as Washington and NATO are even more “desperate to aggravate the situation as much as possible” (and that’s Plan A: there’s no Plan B), geoeconomically the Americans are intensifying the New Great Game: desperation here applies to trying to control energy corridors and setting their price.

Russia remains unfazed – as it continues to invest in Pipelineistan (towards Asia); solidify the multimodal International North South Transportation Corridor (INTSC), with key partners India and Iran; and is setting the price of energy via OPEC+.

A paradise for oligarchic looters

The Straussians/neo-cons and neoliberal-cons permeating the Anglo-American intel/security apparatus – de facto weaponized viruses – won’t relent. They simply cannot afford losing yet another NATO war – and on top of it against “existential threat” Russia.

As the news from the Ukraine battlefields promise to be even grimmer under General Winter, solace at least may be found in the cultural sphere. The Green transition racket, seasoned in a toxic mixed salad with the eugenist Silicon Valley ethos, continues to be a side dish offered with the main course: the Davos “Great Narrative”, former Great Reset, which reared its ugly head, once again, at the G20 in Bali.

That translates as everything going swell as far as the Destruction of Europe project is concerned. De-industrialize and be happy; rainbow-dance to every woke tune on the market; and freeze and burn wood while blessing “renewables” in the altar of European values.

A quick flashback to contextualize where we are is always helpful.

Ukraine was part of Russia for nearly four centuries. The very idea of its independence was invented in Austria during WWI for the purpose of undermining the Russian Army – and that certainly happened. The present “independence” was set up so local Trotskyite oligarchs could loot the nation as a Russia-aligned government was about to move against those oligarchs.

The 2014 Kiev coup was essentially set up by Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski to draw Russia into a new partisan war – as in Afghanistan – and was followed by orders to the Gulf oil haciendas to crash the oil price. Moscow had to protect Russophones in Crimea and Donbass – and that led to more Western sanctions. All of it was a setup.

For 8 years, Moscow refused to send its armies even to Donbass east of the Dnieper (historically part of Mother Russia). The reason: not to be bogged down in another partisan war. The rest of Ukraine, meanwhile, was being looted by oligarchs supported by the West, and plunged into a financial black hole.

The collective West deliberately chose not to finance the black hole. Most of the IMF injections were simply stolen by the oligarchs, and the loot transferred out of the country. These oligarchic looters were of course “protected” by the usual suspects.

It’s always crucial to remember that between 1991 and 1999 the equivalent of the present entire household wealth of Russia was stolen and transferred overseas, mostly to London. Now the same usual suspects are trying to ruin Russia with sanctions, as “new Hitler” Putin stopped the looting.

The difference is that the plan of using Ukraine as just a pawn in their game is not working.

On the ground, what has been going on so far are mostly skirmishes, and a few real battles. But with Moscow massing fresh troops for a winter offensive, the Ukrainian Army may end up completely routed.

Russia didn’t look so bad – considering the effectiveness of its mincing machine artillery strikes against Ukrainian fortified positions, and recent planned retreats or positional warfare, keeping casualties down while smashing Ukrainian withering firepower.

The collective West believes it holds the Ukraine proxy war card. Russia bets on reality, where economic cards are food, energy, resources, resource security and a stable economy.

Meanwhile, as if the energy-suicide EU did not have to face a pyramid of ordeals, they can surely expect to have knocking on their door at least 15 million desperate Ukrainians escaping from villages and cities with zero electrical power.

The railway station in – temporarily occupied – Kherson is a graphic example: people show up constantly to warm up and charge their smartphones. The city has no electricity, no heat, and no water.

Current Russian tactics are the absolute opposite of the military theory of concentrated force developed by Napoleon. That’s why Russia is accumulating serious advantages while “disturbing the dust in a bowl of rose-leaves”.

And of course, “we haven’t even started yet.”

The G20’s Balinese geopolitical dance

FRIDAY, NOV 18, 2022 

BY TYLER DURDEN

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

Xi has few reasons to take Biden – rather, the group writing every script in the background – at face value…

Balinese culture, a perpetual exercise in sophisticated subtlety, makes no distinction between the secular and the supernatural – sekala and niskala.

Sekala is what our senses may discern. As in the ritualized gestures of world leaders – real and minor – at a highly polarized G20.

Niskala is what cannot be sensed directly and can only be “suggested”. And that also applies to geopolitics.

The Balinese highlight may have featured an intersection of sekala and niskala: the much ballyhooed Xi-Biden face-to-face (or face to earpiece).

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs preferred to cut to the chase, selecting the Top Two highlights.

1. Xi told Biden – rather, his earpiece – that Taiwan independence is simply out of the question.

2. Xi also hopes that NATO, EU and US will engage in “comprehensive dialogue” with Moscow.

Asian cultures – be they Balinese or Confucianist – are non-confrontational. Xi laid out three layers of common interests: prevent conflict and confrontation, leading to peaceful coexistence; benefit from each other’s development; and promote post-COVID global recovery, tackle climate change and face regional problems via coordination.

Significantly, the 3h30 meeting happened at the Chinese delegation’s residence in Bali, and not at the G20 venue. And it was requested by the White House.

Biden, according to the Chinese, affirmed that the US does not seek a New Cold War; does not support “Taiwan independence”; does not support “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan”; does not seek “decoupling” from China; and does not want to contain China.

Now tell that to the Straussians/neo-cons/neoliberalcons bent on containing China. Reality spells out that Xi has few reasons to take “Biden” – rather the combo writing every script in the background – at face value. So as it stands, we remain in niskala.

That zero-sum game

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was dealt a terrible hand: how to hold a G20 to discuss food and energy security, sustainable development, and climate issues, when everything under the sun is polarized by the war in Ukraine.

Widodo did his best, urging all at the G20 to “end the war”, with a subtle hint that “being responsible means creating not zero-sum situations.”

The problem is a great deal of the G20 arrived in Bali bent on zero-sum – seeking confrontation (with Russia) and hardly any diplomatic conversation.

The US and UK delegations avowedly wanted to snub Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov every step of the way. France and Germany is a different matter: Lavrov did speak briefly with both Macron and Scholz. And told them Kiev wants no negotiation.

Lavrov also revealed something quite significant for the Global South:

“US and the EU have given the UN Secretary General written promises that restrictions on the export of Russian grain and fertilizers will be lifted – let’s see how this is implemented.”

The traditional group photo ahead of the G20 – a staple of every summit in Asia – had to be delayed. Because – who else – “Biden” and Sunak, US and UK, refused to be in the same picture with Lavrov.

Such childish, un-diplomatic hysterics is profoundly disrespectful towards ritual Balinese graciousness, politeness and a non-confrontational ethos.

The Western spin is that “most G20 countries” wanted to condemn Russia in Ukraine. Nonsense. Diplomatic sources hinted it may be in fact a 50/50 split. Condemnation comes from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, UK, US and EU. Non-condemnation from Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkiye and of course Russia.

Graphically: Global South against Global North.

So the joint statement will refer to the impacts of the “war in Ukraine” on the global economy, and not “Russia’s war in Ukraine”.

The collapse of the EU economy

What was not happening in Bali enveloped the island in an extra layer of niskala. Which brings us to Ankara.

The fog thickened because on the backdrop of the G20, the US and Russia were talking in Ankara, represented by CIA director William Burns and SVR (Foreign Intel) director Sergei Naryshkin.

No one knows what exactly was being negotiated. A ceasefire is only one among possible scenarios. And yet heated rhetoric from NATO in Brussels to Kiev suggests escalation prevailing over some sort of reconciliation.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was adamant; de facto and de jure, Ukraine can’t and does not want to negotiate. So the Special Military Operation (SMO) will continue.

NATO is training fresh units. Next possible targets are the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant and the left bank of the Dnieper – or even more pressure in the north of Lugansk. For their part, Russian military channels advance the possibility of a winter offensive on Nikolaev: only 30 km away from Russian positions.

Serious Russian military analysts know what serious Pentagon analysts must also know: Russia used at best only 10% of its military potential so far. No regular forces; most of them are DPR and LPR militias, Wagner commandos, Kadyrov’s Chechens and volunteers.

The Americans suddenly interested in talking, and Macron and Scholz approaching Lavrov, point to the heart of the matter: the EU and the UK may not survive next winter, 2023-2024, without Gazprom.

The IEA has calculated that the overall deficit by then will approach 30 billion cubic meters. And that presupposes “ideal” circumstances this coming winter: mostly warm; China still under lockdowns; much lower gas consumption in Europe; even increased production (from Norway?)

The IEA ‘s models are working with two or three waves of price increases in the next 12 months. EU budgets are already on red alert – compensating the losses caused by the current energy suicide. By the end of 2023, that may reach 1 trillion euros.

Any additional, unpredictable costs throughout 2023 mean that the EU economy will completely collapse: industry shutdown across the spectrum, euro in free fall, rise of inflation, debt corroding every latitude from the Club Med nations to France and Germany.

Dominatrix Ursula von der Leyen, leading the European Commission (EC), of course should be discussing all that – in the interests of EU nations – with global players in Bali. Instead her only agenda, once again, was demonization of Russia. No niskala here; just tawdry cognitive dissonance.

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Russia, India, China, Iran: the Quad that really matters

Tuesday, 15 November 2022 3:55 PM 

By Pepe Escobar

Southeast Asia is right at the center of international relations for a whole week viz a viz three consecutive summits: Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Phnom Penh, the Group of Twenty (G20) summit in Bali, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok.  

Eighteen nations accounting for roughly half of the global economy represented at the first in-person ASEAN summit since the Covid-19 pandemic in Cambodia: the ASEAN 10, Japan, South Korea, China, India, US, Russia, Australia, and New Zealand. 

With characteristic Asian politeness, the summit chair, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (or “Colombian”, according to the so-called “leader of the free world”), said the plenary meeting was somewhat heated, but the atmosphere was not tense: “Leaders talked in a mature way, no one left.”

It was up to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to express what was really significant at the end of the summit.

While praising the “inclusive, open, equal structure of security and cooperation at ASEAN”, Lavrov stressed how Europe and NATO “want to militarize the region in order to contain Russia and China’s interests in the Indo-Pacific.”

A manifestation of this policy is how “AUKUS is openly aiming at confrontation in the South China Sea,” he said.

Lavrov also stressed how the West, via the NATO military alliance, is accepting ASEAN “only nominally” while promoting a completely “unclear” agenda. 

What’s clear though is how NATO “has moved towards Russian borders several times and now declared at the Madrid summit that they have taken global responsibility.”

This leads us to the clincher: “NATO is moving their line of defense to the South China Sea.” And, Lavrov added, Beijing holds the same assessment.

Here, concisely, is the open “secret” of our current geopolitical incandescence. Washington’s number one priority is the containment of China. That implies blocking the EU from getting closer to the key Eurasia drivers  – China, Russia, and Iran – engaged in building the world’s largest free trade/connectivity environment.

Adding to the decades-long hybrid war against Iran, the infinite weaponizing of the Ukrainian black hole fits into the initial stages of the battle.

For the Empire, Iran cannot profit from becoming a provider of cheap, quality energy to the EU. And in parallel, Russia must be cut off from the EU. The next step is to force the EU to cut itself off from China.

All that fits into the wildest, warped Straussian/neo-con wet dreams: to attack China, by emboldening Taiwan, first Russia must be weakened, via the instrumentalization (and destruction) of Ukraine.

And all along the scenario, Europe simply has no agency.     

Putin, Raeisi and the Erdogan track

Real life across key Eurasia nodes reveals a completely different picture. Take the relaxed get-together in Tehran between Russia’s top security official Nikolai Patrushev and his Iranian counterpart Ali Shamkhani last week.

They discussed not only security matters but also serious business – as in turbo-charged trade.

The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) will sign a $40 billion deal next month with Gazprom, bypassing US sanctions, and encompassing the development of two gas fields and six oilfields, swaps in natural gas and oil products, LNG projects, and the construction of gas pipelines.

Immediately after the Patrushev-Shamkhani meeting, President Putin called President Ebrahim Raeisi to keep up the “interaction in politics, trade and the economy, including transport and logistics,” according to the Kremlin.

Iranian president reportedly more than “welcomed” the “strengthening” of Moscow-Tehran ties.

Patrushev unequivocally supported Tehran over the latest color revolution adventure perpetrated under the framework of the Empire’s endless hybrid war.

Iran and the EAEU are negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in parallel to the swap deals with Russian oil. Soon, SWIFT may be completely bypassed. The whole Global South is watching.

Simultaneous to Putin’s phone call, Turkiye’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan – conducting his own diplomatic overdrive, and just back from a summit of Turkic nations in Samarkand – stressed that the US and the collective West are attacking Russia “almost without limits”. 

Erdogan made it clear that Russia is a “powerful” state and commended its “great resistance”.

The response came exactly 24 hours later. Turkish intelligence cut to the chase, pointing out that the terrorist bombing in the perpetually busy Istiklal pedestrian street in Istanbul was designed in Kobane in northern Syria, which essentially responds to the US.

That constitutes a de-facto act of war and may unleash serious consequences, including a profound revision of Turkiye’s presence inside NATO.

Iran’s multi-track strategy

A Russia-Iran strategic alliance manifests itself practically as a historical inevitability. It recalls the time when the erstwhile USSR helped Iran militarily via North Korea, after an enforced US/Europe blockade.

Putin and Raeisi are taking it to the next level. Moscow and Tehran are developing a joint strategy to defeat the weaponization of sanctions by the collective West.

Iran, after all, has an absolutely stellar record of smashing variants of “maximum pressure” to bits. Also, it is now linked to a strategic nuclear umbrella offered by the “RICs” in BRICS (Russia, India, China).

So, Tehran may now plan to develop its massive economic potential within the framework of BRI, SCO, INSTC, the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), and the Russian-led Greater Eurasia Partnership.

Moscow’s game is pure sophistication: engaging in a high-level strategic oil alliance with Saudi Arabia while deepening its strategic partnership with Iran.

Immediately after Patrushev’s visit, Tehran announced the development of an indigenously built hypersonic ballistic missile, quite similar to the Russian KH-47 M2 Khinzal.

And the other significant news was connectivity-wise: the completion of part of a railway from strategic Chabahar Port to the border with Turkmenistan. That means imminent direct rail connectivity to the Central Asian, Russian and Chinese spheres. 

Add to it the predominant role of OPEC+, the development of BRICS+, and the pan-Eurasian drive to pricing trade, insurance, security, investments in the ruble, yuan, rial, etc.

There’s also the fact that Tehran could not care less about the endless collective West procrastination on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as Iran nuclear deal: what really matters now is the deepening relationship with the “RICs” in BRICS. 

Tehran refused to sign a tampered-with EU draft nuclear deal in Vienna. Brussels was enraged; no Iranian oil will “save” Europe, replacing Russian oil under a nonsensical cap to be imposed next month.

And Washington was enraged because it was betting on internal tensions to split OPEC.  

Considering all of the above, no wonder US ‘Think Tankland’ is behaving like a bunch of headless chickens.  

The queue to join BRICS

During the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand last September, it was already tacit to all players how the Empire is cannibalizing its closest allies.

And how, simultaneously, the shrinking NATO-sphere is turning inwards, with a focus on The Enemy Within, relentlessly corralling average citizens to march in lockstep behind total compliance with a two-pronged war – hybrid and otherwise – against imperial peer competitors Russia and China.

Now compare it with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Samarkand presenting China and Russia, together, as the top “responsible global powers” bent on securing the emergence of multipolarity.

Samarkand also reaffirmed the strategic political partnership between Russia and India (Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called it an unbreakable friendship).

That was corroborated by the meeting between Lavrov and his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar last week in Moscow.

Lavrov praised the strategic partnership in every crucial area – politics, trade and economics, investment, and technology, as well as “closely coordinated actions” at the UN Security Council, BRICS, SCO and the G20.

On BRICS, crucially, Lavrov confirmed that “over a dozen countries” are lining up for membership, including Iran: “We expect the work on coordinating the criteria and principles that should underlie BRICS expansion to not take much time”.

But first, the five members need to analyze the ground-breaking repercussions of an expanded BRICS+. 

Once again: contrast. What is the EU’s “response” to these developments? Coming up with yet another sanctions package against Iran, targeting officials and entities “connected with security affairs” as well as companies, for their alleged “violence and repressions”.

“Diplomacy”, collective West-style, barely registers as bullying.

Back to the real economy – as in the gas front – the national interests of Russia, Iran and Turkiye are increasingly intertwined; and that is bound to influence developments in Syria, Iraq, and Libya, and will be a key factor to facilitate Erdogan’s re-election next year.

As it stands, Riyadh for all practical purposes has performed a stunning 180-degree maneuver against Washington via OPEC+. That may signify, even in a twisted way, the onset of a process of unification of Arab interests, guided by Moscow.

Stranger things have happened in modern history. Now appears to be the time for the Arab world to be finally ready to join the Quad that really matters: Russia, India, China, and Iran.

(The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)


Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

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Sun Tzu Walks Into a Kherson Bar…

 NOVEMBER 10, 2022

PEPE ESCOBAR 

The announcement of the Kherson Retreat may have signaled one of the gloomiest days of the Russian Federation since 1991.

Leaving the right bank of the Dnieper to set up a defense line on the left bank may spell out total military sense. General Armageddon himself, since his first day on the job, had hinted this might have been inevitable.

As it stands in the chessboard, Kherson is in the “wrong” side of the Dnieper. All residents of Kherson Oblast – 115,000 people in total – who wanted to be relocated to safer latitudes have been evacuated from the right bank.

General Armageddon knew that was inevitable for several reasons:

no mobilization after the initial SMO plans hit the dust; destruction of strategic bridges across the Dnieper – complete with a three-month methodical Ukrainian pounding of bridges, ferries, pontoons and piers; no second bridgehead to the north of Kherson or to the west (towards Odessa or Nikolaev) to conduct an offensive.

And then, the most important reason: massive weaponization coupled with NATO de facto running the war translated into enormous Western superiority in reconnaissance, communications and command and control.

In the end, the Kherson Retreat may be a relatively minor tactical loss. Yet politically, it’s an unmitigated disaster, a devastating embarrassment.

Kherson is a Russian city. Russians have lost – even if temporarily – the capital of a brand new territory attached to the Federation. Russian public opinion will have tremendous problems absorbing the news.

The list of negatives is considerable. Kiev forces secure their flank and may free up forces to go against Donbass. Weaponizing by the collective West gets a major boost. HIMARS can now potentially strike targets in Crimea.

The optics are horrendous. Russia’s image across the Global South is severely tarnished; after all, this move amounts to abandoning Russian territory – while serial Ukrainian war crimes instantly disappear from the major “narrative”.

At a minimum, the Russians a long time ago should have reinforced their major strategic advantage bridgehead on the west side of the Dnieper so that it could hold – short of a widely forecasted Kakhovka Dam flood. And yet the Russians also ignored the dam bombing threat for months. That spells out terrible planning.

Now Russian forces will have to conquer Kherson all over again. And in parallel stabilize the frontlines; draw definitive borders; and then strive to “demilitarize” Ukrainian offensives for good, either via negotiation or carpet bombing.

It’s quite revealing that an array of NATO intel types, from analysts to retired Generals, are suspicious of General Armageddon’s move: they see it as an elaborate trap, or as a French military analyst put it, “a massive deception operation”. Classic Sun Tzu. That has been duly incorporated as the official Ukrainian narrative.

So, to quote Twin Peaks, that American pop culture subversive classic, “the owls are not what they seem”. If that’s the case, General Armageddon would be looking to severely overstretch Ukrainian supply lines; seduce them into exposure; and then engage in a massive turkey shoot.

So it’s either Sun Tzu; or a deal is in the wings, coinciding with the G20 next week in Bali.

The art of the deal

Well, some sort of deal seems to have been struck between Jake Sullivan and Patrushev.

No one really knows the details, even those with access to flamboyant 5th Column informants in Kiev. But yes – the deal seems to include Kherson. Russia would keep Donbass but not advance towards Kharkov and Odessa. And NATO expansion would be definitely frozen. A minimalist deal.

That would explain why Patrushev was able to board a plane to Tehran simultaneous to the announcement of the Kherson Retreat, and take care, quite relaxed, of very important strategic partnership business with Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.

The deal may have also been the inbuilt “secret” in Maria Zakharova’s announcement that “we’re ready for negotiations”.

The Russians will leave the Dnieper riverbank in a managed military retreat. That would not be possible without managed military-to-military negotiations.

These back channel negotiations have been going on for weeks. The messenger is Saudi Arabia. The US aim, in the short term, would be towards a sort of Minsk 3 accord – with Istanbul/Riyadh attached.

No one is paying the slightest attention to coke clown Zelensky. Sullivan went to Kiev to present a fait accompli – of sorts.

The Dnieper will be – in thesis – the settled and negotiated frontline.

Kiev would have to swallow a frozen line of contact in Zaporizhye, Donetsk and Lugansk – with Kiev receiving electricity from Zaporozhye, hence cease shelling its infrastructure.

The US would come up with a loan of $50 billion plus part of the confiscated – i.e. stolen – Russian assets to “rebuild” Ukraine. Kiev would receive modern air defense systems.

There’s no doubt Moscow will not go along with any of these provisions.

Note that all this coincides with the outcome of the US elections – where the Dems did not exactly lose.

Meanwhile Russia is accumulating more and more gains in the battle for Bakhmut.

There are no illusions whatsoever in Moscow that this crypto-Minsk 3 would be respected by the “non-agreement capable” Empire.

Jake Sullivan is a 45-year-old lawyer with zero strategic background and “experience” amounting to campaigning for Hillary Clinton. Patrushev can eat him for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night snack – and vaguely “agree” to anything.

So why are the Americans desperate to offer a deal? Because they may be sensing the next Russian move with the arrival of General Winter should be capable of conclusively winning the war on Moscow’s terms. That would include slamming the Polish border shut via a long arrow move from Belarus downwards. With weaponizing supply lines cut, Kiev’s fate is sealed.

Deal or no deal, General Winter is coming to town – ready to entertain his guest of honor Sun Tzu with so many new dishes at their dinner table.

(Republished from Strategic Culture Foundation by permission of author or representative)

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Berlin Goes to Beijing: The Real Deal

NOVEMBER 4, 2022

PEPE ESCOBAR

The Scholz caravan went to Beijing to lay down the preparatory steps for working out a peace deal with Russia, with China as privileged messenger.

With his inimitable flair for economic analysis steeped in historical depth, Professor Michael Hudson’s latest essay, originally written for a German audience, presents a stunning parallel between the Crusades and the current “rules-based international order” imposed by the Hegemon.

Professor Hudson details how the Papacy in Rome managed to lock up unipolar control over secular realms (rings a bell?) when the game was all about Papal precedence over kings, above all the German Holy Roman Emperors. As we know, half in jest, the Empire was not exactly Holy, nor German (perhaps a little Roman), and not even an Empire.

A clause in the Papal Dictates provided the Pope with the authority to excommunicate whomever was “not at peace with the Roman Church.” Hudson sharply notes how US sanctions are the modern equivalent of excommunication.

Arguably there are Top Two dates in the whole process.

The first one would be the Third Ecumenical Council of 435: this is when only Rome (italics mine) was attributed universal authority (italics mine). Alexandria and Antioch, for instance, were limited to regional authority within the Roman Empire.

The other top date is 1054 – when Rome and Constantinople split for good. That is, the Roman Catholic Church split from Orthodoxy, which leads us to Russia, and Moscow as The Third Rome – and the centuries-old animosity of “the West” against Russia.

A State of Martial Law

Professor Hudson then delves on the trip by “Liver Sausage” Chancellor Scholz’s delegation to China this week to “demand that it dismantle its public sector and stops subsidizing its economy, or else Germany and Europe will impose sanctions on trade with China.”

Well, in fact this happens to be just childish wishful thinking, expressed by the German Council on Foreign Relations in a piece published on the Financial Times (the Japanese-owned platform in the City of London). The Council, as correctly described by Hudson, is “the neoliberal ‘libertarian’ arm of NATO demanding German de-industrialization and dependency” on the US.

So the FT, predictably, is printing NATO wet dreams.

Context is essential. German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in a keynote speech at Bellevue Castle, has all but admitted that Berlin is broke: “An era of headwinds is beginning for Germany – difficult, difficult years are coming for us. Germany is in the deepest crisis since reunification.”

Yet schizophrenia, once again, reigns supreme, as Steinmeier, after a ridiculous stunt in Kiev – complete with posing as a unwitting actor huddled in a bunker – announced an extra handout: two more MARS multiple rocket launchers and four Panzerhaubitze 2000 howitzers to be delivered to the Ukrainians.

So even if the “world” economy – actually the EU – is so fragilized that member-states cannot help Kiev anymore without harming their own populations, and the EU is on the verge of a catastrophic energy crisis, fighting for “our values” in Country 404 trumps it all.

The Big Picture context is also key. Andrea Zhok, Professor of Ethical Philosophy at the University of Milan, has taken Giorgio Agamben’s “State of Exception” concept to new heights.

Zhok proposes that the zombified collective West is now completely subjugated to a “State of Martial Law” – where a Forever War ethos is the ultimate priority for rarified global elites.

Every other variable – from trans-humanism to depopulation and even cancel culture – is subordinated to the State of Martial Law, and is basically inessential. The only thing that matters is exercising absolute, raw control.

Berlin – Moscow – Beijing

Solid German business sources completely contradict the “message” delivered by the German Council on Foreign Relations on the trip to China.

According to these sources, the Scholz caravan went to Beijing to essentially lay down the preparatory steps for working out a peace deal with Russia, with China as privileged messenger.

This is – literally – as explosive, geopolitically and geoeconomically, as it gets. As I pointed out in one of my previous columns, Berlin and Moscow were keeping a secret communication back channel – via business interlocutors – right to the minute the usual suspects, in desperation, decided to blow up the Nord Streams.

Cue to the now notorious SMS from Liz Truss’s iPhone to Little Tony Blinken, one minute after the explosions: “It’s done.”

There’s more: the Scholz caravan may be trying to start a long and convoluted process of eventually replacing the US with China as a key ally. One should never forget that the top BRI trade/connectivity terminal in the EU is Germany (the Ruhr valley).

According to one of the sources, “if this effort is successful, then Germany, China and Russia can ally themselves together and drive the US out of Europe.”

Another source provided the cherry on the cake: “Olaf Scholz is being accompanied on this trip by German industrialists who actually control Germany and are not going to sit back watching themselves being destroyed.”

Moscow knows very well what the imperial aim is when it comes to the EU reduced to the role of totally dominated – and deindustrialized – vassal, exercising zero sovereignty. The back channels after all are not lying in tatters on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Additionally, China has not provided any hint that its massive trade with Germany and the EU is about to vanish.

Scholz himself, one day before his caravan hit Beijing, stressed to Chinese media that Germany has no intention of decoupling from China, and there’s nothing to justify “the calls by some to isolate China.”

In parallel, Xi Jinping and the new Politburo are very much aware of the Kremlin position, reiterated again and again: we always remain open for negotiations, as long as Washington finally decides to talk about the end of unlimited NATO expansion drenched in Russophobia.

So to negotiate means the Empire signing on the dotted line of the document it has received from Moscow on December 1st, 2021, focused on “indivisibility of security”. Otherwise there’s nothing to negotiate.

And when we have Pentagon lobbyist Lloyd “Raytheon” Austin advising the Ukrainians on the record to advance on Kherson, it’s even more crystal clear there’s nothing to negotiate.

So could this all be the foundation stone of the Berlin-Moscow-Beijing trans-Eurasia geopolitical/geoeconomic corridor? That will mean Bye Bye Empire. Once again: it ain’t over till the fat lady goes Gotterdammerung.

(Republished from Strategic Culture Foundation by permission of author or representative)

← No Pain, No Grain: Putin’s Black Sea …

No pain, no grain: Putin’s Black Sea comeback

After the western military attack on Sevastopol briefly halted Russian grain transports, Moscow is back in business with a stronger hand and more favorable terms.

November 02 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

So, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan picks up the phone and calls his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin: let’s talk about the “grain deal.” Putin, cool, calm and collected, explains the facts to the Sultan:

First, the reason why Russia withdrew from the export grain deal.

Second, how Moscow seeks a serious investigation into the – terrorist – attack on the Black Sea fleet, which for all practical purposes seems to have violated the deal.

And third, how Kiev must guarantee it will uphold the deal, brokered by Turkey and the UN.

Only then would Russia consider coming back to the table.

And then – today, 2 November – the coup de theatre: Russia’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) announces the country is back to the Black Sea grain deal, after receiving the necessary written guarantees from Kiev.

The MoD, quite diplomatically, praised the “efforts” of both Turkey and the UN: Kiev is committed not to use the “Maritime Humanitarian Corridor” for combat operations, and only in accordance with the provisions of the Black Sea Initiative.

Moscow said the guarantees are sufficient “for the time being.” Implying that can always change.

All rise to the Sultan’s persuasion

Erdogan must have been extremely persuasive with Kiev. Before the phone call to Putin, the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) had already explained that the attack on the Black Sea Fleet was conducted by 9 aerial drones and 7 naval drones, plus an American RQ-4B Global Hawk observation drone lurking in the sky over neutral waters.

The attack happened under the cover of civilian ships and targeted Russian vessels that escorted the grain corridor in the perimeter of their responsibility, as well as the infrastructure of the Russian base in Sevastopol.

The MoD explicitly designated British experts deployed in the Ochakov base in the Nikolaev region as the designers of this military operation.

At the UN Security Council, Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzya declared himself “surprised” that the UN leadership “failed not only to condemn, but even to express concern over the terrorist attacks.”

After stating that the Brit-organized Kiev operation on the Black Sea Fleet “put an end to the humanitarian dimension of the Istanbul agreements,” Nebenzya also clarified:

“It is our understanding that the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine agreed on under UN supervision on 22 July, must not be implemented without Russia, and so we do not view the decisions that were made without our involvement as binding.”

This means, in practice, that Moscow “cannot allow for unimpeded passage of vessels without our inspection.” The crucial question is how and where these inspections will be carried out – as Russia has warned the UN that it will definitely inspect dry cargo ships in the Black Sea.

The UN, for its part, tried at best to put on a brave face, believing Russia’s suspension is “temporary” and looking forward to welcoming “its highly professional team” back to the Joint Coordination Center.

According to humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths, the UN also proclaims to be “ready to address concerns.” And that has to be soon, because the deal reaches its 120-day extension point on November 19.

Well, “addressing concerns” is not exactly the case. Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia Dmitry Polyansky said that at the UN Security Council meeting western nations simply could not deny their involvement in the Sevastopol attack; instead, they simply blamed Russia.

All the way to Odessa

Prior to the phone call with Erdogan, Putin had already pointed out that “34 percent of the grain exported under the deal goes to Turkey, 35 percent to EU countries and only 3-4 percent to the poorest countries. Is this what we did everything for?”

That’s correct. For instance, 1.8 million tons of grain went to Spain; 1.3 million tons to Turkey; and 0.86 million tons to Italy. By contrast, only 0,067 tons went to “starving” Yemen and 0,04 tons to “starving” Afghanistan.

Putin made it very clear that Moscow was not withdrawing from the grain deal but had only suspended its participation.

And as a further gesture of good will, Moscow announced it would willingly ship 500,000 tons of grain to poorer nations for free, in an effort to replace the integral amount that Ukraine should have been able to export.

All this time, Erdogan skillfully maneuvered to convey the impression he was occupying the higher ground: even if Russia behaves in an “indecisive” manner, as he defined it, we will continue to pursue the grain deal.

So, it seems like Moscow was being tested – by the UN and by Ankara, which happens to be the main beneficiary of the grain deal and is clearly profiting from this economic corridor. Ships continue to depart from Odessa to Turkish ports – mainly Istanbul – without Moscow’s agreement. It was expected they would be “filtered” by Russia when coming back to Odessa.

The immediate Russian means of pressure was unleashed in no time: preventing Odessa from becoming a terrorist infrastructure node. This means constant visits by cruise missiles.

Well, the Russians have already “visited” the Ochakov base occupied by Kiev and the British experts. Ochakov – between Nikolaev and Odessa – was built way back in 2017, with key American input.

The British units that were involved in the sabotage of the Nord Streams – according to Moscow – are the same ones that planned the Sevastopol operation. Ochakov is constantly spied upon and sometimes hit out of positions that the Russians have cleared last month only 8 km to the south, on the extremity of the Kinburn peninsula. And yet the base has not been totally destroyed.

To reinforce the “message,” the real response to the attack on Sevastopol has been this week’s relentless “visits” of Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure; if maintained, virtually the whole of Ukraine will soon be plunged into darkness.

Closing down the Black Sea

The attack on Sevastopol may have been the catalyst leading to a Russian move to close down the Black Sea – with Odessa converted into an absolutely priority for the Russian Army. There are serious rumblings across Russia on why Russophone Odessa had not been the object of pinpointed targeting before.

Top infrastructure for Ukrainian Special Forces and British advisers is based in Odessa and Nikolaev. Now there’s no question these will be destroyed.

Even with the grain deal in theory back on track, it is hopeless to expect Kiev to abide by any agreements. After all, every major decision is taken either by Washington or by the Brits at NATO. Just like bombing the Crimea Bridge, and then the Nord Streams, attacking the Black Sea Fleet was designed as a serious provocation.

The brilliant designers though seem to have IQs lower than refrigerator temperatures: every Russian response always plunges Ukraine deeper down an inescapable – and now literally black – hole.

The grain deal seemed to be a sort of win-win. Kiev would not contaminate Black Sea ports again after they were demined. Turkey turned into a grain transport hub for the poorest nations (actually that’s not what happened: the main beneficiary was the EU). And sanctions on Russia were eased on the export of agricultural products and fertilizers.

This was, in principle, a boost for Russian exports. In the end, it did not work out because many players were worried about possible secondary sanctions.

It is important to remember that the Black Sea grain deal is actually two deals: Kiev signed a deal with Turkey and the UN, and Russia signed a separate deal with Turkey.

The corridor for the grain carriers is only 2 km wide. Minesweepers move in parallel along the corridor. Ships are inspected by Ankara. So the Kiev-Ankara-UN deal remains in place. It has nothing to do with Russia – which in this case does not escort and/or inspect the cargoes.

What changes with Russia “suspending” its own deal with Ankara and the UN, is that from now on, Moscow can proceed anyway it deems fit to neutralize terrorist threats and even invade and take over Ukrainian ports: that will not represent a violation of the deal with Ankara and the UN.

So in this respect, it is a game-changer.

Seems like Erdogan fully understood the stakes, and told Kiev in no uncertain terms to behave. There’s no guarantee, though, that western powers won’t come up with another Black Sea provocation. Which means that sooner or later – perhaps by the Spring of 2023 – General Armageddon will have to come up with the goods. That translates as advancing all the way to Odessa.

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

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Putin: ‘The Situation Is, to a Certain Extent, Revolutionary’

Putin in fact did nail where we are: on the edge of a Revolution.

October 31, 2022

Global Research,

By Pepe Escobar

In an all-encompassing address to the plenary session of the 19th annual meeting of the Valdai Club, President Putin delivered no less than a devastating, multi-layered critique of unipolarity.

From Shakespeare to the assassination of Gen Soleimani;

from musings on spirituality to the structure of the UN;

from Eurasia as the cradle of human civilization to the interconnection of BRI, SCO and the INSTC;

from nuclear dangers to that peripheral peninsula of Eurasia “blinded by the idea that Europeans are better than others”, the address painted a Brueghel-esque canvas of the “historical milestone” facing us, in the middle of “the most dangerous decade since the end of WWII.”

Putin even ventured that, in the words of the classics, “the situation is, to a certain extent, revolutionary” as “the upper classes cannot, and the lower classes do not want to live like this anymore”. So everything is in play, as “the future of the new world order is being shaped before our eyes.”

Way beyond a catchy slogan about the game the West is playing, “bloody, dangerous and dirty”, the address and Putin’s interventions at the subsequent Q&A should be analyzed as a coherent vision of past, present and future. Here we offer just a few of the highlights:

“The world is witnessing the degradation of world institutions, the erosion of the principle of collective security, the substitution of international law for ‘rules’”.

“Even at the height of the Cold War, nobody denied the existence of the culture and art of the Other. In the West, any alternative point of view is declared subversive.”

“The Nazis burned books. Now the Western fathers of ‘liberalism’ are banning Dostoevsky.”

“There are at least two ‘Wests’. The first is traditional, with a rich culture. The second is aggressive and colonial.”

“Russia has not and does not consider itself an enemy of the West.

Russia tried to build relations with the West and NATO – to live together in peace and harmony. Their response to all cooperation was simply ‘no’.”

“We do not need a nuclear strike on Ukraine, there is no point – neither political nor military.”

“In part” the situation between Russia and Ukraine can be considered a civil war: “When creating Ukraine, the Bolsheviks endowed it with primordially Russian territories – they gave it all of Little Russia, the entire Black Sea region, the entire Donbass. Ukraine evolved as an artificial state.”

Russia and China Haven’t Even Started to Ratchet Up the Pain Dial. Pepe Escobar

“Ukrainians and Russians are one people – this is a historical fact. Ukraine has evolved as an artificial state. The only country that can guarantee its sovereignty is the country which created it – Russia.”

“The unipolar world is coming to an end. The West is incapable of single-handedly ruling the world. The world stands at a historical milestone ahead of the most dangerous and important decade since World War II.”

“Humanity has two options – either we continue accumulating the burden of problems that is certain to crush all of us, or we can work together to find solutions.”

What do we do after the orgy?

Amidst a series of absorbing discussions, the heart of the matter at Valdai is its 2022 report, “A World Without Superpowers”.

The report’s central thesis – eminently correct – is that “the United States and its allies, in fact, no longer enjoy the status of dominant superpower, but the global infrastructure that serves it is still in place.”

Of course all major interconnected issues at the current crossroads were precipitated because” Russia became the first major power which, guided by its own ideas of security and fairness, chose to discard the benefits of ‘global peace’ created by the only superpower.”

Well, not exactly “global peace”; rather a Mafia-enforced ethos of “our way or the highway”. The report quite diplomatically characterizes the freezing of Russia’s gold and foreign currency reserves and the “mop up” of Russia’s property abroad as “Western jurisdictions”, “if necessary”, being “guided by political expediency rather than the law”.

That’s in fact outright theft, under the shadow of the “rules-based international order”.

The report – optimistically – foresees the advent of a sort of normalized “cold peace” as “the best available solution today” – acknowledging at least this is far from guaranteed, and “will not halt the fundamental rebuilding of the international system on new foundations.”

The foundation for evolving multipolarity has in fact been presented by the Russia-China strategic partnership only three weeks before imperially-ordered provocations forced Russia to launch the Special Military Operation (SMO).

In parallel, the financial lineaments of multipolarity had been proposed since at least July 2021, in a paper co-written by Professor Michael Hudson and Radhika Desai.

The Valdai report duly acknowledges the role of Global South medium-sized powers that “exemplify the democratization of international politics” and may “act as shock absorbers during periods of upheaval.” That’s a direct reference to the role of BRICS+ as key protagonists.

On the Big Picture across the chessboard, the analysis tends to get more realistic when it considers that “the triumph of ‘the only true idea’ makes effective dialogue and agreement with supporters of different views and values impossible by definition.”

Putin alluded to it several times in his address. There’s no evidence whatsoever the Empire and its vassals will be deviating from their normative, imposed, value-laden unilateralism.

As for world politics beginning to “rapidly return to a state of anarchy built on force”, that’s self-evident: only the Empire of Chaos wants to impose anarchy, as it completely ran out of geopolitical and geoeconomic tools to control rebel nations, apart from the sanctions tsunami.

So the report is correct when it identifies that the childish neo-Hegelian “end of history” wet dream in the end hit the wall of History: we’re back to the pattern of large scale conflicts between centers of power.

And it’s also a fact that “simply changing the ‘operator’ as it happened in earlier centuries” (as in the U.S. taking over from Britain) “just won’t work.”

China might harbor a desire to become the new sheriff, but the Beijing leadership definitely is not interested. And even if that happened the Hegemon would fiercely prevented it, as “the entire system” remains “under its control (primarily finance and the economy).”

So the only way out, once again, is multipolarity – which the report characterizes, rather vaguely, as “a world without superpowers”, still in need of “a system of self-regulation, which implies much greater freedom of action and responsibility for such actions.”

Stranger things have happened in History. As it stands, we are plunged deep into the maelstrom of complete collapse. Putin in fact did nail where we are: on the edge of a Revolution.

This article was first published by Strategic Culture Foundation

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Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil, is a correspondent and editor-at-large at Asia Times and columnist for Consortium News and Strategic Culture. Since the mid-1980s he’s lived and worked as a foreign correspondent in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Singapore, Bangkok. He has extensively covered Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia to China, Iran, Iraq and the wider Middle East. Pepe is the author of Globalistan – How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War; Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad during the Surge. He was contributing editor to The Empire and The Crescent and Tutto in Vendita in Italy. His last two books are Empire of Chaos and 2030. Pepe is also associated with the Paris-based European Academy of Geopolitics. When not on the road he lives between Paris and Bangkok.

He is a regular contributor to Global Research.

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Copyright © Pepe Escobar, Global Research, 2022

Everybody wants to hop on the BRICS Express

Eurasia is about to get a whole lot larger as countries line up to join the Chinese and Russian-led BRICS and SCO, to the detriment of the west

October 27 2022

By Pepe Escobar

Photo Credit: The Cradle

Let’s start with what is in fact a tale of Global South trade between two members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). At its heart is the already notorious Shahed-136 drone – or Geranium-2, in its Russian denomination: the AK-47 of postmodern aerial warfare.

The US, in yet another trademark hysteria fit rife with irony, accused Tehran of weaponizing the Russian Armed Forces. For both Tehran and Moscow, the superstar, value-for-money, and terribly efficient drone let loose in the Ukrainian battlefield is a state secret: its deployment prompted a flurry of denials from both sides. Whether these are made in Iran drones, or the design was bought and manufacturing takes place in Russia (the realistic option), is immaterial.

The record shows that the US weaponizes Ukraine to the hilt against Russia. The Empire is a de facto war combatant via an array of “consultants,” advisers, trainers, mercenaries, heavy weapons, munitions, satellite intel, and electronic warfare. And yet imperial functionaries swear they are not part of the war. They are, once again, lying.

Welcome to yet another graphic instance of the “rules-based international order” at work. The Hegemon always decides which rules apply, and when. Anyone opposing it is an enemy of “freedom,” “democracy,” or whatever platitude du jour, and should be – what else – punished by arbitrary sanctions.

In the case of sanctioned-to-oblivion Iran, for decades now, the result has been predictably another round of sanctions. That’s irrelevant. What matters is that, according to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), no less than 22 nations – and counting – are joining the queue because they also want to get into the Shahed groove.

Even Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, gleefully joined the fray, commenting on how the Shahed-136 is no photoshop.

The race towards BRICS+

What the new sanctions package against Iran really “accomplished” is to deliver an additional blow to the increasingly problematic signing of the revived nuclear deal in Vienna. More Iranian oil on the market would actually relieve Washington’s predicament after the recent epic snub by OPEC+.

A categorical imperative though remains. Iranophobia – just like Russophobia – always prevails for the Straussians/neo-con war advocates in charge of US foreign policy and their European vassals.

So here we have yet another hostile escalation in both Iran-US and Iran-EU relations, as the unelected junta in Brussels also sanctioned manufacturer Shahed Aviation Industries and three Iranian generals.

Now compare this with the fate of the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone – which unlike the “flowers in the sky” (Russia’s Geraniums) has performed miserably in the battlefield.

Kiev tried to convince the Turks to use a Motor Sich weapons factory in Ukraine or come up with a new company in Transcarpathia/Lviv to build Bayraktars. Motor Sich’s oligarch President Vyacheslav Boguslayev, aged 84, has been charged with treason because of his links to Russia, and may be exchanged for Ukrainian prisoners of war.

In the end, the deal fizzled out because of Ankara’s exceptional enthusiasm in working to establish a new gas hub in Turkey – a personal suggestion from Russian President Vladimir Putin to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

And that bring us to the advancing interconnection between BRICS and the 9-member SCO – to which this Russia-Iran instance of military trade is inextricably linked.

The SCO, led by China and Russia, is a pan-Eurasian institution originally focused on counter-terrorism but now increasingly geared towards geoeconomic – and geopolitical – cooperation. BRICS, led by the triad of Russia, India, and China overlaps with the SCO agenda geoeconomically and geopoliticallly, expanding it to Africa, Latin America and beyond: that’s the concept of BRICS+, analyzed in detail in a recent Valdai Club report, and fully embraced by the Russia-China strategic partnership.

The report weighs the pros and cons of three scenarios involving possible, upcoming BRICS+ candidates:

First, nations that were invited by Beijing to be part of the 2017 BRICS summit (Egypt, Kenya, Mexico, Thailand, Tajikistan).

Second, nations that were part of the BRICS foreign ministers’ meeting in May this year (Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Thailand).

Third, key G20 economies (Argentina, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Turkiye).

And then there’s Iran, which has already already shown interest in joining BRICS.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has recently confirmed that “several countries” are absolutely dying to join BRICS. Among them, a crucial West Asia player: Saudi Arabia.

What makes it even more astonishing is that only three years ago, under former US President Donald Trump’s administration, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MbS) – the kingdom’s de fact ruler – was dead set on joining a sort of Arab NATO as a privileged imperial ally.

Diplomatic sources confirm that the day after the US pulled out of Afghanistan, MbS’s envoys started seriously negotiating with both Moscow and Beijing.

Assuming BRICS approves Riyadh’s candidacy in 2023 by the necessary consensus, one can barely imagine its earth-shattering consequences for the petrodollar. At the same time, it is important not to underestimate the capacity of US foreign policy controllers to wreak havoc.

The only reason Washington tolerates Riyadh’s regime is the petrodollar. The Saudis cannot be allowed to pursue an independent, truly sovereign foreign policy. If that happens, the geopolitical realignment will concern not only Saudi Arabia but the entire Persian Gulf.

Yet that’s increasingly likely after OPEC+ de facto chose the BRICS/SCO path led by Russia-China – in what can be interpreted as a “soft” preamble for the end of the petrodollar.

The Riyadh-Tehran-Ankara triad

Iran made known its interest to join BRICS even before Saudi Arabia. According to Persian Gulf diplomatic sources, they are already engaged in a somewhat secret channel via Iraq trying to get their act together. Turkey will soon follow – certainly on BRICS and possibly the SCO, where Ankara currently carries the status of extremely interested observer.

Now imagine this triad – Riyadh, Tehran, Ankara – closely joined with Russia, India, China (the actual core of the BRICS), and eventually in the SCO, where Iran is as yet the only West Asian nation to be inducted as a full member.

The strategic blow to the Empire will go off the charts. The discussions leading to BRICS+ are focusing on the challenging path towards a commodity-backed global currency capable of bypassing US dollar primacy.

Several interconnected steps point towards increasing symbiosis between BRICS+ and SCO. The latter’s members states have already agreed on a road map for gradually increasing trade in national currencies in mutual settlements.

The State Bank of India – the nation’s top lender – is opening special rupee accounts for Russia-related trade.

Russian natural gas to Turkey will be paid 25 percent in rubles and Turkish lira, complete with a 25 percent discount Erdogan personally asked of Putin.

Russian bank VTB has launched money transfers to China in yuan, bypassing SWIFT, while Sberbank has started lending out money in yuan. Russian energy behemoth Gazprom agreed with China that gas supply payments should shift to rubles and yuan, split evenly.

Iran and Russia are unifying their banking systems for trade in rubles/rial.

Egypt’s Central Bank is moving to establish an index for the pound – through a group of currencies plus gold – to move the national currency away from the US dollar.

And then there’s the TurkStream saga.

That gas hub gift

Ankara for years has been trying to position itself as a privileged East-West gas hub. After the sabotage of the Nord Streams, Putin has handed it on a plate by offering Turkey the possibility to increase Russian gas supplies to the EU via such a hub. The Turkish Energy Ministry stated that Ankara and Moscow have already reached an agreement in principle.

This will mean in practice Turkey controlling the gas flow to Europe not only from Russia but also Azerbaijan and a great deal of West Asia, perhaps even including Iran, as well as Libya in northeast Africa. LNG terminals in Egypt, Greece and Turkiye itself may complete the network.

Russian gas travels via the TurkStream and Blue Stream pipelines. The total capacity of Russian pipelines is 39 billion cubic meters a year.

Photo Credit: The Cradle
Map of Russian gas route via Turkey

TurkStream was initially projected as a four-strand pipeline, with a nominal capacity of 63 million cubic meters a year. As it stands, only two strands – with a total capacity of 31,5 billion cubic meters – have been built.

So an extension in theory is more than feasible – with all the equipment made in Russia. The problem, once again, is laying the pipes. The necessary vessels belong to the Swiss Allseas Group – and Switzerland is part of the sanctions craze. In the Baltic Sea, Russian vessels were used to finish building Nord Stream 2. But for a TurkStream extension, they would need to operate much deeper in the ocean.

TurkStream would not be able to completely replace Nord Stream; it carries much smaller volumes. The upside for Russia is not being canceled from the EU market. Evidently Gazprom would only tackle the substantial investment on an extension if there are ironclad guarantees about its security. And there’s the additional drawback that the extension would also carry gas from Russia’s competitors.

Whatever happens, the fact remains that the US-UK combo still exerts a lot of influence in Turkey – and BP, Exxon Mobil, and Shell, for instance, are actors in virtually every oil extraction project across West Asia. So they would certainly interfere on the way the Turkish gas hub functions, as well on determining the gas price. Moscow has to weigh all these variables before committing to such a project.

NATO, of course, will be livid. But never underestimate hedging bet specialist Sultan Erdogan. His love story with both the BRICS and the SCO is just beginning.

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

The ‘War of Terror’ may be about to hit Europe

Monday, 24 October 2022 1:40 PM  [ Last Update: Monday, 24 October 2022 1:43 PM ]

By Pepe Escobar

Never underestimate a wounded and decaying Empire collapsing in real time.

Imperial functionaries, even in a “diplomatic” capacity, continue to brazenly declare that their exceptionalist control over the world is mandatory.

If that’s not the case, competitors may emerge and steal the limelight – monopolized by US oligarchies. That, of course, is absolute anathema.   

The imperial modus operandi against geopolitical and geoeconomic competitors remains the same: avalanche of sanctions, embargos, economic blockades, protectionist measures, cancel culture, military uptick in neighboring nations, and assorted threats. But most of all, warmongering rhetoric – currently elevated to fever pitch.

The hegemon may be “transparent” at least in this domain because it still controls a massive international network of institutions, financial bodies, politicos, CEOs, propaganda agencies and the pop culture industry. Hence this supposed invulnerability breeding insolence. 

Panic in the “garden”

The blowing up of Nord Stream (NS) and Nord Stream 2 (NS2) – everybody knows who did it, but the suspect cannot be named – took to the next level the two-pronged imperial project of cutting off cheap Russian energy from Europe and destroying the German economy.

From the imperial perspective, the ideal subplot is the emergence of a US-controlled Intermarium – from the Baltic and the Adriatic to the Black Sea – led by Poland, exercising some sort of new hegemony in Europe, on the heels of the Three Seas Initiative.

But as it stands, that remains a wet dream.  

On the dodgy “investigation” of what really happened to NS and NS2, Sweden was cast as The Cleaner, as if this was a sequel of Quentin Tarantino’s crime thriller Pulp Fiction.

That’s why the results of the “investigation” cannot be shared with Russia. The Cleaner was there to erase any incriminating evidence.

As for the Germans, they willingly accepted the role of patsies. Berlin claimed it was sabotage, but would not dare to say by whom. 

This is actually as sinister as it gets, because Sweden, Denmark and Germany, and the whole EU, know that if you really confront the Empire, in public, the Empire will strike back, manufacturing a war on European soil. This is about fear – and not fear of Russia.

The Empire simply cannot afford to lose the “garden.” And the “garden” elites with an IQ over room temperature know they are dealing with a psychopathic serial killer entity which simply cannot be appeased. 

Meanwhile, the arrival of General Winter in Europe portends a socio-economic descent into a maelstrom of darkness – unimaginable only a few months ago in the supposedly “garden” of humanity, so far away from the rumbles across the “jungle.”

Well, from now on barbarism begins at home. And Europeans should thank the American “ally” for it, skillfully manipulating fearful, vassalized EU elites.

Way more dangerous though is a specter that very few are able to identify: the imminent Syrianization of Europe. That will be a direct consequence of the NATO debacle in Ukraine.

From an imperial perspective, the prospects in the Ukrainian battlefield are gloomy. Russia’s Special Military Operation (SMO) has seamlessly morphed into a Counter-Terror Operation (CTO): Moscow now openly characterizes Kiev as a terrorist regime.

The pain dial is incrementally going up, with surgical strikes against Ukrainian power/electricity infrastructure about to totally cripple Kiev’s economy and its military. And by December, there’s the arrival on the front lines and in the rear of a properly trained and highly motivated partial mobilization contingent.

The only question concerns the timetable. Moscow is now in the process of slowly but surely decapitating the Kiev proxy, and ultimately smashing NATO “unity.”

The process of torturing the EU economy is relentless. And the real world outside of the collective West – the Global South – is with Russia, from Africa and Latin America to West Asia and even sections of the EU.

It is Moscow – and significantly not Beijing – that is tearing apart the hegemon-coined “rules-based international order,” supported by its natural resources, the provision of food and reliable security.

And in coordination with China, Iran and major Eurasian players, Russia is working to eventually decommission all those US-controlled international organizations – as the Global South becomes virtually immune to the spread of NATO psyops.

The Syrianization of Europe

In the Ukrainian battlefield, NATO’s crusade against Russia is doomed – even as in several nodes as much as 80 percent of the fighting forces feature NATO personnel. Wunderwaffen such as HIMARS are few and far between. And depending on the result of the US mid-term elections, weaponization will dry out in 2023. 

Ukraine, by the spring of 2023, may be reduced to no more than an impoverished, rump black hole. The imperial Plan A remains  Afghanization: to operate an army of mercenaries capable of targeted destabilization and or/terrorist incursions into the Russian Federation.  

In parallel, Europe is peppered with American military bases.

All those bases may play the role of major terror bases – very much like in Syria, in al-Tanf and the Eastern Euphrates. The US lost the long proxy war in Syria – where it instrumentalized jihadis – but still has not been expelled.   

In this process of Syrianization of Europe, US military bases may become ideal centers to regiment and/or “train” squads of Eastern Europe émigrés, whose only job opportunity, apart from the drug business and organ trafficking, will be as – what else – imperial mercenaries, fighting whatever focus of civil disobedience emerges across an impoverished EU.

It goes without saying that this New Model Army will be fully sanctioned by the Brussels EUrocracy – which is merely the public relations arm of NATO.

A de-industrialized EU enmeshed into several layers of toxic intra-war, where NATO plays its time-tested role of Robocop, is the perfect Mad Max scenario juxtaposed to what would be, at least in the reveries of American Straussians/neo-cons, an island of prosperity: the US economy, the ideal destination for Global Capital, including European Capital.

The Empire will “lose” its pet project, Ukraine. But it will never accept losing the European “garden.”

Pepe Escobar is a veteran journalist, author and independent geopolitical analyst focused on Eurasia.

(The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)


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