Russia and China haven’t even started to ratchet up the pain dial

July 13, 2022

by Pepe Escobar and posted with the author’s permission

The Suicide Spectacular Summer Show, currently on screen across Europe, proceeds in full regalia, much to the astonishment of virtually the whole Global South: a trashy, woke Gotterdammerung remake, with Wagnerian grandeur replaced by twerking.

Decadent Roman Emperors at least exhibited some degree of pathos. Here we’re just faced by a toxic mix of hubris, abhorrent mediocrity, delusion, crude ideological sheep-think and outright irrationality wallowing in white man’s burden racist/supremacist slush – all symptoms of a profound sickness of the soul.

To call it the Biden-Leyen-Blinken West or so would be too reductionist: after all these are puny politico/functionaries merely parroting orders. This is a historical process: physical, psychic and moral cognitive degeneration embedded in NATOstan’s manifest desperation in trying to contain Eurasia, allowing occasional tragicomic sketches such as a NATO summit proclaiming Woke War against virtually the whole non-West.

So when President Putin addresses the collective West in front of Duma leaders and heads of political parties, it does feel like a comet striking an inert planet. It’s not even a case of “lost in translation”. “They” simply aren’t equipped to get it.

The “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” part was at least formulated to be understood even by simpletons:

“Today we hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield, well, what can I say, let them try. We have heard many times that the West wants to fight us to the last Ukrainian – this is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people. But it looks like it’s all coming to this. But everyone should know that, by and large, we haven’t really started anything yet.”

Fact. On Operation Z, Russia is using a fraction of its military potential, resources and state of the art weapons.

Then we come to the most probable path ahead in the war theater:

“We do not refuse peace negotiations, but those who refuse should know that the longer it drags, the more difficult it will be for them to negotiate with us.”

As in the pain dial will be ratcheted up, slowly but surely, on all fronts.

Yet the meat of the matter had been delivered earlier in the speech: “ratcheting up the pain dial” applies in fact to dismantling the whole “rules-based international order” edifice. The geopolitical world has changed. Forever.

Here’s the arguably key passage:

“They should have understood that they have already lost from the very beginning of our special military operation, because its beginning means the beginning of a radical breakdown of the World Order in the American way. This is the beginning of the transition from liberal-globalist American egocentrism to a truly multipolar world – a world based not on selfish rules invented by someone for themselves, behind which there is nothing but the desire for hegemony, not on hypocritical double-standards, but on international law, on the true sovereignty of peoples and civilizations, on their will to live their historical destiny, their values and traditions and build cooperation on the basis of democracy, justice and equality. And we must understand that this process can no longer be stopped.”

Meet the trifecta

A case can be made that Putin and Russia’s Security Council are implementing a tactical trifecta that has reduced the collective West to an amorphous bunch of bio headless chickens.

The trifecta mixes the promise of negotiations – but only when considering Russia’s steady advances on the ground in Novorossiya; the fact that Russia’s global “isolation” has been proved in practice to be nonsense; and tweaking the most visible pain dial of them all: Europe’s dependence on Russian energy.

The main reason for the graphic, thundering failure of the G20 Foreign Ministers summit in Bali is that the G7 – or NATOstan plus American colony Japan – could not force the BRICS plus major Global South players to isolate, sanction and/or demonize Russia.

On the contrary: multiple interpolations outside of the G20 spell out even more Eurasia-wide integration. Here are a few examples.

The first transit of Russian products to India via the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) is now in effect, crisscrossing Eurasia from Mumbai to the Baltic via Iranian ports (Chabahar or Bandar Abbas), the Caspian Sea, and Southern and Central Russia. Crucially, the route is shorter and cheaper than going through the Suez Canal.

In parallel, the head of the Iranian Central Bank, Ali Salehabadi, confirmed that a memorandum of interbank cooperation was signed between Tehran and Moscow.

That means a viable alternative to SWIFT, and a direct consequence of Iran’s application to become a full BRICS member, announced at the recent summit in Beijing. The BRICS, since 2014, when the New Development Bank (NDB) was founded, have been busy building their own financial infrastructure, including the near future creation of a single reserve currency. As part of the process, the harmonization of Russian and Iranian banking systems is inevitable.

Iran is also about to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at the upcoming summit in Samarkand in September.

In parallel, Russia and Kazakhstan are solidifying their strategic partnership: Kazakhstan is a key member of BRI, EAEU and SCO.

India gets even closer to Russia across the whole spectrum of trade – including energy.

And next Tuesday, Tehran will be the stage for a crucial face-to-face meeting between Putin and Erdogan.

Isolation? Really?

On the energy front, it’s only summer, but demented paranoia is already raging across multiple EU latitudes, especially Germany. Comic relief is provided by the fact that Gazprom can always point out to Berlin that eventual supplying problems on Nord Stream 1 – after the cliffhanger return of that notorious repaired turbine from Canada – can always be solved by implementing Nord Stream 2.

As the whole European Suicide Spectacular Summer Show is nothing but a tawdry self-inflicted torture ordered by His Master’s Voice, the only serious question is which pain dial level will force Berlin to actually sit down and negotiate on behalf of legitimate German industrial and social interests.

Rough and tumble will be the norm. Foreign Minister Lavrov summed it all up when commenting on the Declining Collective West Ministers striking poses like infantile brats in Bali to avoid being seen with him: that was up to “their understanding of the protocols and politeness.”

That’s diplo-talk for “bunch of jerks”. Or worse: cultural barbarians, as they were even unable to respect the hyper-polite Indonesian hosts, who abhor confrontation.

Lavrov preferred to extol the “joint strategic and constructive” Russian-Chinese work when faced with a very aggressive West. And that brings us to the prime masterpiece of shadowplay in Bali – complete with several layers of geopolitical fog.

Chinese media, always flirting with the opaque, tried to put its bravest face ever depicting the over 5-hour meeting between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Secretary Blinken as “constructive”.

What’s fascinating here is that the Chinese ended up letting something crucial out of the bag to slip into the final draft of their report – obviously approved by the powers that be.

Lu Xiang of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences went through previous readouts – especially of “Yoda” Yang Jiechi routinely turning Jake Sullivan into roasted duck – and stressed that this time Wang’s “warnings” to the Americans were “the sternest one in wording”.

That’s diplo-code for “You Better Watch Out”: Wang telling Little Blinkie, “just look at what the Russians did when they lost their patience with your antics.”

The expression ”dead end” was recurrent during the Wang-Blinken meeting. So in the end the Global Times had to tell it like it really is:  “The two sides are close to a showdown.”

“Showdown” is what End of Days fanatic and Tony Soprano wannabe Mike Pompeo is fervently preaching from his hate pulpit, while the combo behind the senile “leader of the free world” who literally reads teleprompters actively work for the crashing of the EU – in more ways than one.

The combo in power in Washington actually “supports” the unification of Britain, Poland, Ukraine and The Three Baltic Midgets as a separate alliance from NATO/EU – aiming at “strengthening the defense potential.” That’s the official position of US Ambassador to NATO Julian Smith.

So the real imperial aim is to split the already shattering EU into mini-union pieces, all of them quite fragile and evidently more “manageable”, as Brussels Eurocrats, blinded by boundless mediocrity, obviously can’t see it coming.

What the Global South is buying

Putin always makes it very clear that the decision to launch Operation Z – as a sort of pre-emptive “combined arms and police operation”, as defined by Andrei Martyanov – was carefully calculated, considering an array of material and socio-psychological vectors.

Anglo-American strategy, for its part, lasers on a single obsession: damn any possible reframing of the current “rules-based international order”. No holds are barred to ensure the perpetuity of this order. This is in fact Totalen Krieg – featuring several hybrid layers, and quite worrying, with only a few seconds to midnight.

And there’s the rub. Desolation Row is fast becoming Desperation Row, as the whole Russophobic matrix is shown to be naked, devoid of any extra ideological – and even financial – firepower to “win”, apart from shipping a collection of HIMARS to a black hole.

Geopolitically and geoeconomically, Russia and China are in the process of eating NATOstan alive – in more ways than one. Here, for instance, is a synthetic road map of how Beijing will address the next stage of high-quality development via capital-driven industrial upgrading, focused on optimization of supply chains, import substitution of hard technologies, and “invisible champions” of industry.

If the collective West is blinded by Russophobia, the governing success of the Chinese Communist Party – which in a matter of a few decades improved the lives of more people than anyone, anytime in History – drives it completely nuts.

All along the Russia-China watchtower, it’s been not such a long time coming. BRI was launched by Xi Jinping in 2013. After Maidan in 2014, Putin launched the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) in 2015. Crucially, in May 2015, a Russia-China joint statement sealed the cooperation between BRI and EAEU, with a significant role assigned to the SCO.

Closer integration advanced via the St. Petersburg forum in 2016 and the BRI forum in 2017. The overall target: to create a new order in Asia, and across Eurasia, according to international law while maintaining the individual development strategies of each concerned country and respecting their national sovereignty.

That, in essence, is what most of the Global South is buying. It’s as if there’s a cross-border instinctual understanding that Russia-China, against serious odds and facing serious challenges, proceeding by trial and error, are at the vanguard of the Shock of the New, while the collective West, naked, dazed and confused, their masses completely zombified, is sucked into the maelstrom of psychological, moral and material disintegration.

No question the pain dial will be ratcheted up, in more ways than one.

BRICS members agree on including new states – Chinese Foreign Ministry

June 28, 2022

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

A Chinese Foreign Ministry official stated that BRICS countries agree to accept new countries into the bloc.

BRICS members agree on including new states.

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries agree that the bloc needs new members while retaining its original character, according to Li Kexin, Director-General of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Department of International Economic Affairs.
 
China wishes to keep the BRICS format open to new members’ participation. Despite the fact that there are no set dates for the expansion, all BRICS countries agree on this, according to Li Kexin.
 
“I believe there is a shared understanding that we need to enlarge, get ‘new faces,'” he said at a press conference dedicated to the results of the 14th BRICS summit in Beijing. The diplomat emphasized that the goal of the BRICS expansion is not to create a new bloc.
 
According to the director-general, BRICS leaders are working to reach an agreement on potential future members. “There are several countries currently ‘at the door,’ for example, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Argentina,” he said. 
 
As stated in the Beijing Declaration of the XIV BRICS Summit, BRICS leaders support the continuation of discussions on the expansion process, particularly through the Sherpas’ channel.

Two days ago, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi expressed Iran’s readiness to use its potential to help BRICS to reach its goals.

BRICS, a group of countries consisting of emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – has been functioning on a working mechanism that runs against the tide of the economic and political isolation of Russia which is created by NATO.

At a virtual summit of the BRICS Business Forum, Raisi delivered a speech in which he spoke of Iran’s willingness to use its unique energy reserves, wealth, manpower, and transportation networks to help BRICS achieve its goals. 

He started off by congratulating Xi Jinping, China’s president, on holding the summit and inviting Iran to the dialogue, then went on to address a few points in the conference, which went under the title “Participating in Global Development in the New Era”.

Earlier in May, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that China would initiate the process of BRICS expansion. He stated that it will demonstrate BRICS openness and inclusiveness, meet the expectations of developing countries, increase their representation and voice in global governance, and contribute more to global peace and development.

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The ‘New G8’ Meets China’s ‘Three Rings’

June 15, 2022

The coming of the new G8 points to the inevitable advent of BRICS +, one of the key themes to be discussed in the upcoming BRICS summit in China.

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

The speaker of the Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, may have created the defining acronym for the emerging multipolar world: “the new G8”.

As Volodin noted, “the United States has created conditions with its own hands so that countries wishing to build an equal dialogue and mutually beneficial relations will actually form a ‘new G8’ together with Russia.”

This non Russia-sanctioning G8, he added, is 24.4% ahead of the old one, which is in fact the G7, in terms of GDP in purchasing power parity (PPP), as G7 economies are on the verge of collapsing and the U.S. registers record inflation.

The power of the acronym was confirmed by one of the researchers on Europe at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Sergei Fedorov: three BRICS members (Brazil, China and India) alongside Russia, plus Indonesia, Iran, Turkey and Mexico, all non adherents to the all-out Western economic war against Russia, will soon dominate global markets.

Fedorov stressed the power of the new G8 in population as well as economically: “If the West, which restricted all international organizations, follows its own policies, and pressures everyone, then why are these organizations necessary? Russia does not follow these rules.”

The new G8, instead, “does not impose anything on anyone, but tries to find common solutions.”

The coming of the new G8 points to the inevitable advent of BRICS +, one of the key themes to be discussed in the upcoming BRICS summit in China. Argentina is very much interested in becoming part of the extended BRICS and those (informal) members of the new G8 – Indonesia, Iran, Turkey, Mexico – are all likely candidates.

The intersection of the new G8 and BRICS + will lead Beijing to turbo-charge what has already been conceptualized as the Three Rings strategy by Cheng Yawen, from the Institute of International Relations and Public Affairs at the Shanghai International Studies University.

Cheng argues that since the beginning of the 2018 U.S.-China trade war the Empire of Lies and its vassals have aimed to “decouple”; thus the Middle Kingdom should strategically downgrade its relations with the West and promote a new international system based on South-South cooperation.

Looks like if it walks and talks like the new G8, that’s because it’s the real deal.

The revolution reaches the “global countryside”

Cheng stresses how “the center-periphery hierarchy of the West has been perpetuated as an implicit rule” in international relations; and how China and Russia, “because of their strict capital controls, are the last two obstacles to further U.S. control of the global periphery”.

So how would the Three Rings – in fact a new global system – be deployed?

The first ring “is China’s neighboring countries in East Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East; the second ring is the vast number of developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America; and the third ring extends to the traditional industrialized countries, mainly Europe and the United States.”

The basis for building the Three Rings is deeper Global South integration. Cheng notes how “between 1980-2021, the economic volume of developing countries rose from 21 to 42.2 percent of the world’s total output.”

And yet “current trade flows and mutual investments of developing countries are still heavily dependent on the financial and monetary institutions/networks controlled by the West. In order to break their dependence on the West and further enhance economic and political autonomy, a broader financial and monetary cooperation, and new sets of instruments among developing countries should be constructed”.

This is a veiled reference to the current discussions inside the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), with Chinese participation, designing an alternative financial-monetary system not only for Eurasia but for the Global South – bypassing possible American attempts to enforce a sort of Bretton Woods 3.0.

Cheng uses a Maoist metaphor to illustrate his point – referring to ‘the revolutionary path of ‘encircling the cities from the countryside’”. What is needed now, he argues, is for China and the Global South to “overcome the West’s preventive measures and cooperate with the ‘global countryside’ – the peripheral countries – in the same way.”

So what seems to be in the horizon, as conceptualized by Chinese academia, is a “new G8/BRICS+” interaction as the revolutionary vanguard of the emerging multipolar world, designed to expand to the whole Global South.

That of course will mean a deepened internationalization of Chinese geopolitical and geoeconomic power, including its currency. Cheng qualifies the creation of a “three ring “ international system as essential to “break through the [American] siege”.

It’s more than evident that the Empire won’t take that lying down.

The siege will continue. Enter the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), spun as yet another proverbial “effort” to – what else – contain China, but this time all the way from Northeast Asia to Southeast Asia, with Oceania thrown in as a bonus.

The American spin on IPEF is heavy on “economic engagement”: fog of (hybrid) war disguising the real intent to divert as much trade as possible from China – which produces virtually everything – to the U.S. – which produces very little.

The Americans give away the game by heavily focusing their strategy on 7 of the 10 ASEAN nations – as part of yet another desperate dash to control the American-denominated “Indo-Pacific”. Their logic: ASEAN after all needs a “stable partner”; the American economy is “comparatively stable”; thus ASEAN must subject itself to American geopolitical aims.

IPEF, under the cover of trade and economics, plays the same old tune, with the U.S. going after China from three different angles.

– The South China Sea, instrumentalizing ASEAN.

– The Yellow and East China Seas, instrumentalizing Japan and South Korea to prevent direct Chinese access to the Pacific.

– The larger “Indo-Pacific” (that’s were India as a member of the Quad comes in).

It’s all labeled as a sweet apple pie of “stronger and more resilient Indo-Pacific with diversified trade.”

BRI corridors are back

Beijing is hardly losing any sleep thinking about IPEF: after all most of its multiple trade connections across ASEAN are rock solid. Taiwan though is a completely different story.

At the annual Shangri-La dialogue this past weekend in Singapore, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe went straight to the point, actually defining Beijing’s vision for an East Asia order (not “rules-based”, of course).

Taiwan independence is a “dead end”, said General Wei, as he asserted Beijing’s peaceful aims while vigorously slamming assorted U.S. “threats against China”. At any attempt at interference, “we will fight at all costs, and we will fight to the very end”. Wei also handily dismissed the U.S. drive to “hijack” Indo-Pacific nations, without even mentioning IPEF.

China at it stands is firmly concentrated on stabilizing its western borders – which will allow it to devote more time to the South China Sea and the “Indo-Pacific” further on down the road.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi went on a crucial trip to Kazakhstan – a full member of both BRI and the EAEU – where he met President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and all his counterparts from the Central Asian “stans” in a summit in Nur-Sultan. The group – billed as C+C5 – discussed everything from security, energy and transportation to Afghanistan and vaccines.

In sum, this was all about developing much-needed corridors of BRI/ New Silk Roads – in sharp contrast to the proverbial Western lamentations about BRI reaching a dead end.

Two BRI-to-the-bone projects will go on overdrive: the China-Central Asia Gas Pipeline Line D, and the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway. Both have been years in the making, but now have become absolutely essential, and will be the flagship BRI projects in the Central Asian corridor.

The China-Central Asia Gas Pipeline Line D will link Turkmenistan’s gas fields to Xinjiang via Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. That was the main theme of the discussions when Turkmen President Berdimuhamedow visited Beijing for the Winter Olympics.

The 523 km China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway for its part will crucially link the two Central Asian “stans” to the China-Europe freight rail network, via the existing rail networks in Turkmenistan.

Considering the current incandescent geopolitical scenario in Ukraine, this is a bombshell in itself, because it will enable freight from China to travel via Iran or via Caspian ports, bypassing sanctioned Russia. No hard feelings, in terms of the Russia-China strategic partnership: just business.

The Kyrgyz, predictably, were ecstatic. Construction begins next year. According to Kyrgyz President Zhaparov, “there will be jobs. Our economy will boom.”

Talk about China acting decisively in its “first ring”, in Central Asia. Don’t expect anything of such geoeconomic breadth and scope being “offered” by IPEF anywhere in ASEAN.

Sergei Lavrov: Sixth International Conference Russia and China: Cooperation in a New Era

June 03, 2022

Mr Wang Yi,

Mr Ivanov,

Colleagues, friends,

The further development of strategic partnership with China is one of our  top priorities. It is stipulated in the Foreign Policy Concept, which President of Russia Vladimir Putin approved in November 2016. We are grateful to our colleagues from the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) for organising a regular, sixth joint conference. We regard it as an opportunity to review the current state and development outlook of our bilateral cooperation and its increasing influence on global developments.

This is a special year for us: 20 years ago on July 16, 2001, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of China Jiang Zemin met in Moscow to sign the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation. By turning this new page in their relations, the parties demonstrated their resolve to pass their friendship down through the generations. The treaty formalised the previously applied political definition of bilateral relations as “a partnership of (…) equality and trust and strategic collaboration.” In other words, this truly historical international document has put on record the development of a new model of our interstate relations and their progress to a fundamentally new stage.

I would like to note that the Treaty is based on the universally recognised norms of international law, first of all the goals and principles of the UN Charter. It seals the parties’ agreement on mutual support in the defence of the national unity and territorial integrity, as well as their commitment not to be the first to use nuclear weapons against each other and not to target strategic nuclear missiles on each other. The document also formulated the principle of “respecting each other’s choice of the course of political, economic, social and cultural development.” The parties pledged to immediately contact and consult each other in the event of the threat of aggression and not to allow their territory to be used by third countries to the detriment of the national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other party. In this way, Russia and China provided a legal framework for the closest possible collaboration on strategic matters bearing on their fundamental interests without creating a formal military-political alliance. In fact, a comprehensive Russian-Chinese partnership is more than just a classical military-political union.

Another vital provision mentions the absence of any territorial claims to each other and the parties’ resolve…“to make the border between them into one where everlasting peace and friendship prevail from generation to generation.” The incorporation of this principle promoted the final settlement of the so-called border dispute and greatly strengthened mutual trust.

Colleagues,

The Treaty played a huge role in boosting mutual trade and economic interaction.  We can report positive results to the public. During the past 20 years, our mutual trade increased more than thirteen times, from $8 billion to $104 billion in 2020. Work is underway within the framework of the Intergovernmental Russian-Chinese Commission on Investment Cooperation on 70 projects worth in total more than $120 billion.

Our energy partnership has acquired a strategic dimension. A Russian-Chinese oil pipeline has been functioning for nearly 10 years now, and the Power of Siberia gas pipeline was launched in late 2019. China is taking part in large-scale LNG projects in the Russian Arctic zone. Just a few days ago, on May 19, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of China Xi Jinping launched the construction of four new Russian-designed power units for the Tianwan and Xudapu nuclear power stations in China.

Our industrial and agricultural cooperation is developing constantly. Our interaction in science and innovation is especially important in light of the continued Western attempts to contain our countries’ technological progress. It is for this reason that we are holding the Years of Science, Technology and Innovation in 2020-2021 as part of the successful practice of themed cross-years.

The Treaty also has a great role to play in promoting cultural and humanitarian ties. These activities are helping to maintain the relations of good-neighbourliness and reinforce the social basis of strategic partnership between Russia and China.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has impaired contacts between our citizens. I am sure that, as the epidemiological situation becomes normalised, we will be able to quickly restore and expand them. In our opinion, efforts to promote Russian language studies in China and Chinese language studies in Russia should become an unconditional priority. The same concerns dialogue with young people, who will soon carry on efforts to develop and expand the traditions of Russian-Chinese friendship.

The Treaty, which is ahead of its time in some respects, is not limited to bilateral ties. Its provisions help expand our foreign policy cooperation. Bilateral dialogue is becoming particularly important on the international scene today, when some Western states are trying to demolish the UN-centric system of international law and to replace it with their own rules-based order. Moscow and Beijing consistently advocate the creation of a more equitable, democratic and therefore stable polycentric international order. This system should reflect the cultural and civilisational diversity of the modern world and the natural striving of nations to independently determine their development path.The very fact of the Russian-Chinese accord on this issue serves to stabilise and balance the entire system of international relations.It opens up broad opportunities for truly equitable and free cooperation between large and small countries jointly shaping their historical destiny.

I am satisfied to note the coinciding or largely similar approaches of Moscow and Beijing towards an absolute majority of challenges facing the world today, including efforts to maintain global strategic stability, arms control and counterterrorism operations. We cooperate successfully and fruitfully at such multilateral venues as the UN, the SCO, BRICS, RIC, the G20, APEC and the EAS. We coordinate our steps during the Syrian and Afghan peace processes, the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and on the Iranian nuclear programme. Russia and China advocate the peaceful development of the Asia Pacific region and the creation of reliable regional mechanisms for ensuring equal and indivisible security there based on non-bloc approaches.

Today, the Eurasian region is implementing a number of innovative integration projects, including the Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Work to combine their potentials has good prospects. Notably, it [The Treaty] … lays a solid foundation for establishing a new geo-strategic contour of peace, stability and economic prosperity based on principles of international law and transparency on our shared continent from Lisbon to Jakarta.This contour would be open for all countries, including members of the Eurasian Economic Union, the SCO, ASEAN and, in the future, the EU. The initiative of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin on establishing a Greater Eurasian Partnership aims to accomplish this truly historic task. We highly value cooperation with our Chinese friends on its well-coordinated implementation together with the Belt and Road Initiative.

Colleagues,

The Treaty on Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation, whose 20th anniversary we are going to mark in July 2021, is an unshakeable foundation of Russian-Chinese relations. We are convinced that it remains a living and working document that makes it possible to expand, finetune and adjust our strategic cooperation in line with the changing realities of the new epoch. This epoch demands that all of us, including experts, diplomats and politicians, always pay attention to new challenges and opportunities, trends and forecasts. Your conference is a good platform for a calm, detailed and professional exchange of opinions and ideas, without which is it is hard to chart the road forward and to determine a joint algorithm of subsequent actions.

Therefore, in conclusion, I would like to wish you fruitful discussions and intellectual insights and revelations for the benefit of strengthening neighbourly relations and friendship between Russia and China.

Thank you.

Lavrov x two

May 30, 2022

Source

Introduction by Amarynth

This posting contains one recent interview and one recent address by Mr Lavrov.  One is extensive and the second contains a few comments not included in the first.  One is directed to an international audience (more specifically the Arab world) and the other to a domestic audience.  Why should we look at these very carefully, and why do we post them on the Saker Blog?   Mr Lavrov is arguably one of the best diplomats in the world today.  In that role, he is a pleasure to read or listen to.  But, that is not the main reason.  He has a fine facility with language and explains exactly Russia’s position and further, the world position in its process toward multipolarity and a new financial system in a pragmatic realpolitik style, undergirded by an encyclopedic knowledge of world affairs.

Sidebar:  While Mr Lavrov is speaking to the Arab countries, his counterpart in China, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, is speaking to all of the smaller Pacific island countries (PICS).  Comparing the welcome that these statesmen receive, it is beginning to clarify that the other geopolitical axis (which we roughly and in shorthand refer to as Zone B)  of this war for the world is active and up and running.  Mr Lavrov mentions the organizations.   It is then worthwhile to mention that BRICS is expected to grow by at least two countries during the next general meeting.  It is expected that Argentina will be next, which will then start including the new Latin American groupings such as Celac (The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) or ALBA-TCP.  Thus we see a coalescence of countries around the principles of international law, the true principles in the UN Charter, and a world community built on cooperation and collective values, instead of one ruler of the world.

First up is an interview with RT Arabic, clearly for an international audience.

Second up is remarks to the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation, clearly a domestic audience.


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with RT Arabic, Moscow, May 26, 2022

Question: Your recent visit to Algeria and Oman generated a lot of interest. What can you say about its results? Why did you decide to visit these states?

Sergey Lavrov: We communicate with all interested countries. As for this tour, it was planned long ago. The programme of my visits and their timeframe were coordinated some time ago.

In Algeria, I had good, lengthy talks with President of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra. We emphasised that for many years our relations were based on the Declaration on Strategic Partnership that was signed by our presidents in 2001. Since then we have intensively developed our strategic ties as partners in many areas. It is enough to mention our regular political dialogue, trade (it went up by several percent in 2021 to exceed $3 billion despite the pandemic), the economy, joint investment, our work in the OPEC+ and the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, extensive military-technical ties and cultural and humanitarian exchanges.

We concluded (at the prompting of Algeria) that our relations are reaching a qualitatively new level. This should be reflected in a document that is already being drafted. We hope to sign this document when President of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune visits Russia at the invitation of President of Russia Vladimir Putin.

We appreciate that the countries of the Arab world are refusing to follow in the wake of the West and are objectively assessing the events in Ukraine and refusing to join the anti-Russia sanctions. They understand that the current situation was caused by the flat refusal of our Western colleagues to reach an accommodation on equal and indivisible security in our common region.

As for Oman, this was the first visit since its new Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said acceded to the throne. The Sultan received me with good grace and devoted much time to me. I was particularly grateful to his Majesty for this gesture (the protocol of the Sultanate of Oman does not envisage communication with ministers in this format). Our detailed talks showed that we have a good potential for developing trade and economic ties. We want to raise them to the level of our trust-based political dialogue. We have many opportunities in energy and ICT and interesting cultural projects. A half-year exhibition of Islamic Art in Russia ended in the National Museum of Oman last March. This museum and the Hermitage have been closely cooperating since 2015. Both museums display their own expositions on each other’s territory.

These two planned visits to both countries at the planned time were useful, in my view.

Question: What about a top-level visit?

Sergey Lavrov: I have already said that during a telephone conversation with President of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune, President of Russia Vladimir Putin invited him to visit the Russian Federation. Now we are preparing the documents required for this visit.

Question: And what about Oman?

Sergey Lavrov: No top-level visits are envisaged for Oman for the time being. We are planning to develop practical cooperation, make it more intensive and productive.

Question: Will there be additional agreements on military cooperation?

Sergey Lavrov: Our military-technical cooperation with many countries develops according to their wishes. We are always ready to examine ways to strengthen their defence capabilities. We consider them as we receive relevant requests.

Question: We are talking about Algeria, which also produces both gas and oil. The OPEC+ countries have shown firmness about the previously agreed positions within the organisation on the parameters of oil production and pricing on the oil market. Do you have confidence in the stability of your partners’ position?

Sergey Lavrov: We have discussed our further cooperation not only within OPEC+ but also the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), where Russia and Algeria are also included. All OPEC+ and GECF members without exception publicly affirmed their commitment to the agreements reached in these formats and their intention to continue working in this direction in order to stabilise the energy market.

Question: Where will you visit next?

Sergey Lavrov: The next visit will take place very soon. On May 31 and June 1, based on my invitations, I plan to visit Bahrain first. Later, on June 1, Riyadh will host a regular meeting of the Russia-GCC Foreign Ministers Forum. This forum has been around for a long time. Due to the pandemic, there was a break in our meetings. Now our friends have proposed resuming them. In addition to the Russia-GCC meeting, there will also be bilateral meetings with almost all members of this organisation.

Question: How do you find Arab countries’ position on the Ukrainian crisis?

Sergey Lavrov: Just now, answering the previous question, I said that all Arab countries have a responsible position. This proves that they rely solely on their national interests and are not ready to sacrifice them for the sake of anyone’s opportunistic geopolitical adventures. We have mutually respectful relations. We understand the vital interests of the Arab countries in connection with the threats to their security. They reciprocate our feelings and understand the threats to the security of the Russian Federation that the West has been creating right on our borders for decades, trying to use Ukraine to contain Russia and seriously harm us.

Question: Do you think these countries will continue to pursue this policy, despite the pressure from the West, particularly, from the Anglo-Saxon alliance?

Sergey Lavrov: The arrogance of the Anglo-Saxon alliance has no limits. We are offered evidence of that every day. Instead of delivering on their obligations under the UN Charter and honouring, as is written in this charter, the sovereign equality of states and abstaining from interfering in their domestic affairs, the West churns out ultimatums every day, issuing them through their ambassadors or envoys to each, without exception, capital not only in the Arab world but in other regions of the world as well, and, in so doing, blatantly blackmailing them, citing some subjective situations. The West is directly threatening their interlocutors, saying they will regret failing to join the sanctions against Russia and will be punished for this. It is blatant disrespect for sovereign countries. The reaction of Arab countries and almost all other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America that we are seeing shows that these countries do not want to disregard their national dignity, running errands, in a servile manner, for their senior colleagues. This situation is yet another example of colonial thinking. The habits of our Western colleagues have not vanished. In their traditional style, the United States and Europe are still preaching the colonial customs they adhered to at a time when they could dictate to all others. It is wrong and regrettable, and flies in the face of the historical process, which objectively shows that a multipolar world is taking shape now. It has several centres of economic growth, financial power and political influence. Everyone understands now that China and India are fast-growing economies and influential countries, just like Brazil and other Latin American countries. The tapping of Africa’s enormous potential of natural resources has been held back by the colonialists during the period of neo-colonialism as well, which is not over yet. That is why Africa is also making its voice heard. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Arab world is objectively one of the pillars or one of the centres of a multipolar world that is being shaped now.

Question: We are talking about good relations between Russia, China and India. Can these countries form an alliance against US hegemony?

Sergey Lavrov: We never form alliances against anyone and never make friends with someone against others. We have a ramified network of partner organisations established many years ago. I will mention the organisations established after the Soviet Union’s disintegration. These are the CIS, the CSTO, the EAEU and the SCO on a broader geopolitical plane. The SCO has established and is developing close ties with the EAEU and as part of the linkage of Eurasian integration projects with the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. The EAEU and the PRC have signed an agreement. The linkage of these integration projects is embracing more and more territories. Thus, in addition to EAEU-SCO cooperation, these organisations have memorandums on cooperation with ASEAN. The Greater Eurasia project (or the Greater Eurasia Partnership) should embrace the whole of Eurasia. President of Russia Vladimir Putin spoke about this at the Russia-ASEAN summit six years ago. It is based on the processes on the ground and has a Eurasian dimension.

Many countries of the Arab world are interested in establishing partner relations with the SCO that represents all other leading sub-regions of our enormous common continent. These are efforts to build constructive and positive (not antagonistic) alliances that are not aimed against anyone. They are gradually acquiring a global character, which is reflected in the development of the BRICS Five (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Our Saudi friends and Argentina are interested in it. Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero expressed his country’s desire to become a full member of BRICS.

BRICS is preparing for a regular summit. It will create an outreach format in which a dozen developing nations will take part. These processes are underway. We know that our Western friends have many phobias and complexes of their own superiority and infallibility. But they are also paranoid. The West sees opposition and a threat to its domination in any process in which it does not take part and which it does not control. It is time to get rid of these manners and customs.

Question: What about the recent Russia-China military exercises? What do they show?

Sergey Lavrov: This is the continuation of our cooperation aimed at enhancing security in this region. They supplement regular military undertakings: drills and training sessions with counterterrorism aims, efforts to strengthen the security of our common borders within the SCO. Russia-China bilateral military cooperation already has a long history. This is not the first year that we are holding events in the zone of our common borders where our security interests directly overlap; we do it regularly. They show that both Russia and China have a responsible attitude to fulfilling these tasks.

Question: Despite the evidence cited by Russia, the development of biological weapons by the United States in Ukraine has not evoked any concern in the West. What should be done for the world to understand how dangerous this is? The Arab press writes about the historical importance of Russia’s efforts to show how these laboratories operate.

Sergey Lavrov: This is a direct violation of the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological and Toxin Weapons. Enjoying support of all countries except the US, we have long been advocating the formation of a universal transparent verification mechanism within its framework that would allow all states to be sure that no participants of the Convention violate it. The United States has simply blocked this initiative since 2001 (for more than 20 years). Now it is clear why it occupies this position. During all these years, the Americans have been setting up their military bio laboratories all over the world. The Pentagon’s unit – the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) – is in charge of these activities. In developing a network of such laboratories, the Pentagon is focusing on the post-Soviet space and Eurasia. Available information shows that these laboratories have been or are being established along the perimeter of the Russian Federation and closer to the PRC. We initially suspected that the experiments made in these laboratories were not entirely peaceful and innocent. When the Russian Armed Forces and the militias of Donetsk and Lugansk liberated Mariupol during the military operation, they discovered laboratories left by the Americans in a rush. The Americans tried to get rid of documents and samples but didn’t destroy all of them. The samples of pathogens and the documents found there clearly pointed to the military character of these experiments. It is clear from the documents that there are several dozen such laboratories in Ukraine. We are pursuing two goals. First, we will convince the UN Security Council to take seriously the information we presented to it (you noted that the overwhelming majority of the developing nations do take it seriously). Second, we want this information to lead to specific actions that must be taken under the Biological Weapons Convention. It requires that the United States explain what it was doing there. We held five special briefings in the UN Security Council, one of them quite recently. We will work to make the US take specific actions proceeding from its commitments under the Convention. We will also analyse additional information about the involvement of other countries in these experiments and military bio laboratories in Ukraine. According to some sources, these are Great Britain and Germany.

Question: If you don’t mind my asking, where are other similar laboratories located in the vicinity of Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: No, I don’t mind. There are such laboratories in Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Central Asian countries. Russia and these countries have been analysing these problems both bilaterally and at the CSTO. We are signing (or have signed, or are preparing) memorandums on interaction in biological security with practically all CSTO and other CIS countries.  These documents stipulate that the signatories will inform each other of how biological programmes develop in each country.

What is important is transparency, which makes it possible to ascertain that these programmes have no military dimension, since this is prohibited under the Convention. These memorandums imply that the parties will pay mutual visits and familiarise themselves with the activities conducted by these laboratories.  In addition, it is stipulated that there should be no military representatives of any third party at the biological facilities in each of our countries.

Question: How are these countries motivated in having such laboratories? Will this bring them any material or political benefits?

Sergey Lavrov: The USSR pursued a large-scale biological programme. After the Soviet Union joined the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction, this programme was stripped of its military aspects, but the scientific value of the biological research is retained.  We all remember the state in which this country was in 1991, when the USSR ceased to exist. We faced the problem of preserving the Russian Federation’s integrity. There were no state reserves to repay the national debt or even to purchase the basic necessities for the Russian population’s everyday life. At that time, our Western partners “hopped to it,” as we say, offering their services in all areas of life. They penetrated all spheres of the newly independent states, sending their advisers and advice-givers. Today we are experiencing the aftermath of those times. Major changes have occurred. There are no Soviet republics, which became independent overnight. They had no experience of independent international activity. But now all of this is a thing of the past. All the post-Soviet republics have consolidated their stand, asserting themselves as absolutely sovereign, independent states.  They decide what partners to choose on their own. We have agreements with them to the effect that the commitments assumed within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, and the Eurasian Economic Union should be fully respected by other countries interested in developing relations with all post-Soviet states. We discussed the problems that all of us encountered during the emergence of the new statehood.  Various agencies exchange information about the risks involved in this sweeping cooperation with foreign countries in sensitive spheres. Biology is, of course, one of these spheres.  There is awareness that we have a unified biological security space. The CSTO’s purview includes security issues that are directly related to public health and the environment.  We will continue our constructive cooperation based on these statutes.

Question: Turkey and Italy have proposed a plan for organising talks between Russia and Kiev. Is Russia ready to continue the talks, which have not yielded any results lately?

Sergey Lavrov: We pointed out on numerous occasions that our Western colleagues want to use Vladimir Zelensky and all citizens of Ukraine to the last Ukrainian, which has become proverbial, to damage Russia as much as possible, to defeat it on the battlefield. This has been openly declared in Washington, Berlin, London and especially loudly in Warsaw. Poland has proposed that the Russian world must be destroyed like a “cancer” which is a deadly threat to the whole world. I would like to look at this world as it is represented by our Polish neighbours. For many years Russia has tried to explain why NATO’s eastward expansion and the drawing of Ukraine into the bloc are unacceptable to us. They listened to us but did not comprehend what we said.

When the coup was staged in 2014, the [Ukrainian] opposition trampled on the agreements reached despite the EU’s guarantees. The EU proved unable to force the putschists to respect the signatures of France, Germany and Poland. In 2015, the war in Donbass unleashed by the new Ukrainian authorities, who seized power in the coup, was stopped. The Minsk agreements were signed and guaranteed by France and Germany. All these years we called on Kiev to honour its commitments. Since the West had the decisive influence on it, we also worked with the Europeans and Americans, appealing to their conscience. Regrettably, they have no conscience.

Instead of forcing Kiev to implement the agreements, which should have been done through a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk, the West tried to justify Zelensky and his team, even when they said publicly that they would never talk with “those people,” although this is stipulated in the UN Security Council resolution approving the Minsk agreements. They said that they would never implement the Minsk agreements or give a special status to these republics. At the same time, they adopted laws that prohibited the Russian language in education and media. Media outlets were shut down. The Russian language was even prohibited in everyday life. Only the Ukrainian language was allowed as the medium of interaction between people in Ukraine.

Moreover, Vladimir Zelensky stated that those who feel Russian must go to Russia. He said this in September 2021. We drew the attention of some Western countries, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the relevant UN bodies to these aggressively Russophobic and racist statements made in the spirit of the neo-Nazi policy which was gaining a foothold in the Ukrainian legislation. They did not react in any way. Some officials sometimes called for respect for international commitments. But Zelensky doesn’t give a damn about international commitments or the Constitution of Ukraine, which guarantees the rights of Russian speakers in Ukraine. They showed no respect for the Constitution and international conventions and adopted a lot of anti-Russian laws.

As for Russia’s readiness for talks, we have already explained why we couldn’t sit on our hands any longer. What we found on the Ukrainian army positions during the special military operation proved that we were barely in time with starting it, because Ukraine’s Plan B was to be enacted on March 8. A huge group of the Ukrainian armed forces, which was deployed on the contact line with Donbass by mid-February, planned to attack and occupy these territories in flagrant violation of the Minsk agreements and the UN Security Council resolution.

I have no doubt that had they succeeded the West would have turned a blind eye to these violations, just as it pretended not to notice Kiev’s disregard for all the agreements during the previous eight years.

When the Ukrainian authorities proposed negotiations several days after the operation began, we agreed immediately. We held several in-person rounds of talks in Belarus, trying to understand Ukraine’s position and what it wants to achieve at the talks, because we had presented our approach. After several rounds were held in Belarus and online, the idea of meeting in Istanbul was put forth, and the Ukrainian delegation brought, for the first time, written proposals signed by the head of the delegation to the meeting we held on March 29. We analysed these proposals, reported our opinion to President Putin and told our Ukrainian colleagues that we were ready to proceed on that basis. Since they didn’t present a complete agreement but only its individual provisions, we used them to quickly draft an agreement that was based on the Ukrainian proposals and turned it over to the Ukrainian delegation. The following day a flagrant provocation was staged in Bucha, where dead bodies were found in the streets three days after Russian troops had left the city, after three days of peaceful life. We were accused of killing those people. You remember what happened next.

The West adopted a new package of sanctions, as if it had been waiting for it to happen. The Ukrainians said that they had reviewed their position and would reformulate the principles underlying the agreement. Nevertheless, contacts between us continued. The latest draft agreement, which we submitted to Ukraine nearly a month ago, is gathering dust. If you ask who wants to hold and is ready for talks, Vladimir Zelensky said in an interview the other day (he does this almost every day) that he is ready for talks, but they must be held between himself and Vladimir Putin, because there is allegedly no use doing this at any other level. He said the talks should be held without any intermediaries and only after Ukraine resumed control of its territory as of February 23, 2022. Anyone can see that this is not serious. But it suits the West to keep up this unreasonable and unsubstantiated obstinacy. This is a fact.

The West has called for defeating Russia on the battlefield, which means that the war must continue and that increasingly more weapons must be provided to the Ukrainian nationalists, to the Ukrainian regime, including weapons that can hit targets in the Russian Federation. It is such weapons that Vladimir Zelensky demands publicly. We have issued most serious warnings to the West that it is, in fact, fighting a proxy war against the Russian Federation with the hands, bodies and brains of the Ukrainian neo-Nazis, which can become a major step towards an unacceptable escalation. I hope that the remaining reasonable forces in the West are aware of this.

As for Turkey and Italy, Turkey doesn’t have a plan. At least nobody has presented it to us, although President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has noted on many occasions that Turkey is ready to provide a venue just as it did in Istanbul on March 29.  In fact, it was a useful contact. For the first time the Ukrainians presented their vision of a peace agreement on paper in response to our numerous requests, which we accepted and translated into the legal language. I have told you what happened after that. President Erdogan stands for peace and is ready to do all he can to bring it about. But Vladimir Zelensky has said that he doesn’t need intermediaries. That’s his business. He is as fickle as the wind: first, he rallied the support of all the G7 countries, and now it appears that former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is creating an advisory group at Kiev’s request that will provide proposals on security guarantees for Ukraine in the context of a peace settlement.

I would like to remind you that initially the Ukrainians’ concept was to draft a comprehensive agreement which would include Ukraine’s pledge not to join any blocs or have nuclear weapons, as well as guarantees of its neutral status. It would also stipulate the guarantor countries’ guarantees that will take into account the security interests of Ukraine, the Russian Federation and other countries in the region. As I have mentioned, Kiev is moving away from that concept. If Andreas Fogh Rasmussen has been recruited to formulate certain “guarantees” in a narrow circle of the Ukrainian regime’s Western sponsors and to subsequently try to submit them to Russia, it is a path that leads nowhere.

Question: Is this a non-paper? Just an initiative of former [NATO] officials?

Sergey Lavrov: We are looking into this now. This has already been promoted as a breakthrough step. The same applies to the Italian initiative.  Luigi Di Maio is quite active in the media landscape promoting the Italian four-point initiative. All we know about it is that it can bring the long-awaited peace, and not just suit both Russia and Ukraine, but launch something like a new Helsinki process, a new agreement on European security, and that it already enjoys the support of the G7 and the UN Secretary-General. I don’t know whether this is true, or to whom he has shown it. No one has sent us anything. All we can go by is speculation, descriptions of this initiative as they appear in the media.

But what we have read (if it is true, of course) makes us regret that the sponsors of this initiative show so little understanding of what is happening or knowledge of the subject, the history of this matter. Allegedly, it says that Crimea and Donbass should be part of Ukraine, which should grant those regions broad autonomy. Serious politicians who want to achieve results, not just grandstand to impress their voters, cannot be proposing such things. Donbass could have returned to Ukraine a long time ago if the Ukrainian regimes (Petr Poroshenko, and then Vladimir Zelensky) had fulfilled the Minsk agreements and granted a special status to the people that refused to accept the coup. The package included the status of the Russian language. However, instead of granting that status, Ukraine banned the Russian language. Instead of unblocking economic ties, Poroshenko announced a transport embargo on those regions, making retirees travel many kilometres to receive their pension benefits.

This Italian initiative you asked me about – as reported by the media – also calls for launching a new Helsinki process, in addition to reconciliation between Russia and Ukraine, to ensure the safety of everyone and everything.  Our colleagues in Rome came to their senses too late. The Helsinki process has given a number of important gains to the world, to our region, to the Euro-Atlantic region, including declarations signed at the highest political level, at the OSCE summits, in particular in Istanbul in 1999, in Astana in 2010 – declarations on indivisible security. Those documents said security can only be equal and indivisible. Further elaborating on this, they said all participating states have the right to be or not to be a party to treaties of alliance, but no country can join any alliances or otherwise strengthen its security if it affects the security of any other state. The third component of this formula is that no country, no organisation in the OSCE area will claim to dominate security issues.

Anyone familiar with the situation in Europe understands that Western countries have been grossly violating the key components of that commitment by strengthening their security in violation of Russia’s right to its own security. They claim that only NATO can call the tune in this region, and no one else. We have tried to make those beautiful political words become reality, to make them work rather than keep them on paper signed off by the presidents of the United States and European countries. We proposed making that political commitment legally binding. As far back as in 2009, we proposed an agreement to NATO countries. They said they wouldn’t even discuss it because only NATO could provide legal security guarantees. When we asked about the OSCE’s role, they said those were just political promises and slogans. That showed how Western politicians treat the signatures of their presidents. But we did not stop there.

We made another attempt last year. In November 2021, President Vladimir Putin instructed his team to draft new documents to agree with the United States and NATO on the principles that would be approved by all at the highest level. We drafted those treaties and transferred them to Washington and Brussels in early December 2021. Several rounds of negotiations followed. I met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. We were told that we could discuss the arms control agenda, but NATO expansion was not our business or anybody’s business, for that matter. When we again quoted their commitment not to strengthen their security at the expense of others, they dismissed that as immaterial. What mattered was NATO’s so-called open door policy. We have warned them repeatedly – in 2009, then in 2013, 2014 (when a coup d’état occurred in Ukraine), and in 2015 (the Minsk agreements). All these years, we have been telling our Western colleagues that it will end badly because they continue to ignore our legitimate interests and rudely tell us no when we ask them to take us into consideration – not somewhere tens of thousands of kilometres away, but right on the borders of the Russian Federation. This arrogance, this air of being exceptional, this colonial mentality (I can do anything and you will do what I tell you) is not manifested only in their attitude to our interests.

Remember 1999, when the United States suddenly decided that Yugoslavia, lying 10,000 kilometres away from its coasts, posed a threat to its security? They bombed it to dust in a heartbeat. They used OSCE Mission leader William Walker from the United States to loudly declare that several dozen corpses discovered in the village of Racak were a crime against humanity. As it turned out later, these corpses were not civilians, but militants who were disguised as civilians and scattered around the place.

The same setup was used in Bucha near Kiev on April 3. It works regardless of whether the public finds it convincing or not. They didn’t need to convince anyone. They bombed Yugoslavia, created an independent Kosovo violating every OSCE principle in the process and then said it would be like that from then on.

They said no after the referendum in Crimea. According to them, self-determination in Kosovo is a good thing, but self-determination in Crimea is not. This is being done as if nothing were wrong. No one is even blushing, although it’s a shame for Western diplomacy which has lost its ability to provide elegant explanations for their grossly reckless moves.

In 2003, the United States decided that a threat was coming from another country located 10,000 kilometres away and produced a vial with what I think was tooth powder. Poor Colin Powell later lamented that he had been set up by the intelligence. Several years later, Tony Blair, too, said it was a mistake, but nothing could be done about it. Nothing can be done about it. They bombed the country killing under a million civilians. Until now, Iraq’s integrity has not been restored. There are enough problems there, including terrorism, which did not exist there before. Indeed, Iraq and Libya were authoritarian regimes, but there were no terrorists, ongoing hostilities, or military provocations.

Libya is on that list, as well. In 2011, President Obama said that they would be “leading from behind” Europe.  France, the most democratic nation in the Old World (freedom, equality, fraternity), led the NATO operation to destroy the regime. As a result, they destroyed the country. It is hard to put it back together now. Again, the French are trying to do so as they come up with initiatives, convene conferences and announce election dates. All in vain, because, before going in, they needed to think about what would become of Libya after the West ensured its “security” in that country.

I’m citing this example not to say: they can, but we can’t. That would be simplifying matters. What I’m saying is that the Western countries believe that the entire world is part of their security, and they must rule the world.

As NATO was crawling up to Russia’s borders, it told us not to be concerned about it, since NATO is a defensive alliance and does not threaten our country’s security. First, this sounds like a diplomatic effrontery. We must decide for ourselves on our security interests, just like any other country. Second, NATO was a defensive alliance when there was someone to stand up to like the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. There was the Berlin Wall between Western and Eastern Europe. Everyone was clear about the line of defence. After the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union ceased to exist, any lieutenant with basic training knew there was no longer any such thing as a defence line. All you need to do now is live a normal life based on shared values and a common European space.

We put our signature under multiple slogans including “from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean,” “from Lisbon to Vladivostok,” and “we are brothers and sisters now.” However, they retained their military nature as they continued to move the “line of defence” closer to our borders. We have just had an in-depth discussion on the outcomes of this policy. In recent months, the NATO Secretary General and warmongering politicians like the British Foreign Secretary have been publicly stating that the alliance must have global responsibility. NATO must be in charge of security in the Pacific. This may mean that next time NATO’s “defence line” will move to the South China Sea.

Not only NATO, but the EU leaders also decided to “play soldiers.” Ursula von der Leyen, who is rivalling EU top diplomat Josep Borrell in terms of bellicosity, claimed that the EU must be in charge of security matters in the Indo-Pacific region. How are they going to accomplish this? They keep talking about an EU “army.” No one will let them create this “army” as long as NATO exists.

To all appearances, no one is going to even reform NATO. They are going to turn this “defensive alliance” into a global alliance claiming global military dominance. This is a dangerous path that is definitely doomed to failure.

Question: To what extent are these developments affecting the Russian army’s presence in Syria?

Sergey Lavrov: We are present in Syria at the request of the legitimate President of the Syrian Arab Republic and the legitimate government of that country. We are there in full compliance with the principles enshrined in the UN Charter and are addressing the tasks set by UN Security Council Resolution 2254. We will stick to this policy and support the Syrian government in its efforts to fully restore Syria’s territorial integrity. The armed forces of the countries that no one had invited to Syria are still deployed there. Until now, the US military, which has occupied a significant portion of the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, is openly building a quasi-state there and is directly encouraging separatism taking advantage of the sentiment of a portion of the Kurdish population of Iraq. Problems are arising between the various entities that unite the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds. All of that intensifies tensions in this region. Of course, Turkey cannot stay on the sidelines.

We want to address these issues solely on the basis of respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We are talking to the Kurds. We have channels which we use to communicate with all of them. We encourage them to take a closer look at recent developments where the United States promised something to someone and then failed to deliver. Starting a serious dialogue with Damascus and agreeing on arrangements of living in a single state is a much more reliable approach even from these purely pragmatic considerations, not to mention international law.

Of course, Russia will continue to provide humanitarian aid. The United States is trying to keep the crisis situation unchanged and to encourage the sides to resume hostilities. The notorious Caesar Act is designed to strangle the Syrian economy. We see that a growing number of Arab countries are starting to understand the utter futility of this policy and are interested in resuming relations with Syria. Recently, the UAE restored its embassy’s activities in full. A number of Arab countries have never withdrawn their embassies from Damascus. Preparations are underway for a summit of the League of Arab States, which I discussed with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. The vast majority of the League members (as far as we can tell from our contacts) are in favour of a solution that will make it possible to resume Syria’s full Arab League membership.

Refugees are another issue. The UN mediators are trying to get involved in this matter, but the United States and the compliant Europeans are doing their utmost to make the return of these people impossible. Remember when Syria held a conference in Damascus a couple of years ago to raise funds and make it possible for the refugees to return, the Americans went out of the way to keep everyone from attending this conference. Not everyone listened to them and about 20 countries, primarily Arab countries, as well as the People’s Republic of China and other countries, took part in it.

The UN showed its weakness by refusing to participate in that conference and only sending its representative in Damascus to sit there as an observer. That decision hit the United Nations’ reputation hard because its Resolution 2254 explicitly calls for the return of refugees. Both the UN Secretariat and the Secretary-General personally have an obligation to contribute to this directly. Until recently, the European Union held its own conferences on refugees (and they were not devoted to creating conditions for their return, but to raising money to pay the host countries). The purpose of those conferences was to make the current situation permanent and prevent any chance of positive developments in Syria. Yet, the Secretary-General did not just send representatives to them, but participated in these conferences as a co-chair. We have been pointing out that serious misinterpretation of his direct responsibilities.

As for the process that is taking place in Geneva, including the Constitutional Committee, its Drafting Commission – I keep in touch with Geir Pedersen, who represents the UN as a mediator in this process. He visited Russia not long ago. We also communicate through our mission in Geneva. There is an agreement that the next meeting of the Drafting Commission will begin at the end of May. I believe that President Bashar al-Assad’s recent decision to grant amnesty to Syrians charged with terrorism-related crimes was an important positive step. As far as I understand, a lot of work has been done, and the amnesty was announced. It will be a good chance to see how it goes. Geir Pedersen as well as many of our Western colleagues said Bashar al-Assad should take some steps. Okay. Whatever prompted the Syrian president’s decision, he did take a step. Let’s reciprocate now. Let Geir Pedersen talk to the opposition and those who control it, and persuade them to show some constructive action in this regard.

Question:  Is Russia keeping the same number of troops in Syria?

Sergey Lavrov: We have not had any requests from the Syrian government. If any such decisions are deemed expedient, they will be implemented. The numbers on the ground are determined by the specific objectives our force is tasked with there. It is clear that there are practically no military objectives left, but only ensuring stability and security. As for the remaining military objectives that the Syrian army is working for, with our support – there is the terrorist threat in Idlib, and it has not gone anywhere. Our Turkish friends and neighbours are trying, as they are telling us, to fulfil what presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed on a few years ago. As we all see, things are going hard. This objective remains on the agenda. However, thanks to the actions by our contingent and the Syrian armed forces, we have not seen any provocations from Idlib lately targeting the Syrian army strongholds or our bases in Syria.


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 38th meeting of the Foreign Ministry’s Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation, Moscow, May 27, 2022

Colleagues,

We are holding a regular meeting of the Foreign Ministry’s Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation. The meeting is taking place against the background of the special military operation in Ukraine, which is being conducted in connection with the tasks set by President of Russia Vladimir Putin, tasks involving the protection of civilians, the elimination of the Ukraine-posed security threats to the Russian Federation, and the denazification of this kindred country whose people have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of a regime which encourages extreme neo-Nazi sentiments and practices.

You see the United States and its satellites double, triple and quadruple their efforts to contain Russia with the use of a broad range of tools, from unilateral economic sanctions to utterly false propaganda in the global media space. Popular Russophobia has taken on an unprecedented scale in many Western countries, where, to our regret, it is nurtured by government circles.

Under these circumstances, it is of crucial importance that the foreign policy course approved by President Vladimir Putin is based on a broad national accord and supported by the key political forces of Russia and the leading public and entrepreneurial associations. We also feel daily the support from all Russian regions. This country is witnessing the consolidation of all healthy and patriotic forces. This is an important aspect of the present stage.

Colleagues,

At our last meeting, we discussed regions’ cultural diplomacy. The recommendations that we approved have made it possible to give a new impetus to international cultural ties maintained by Russian regions and expand the geographical reach and range of partners (of Russia’s republics, regions and territories). But the situation has changed since that time: the West has declared a total war on us and the entire Russian world. No one is concealing this any longer.

The cancel culture directed at Russia and all things Russian is reaching the apogee of absurdity. Russian greats, including Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy and Alexander Pushkin, are banned. Russian cultural figures and artists representing our culture today are persecuted.

It may safely be said that this situation is here to stay. We should be ready to accept the fact that it has revealed the West’s true attitude to those fine-sounding slogans concerning human values and the need to create a united Europe, a “common European home” stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, which were put forward 30 years ago after the end of the Cold War. Today we see the true worth of all these empty words.

Let us not become self-complacent. Under the current circumstances, we need a detailed analysis of the Foreign Ministry’s effort to promote cooperation with civil society, including at the level of regions.

A sufficiently effective system of collaboration between the Foreign Ministry and non-profit organisations focusing on international issues has been established. For example, the recent assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy has clearly demonstrated the high expert potential of scientific diplomacy. Our joint work has made it possible to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the highly intricate and complex developments in the world.

That said, the presence of NGOs from regions at international venues is insignificant. However, the inclusion of certain regional NGOs in Russian delegations to the UN General Assembly has been a success. This experience shows that this partnership has a promise. We would like to make it regular and broad in nature.

I would like to highlight a number of priority areas concerning interaction with civil society institutions:

1. Mobilising Russian NGOs’ capabilities to promote recovery and to provide humanitarian aid to residents of the DPR and the LPR, as well as the liberated Ukrainian territories.

2. Engaging public diplomacy channels for outreach activities with constructive international partners, including stepping up efforts to debunk fakes about the special military operation and promoting our views in social media and the blogosphere.

3. Using NGO resources, in particular, regional associations of entrepreneurs and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to minimise the consequences of unilateral sanctions, and to promote ties with the friendly countries, primarily, our allies and like-minded partners in the CSTO, the SCO, the CIS, the EAEU and BRICS.

On a separate note, regional consultative mechanisms with the participation of top executives from national cultural associations are working productively. Clearly, this helps maintain inter-ethnic and inter-religious peace and accord. I think broader use of this set of tools should be made in order to strengthen business ties with the expat communities’ countries of origin, primarily in the CIS.

4. Working with our compatriots residing abroad is particularly important. They are at the forefront of dealing with the phenomenon known as Neanderthal Russophobia. Our foreign-based communities are facing unprecedented pressure and are being discriminated against on national and linguistic grounds. In spite of everything, our compatriots are holding their own and bravely defending their right not to sever contacts with the Motherland even in the most challenging times. The Immortal Regiment drive that took place in over 80 countries, including the United States and Europe, clearly showed it. Our duty is to continue to support our compatriots, and we count on the regions’ proactive moves in this regard.

It is gratifying to know that many regions, in particular, Moscow, St Petersburg, Tatarstan, Crimea, the Altai Territory and the Yamalo-Nenets and Khanty-Mansi autonomous areas (the list goes on) are effectively working with the Russian expat communities and their coordinating bodies. The most recent examples include the Moscow Government holding, in conjunction with other regions, round table discussions on the topic “Interactions with compatriots abroad at the regional level.” Such events took place in certain regions, in particular, Kaliningrad in late March, and Khabarovsk and Vladikavkaz in April. More such meetings will be held this year. We strongly support these initiatives and will sponsor such events. We are ready to provide advice to our colleagues from non-governmental organisations on the corresponding issues. We will update them on the situation of their compatriots, including instances of their legal rights being violated.

5. The developments in Ukraine confirm the importance of continued efforts to counteract the falsification of history and glorification of Nazism. The absurd content of modern Ukrainian school textbooks is a case in point. However, the problem is not limited to Ukraine. The West does not stop trying to pit the peoples of the former Soviet Union against each other through a biased interpretation of historical facts.

The other day the German government approved plans for a World War II and the German Occupation of Europe documentation centre. At first glance, this concept raises serious questions regarding its historical truthfulness. The planned centre is structured not only to downplay the Soviet Union and the Soviet people’ decisive role in defeating German Nazism, but also to play down the crimes committed by the Third Reich against the Soviet people. These themes are not indicated in the planned expositions. The plans also contain language that seeks to equate German criminals to liberators of Europe. This is yet another step within the policy adopted by modern Berlin which seeks to rewrite the history of World War II and to rehabilitate the Third Reich.

It is important to focus on preserving the common chapters of history, primarily, the Great Patriotic War, and to promote shared memories of the war and the fallen war hero search movement, as well as the ongoing CIS historians’ dialogue on existing platforms.

Proper resources and staff are required in order to overcome these challenges, and the broad involvement of NGOs that should be issued targeted grants and subsidies to this end as well. Let’s not forget about this, either.

Many Russian regions are addressing these issues adequately, including through the use of extrabudgetary sources. We are ready to support this work and supplement these initiatives with increased funding from the federal budget.

In conjunction with Rossotrudnichestvo and the Civic Chamber, we will continue to help the regions use public and people’s diplomacy in the interest of promoting our foreign policy.

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

9 May 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen

Mohamad Zreik 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US ousts Imran Khan but his revolutionary narrative endures

Washington has reactivated old cronies in Islamabad to unseat PM Imran Khan, but the latter has sown seeds of immense dissatisfaction with the old guard and their US backers within the Pakistani public. And Khan’s domestic and foreign allies will not sit by idly either.

April 05 2022

The US may control a handful of Pakistani political and military officials, but PM Imran Khan owns the street.Photo Credit: The Cradle

By MK Bhadrakumar

The US may control a handful of Pakistani political and military officials, but PM Imran Khan owns the street.

Last Wednesday, during a meeting with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the Tunxi city of eastern China’s Anhui province, China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the thoughtful remark that there was a need to “to guard against the negative spillover effects of the Ukraine crisis” in the Asian region:

“We can’t allow the Cold War mentality to return to the Asian region. It’s impossible to allow a repeat of camp confrontation in Asia. We mustn’t allow turning medium and small states in the region into an instrument or even a victim of the games of big powers. The Chinese side intends to move in the same direction along with Pakistan and neighbouring countries, play a constructive role in ensuring regional and global peace and make its contribution to Asia.”

Curiously, as it turned out, that was also Qureshi’s last tour abroad as Pakistan’s top diplomat. No sooner than he came back home, his government fell, engulfed in a murky situation of precisely the kind that Wang Yi warned against.

Did Wang Yi have a premonition? We may never know but it is inconceivable that he was unaware of the tensions in Pakistan’s domestic politics fueled from outside, which led to the regime change last weekend.

From all accounts, the coup attempt in Pakistan unfolded as per an Anglo-American script. Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed to have documentary evidence to show that the senior-most official in the US state department dealing with the region, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu, had sent to him a threatening message via the Pakistani ambassador in Washington that his time was up in Islamabad as prime minister.

Imran Khan also alleged that the US embassy in Islamabad had been fraternizing with local politicians who subsequently defected from his coalition government. Washington has been vaguely dismissive about the allegations.

According to Khan, it was his official visit to Moscow in February, which coincided with the launch of Russia’s special operation in Ukraine, that provoked Washington the most – apart from his independent foreign policies and stubborn refusal to set up US military bases in Pakistan.

On Saturday, against the backdrop of the tumultuous political developments in Pakistan, the powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa waded into an unusual topic — Russia. He openly criticized Russia for its special operation in Ukraine, calling it a “great tragedy” that had killed thousands and made millions refugees and “half of Ukraine destroyed,” demanding that it must be “stopped immediately.”

He noted that Pakistan had enjoyed excellent defence and economic relationships with Ukraine since its independence but relations with Russia were “cold” for a long time because of numerous reasons, and that Pakistan had sent humanitarian assistance to Ukraine via Pakistan Air Force planes and would continue to do so.

Significantly, Bajwa also stated that “we share a long and excellent strategic relationship with the US,” and that Pakistan sought to broaden and expand relations with both China and the US “without impacting our relations with [either].”

Without doubt, the powerful general spoke with an eye on Washington, acutely conscious of the political transition in his country and taking care to place himself on the ‘right side of history.’

Bajwa’s message to Washington was three-fold: one, he didn’t share Imran Khan’s enthusiasm for close ties with Russia; two, nor did he share Imran Khan’s ‘anti-American’ foreign policies; and, three, he wouldn’t allow Pakistan’s alliance with China to overshadow his desire to deepen relations with the US.

Make no mistake, Pakistani generals are first and last seasoned politicians. That is why both China and Russia are acutely conscious of the geopolitical significance of the regime change event in Islamabad. Wang Yi’s prescient remarks find their echo in a report by the influential Russian daily Kommersant on Monday, based on expert opinion in Moscow:

“The dynamics of the current crisis indicate that Pakistan is at the threshold of a power change which may nullify many agreements with Moscow, considering that the new regime in Pakistan which will form in the next few months will be much more pro-American.”

According to the Director of the analytical center at the Moscow-based Russian Society of Political Scientists Andrey Serenko, “A special concern is caused by the fact that… Bajwa openly supported Russia’s adversaries. The drift of military-political heavyweights in Pakistan towards the US may have much more negative consequences for it [Russia] in the Central Asian region bordering Afghanistan. Belligerent and extremist elements in the Taliban, which are traditionally controlled by Pakistan’s special services, as well as the terrorist groups of the Islamic State and Jamaat Ansarullah have not lost interest in spreading jihad beyond Afghan borders.”

Equally, a member of the faculty of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy, Vadim Kozyulin, had this explicit warning to give: “Washington putting pressure on the Pakistani government inevitably leads to the complication of the security situation in the Central Asian region and the emergence of new risks for the CSTO countries.”

Succinctly put, Russian experts anticipate a reversal of Imran Khan’s friendly policies seeking Eurasian integration. China too will be apprehensive that one of the US’s top priorities is to undermine the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which Pakistan is a major hub. Certainly, the US will not want Islamabad to be a facilitator for the expansion of Chinese influence in Afghanistan. During a recent visit to Kabul, Wang Yi had proposed to the leadership of the Taliban Interim government the extension of the China-Pakistani Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship of the BRI, to Afghanistan.

From Iran’s perspective too, any surge in the US presence in Pakistan would have serious security implications, especially if US bases were to reopen. The negotiations in Vienna for the revival of the JCPOA are yet to come to fruition, and in any case, even with the lifting of US sanctions, Washington’s containment strategy against Iran is expected to continue in some newer form. The agenda of the recent conclave of the top Abraham Accords signatories, Egypt and the US [(hosted by Israel), was to build up a coordinated approach to countering Iran’s regional policies.

Pakistan has a history of aligning with the US’ Persian Gulf allies in their rivalry with Iran. Imran Khan deviated from that path and genuinely sought rapprochement with Tehran. To be sure, Washington will encourage the new regime in Islamabad to revert to the default position.

The broader US objective will be to roll back the Chinese presence in the Persian Gulf region. Thus, for a variety of reasons, while in the US strategic calculus, Pakistan always remained an important player, in the current context of global realignment, this becomes a pivotal relationship. The Pakistani military has an impeccable record of subserving American regional interests — and, it does have a rare capability and ‘expertise’ to do so — which no Muslim country is willing to perform in the current circumstances.

The US may be able to count on the Pakistani generals to ensure that Imran Khan does not ever again return to power. But the paradox is that his electrifying narrative — against corruption, for social justice and inclusion, Islamism and ‘anti-Americanism’ — has struck deep roots in Pakistani soil and will be difficult to vanquish. The main opposition parties stand hopelessly discredited in the public perception, given their track record of corruption and cronyism in office.

So, the big question is: Who will garner Imran Khan’s revolutionary rhetoric? A prolonged period of political turmoil can be expected. Now, in such a scenario, the role of the military becomes extremely crucial. The military leadership’s future intentions remain unclear. Traditionally, Pakistani military leaderships have been pro-US, and for its part, Washington always regarded the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi as its number one interlocutor.

The military denies involvement in civilian politics but the generals have in the past never hesitated to take advantage of political chaos to assume power. Of course, US backing for such a dispensation is indispensable and that is where Bajwa’s olive branch to Washington sets the agenda for politicking.

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

FM Sergey Lavrov’s presser after talks with India’s Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, New Delhi, April 1, 2022

April 02, 2022

Ed Note:  Mr Lavrov held various pressers in his travels to China, India and the meetings between Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries (Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan).  If you are interested, that speech contains the rebuilding of Afghanistan and the progress being made.  It is here:  https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/1807302/

The main take-away (and there are many) from Mr Lavrov’s visits, is of course this:

A new reality is taking shape: the unipolar world is irretrievably receding into the past and a multi-polar world is being born. This is an objective process that cannot be stopped. There won’t be one single ruler in this new reality. All key states with a decisive influence on the world economy and politics will have to come to terms. Being aware of their special status, they will ensure the observance of the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, including the main one – the sovereign equality of states. Nobody on Earth will be considered a second-rate player. All nations are equal and sovereign.

Instead of featuring all the pressers and speeches, this time we focus on India, because the detail level of a new financial system becomes clearer.  This is the source:  https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/1807582/

Posted by Amarynth


1 April 2022 18:13

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions following talks with Minister of External Affairs of India Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, New Delhi, April 1, 2022

Question: How would you assess your talks with the minister? How can Russia support India at a time when it faces security challenges from its neighbours?

Sergey Lavrov: The talks can be characterised by the relations which we have developed with India for many decades. Our relations are a strategic partnership, even a specially privileged strategic partnership, as our Indian friends called it some time ago. And this was the basis on which we have been promoting our cooperation in all areas: the economy, military-technical, humanitarian, investment and many other fields.

And I believe that India’s foreign policy is characterised by independence and by concentrating on its own legitimate national interests. The same policy foundation exists in the Russian Federation, and this makes us, as big countries, good friends and old partners, an important part of international relations.

We have always respected each other’s interests and we always tried to accommodate the interests of the other. This was the underlying approach to our discussion, which covered all bilateral areas of cooperation, and covered, of course, international and regional issues. The situation in the region is not perfect, as with any other place in the world. We support Indian efforts to consolidate the regional countries and promote mutually beneficial projects in South Asia in particular.

Question: For a long time, Russia has been building close relations with the Western countries. Today, economic cooperation has been virtually destroyed. You are on your first Asian tour since the start of the special operation in Ukraine. First you visited China, and now India. Does this mean Russia will seek replacement markets for oil and gas in this region?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe China and India are natural destinations for this tour. Both countries are Russia’s close partners. The three of us participate in a number of international formats, including BRICS, the SCO, and formats that have developed around ASEAN: the East Asia Summit (EAS) and the ASEAN Regional Security Forum (ARF). There is also the RIC (Russia, India, China) format. RIC Foreign Ministers have met a couple of dozen times since its inception (more than twenty years ago). The last meeting took place in the autumn of 2021. A detailed document was adopted reflecting our common approaches to a number of international issues. It paves the way for further actions in this direction.

In China, my colleague, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and I discussed the further activities of the RIC association. Today, Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and I discussed ways to develop this format and use it more intensively in the interests of stabilising international relations and ensuring equality in international affairs. This is especially relevant given that all the three countries – Russia, India and China – are members of the UN Security Council now. So we have many plans.

As for markets, we have never imposed our products on anyone. If countries that are interested in trade with Russia have specific needs and want to expand their range of imports, we are always ready to make agreements based on a balance of interests and mutual benefit.

Question: A question regarding potential talks between Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Zelensky. Do you know which country they might be held in? The talks started in Belarus and were continued in Turkey. Israel offered mediation as well. When might a peace treaty be initialised between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministries?

Sergey Lavrov: There are no approved plans for this. The talks must continue. Our negotiators commented on the latest round of talks in Istanbul where the Ukrainian representatives “put on paper,” for the first time, their vision of the agreement that must be reached. This needs to take shape first. We are preparing a response. There is some progress there. Above all, they recognised that Ukraine cannot be a bloc country, that it cannot “find happiness” by joining the North Atlantic Alliance. Nuclear-free, bloc-free, neutral status is already recognised as an absolute must. Likewise, we saw much more understanding of one more reality. I am referring to the situation with Crimea and Donbass. We are still working on the next potential meetings. We will announce updates on this.

Question:  What were the key subjects of your conversation with Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar? Did you discuss the introduction of an efficient rouble and rupee settlement mechanism for bilateral trade, including India’s purchases of Russian oil? Was the issue of cooperation between Russia, India and China touched on at the talks in Beijing and in New Delhi?

How do you assess India’s fears of a possible delay in supplying Russian military equipment, including the S-400, due to the crisis in Ukraine?

Sergey Lavrov: Well, as regards the use of the rouble and rupee in our financial and trade transactions, I would like to remind you that many years ago we started moving away from the dollar and the euro to the more extensive use of national currencies in our relations with India, with China and many other countries.

Under the circumstances, I believe this trend will be intensified, which is only natural and obvious. We are ready to supply India with any items it wants to purchase. I already referred to this. We have very good relations between the trade ministries, the ministries of finance, and I have no doubt that this would be a way to bypass the artificial impediments that have been created by the illegal unilateral sanctions by the West.

This relates also to the area of military-technical cooperation. We have no doubt that a solution would be found; the respective ministries are working on this.

Question: The United States is exerting pressure on India to involve it into an anti-Russia campaign. Does this pressure affect relations between Russia and India? Are you confident that our countries’ partnership will not be damaged?

Sergey Lavrov: I am confident about this because our partnership does not depend on opportunistic considerations. Moreover, it does not depend on illegal methods of dictate and blackmail. It is absolutely pointless to apply such a policy to countries like Russia, India, China, and many others. This shows that those who are offering and implementing such a policy, who impose it on others do not have a good understanding of the national identity of the countries they are trying to talk to in a language of blackmail and ultimatums.

Question: How do you look at India’s position on this ongoing war? What did you tell your Indian counterpart? Did you offer oil supplies to India?

Have you reached a compromise on the rupees and roubles arrangement for payments?

Even Mr Putin and you are sanctioned by the US and the EU: How do you look at this scenario?Sergey Lavrov: Every Russian has been sanctioned by the US and the European Union, so there is no surprise to me. The Western colleagues just made their real face known these days. I do not have the slightest doubt that most countries on Earth understand what is going on and understand the inadmissibility of the manners which are being demonstrated by our Western – very, very unreliable – partners.

As regards India’s position on the developments in Ukraine, – you called it a war, which is not true, as it is a special operation, which is being conducted with maximum attention being paid to not do any damage to the civilian infrastructure. The military infrastructure is being targeted, and the aim is to deprive the Kiev regime of the capacity to pose any threat to Russia. This capacity has been built and strengthened for many years by the United States and other NATO countries, which wanted to make an “anti-Russia” out of our neighbouring and fraternal country.

I already mentioned [payments in] roubles and rupees. This process is going on for many years. The reason for moving to national currencies is again the absolutely unreliable nature of our Western counterparts. We do not want to depend on a system, which could be closed at any time; and we do not want to depend on a system which has masters who can steal your money overnight.

I already mentioned oil supplies and the supplies of high-technology to India. If India wants to buy anything from us, we are ready to discuss it and reach mutually acceptable forms of cooperation.

Question: Considering the Western sanctions, will Russia boost trade with India and in which areas?

Sergey Lavrov: This is the normal course of events. We are open to mutually beneficial and mutually respectful relations in all areas, including trade and investment activity. When you encounter absolutely unjustified hostility and reaction that goes beyond all reasonable limits in one part of the world, it is, objectively, only natural that your partners elsewhere start playing a greater role in you trade and economic activity. This is not surprising. This has happened before. The sanctions were not imposed yesterday. We have been under intense sanctions imposed by the West and some other countries for many years now – at least, ten years. We already have experience in living under such circumstances and living in a way that is good for both us and our partners. Rest assured that this is how it will be this time as well.

Question: Does it bother you what Western countries think of Russia’s plan “B”? Refusing to pay for gas in roubles, France and Germany said they would not accept such an approach by the Kremlin since it violates the current contracts. What do you think?

Sergey Lavrov: As regards gas supplies to Europe, President Vladimir Putin was very elaborate: he announced the signing of a decree, which provided for a scheme acceptable, as far as I could understand, to the Western countries. We cannot use the old scheme, because, as I said, they paid us in their currencies and then they seized our accounts. It is like the gold rush in the United States at some point when the country was founded by those who fled Europe because they were outlaws, as far as I recall. So the scheme that was presented is an honest scheme. It allows us to, eventually, get payments for gas in roubles, and that was the original goal.

Question: Do you think that India has not taken a hawkish stand against Russia, despite the pressure from Western capitals, because of its dependence on the discounted crude oil and also the import of S 400 missiles and kalashnikovs?

Sergey Lavrov: You know, I cannot even imagine that India is taking some stands because India is under pressure. We respect, as I said earlier, India’s concentration on its basic principles, namely, that the Indian foreign policy is built upon the legitimate national interests of that country and its people. That is, basically, all I can say in response to your question.

Question: There is much talk that India may act as a mediator between Moscow and Kiev. More than that, they say that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi may mediate talks between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents. Did you discuss this issue and is it possible?

Sergey Lavrov: I did not hear talks like this. We respect the well-considered position of India, which does not give in to pressure through blackmail and dictates. Many other serious countries, which do not accept language like this, are taking the same approach. Probably, India will see a role for itself in finding a solution to the problems that have led to the current situation, I mean the issue of equal and indivisible security in Europe, and will help assert the principles of justice in these matters, and explain to our mutual partners that their attempts to deny Russia the right to security guarantees are futile.

We want security guarantees to be provided to Ukraine, all European countries and Russia, in keeping with the documents which have been approved by the OSCE over many previous years and have declared the principle, according to which no country should seek to strengthen its security at the expense of the security of others. The root of all problems lies here.

The West has ignored its obligations and worked to present Russia as a direct military and ideological threat, playing up to neo-Nazi trends and practices in Ukraine. I think if India with its position of justice and rational approaches to resolving international issues manages to support these processes, nobody is likely to object.

Question: It has been reported around the world for several weeks now that the Russophobic sentiment is sweeping entire regions. People are suffering from things not seen since the Middle Ages and things they bear no responsibility for. How does the Foreign Ministry respond to this? Perhaps dedicated centres for collecting information or assistance centres will be formed? What will happen next on this track and what else needs to be done?

Sergey Lavrov: We have commented on this situation many times. It really is reminiscent of the Middle Ages, real Russophobic mayhem. It’s as if the West was masquerading as a polite and well-mannered partner in the international arena for all these decades. In fact, this outwardly presentable mask was hiding its true face. It has now manifested itself on a scale that no one could even imagine. Everything Russian face ostracism and prohibition.

We put all these instances on record. We use the tools that exist in our state system, the resources of the Investigative Committee, the Prosecutor General’s Office and other departments.

The Foundation for Supporting and Protecting the Rights of Compatriots Living Abroad has been operating in dozens of countries for a long time now helping organise legal assistance to compatriots in challenging circumstances.

Modern challenges call for global efforts at the level of international organisations. They must highlight the unacceptability of such “actions” on the part of our Western partners.  Discrimination is rampant and the “values” that the West has been touting for many years (presumption of innocence, inviolability of property, free market rules, etc.) have been torn up.Not to mention what is being done to religion and the Russian Orthodox Church not only in Ukraine, but also in the EU countries which consider themselves civilised. This conversation is overdue. Everything that is happening now is directly undermining the obligations of the organisers of these “actions” under the UN Charter and the OSCE. Without this conversation, we will not be able to overcome the situation the West has created not only in its relations with Russia, but also in international relations. This is a message for all of us.

Over the past couple of years, the United States has completely thwarted all attempts by Europe to strive for independence or strategic autonomy. Lone voices that are heard, in particular from France, no longer decide anything. Germany has completely reconciled itself to its role as US ally, blindly following in the wake of US policies. Everything is being done to recreate a unipolar world and proclaim this process as a “fight of democracies against autocracies.” What kind of democracy is this? As things stand, with Washington in the lead, they themselves, collectively, have become an autocracy in the international arena. They believe they can do anything and get away with it.

Should the United States claim to face a threat somewhere around the globe (as was the case in Iraq, Libya, or Syria thousands of kilometres away from their coasts, which usually turns out to be fake or based on false evidence) Washington is “entitled” to do what it wants, such as kill hundreds of thousands of civilians or level whole cities to the ground, such as Raqqa, Syria. This approach will inform the West’s future actions in all regions unless it is stopped.

Should any other country, not only Russia, see a direct threat in weapons, military biological programmes (as it lately transpired), or the creation of foreign military bases in a neighbouring country (in this case, right on the border with our country), the West considers this, as well as the fact that Russia defends its own interests, unacceptable. This is much deeper and broader than just the special military operation in Ukraine and ensuring its neutrality under collectively assumed security guarantees. This is a matter of the world order, in which all the rules of decency, international law and their own “values” (the West promoted them as part of its model of globalisation) were trampled upon by the West itself.

You can’t get away from having this conversation, and China, India and other countries realise this.I read the speech by Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar at yesterday’s meeting on Indian-British cooperation. He noted that the newly arisen issues in international affairs touch on the very foundations of the world order, which must change to become equal and multipolar, without sovereigns and dictators.

Question: My first question is, why India? Secondly, Russia is actually hammered by a lot of sanctions, including on SWIFT-code. Will you recommend India or any other friend country to use an alternative payment gateway?

Sergey Lavrov: Why India? Because we are friends and we regularly exchange visits.

As for SWIFT, for many years, as I said, when the nature of our Western partners, who are entirely unreliable, became more and more obvious and known, we started developing national payment systems. In Russia, the Central Bank several years ago established a system of communication of financial information. India has a similar system which is called RuPay. And it is absolutely clear that more and more transactions would be done through these systems using national currencies, bypassing the dollar, euro and other currencies, which proved totally unreliable.

Imran Khan takes on America

The government in Pakistan has alleged that Sunday’s no-confidence motion to oust Prime Minister Imran Khan from power was masterminded in Washington

April 02 2022

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan rallies his countrymen against a US-backed plot to unseat his democratically elected government.Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Ejaz Akram

After a humiliating defeat in Afghanistan and loss of credibility over Ukraine, the era of US unipolarity seems to be entering its terminal phase, marked by lashing out ferociously in all directions. The most recent of these offensives occurred last week when the government of Pakistan alleged that Washington was trying to engineer regime change in Islamabad.

This time the US was caught red handed. The claim was not made via a leak or a fringe observer, but by the prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, himself. While the US State Department has denied any involvement, the political drama has only just begun.

Emerging from a crucial meeting of Afghanistan’s neighbors, China’s top diplomat took a public whack at Washington’s behavior. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China will not allow the US to drag smaller nations into conflict and sharply rebuked the ‘US Cold War mentality.’ Beijing is determined not to allow the US to steal Pakistan from its inner circle of vital Asian partners that today include Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, and others.

On Wednesday, when a coalition partner of the governing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) announced its seven members would switch to the opposition, Khan essentially lost his majority in the National Assembly, consisting of 342 parliamentarians. More than a dozen of his party members also threatened to cross the political aisle.

But the Pakistani opposition had mistakenly believed that as soon as they showed their required numerical majority in the parliament, the prime minister would either step down or resign. But that is not what appears to be happening.

Instead, in the next 24 hours, the voting will begin in parliament to count the actual numbers. Many analysts see this as the end of the Khan government in Pakistan; others believe the prime minister’s hold on power will be consolidated and the opposition and their foreign underwriters will suffer a permanent blow.

If the courts entertain the government’s petition to look into the foreign meddling and bribery cases, then Khan may have more time to develop a full court reaction. In just a few days, Khan has already displayed a modest demonstration of his street power. The mood and sentiment across the social media spectrum, as of now, is lopsidedly in favor of the prime minister. Large segments of the public has loudly rallied around him as the spokesman of their aspirations, while opposition party leaders are being characterized as corrupt individuals who want to topple an elected government.

The country’s main opposition parties are the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), both dynastic groups that ruled for decades until Khan came along with his campaign promises to root out the rampant corruption and cronyism that has plagued Pakistani politics for years.

The letter

Millions of Pakistanis poured out to see PM Khan speak on 27 March, when he alleged that “foreign powers are engineering a regime change in Pakistan.” Waving a letter drawn from his coat pocket, Khan threatened to reveal direct, written threats to Pakistan and himself.

Top cabinet members [Minister for Planning, Development, Reforms and Special Initiatives] Asad Umar and [Minister of Information] Fawad Chaudhry held a joint press conference where they revealed further details of this controversial letter. Khan then invited several members of his cabinet, media and the Pakistani security community to view the document first hand.

Government opponents dismissed Khan’s allegations outright, amidst an enormous amount of hubris and posturing soon to follow. Pakistani opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif (an aspirant for the prime minister position) proclaimed that he will jump ship and join Imran Khan if the letter is real and the PM was speaking truthfully. Similarly, prominent anti-establishment TV anchor Saleem Safi said that if the letter were real, he would retire from his position and drop out of media altogether.

But within hours, a mysterious petition was filed in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) with the Chief Justice Islamabad Athar Minallah issuing a legal opinion that Imran Khan may not share this letter in public because of his secrecy oath. Such a swift ruling could not have come from Pakistan’s highest judicial authority about a fake letter, surely?

The next day, the country’s National Security Committee (NSC) convened for a meeting. In attendance were Pakistan’s prime minister, the army chief, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and naval chiefs, the National Security Advisor (NSA), and several other important officials.

Opposition members boycotted the meeting, but participants took a unanimous decision to reprimand the United States for its actions and ensure that Pakistan would not allow US authorities off the hook so easily. Subsequently, the Foreign Office called the acting US ambassador and reprimanded him – none of which could have conceivably been done on the pretext of a false letter.

What’s in the letter?

According to statements made by Khan during the NSC meeting, senior officials from the US State Department (believed to be an Undersecretary of State) sent the letter on 7 March via Asad Majeed Khan, the Pakistani ambassador in Washington.

The document reportedly states that there will be a no-confidence motion (NCM) against the prime minister soon, that Khan should know that it is coming and that he should not resist the NCM but go down with it. If he tries to resist it, the letter allegedly continues, Khan and Pakistan will face horrible consequences.

The letter mentions the NCM about eight times. The next day, on 8 March, a no-confidence vote was indeed announced. According to Khan, he has security agency information on how the illegal buying and selling of votes took place among Pakistan’s parliamentarians during this time. Then, on 9 March, the nation’s military leadership declared itself ‘neutral’ between the opposition parties and the prime minister.

Khan criticized the military for taking a neutral stance, saying a vital institution of the state should not show “neutrality” to those openly and willfully being used as tools of regime change, orchestrated by the adversaries of Pakistan. But after Foreign Minister Shah Qureshi’s return from Beijing, the military now appears to be favoring Khan’s position. It seems that either a phone call or a message must have come directly from Beijing.

Consequences of US involvement

If the foreign meddling case is a priori to the no-confidence motion, then it is possible that Khan will have legal relief and those accused of collaborating, aiding and assisting an external regime-change conspiracy will be indicted. This would include opposition political party members and Pakistani media personalities who have purportedly been traipsing to and from the US embassy in the days, weeks and months preceding the motion – now set for a seat-gripping vote on Sunday. If this can be proven in a court of law, many opposition leaders may end up behind bars.

According to Pakistan’s highest national security office and judging from the IHC notice, it appears clear that the letter was legitimate and the US is guilty of meddling in Pakistan’s internal affairs. But this is not 2001 when former Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf, capitulated to the Americans upon receiving a single phone call. Today’s Pakistan has a stronger self-identity after two decades of grueling and unrecognized sacrifices for Washington’s unsuccessful war on terror. Equally, they now also understand that the US is a declining power.

Most Pakistanis do not care about US sanctions any longer, especially as they watch other nations circumvent them with new allies. The public mood and sentiment is to dismiss sanctions threats, recognizing that there will be consequences from the Pakistani side which could lead to the expulsion of American diktats from the Af-Pak-Iran region.

During his 1 April interview on national television (PTV), Imran Khan exhorted the Pakistani nation to reject the alliance of corrupt parties and western-backed media. He believed that the west’s next step will be to take his life. Pakistan’s information minister had said the same only a day earlier.

If Khan didn’t have the ability to rally the street, they could have spared him, but his current popularity and obstinate resistance to US bullying tactics make him a prime target for assassination. Most Pakistanis have long considered the killing of leaders such as Liaquat Ali Khan, Z.A. Bhutto, Zia al Haq and Benazir Bhutto to be the work of US intelligence. To those citizens, any perceived threat to PM Imran Khan’s life is a real and imminent danger. Very rapidly, the security around him has been reshuffled and new measures have been taken to provide him with extra protection.

Khan’s narrative about US interference has gained heavy momentum in the past week. The storyline is one of two sides butting heads at a critical juncture in the country’s history: on one side, an Indo-US alliance, corrupt Pakistani opposition parties, the country’s corporate media, and a handful of western-styled liberals. On the other side, a legally elected, popular and feisty prime minister, supported by the Russo-China alliance and an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis.

With those odds, it may be politically and legally impossible for Pakistan’s military to maintain its ostensible posture of neutrality no matter how much US pressure comes at it. Time may be on Khan’s side.

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

A Russian wrench in Vienna halts US dash for the finish line

In an eleventh-hour shot across Vienna’s bow, the Russians challenged the US ‘weaponization of the dollar’ with the ‘weaponization of the atom.’

March 07 2022

By MK Bhadrakumar

On 5 March, Moscow demanded written guarantees of sanctions waivers from US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken that would preserve Russia’s ambitious economic, scientific-technological and military collaboration projects in the pipeline with Iran.

The clock is ticking on Vienna sanctions-removal talks, but the Ukraine crisis has injected some new, valid, sanctions-related snafus into negotiations.Photo Credit: The Cradle

While privately, Iranian delegation members in Vienna were undoubtedly miffed at this eleventh-hour wrench in the works, Tehran’s official position was stoic.

“Russia is a responsible member of nuclear negotiations, and it has always proven that, not like America,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokeman Saeed Khatibzadeh informed reporters on Monday.

“It is natural for us to discuss its [Russia’s] demands,” he continued, and bolstered Moscow’s position by adding: “What really matters is that the nuclear cooperation relations between Iran and various countries should not be subject to sanctions.”

March 5 also happens to be the anniversary of the date the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entered into force in 1970.

The fate of the NPT may now hinge on the US response. For, if the Biden administration rides the high horse, that will almost certainly be a deal-breaker for the current negotiations in Vienna to broker the US’ return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

On the other hand, a golden opportunity is now at hand for Iran too to hang tough on its remaining demands — that is, removing the US designation of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization; a firm guarantee that a future US government will not (again) renege on the nuclear deal; and, conclusively closing the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) case on Tehran’s nuclear program. Russia is firmly supportive of Iran’s demands.

The chances of Biden obliging Moscow with sanctions waivers are nil, as that would lethally damage US prestige and make a complete mockery of its ‘weaponization of the dollar’ (which is what sanctions are about). Without using sanctions as a weapon, the US is increasingly unable to force its will on other countries.

The “sanctions from hell” recently imposed on Russia demonstrate a new cutting edge, and include the freezing of Russia’s central bank reserves. It is a cynical move to the extreme which may come with significant unforeseen repercussions. For one, the US looks to be sending a powerful message to China as well, which holds something like 2-3 trillion dollars as US Treasury bonds.

China draws its own lines

The call from Blinken to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on March 5 — the same day Russia transmitted its demand for sanction waivers — suggests that China is no doubt closely observing developments. Wang told Blinken point-blank that Beijing has “grave concern over recent words and deeds of the US side,” especially with regard to Taiwan, and expects “concrete actions” by the Americans to shore up the relationship.

China has consistently opposed US sanctions. On the issue of Ukraine, Wang Yi cautioned Washington from taking further actions that “add fuel to the fire” (alluding to reported plans to dispatch foreign mercenaries to join the fighting), and importantly, “to engage in equal dialogue with Russia, face up to the frictions and problems accumulated over the years, pay attention to the negative impact of NATO’s continuous eastward expansion on Russia’s security, and seek to build a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism in accordance with the ‘indivisibility of security’ principle.”

Suffice to say, if China is not caving in, the strong likelihood is that the negotiations in Vienna may soon lose momentum. The latest Russian demand can even prove a deal-maker. The action-reaction syndrome used to be a staple of the superpower nuclear competition. But Russians seem to have now found an ingenious new dimension to it: counter US dollar weaponization by extending the countermeasure to the nuclear non-proliferation issue.

“Weaponizing the atom”

By doing so, Russia has elevated the American sanctions regime far beyond the crude money terms of seizing central bank dollar reserves — which is plain highway robbery — to an altogether new sublime level of “weaponization of atom.”

Iran has suffered immensely from the US’ weaponization of the dollar. Ever since its 1979 revolution, Iran has been under western sanctions aimed at stifling its growth and development — many of them cruel and humiliating. These hit a nadir, when at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the US even blocked Iran’s pathway to procure vaccines for its citizens.

So many such horrific episodes can be dredged up from Iran’s four-decade-long painful history as a victim of America’s “weaponization of dollar,” whereby, an immensely resource-rich country was forced to live far below its real potential, and one of the world’s greatest and oldest civilizations suffered humiliations at the hands of an uppity country with some 246 years of history.

It must then be tormenting for Washington that Iran is one of the countries that has immense potential to resort to “weaponization of atom” to counter America’s “weaponization of dollar.”

Whether it will do or not is a moot point. Certainly, Iran’s stated preference is to live without nuclear weapons. That is why it has come fully prepared to close the deal at the negotiations in Vienna. Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian even told EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Friday that he’s “ready to fly to Vienna” to sign the nuclear deal on Monday.

But the point is, if Iran wishes, it has the capability to meet the US on equal terms even without a nuclear deal in Vienna. In fact, if Biden refuses to provide Russia with a written guarantee to suspend the “sanctions from hell,” that deal may not go through in Vienna, since Russia, as an original signatory to the JCPOA, must sign off on it. Of course, the Americans are insisting that they will continue to work with Russia at Vienna within the matrix of their shared interest to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons.

Indeed, as it is, the remaining three demands by Iran also pose a big challenge to Biden. Lifting the ban on the IRGC is a bitter pill for the Washington elite to swallow; again, Biden is in no position to guarantee that a deal signed in Vienna will have any shelf life beyond his presidency.

Herein lies the catch. Until such time as an agreement is reached in Vienna, Iran’s centrifuges will be producing enriched uranium, which would mean that the so-called “breakout time” keeps shrinking and for all purposes, at some point, Iran will have transformed itself as a virtual nuclear weapon state whether it wants or not — and the very purpose of the deal that the US is frantically seeking at Vienna will be defeated.

For Iran too, this is a moment of truth. Things have come to such a pass in international politics that many countries, which willingly signed the NPT, probably regret their decision now. India, Pakistan and North Korea already broke the NPT shackle. The point is, in the final analysis, a nuclear weapon is the means to preserve a country’s strategic autonomy to pursue independent policies.

It provides a firewall against foreign interference in the internal affairs; it reduces the scope for Washington’s coup machine to overthrow the established government; it compels the US to abandon the highly immoral, cynical bullying via “weaponization of the dollar;” and, above all, it enhances plurality in the world order by strengthening a country’s freedom to choose its own unique path of development.

“Atoms for Peace” was the title of a famous speech delivered by US President Dwight Eisenhower to the UN General Assembly in New York City in 1953. In retrospect, it turned out to be a propaganda component of the US’ Cold War strategy of containing the former Soviet Union.

Eisenhower was launching a media campaign that would last for years aimed at “emotion management,” balancing fears of continuing nuclear armament with promises of peaceful use of uranium in future nuclear reactors.

Ironically, that catchy phrase acquires today an altogether new meaning: Atoms may offer the best means to an equitable world order.

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

Welcome to the new baby twins – Donetsk, Lugansk

February 22, 2022

This is a short sitrep which will also serve as an open thread, on the situation right now.  (I will also update the paragraphs on recognition and sanctions, as the situation becomes clear).

The new recognition agreements between Russia recognizing Donetsk and Lugansk as independant countries, are now fully ratified by the Russian parliament and this was unanimous.

The line of contact is relatively quiet so far.  There is sporadic firing but since 9 hours, very little of it.  Patrick Lancaster from the Ukraine War Report reports that 3 civilians were killed in a roadside IED near Donetsk just after Russia recognized the #DPR and #LPR. He and some fellow journos also came under fire.  Russian troops deployed very quickly to carry out Putin’s specific order “to establish peace”.

The actual borders – there still seems to be some confusion and today will bring clarity.   The best that I’ve seen is Peskov’s clarification:  “DPR and LPR are recognized as independent ‘within the boundaries in which they were proclaimed and exist’. 

Rats scurrying: 

  • Blinken moved all US embassy staff to Poland.  He says they will regularly return to continue diplomatic work in Lviv.   Poland raised cyberthreat regime from 1/4 to 3/4.
  • Biden said the recognition of the two Republics threatens US security.
  • The Biden Administration urged President Zelensky to move to Lviv, western Ukraine – ABC. 
  • US Deputy National Security Advisor Finer says all evidence confirms that Russia is now heading for military action and will not take the diplomatic path.

Nebenzia, at the UNSC briefing:

“Many of our colleagues are willing to attest that the Minsk Agreements are dead, which is not true. Kiev still has to implement them. We (Russia) remain open for a diplomatic solution, but we will not allow for another bloodbath in Donbas.”

and

“The main task of our decision [on the recognition of independence] was to preserve and protect these lives [of people in Donbass]. This is more important than all your threats.”

Ukrainian representative. to the UN, Kyslytsya says Ukraine’s one goal is peace and the problem of Donbass must be solved through the Minsk agreements.

Zelensky, the monkey with a hand grenade according to Russian Parliament member Andrei Lugovoy, squeaked all day long.  “We don’t have time for history lessons”, he says, while calling for emergency meetings with everyone.  The most comical comment was that he is going to break diplomatic relations with Russia.   There will be no war he says, while also saying that he might institute martial law.  Enough of Zelensky!

A moment of sanity from Dogu Perincek, Secretary General of the Turkish Vatan (“Motherland”) Party:  “We see that a new world order is being created. The Atlantic block is left behind, the world is entering the Asian one. The US idea of a unipolar world has failed.”

Another moment of sanity:  “Putin’s decision on Donbass completely changes the world order.” Serbian President Vučić.

And insanity:

MFA Russia – Zakharova: The letter by US Representative to the Office of the @UN in Geneva to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights @mbachelet on the “first steps” to be taken by Russian authorities after an “inevitable” military invasion of Ukraine has puzzled us.

China:  State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi had a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier in the day, expounding China’s stance and generally repeating that security concerns are now urgent and must be resolved through negotiation.  But that is not all.   During the phone call, Wang also urged the US side to fulfill a series of promises that US President Joe Biden has made and avoid sending wrong signals on containing China by its new version of the Indo-Pacific Strategy and by its provocations on the Taiwan question else there will be confrontation with Beijing. (Spectacular Pain Dial Moment by digging in the knife)

The all important recognition:  The Zone B stalwarts are right in there.

The Houthis, who understand clearly what it means to live under war conditions, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Syria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia are ready to recognize the new-born twins.

TODAY is SANCTIONS DAY

  • The list starts with Germany suspending the Nord Stream 2 certification (pending yet another report).
  • US – a ban on investments in the DPR and LPR, as well as any import of the region’s goods, services, or technology to the United States. America is also banned from exporting anything to the republics. Furthermore, Washington has made it completely illegal for any American citizens to conduct financial transactions with the breakaway states, and it has also frozen DPR and LPR assets currently in US banks.  From now on, any individual involved in business or politics on the territory of the newly recognized republics may be subject to personal sanctions from the US.
  • UK sanctions 5 Russian banks and 3 Russian “high net worth individuals”.  Rossiya Bank, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and Black Sea Bank, were named as part of the “first tranche” of the UK government’s response. Alongside the financial institutions, three “very high net worth individuals,” Gennady Timchenko, Igor Rotenberg and Boris Rotenberg, have had their UK assets frozen.
  • EU – won’t recognize Russian passports issued to citizens from DPR and LPR.

Posted by Amarynth

China reacts to Russian recognition of Donbass republics

22 Feb, 2022 

The ongoing escalation of tensions is connected to the failure to implement the Minsk accords, Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said

FILE PHOTO. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Berlin, Germany. ©Michael Sohn / Pool via Getty Images

China has expressed “concern” over how the situation is developing in Ukraine, after Russia announced its recognition of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics.

Speaking to his US counterpart Antony Blinken in a phone call on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the latest changes were connected to the continued failure to implement the 2015 Minsk Agreement, which provided a roadmap for the peaceful reintegration of the breakaway regions of Donbass into Ukraine.

On Monday, Russia recognized the two self-proclaimed republics as independent entities. Moscow said Kiev’s refusal to meet its obligations under the Minsk Protocol and its obvious refusal to seek a negotiated resolution with its rebel regions justified the move.

As he recognized the breakaway republics as sovereign nations, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to be deployed in the territories to defend them against possible military action by Ukrainian forces.

I spoke with People’s Republic of China State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. I underscored the need to preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) February 22, 2022

The top Chinese diplomat said Beijing’s position on the issue of Ukraine remains consistent. “Legitimate security concerns of any country should be respected and the principles of the UN Charter should be upheld,” Wang said.

He called on all parties involved to “exercise restraint, recognize the importance of implementing the principle of indivisibility of security, ease the situation, and resolve differences through dialogue and negotiation.”

Russia’s recognition of the breakaway regions came amid a spike in tensions between Moscow and NATO, a military alliance that Moscow accuses of undermining its national security by expanding eastwards in Europe. Russia claims the US-led bloc targeted Ukraine for the deployment of its military assets, and considers this unacceptable.

The US and its allies rejected Russia’s proposal to introduce a moratorium on NATO expansion and roll back its military presence on the continent. Instead, they accused Moscow of planning a war of aggression against Ukraine.

Kiev’s foreign backers flew planes full of advanced weapons to Ukraine, claiming they were needed to defend the country against Russia. Moscow said the shipments were apparently intended to beef up the capabilities of the Ukrainian military in preparation for an attack against the rebels.

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Erdogan in Kiev, Putin in Beijing: can neo-Ottomanism fit into Greater Eurasia?  

Reporting from Istanbul: As the world turns further over monumental announcements from the Putin-Xi summit in Beijing, Turkey’s Erdogan keeps walking a thinning tightrope between NATO and Eurasia

February 04 2022

The sweeping new Sino-Russian strategic partnership struck in Beijing this week has established clear expectations of geopolitically-ambiguous Eurasian states like TurkeyPhoto Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

The Chinese year of the Black Water Tiger started with a big bang – a live Beijing summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping – and a minor bang – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Kiev, Ukraine. And yes, it’s all interlinked.

Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov had revealed in advance that Putin-Xi would release a very important “joint statement on international relations entering a new era,” with Russia and China in synch “on the most important world problems, including security issues.”

Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov and Wang Yi, who worked non-stop prior to the summit, met the day before in Beijing to finalize the joint statement. Wang stressed the increasing interconnection of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), and much to the interest of the Global South, referred to extensive discussions on BRICS cooperation, Ukraine, Afghanistan and the Korean Peninsula.

The Russia-China joint statement (here, in Russian) did not cut any corners. The two global powers, among the summit’s key takeaways, are against NATO expansion; favor the UN and “justice in international relations;” will fight “interference in the internal affairs of sovereign countries;” oppose “external forces” undermining national security; and are resolutely against color revolutions.

Putin Op-Ed published by Xinhua detailed the full spectrum of the Sino-Russian discussions at the highest level – from the drive to “strengthen the central coordinating role of the United Nations in global affairs and to prevent the international legal system, with the UN Charter at its center, from being eroded,” to “consistently expanding the practice of settlements in national currencies and creating mechanisms to offset the negative impact of unilateral [US] sanctions.”

Putin resolutely defined China as “our strategic partner in the international arena,” and stressed how he and Xi “hold largely the same views on addressing the world’s problems.”

He said this strategic partnership is “sustainable, intrinsically valuable, not affected by the political climate and not aimed against anyone. It is underpinned by respect, regard for each other’s core interests, adherence to international law and the UN Charter.” 

The Global South – and possibly swathes of Europe, now facing a frigid winter with hiked fuel prices because of the stand off over Ukraine – will not fail to compare it with NATO’s worldview.

Meanwhile, in Kiev, Erdogan and Zelensky were reviewing the Turkish-Ukrainian strategic partnership.

Erdogan did perform quite a feat in Kiev. He called for “a “peaceful and diplomatic solution” in Ukraine, not exactly following the relentless War Inc. narrative. He even said the solution should be found “within the framework of the Minsk agreements, on the basis of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and international law.”

That happens to exactly tie in with Moscow’s view. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had previously commented, “if Turkey could encourage Kiev to implement the Minsk deal, Moscow would welcome this development.”

The Sultan swing again

So enter Erdogan as benign messenger/peacemaker – the latest twist in the fascinating, never-ending saga of what could be interpreted as his search for a more refined post-neo-Ottomanism stance in foreign policy.

Well, it’s not that simple. Erdogan, even before landing in Kiev, affirmed that Ankara is ready to host a live Putin-Zelensky meeting or even “talks at the technical level.”

That was his cue to promote a possible Putin jaunt to Ankara after his meeting with Xi in Beijing: “Mr. Putin told us that he will visit Turkey after his visit to China.”

Erdogan did invite Putin in late January. The Kremlin confirms no date has been set yet.

The ostensible purpose of Erdogan’s visit to Kiev, part of a High-Level Strategic Council, was to sign a so-called New Generation Free Trade Agreement, including the very tricky – for Moscow – joint production of Bayraktar drones, manufactured by Baykar Makina, a company owned by none other than Erdogan’s son-in-law Selcuk Bayraktar.

Yes, in Erdoganistan it’s all in the family. And the problem is that the Bayraktar TBT 2 combat drone – like those sold to Ukraine since 2018 – will continue to be used against the civilian population of Donetsk. Lavrov and even Putin himself have been very vocal about it vis-a-vis Ankara.

Erdogan’s geopolitical tightrope walking includes Russian S-400s in and US F-35s out, receiving Russian gas and nuclear technology while selling those Bayraktars to Russia’s enemies, and even the support, expressed by Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in late January, to the 1936 Montreux Convention, which is very specific on restricting NATO in the Black Sea: “It is out of the question to give up on [Montreux] under today’s conditions.”

NATO’s headquarters in Brussels won’t be amused.

Up to now, Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) had been actively ditching Montreux to the benefit of the still far-fetched Canal Istanbul linking the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, “entirely under Turkey’s sovereignty,” according to Erdogan – obviously a very juicy deal from NATO’s point of view. Yet the fact is Ankara, mired in an economic/financial swamp, has no means to build the Canal.     

The geopolitical tightrope walking still leaves in the balance the real objectives of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS), formerly Turkic Council, which crystallizes the pull of pan-Turkism – or pan-Turanism. It has already gone beyond last year’s Susha Declaration, which solidified a Turk-Azeri “one nation, two states;” it now encompasses these two plus Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and has been actively courting Hungary, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and – last but not least – Ukraine.     

The OTS met in a tightly secured island in Istanbul last November. They discussed in detail the fact that the extremely complex political environment in Taliban Afghanistan might spill over new instances of terrorism and uncontrolled migration. There were no leaks about future, practical OTS steps.    

Way more than a bridge connecting Asia Minor and the Caucasus to Central Asia, or a sort of benign form of “dialogue” between the south Caucasus and Central Asia, the OTS, in theory, carries all the trappings of a bloc from the Black Sea to Xinjiang, under a not-too-disguised Turkish hegemony, which implies a serious Trojan Horse element: a NATO presence.

It remains to be seen how the OTS would interface with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which congregates the “stans” as full members, as well as Iran – but not Turkey, which is just an observer. The SCO top powers are of course Russia and China, which in no way would allow, for instance, the Caspian to be open to western predatory policies, infringement of Russian and Iranian spheres of influence, and most of all a ‘security’ bloc with NATO ‘leading from behind.’     

The talk in those palace corridors

It’s quite enlightening to assess how Erdogan media – over 90% fully controlled across Turkey – mirrors what may be the real calculations swirling in the corridors of that 1000-room Sultanesque palace in Ankara.

They see that Russia “invaded Crimea, and annexed eastern Ukraine,” and is trying to “solidify its position in the Black Sea and Eastern Europe.” At the same time, they see the Empire instrumentalizing Turkey as a mere ‘frontline’ in a larger war, with NATO’s strategy to ‘besiege’ Russia and China also being applied against Turkey.

So “the fear of Turkey is now as strong as the fear of Russia and China.”

They seem to understand that if War Inc. gets what it desperately wants, “the Black Sea will be transformed into the Eastern Mediterranean. The US and Europe fully settling into the Black Sea means they will never leave.” That “could lead to Turkey’s destruction in the medium and long term.”

And then there’s the crucial twist: “Ukraine cannot stop Russia. But Turkey can.” That is exactly what Erdogan is playing at. “The US and Europe must be thwarted from settling into the Black Sea. Turkey-Russia relations must be preserved.” The problem is how “Ukraine’s integrity and defense must be supported.”

All of the above perfectly ties in with Erdogan, back from Kiev with all rhetorical guns blazing, blasting that the West wants to “worsen” the Ukrainian crisis. Erdogan media frames it as “a game is being set to drive Turkey against Russia.” 

Erdogan so far never really challenged the ‘rules-based international order.’ He always made a point of addressing two different messages to East and West. To Asia, the emphasis was on anti-imperialism, the dire consequences of colonialism, the Israeli apartheid state and western Islamophobia. To the West, he impressed his own version of dialogue of civilizations (and was branded as “an autocrat”).

Ultimately Erdogan is not west-toxified, much to the contrary. He sees the US-led order as a neocolonial power only interested in pillaging the resources of the lands of Islam. Of course he’s handicapped culturally – adhering, at best, to memorizing Quranic verses, listening to Ottoman military music and having his photo taken with the odd Turkish pop star. He doesn’t read; it’s all about instinct.

A conversation about Erdoganian neo-Ottomanism in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar beats any think tank analysis. Bazaaris tell us it’s something in constant flux. In foreign policy terms, it migrated from pro-EU to frustration for being excluded, coupled with the certainty that Turkey is fed up with being a US client state. It’s as if Erdogan, instinctively, has grasped the collective west’s current, abysmal strategic debacle – thus his effort, now, to build some strategic cooperation with Russia-China.

Has he undergone a conversion though? Considering his legendary volatility, all bets are off. Erdogan has a long memory, and has not forgotten that Putin was the first world leader to condemn the – botched – 2016 coup attempt by the usual intel suspects, and support him personally.

It’s still a long way for Erdogan’s Turkey to become a strategic partner to Russia. Yet he has a knack of knowing which way the geopolitical winds are blowing – and that points to Eurasia integration, the Russian-conceptualized Greater Eurasia Partnership, and the primacy of the Russia-China strategic partnership manifested through BRI, EAEU and the SCO.    

There’s even an Eurasianist mini-boom in Turkey. They are secular; anti-NATO – just like Russia-China; consider the Empire as the undisputed troublemaker in West Asia; and want closer ties with Moscow and Tehran.

In Nostalgia for the Empire: The Politics of Neo-Ottomanism, M. Hakan Yavuz argues that “neo-Ottomanism constitutes a web of interrelationships between the dominant discourse of Islamism, the residual memories of Ottoman grandeur, and the prominent desire to reconstitute the Turkish nation as a regional power with historic roots.”   

The money quote is “regional power”. Why not a strong “regional power” deeply integrated into a strong Greater Eurasia – instead of a mere (decaying) western vassal? No wonder Erdogan is dying to hang out with Putin in Ankara.

The Year of the Tiger Starts with a Sino-Russian Bang

February 3, 2022

Pepe Escobar

Independent geopolitical analyst, writer and journalist

The Year of the Black Water Tiger will start, for all practical purposes, with a Beijing bang this Friday, as Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, after a live meeting before the initial ceremony of the Winter Olympics, will issue a joint statement on international relations.

That will represent a crucial move in the Eurasia vs. NATOstan chessboard, as the Anglo-American axis is increasingly bogged down in Desperation Row: after all, “Russian aggression” stubbornly refuses to materialize.

After an interminable wait arguably due to the lack of functionaries properly equipped to write an intelligible letter, the US/NATO combo finally concocted a predictable, jargon-drenched bureaucratese non-response “response” to the Russian demands of security guarantees.

The contents were leaked to a Spanish newspaper, a full member of NATOstan media. The leaker, according to Brussels sources, may be in Kiev by now. The Pentagon, in damage control mode, rushed to assert, “We didn’t do it”. The State Dept. said, “it’s authentic.”

Even before the leak of the non-response “response”, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was forced to send messages to all NATO foreign ministers, including US Secretary Blinken, asking how they understand the principle of indivisibility of security – if they actually do.

Lavrov was extremely specific: “I am referring to our demands that everyone faithfully implement the agreements on the indivisibility of security that were reached within the OSCE in 1999 in Istanbul and in 2010 in Astana. These agreements provide not only for the freedom to choose alliances, but also make this freedom conditional on the need to avoid any steps that will strengthen the security of any state at the expense of infringing on the security of others.”

Lavrov hit the heart of the matter when he stressed, “our Western colleagues are not simply trying to ignore this key principle of international law agreed in the Euro-Atlantic space, but to completely forget it.”

Lavrov also made it very clear “we will not allow this topic to be ‘wrapped up’. We will insist on a honest conversation and an explanation of why the West does not want to fulfill its obligations at all or exclusively, selectively, and in its favor.”

Crucially, China fully supports Russian demands for security guarantees in Europe, and fully agrees that the security of one state cannot be ensured by inflicting damage on another state.

This is as serious as it gets: the US/NATO combo are bent on smashing two crucial treaties that directly concern European security, and they think they can get away with it because there is less than zero discussion about the content and its implications across NATOstan media.

Western public opinion remains absolutely clueless. The only narrative, hammered 24/7, is “Russian aggression” – by the way duly emphasized in NATO’s non-response “response”.

Wanna check our military-technical gear?

For the umpteenth time Moscow made it very clear it’s not going to make any concessions on the security demands just because the Empire of Chaos keeps threatening – what else – extra harsh sanctions, the sole imperial “policy” short of outright bombing.

The new sanctions package, anyway, is ready to go for quite a while now, arguably capable of cutting Moscow off from the Western financial system and/or casino, and targeting, among others, Sberbank, VTB, Gazprombank and Alfa-Bank.

And that brings us to what’s Moscow going to do next – considering the predictable “extremely negative attitude” (Lavrov) from NATOstan. Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko had already hinted NATO knows perfectly well what’s coming, even before the non-response “response”:

“NATO knows perfectly well what kind of military-technical measures may follow from Russia. We make no secret of our possibilities and are acting very transparently.”

Still the American “partners” are not listening. The Russians remain unfazed. Grushko framed it in realpolitik terms: concrete measures will depend on the “military potentials” that could be used against Russia. That’s code for what sort of nuclear weapons will be deployed in Eastern Europe, and what sort of lethal equipment will keep being unloaded in Ukraine.

In fact Ukraine – or country 404, per Andrei Martyanov’s indelible definition – is just a lowly pawn in their (imperial) game. Adding to Kiev’s misery on all fronts, the head of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Alexei Danilov, all but gave away the (regional) game.

In an interview to AP, Danilov said that “the Minsk Agreements can create chaos”; he admitted that Kiev totally lost the war in 2014/15 and then signed the Minsk Agreements “under threat of Russian arms” (false: Kiev was soundly defeated by the Donbass militias); but most of all he admitted Kiev never had any intention of fulfilling the Minsk Agreements.

So Kiev, essentially, is breaking international law: the Minsk Agreements are guaranteed by the UN Security Council resolution 2022 (2015), adopted unanimously. Even the US, UK and France voted “Yes”. So breaking the law is not hard to do, as long as you’re enabled by “big powers”.

And on that invisible “Russian aggression”, well, even Danilov can’t see “the readiness of Russian forces near the border for an invasion, which will take three to seven days.”

Bring on the Dancing Horses

None of the above alters the fundamental fact that the USUK combo – plus the proverbial NATO chihuahuas Poland and the Baltics – are spinning around like mad trying to provoke a war. And the only way to do it is to Release the False Flags. It may be sometime in February, it may be during the Beijing Olympics, it may be before the onset of Spring. But they will come. And the Russians are ready.

The preamble has been staged straight from Monty Python Flying Circus – complete with Crash Test Dummy, a.k.a. POTUS yelling to comedian Zelensky that, in a trashy Mongol revival, “Kiev will be sacked” (to the sound of Bring On the Dancing Horses?); an outraged Zelensky telling POTUS to, c’mon man, back off; and the White House swearing that the US has gamed 18 scenarios for the “Russian invasion” (Lavrov: 17 were written by the intel alphabet soup, the 18th by the State Dept.)

Cue to non-stop, frantic weaponizing of country 404 – everything from Javelins to MANPADs to overpriced Blackwater/Academi-tinged waves of “advisers”.

Switching away from farce, not to mention misguided scenarios starting from the faulty premise of an “invasion”, the only rational move Moscow may be contemplating is to de facto recognize the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, and send in a contingent of peacekeepers.

That, of course, would enrage the neo-con infested War Inc. matrix to intergalactic paroxysm, as it would nullify all those elaborate psyops geared to instill the Fear of God on the unsuspecting victims of the Remixed Khanate of the Golden Horde, burning and looting all the way to…the Hungarian plains?

Then there’s the tricky question of how to de-Nazify Western Ukraine: that will be a strictly Ukrainian matter, with zero Russian involvement.

The ghost of Mackinder is in total freak out mode contemplating in impotence the imperial brilliance of deciding to fight a two-front war against the Russia-China strategic partnership. At least there’s Monty Python to the rescue: the Ministry of Silly Walks has been gloriously revived as the Ministry of Silly Strategies.

Pride of place goes to the phone call placed by Little Blinkie to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi – which contains all the elements of a brilliant comic sketch. It stars with the combo behind that cipher, “Biden”, thinking that the Beijing leadership could influence Putin to not exercise “Russian aggression” against 404. On the sidelines, perhaps there could be some discussion about the “Indo-Pacific” racket.

The plot went downhill when once again Wang Yi – remember Alaska? – made shark fin’s soup out of Blinkie. The key take aways: China totally supports Russia; it’s the US that is destabilizing Europe; and were more sanctions to come, Europe will pay a terrible price, not Russia, which of course can count on a serious helping hand from China.

Now compare it with the phone call between Putin and Macron. It was, to start with, cordial. They discussed “brain-dead” (copyright Macron) NATO. They discussed the proverbial Anglo-Saxon shenanigans. They even discussed the possibility of forming a pan-European group – a sort of anti-AUKUS – with Russia included, curbing the influence of the Five Eyes and bent on avoiding by all means a war in European soil. For the moment, it’s all talk. But the game-changing seeds are all there.

Misguided scenarios insist that Putin skillfully exploited the imperial obsession with the rise and rise of China to re-establish Russia’s sphere of influence. Nonsense. The sphere was always there – and won’t move. The difference is Moscow finally got fed up with the heavy symbolism permeating the unresolved 404 mess: the intermingling of raw Russophobia in Washington and containment/encirclement NATO knocking at the door.

Metaphorically, this may turn out to be the Year of two – sanctioned – Black Water Tigers, one Chinese, one Siberian. They will be harassed non-stop by the headless eagle, blind to its own irreversible decay and always resorting to the serial Hail Mary passes of the only “policy” it knows.

The ultimate danger – especially for the European minions – is that the headless eagle will never let go of its former “indispensable” status without provoking another devastating war. In European soil. Still the tigers persist: in Beijing, before the Games commence, they will be taking yet another step to irreversibly bury the “rules-based international order”.

Chinese Envoy to US Warns of Possible ‘Military Conflict’ over Taipei

January 29, 2022

China’s top envoy to the US has warned of a likely “military conflict” over persistent American efforts to urge officials of Taipei to seek independence from the mainland.

“The Taiwan issue is the biggest tinderbox between China and the United States,” China’s Ambassador to Washington Qin Gang said Thursday during an interview with state-funded National Public Radio (NPR).

“If the Taiwanese authorities, emboldened by the United States, keep going down the road for independence, it most likely will involve China and the United States, the two big countries, in the military conflict.”

China has long considered the nearby island territory as its “sacred” territory and has always vowed of its eventual unification with the mainland even if it has to resort to the use of force.

Qin, however, insisted that forceful measures would be the last resort towards unification, saying, “People on both sides of Taiwan Straits are Chinese, so we are compatriots. So the last thing we should do is to fight with compatriots.”

“We will do our utmost in the greatest sincerity to achieve a peaceful reunification,” he added, noting that since Taiwanese authorities, buoyed by the US, are following a path towards separation from the mainland, “China will not commit to giving up the un-peaceful means for reunification because this is a deterrence.”

The remarks came after Chinese President Xi Jinping also warned earlier this month that a confrontation between major world powers could only lead to catastrophic consequences and will not solve any problems.

While addressing the virtual Davos World Economic Forum on January 17, Xi insisted that countries must abandon Cold War mentality and seek peaceful coexistence and win-win outcomes.

“Our world today is far from the tranquil, rhetoric that stokes hatred and prejudice abound,” Xi declared after warning against all forms of unilateralism, protectionism as well as hegemony. “History has proved time and again that confrontation does not solve problems, it only invites catastrophic consequences.”

Pentagon reaffirms US support of Taipei

Reacting to Qin’s warning about the likelihood of a US-China conflict, some American officials appeared adamant about extending political and military support to the breakaway Chinese Taipei.

“We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability while also maintaining our own capacity to resist any use of force that would jeopardize the security of the people of Taiwan,” said a Pentagon spokesperson.

The official, however, added that Washington remained committed to its “one China” policy and its commitments under the US Taiwan Relations Act, which officially recognized Beijing instead of Taipei, but also obliges the American military to provide Taipei with the means to “defend itself.”

The US State Department and White House have not yet reacted to Qin’s remarks, which came just hours after American top diplomat, Antony Blinken, discussed with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, the persisting crisis over Ukraine in a telephone conversation.

Wang further warned Blinken to “stop interfering” in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing after a handful of Western countries followed the US to boycott the international sports event.

“The most urgent priority right now is that the US should stop interfering in the Beijing Winter Olympics,” Wang said during the call.

The Chinese envoy to the US also slammed Washington’s so-called “diplomatic boycott” of the upcoming event over propped up human rights allegations, pointing out that the hostile move has added to tensions although it drew little support from American allies — even with US athletes taking part in the major sport event.

Alleged ‘genocide’ against Uyghurs ‘biggest lie’

Qin further rejected as the “biggest lies of the century” the highly publicized US allegations of Chinese “genocide” against the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority in western China, and emphasized that Uyghur people – like ethnic groups across the mainland – “enjoy a happy life.”

“They enjoy the rights and the freedom guaranteed by the constitution of China. They are a member of the big family of Chinese nation,” he then underlined, reiterating that “there is no genocide at all.”

According to NPR, the remarks by the senior Chinese diplomat marked “an unusually direct statement” regarding the US and Taiwan, with observers saying that Beijing often addresses the issue in more general terms, such as saying that the US is “playing with fire.”

The report further points to surging concerns among US officials and analysts over Taiwan’s ability to defend itself amid American focus of attention on a potential war in Ukraine.

The development also came as US President Joe Biden has maintained former president Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese products and American diplomats have continued to trade contentious statements with their Chinese counterparts.

It is widely recognized in Washington that a decades-long US policy of engagement with China produced great wealth for many companies but failed to spark Americanization of the world’s most populous nation.

This is while Qin further insisted during his latest interview that any ideas of “changing China” were always “an illusion.”

Source: Agencies (edited by Al-Manar English Website)

West Asia transforms: Twenty Arab states in China’s BRI sights

‘A crisis is an opportunity riding the dangerous wind.’ So says a Chinese proverb, and nowhere is this truer than in crisis-ridden West Asia, now a major focus of Beijing’s BRI vision to bring infrastructure, connectivity and economic growth to this struggling region

January 26 2022

By Cynthia Chung

West Asia’s winds have changed. When Syria began 2022 by joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it became the 20th Arab country that Beijing has factored into its grand connectivity vision for Asia, Africa and Europe.

The Arab states in China’s sights include those that have already signed deals, and others with proposals in hand: Egypt (2016), Sudan (2018), Algeria (2018), Iraq (2015), Morocco (2017), Saudi Arabia (2018), Yemen (2017), Syria (2022), Somalia (2015), Tunisia (2018), UAE (2018), Libya (2018), Lebanon (2017), Oman (2018), Mauritania (2018), Kuwait(2018), Qatar (2019), Bahrain (2018), Djibouti (2018), Comoros.

The ambitious connectivity and development projects the BRI can inject into a war-torn, exhausted West Asia have the ability to transform the areas from the Levant to the Persian Gulf into a booming world market hub.

Importantly, by connecting these states via rail, road, and water, the foreign-fueled differences that have kept nations at odds since colonial times will have to take a back seat. Once-hostile neighbors must work in tandem for mutually-beneficial economic gains and a more secure future to work.

And money talks – in a region continuously beset by war, terrorism, ruin and shortages.

Rebuilding Syria and linking the Four Seas

On 12 January this year, Syria officially joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The timing of this decision dovetails with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s whirlwind tour of West Asia this past spring and summer, beginning with the signing of the $400 billion Sino-Iranian 25-year Comprehensive Cooperation Plan.

In turn, President Bashar al-Assad’s re-election in May last year opened the door to a seven-year Sino-Syrian partnership in the reconstruction of Syria, to relink it to the Mediterranean and Asian markets.

The task will be extensive. The cost of Syria’s reconstruction is estimated to be between $250 and $400 billion – a massive sum, considering Syria’s 2018 total budget was just less than $9 billion.

Nonetheless, Syria has much to offer and China has never been reticent over long-term investment strategies, especially when much can be gained in stabilizing regions that include core transportation corridors.

Syria’s geographical location has been a center for trade and commerce that dates back centuries.

Today, it offers a crucial bypass from the choke points represented by the straits that separate the South China Sea from the Indian Ocean (Malacca, Sunda and Lombok), now controlled by a heavy US presence.

The location of Syria is of central importance to the trade routes through the Five Seas Vision, which was officially put forward by the Syrian president in 2004.

As Assad explained this vision: “Once the economic space between Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran becomes integrated, we would link the Mediterranean, the Caspian, the Black Sea, and the Gulf … we are not only important in the Middle East … Once we link these Four Seas, we become the compulsory intersection of the whole world in investment, transport, and more.”

Photo Credit: The Cradle
Source: Schiller Institute. Proposed rail lines from Albu Kamal/Al-Qaim to Deir Ezzor onto Palmyra and Tehran to Baghdad.

The Latakia Port will be crucial to the Five Seas Vision, and will likely be the first primary focus for heavy Chinese investment, with the potential to become the Eastern Mediterranean’s largest port facility.

Iran has a lease on part of the Latakia Port and has a preferential trade agreement with Syria, while Russia has a base at the nearby Tartus Port, roughly 85km south of Latakia.

Latakia provides access to the Black Sea via Turkey’s Bosphorus (Strait of Istanbul), and access to the Red Sea via the Suez Canal. Russia has free trade facilities at the nearby Port Said in Egypt.

From there, vessels can enter the Persian Gulf, under the protection of another Russian facility at Port Sudan, through the Suez Canal.

Goods can then be shipped onto Iran, which connects to the Caspian Sea from the Chabahar Port via the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC).

From the INSTC transport corridor, it is a short journey to Pakistan, India, and ultimately to China.

International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), the 7,200 km multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road routes for moving freight, largely coordinated by Russia (north end) and India.

Reviving routes and expanding ports

Lebanon’s Tripoli port, 20 miles south of the Syrian-Lebanese border, will also be at the center of BRI investment, if the country’s muddled political rivalries allow for it. The port can play a vital role in the reconstruction of Syria – which Washington seeks to thwart – with plans to revive the Beirut-Tripoli railway as part of a wider network that would incorporate Lebanese and Syrian railway systems into the BRI.

China is also looking to help establish a Tripoli Special Economic Zone as a central trans-shipment hub for the eastern Mediterranean. Plans are underway for the China Harbor Engineering Company to expand the Tripoli port to accommodate the largest freighters.

China has helped to expand the Mouawad airport, about 15 miles north of Tripoli, transforming it from a predominantly military base to a thriving civilian airport.

In 2016, the year that Egypt joined China’s BRI, President Xi Jinping visited Egypt, and the two countries signed 21 partnership agreements with a total value of $15 billion.

China Harbor Engineering Company Ltd has been cooperating with Egyptian companies in the construction of new logistic and industrial areas along the Suez Canal.

In addition, the China State Construction Engineering Corporation has been working on the construction of a new administrative capital 45km east of Cairo, valued at $45 billion. These projects will work to further facilitate integration into the BRI framework.

The case of Yemen, which joined the BRI in 2017, remains a challenging one. China has done much to invest in Egypt’s Suez Canal and the Djibouti Port, which connects with the Addis Abba-Djibouti railway.

Djibouti, Ethiopia and Sudan all joined the BRI in 2018, while Somalia had been on board since 2015. China established its first overseas military base in Djibouti in 2017, giving it access to the key maritime choke point in the region. Yemen stands to gain much with its strategically placed Port Aden.

China’s ambassador to Yemen, Kang Yong, said in a March 2020 interview with Yemeni news outlet Al-Masdar that China considers all agreements signed between the two countries prior to the onset of the 2015 war as still valid, and will implement them “after the Yemeni war ends and after restoring peace and stability.”

Although both China and Russia have made the point that they will not directly intervene in regional politics, it is clear where both nations stand in their orientation, as gleaned from the rapid ascension that has been granted to Iran in recent months.

This past September, Iran was admitted as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), while Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar were admitted as SCO dialogue partners, joining Turkey.

Over the past year, Iran has quickly gained high regard and is now considered the third pillar to the multipolar alliance of Russia and China, increasingly referred to as RIC (Russia-Iran-China).

On 21 September, officials from Saudi Arabia and Iran met for the fourth round of talks aimed at improving relations, and although the process remains slow, it looks increasingly possible that a peaceful resolution can be reached.

Returning to Syria’s Five Seas Vision, Iraq also has a crucial role to play in this game-changing program.

The office of the Iraqi prime minister stated last May that “negotiations with Iran to build a railway between Basra and Shalamcheh have reached their final stages, and we have signed 15 agreements and memoranda of understanding with Jordan and Egypt regarding energy and transportation lines.”

China-Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway corridor, part of the INSTC. Iraq joined the BRI in 2015, Iran in 2018.

The railway is part of Syria’s reconstruction deal. The 30km Shalamcheh-Basra rail line will connect Iraq to China’s Belt and Road lines, as well as bring Iran closer to Syria. Basra is also linked to the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC).

The Shalamcheh-Basra rail link will make it possible for Iran to send various commodities, such as consumer goods, construction materials, and minerals through the railway from Tehran to Shalamcheh and then to Basra, and finally to Al Qaim border crossing between Iraq and Syria, which was re-opened in September 2019 after being closed for eight years due to war in both countries.

Presently, there is no rail link between Al Qaim in Iraq to Syria’s rail station in Deir Ezzor, which is roughly 163km away. This should be a priority for construction. From Deir Ezzor, Syria’s existing rail line connects to Aleppo, Latakia, Tartus, and Damascus.

On 29 December, the Iranian cabinet approved the opening of the Chinese consulate in Bandar Abbas, China’s first consulate in Iran. It is expected that China will invest heavily in the Chabahar Free Trade and Industrial Zone and Bandar Abbas, Iran’s most important southern sea transportation hub.

The former Iranian ambassador to China and Switzerland, Mohammad-Hossein Malaek, told the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) that Beijing is set to play a leading role in developing the Makran region, the coastal strip along Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province and Pakistan’s Balochistan, and where Beijing already has a 40-year, multi-billion dollar agreement with Islamabad to develop the Gwadar port.

Both Iran and Turkey have been intensely engaged with the BRI. The first freight train ran from Pakistan to Turkey through Iran on 21 December last year, after a 10-year hiatus.

This resulted in a major boost to the trading capabilities of the three founders of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), created in 1985 in Tehran by the leaders of Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, and which now has 10 members.

The 6,540km journey from Islamabad to Istanbul takes ten days, less than half the time needed for the equivalent voyage of 21 days by sea. The train has the capacity to carry 80,000 tons of goods.

Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul Rail (ITI).

Within the corridors of cooperation and connectivity

Also in December last year, Javad Hedayati, an official with Iran’s Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization, announced that Iran, Azerbaijan, and Georgia had reached an agreement on establishing a transit route connecting the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea.

This transit route could potentially link with the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul Rail (ITI) and further boost connectivity in the region.

The construction work of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline is resuming in the Afghanistan section. The TAPI is a regional connectivity project for supplying gas from Turkmenistan to India’s Punjab to meet regional demand.

Map illustrates the planned TAPI pipeline (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) and railways in Afghanistan.

The pipeline is expected to carry 33 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. The 1,814km pipeline stretches from Galkinesh, the world’s second-largest gas field, to the Indian city of Fazilka, near the Pakistan border.

This will be more than enough to supply Afghanistan’s own energy needs as it starts to rebuild and reconstruct. TAPI is expected to facilitate a unique level of trade and cooperation across the region, as well as support peace and security between the four countries: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.

The Afghan-Uzbek rail project is another exciting proposal that has recently been under serious discussion. The project would include the construction of a 700km long Mazar-i-Sharif to Herat rail line that would pass through Shiberghan, Andkhoy, and Maimana in western Afghanistan.

If this project materializes, all Central Asian countries, including Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, would be connected to Iran’s Chabahar corridor via western Afghanistan.

The Afghan-Uzbek rail project will be one of the biggest breakthroughs in Asian transport connectivity with enormous implications for the entire region, both in terms of economic prosperity as well as political stability.

Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan have already signed an agreement to develop a trans-Afghan transport corridor.

India is also seeking a railway connection with Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, which would connect Chabahar as a gateway between Eurasia and the Indian Ocean.

Cooperation in the area of connectivity with these countries could also be pursued under the SCO framework.

Whether the official title of BRI is present or not, all these development corridors in transportation, industry and energy will participate in the main economic corridors under the BRI framework.

All participant countries in the BRI understand this, and they also know that cooperation is key to mutual beneficence and security.

The Six Main Economic Corridors under China’s BRI, some completed, others hindered by geopolitical conflicts, as in Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Iraq, South China Sea.

Meanwhile, Gulf States shun collaboration

Generally, western-backed Persian Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE have done much to sabotage this vein of progress.

Thus far, their involvement in the BRI framework has mostly consisted of exchanging oil for technological resources to diversify their economies. They have not, however, been as eager to participate in collaborative processes with other Arab countries.

Nonetheless, the tides are changing, and one cannot maintain a wealthy island philosophy among this growing framework.

The Gulf States need a market to trade in, so that they can grow and prosper. They are therefore in no position to dictate relations with their neighbors, on whom they will grow increasingly dependent for their survival.

If the Gulf countries – some now dialogue partner states of the SCO – adhere to the guidelines of that political-economic-security organization – funding and support of Islamic terrorism is expected to slowly die out.

This would be the most effective way to isolate the attempts of the west to instigate chaos and division within West Asia.

With the BRI and Eurasian Economic Union framework working in tandem, those who are willing to abide by the multipolar framework of a win-win cooperation will make the quickest ascensions.

And those who sluggishly cling to old prejudices and outdated orders will only sink into irrelevance.The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Defying US Caesar Act, China admits Syria into BRI


January 14 2022

By Giorgio Cafiero

Syria’s entry into China’s Belt and Road Initiative is to support its economic integration into West Asia and fortify its post-conflict recovery

Marking a major boost to Sino-Syrian relations, on 12 January, Syria joined the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s ambitious infrastructure development strategy stretching from East Asia to Europe.

For analysts with an eye on Syria, the development was expected. In November 2021, President Bashar al-Assad discussed his country gaining membership in the BRI with his counterpart in Beijing, Xi Jinping, following high-level meetings between officials of both states in previous months.

The move will likely help Syria deepen its cooperative and economic ties to other countries in the BRI, and enable it to circumvent the effects of harsh US sanctions on the country.

China clearly seeks to bolster the government in Damascus. Over the past decade, and for various reasons enumerated here on The Cradle, conflict-ridden Syria has been a country of increasing interest to Beijing.

Economy and the long game

China’s BRI agenda has been one main point of mutual interest: As Beijing sees it, Syria represents a corridor to the Mediterranean Sea which bypasses the Suez Canal and revives ancient trade routes connecting China to the African and European continents.

The incorporation of coastal Tartus and the capital city of Damascus into the BRI could boost Beijing’s economic footing in the Levant and Mediterranean.

Although nearly 11 years of warfare in Syria have prevented the Chinese from leveraging the Arab state’s geostrategic location to advance Beijing’s BRI, China’s leadership has carefully focused on playing the long game.

Now, in the post-conflict era, with Syria in need of massive reconstruction and infrastructure projects, China’s BRI has been brought into play.

Ancient links and modern opportunities

As a BRI member, Syria will look to further integrate itself economically into West Asia. In desperate need of foreign investment for the process of redevelopment, the Syrian leadership views China as a key investor and partner to rebuild the war-ravaged nation.

Importantly, during this period, China’s good will has grown among Syrians, in large part because of Beijing’s bold initiatives to thwart direct western military intervention at the UN Security Council and other institutions.

It is safe to assume that China will, at least eventually, be able to leverage its popularity among Syrians to take advantage of new economic opportunities in the country’s post-conflict future.

At the ceremony of Syria’s admission into the BRI, held this month in Damascus, Fadi Khalil, who heads Syria’s Planning and International Cooperation Commission, hailed the initiative. He invoked the historic roles of Aleppo and Palmyra in the ancient Silk Road and spoke about the potential for future Sino-Syrian relations within the framework of greater bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

Khalil and Feng Biao, Beijing’s ambassador to Syria, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Syria’s admission into this Chinese initiative, which other Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, have previously joined at different levels of commitment.

Other recent developments underscore the extent to which Syria and China are deepening their ties. At the start of this year, Beijing aided Syria by sending over more than a million COVID-19 vaccine doses, according to Syrian state-owned media.

Despite the many ways in which Syria sees itself benefitting from membership in the BRI, the West Asian framework for this project will be no bed of roses.

A geographic wrench in the works

For Beijing, it is important that Iraq establish a long-term BRI corridor to both Syria and Jordan. While the BRI route between Iran and Syria – that traverses Iraq – has yet to be agreed upon with Baghdad, the Chinese must have many valid concerns about the security risks of doing business in Syria and Iraq.

China recognizes that “Iraq continues to top the list of high-risk investment destinations” in this grandiose project. Obviously, the same can be said about Syria where ISIS and other extremist militants continue to wage acts of terrorism, notably on the country’s borders with Iraq and Turkey.

With serious issues stemming from terrorism, social unrest, economic woes, and violent political instability, Iraq and Syria are two countries plagued by countless security uncertainties.

Although Chinese firms tend to accept higher levels of security risks than western companies, securing the BRI in Syria’s volatile neighborhood will prove no easy task for Beijing and its West Asian trade partners.

A far more stable and secure BRI economic corridor to Europe would be via northern Iran – a route already secured – then extending directly from Iran into Turkey. Yet the ice-cold state of Ankara-Damascus relations, China’s view of Turkey as an uneasy BRI partner, and NATO pressures on Ankara to avoid Beijing and Tehran, all contribute to practical challenges that will not be easy for the BRI’s financiers to quickly overcome.

But the Sino-Syrian deal this week shows that China is moving forward with its West Asian framework, despite these obstacles. One wonders whether Beijing has reason to believe Iraq’s acquiescence to the BRI is already in the bag. There is little point of developing the Syrian part of the project, without the Iraqi bridge necessary to secure Iran’s connectivity to Syria.

Washington’s reconstruction obstacle: The Caesar Act

On 17 July, 2020, the US began implementing the most sweeping sanctions which Washington has ever imposed on Syria.

Formally known as the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019 (or Caesar Act), the Biden administration continues to target Syria with Trump-era sanctions which pursue entities or individuals worldwide – including third-party actors – conducting business with government-dominated bodies of the Syrian economy, such as gas, oil, construction, engineering, and banking.

When China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Damascus in July 2021, he met with Assad and other high-ranking Syrian government figures.

That visit by Beijing’s top diplomat was an early indication of China’s seriousness about strengthening ties with Syria, despite Washington’s continued imposition of wide-ranging sanctions on the state.

During his visit to Syria, Wang emphasized his government’s staunch opposition to the foreign-backed ‘regime change’ agenda targeting the Assad government. Beijing frames its pro-Assad stance within the context of supporting Syria’s sovereignty as an independent nation-state.

Throughout the past 11 years of warfare in Syria, China has maintained four core beliefs on the conflict: First, that the Syrian people need to reach a political solution; second, that a political transition in Syria is necessary; third, that top priorities include nation-wide reconciliation and unity; and fourth, that the international community has an obligation to help Syria.

The BRI, while initiated and heavily financed by the Chinese, is ultimately a multinational project involving dozens of countries, many of them US-allied, and interconnected with Syria via history, religion, culture, and economy – past and present.

A project this global is unlikely to come to a grinding halt because of a domestic US government ruling on trade formulated thousands of miles away from the activity.

Fighting terrorism in Syria and China

Another issue that has driven the Beijing-Damascus joint agenda in recent years is China’s ‘securitization campaign’ or ‘pacification drive’ in Xinjiang.

Assad’s government has publically condemned western efforts to use the plight of Uighurs for the purpose of creating a wedge between China and Muslim-majority countries.

Syria, like most Arab-Islamic countries, has defended Beijing in the face of the US and other western governments which allege that Chinese authorities are guilty of waging ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang, where about 12 million Uighurs, mostly Muslim, reside.

Mindful of the fact that Uighur jihadists came from Xinjiang to Syria to fight the Syrian government in the ranks of Islamic State and other violent extremist groups, Damascus and Beijing see themselves as having common cause in a struggle against terrorism and extremism.

In 2017, Syria’s ambassador to Beijing said that roughly 5,000 terrorists from Xinjiang were transported, mostly via Turkey, to Syria during the conflict. Chinese authorities have voiced serious concerns about the now battle-hardened and indoctrinated extremists potentially returning to China to carry out acts of terrorism.

Likewise, Beijing rejects the view of western governments that Assad is guilty of serious crimes. China’s leadership believes that the Syrian government deserves praise for its fight against forces which sought to overthrow Assad and his government.

When Wang was in Syria last summer, he said that “the Syrian government’s leading role in fighting terrorism on its soil should be respected, schemes of provoking ethnic divisions under the pretense of countering terrorism should be opposed, and Syria’s sacrifice and contribution to the anti-terror fight should be acknowledged.”

The future of the Sino-Syrian relationship

Currently in the US there is strong support from both sides of Washington’s political aisle for stringent Trump-era US sanctions on Damascus. In fact, this year, Biden’s administration has come under bipartisan pressure to intensify the US government’s enforcement of the Caesar Act.

Given the existing polarization and hostility in West Asian geopolitics, it is difficult to imagine Washington lifting the Caesar Act in the foreseeable future. Ultimately, this means that the US will probably continue to target Syria’s economy with crippling sanctions.

Within this context, Damascus has all the reason in the world to pursue strategies that can help it minimize the harm caused by Washington’s financial warfare.

“China can play an important role in weakening the impact of the Caesar sanctions,” said Dr. Joshua Landis, head of the Middle East department at the University of Oklahoma, in an interview last year with The Cradle.

“In Iran, China has done this,” Landis explained. “Iran’s oil exports, which were devastated by sanctions, have begun to grow again, largely because China is purchasing Iranian oil again. China is the workshop of the world so it can supply most of the goods that Syria needs. China is also strong enough to thumb its nose at US sanctions. As the US increasingly forbids US companies from dealing with Chinese firms, China has greater incentive to punish the US by breaking sanctions on countries like Iran and Syria.”

Now that Syria has joined the BRI, it is safe to conclude that the Chinese will play an increasingly important role in terms of Syria’s strategies for withstanding sanctions imposed by the US.

The odds are good that, as time passes, China and Syria’s geopolitical and geo-economic value to each other will only expand.

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

A Throne of Chinese Skulls! Oh Yeah?

December 20, 2021

By Chris Faure for the Saker Blog

The hot question among a number of hot questions is: What will China do?

Is there clarity? I would argue yes there is .. some. The paradox is that West pushes for terms of a new partitioning of the world (democracy summit, unending belligerence, cynical, and hypocritical paranoia), while Russia and China expect terms of surrender. According to China, there has to be payback for past empire atrocities.

In such an environment a kinetic hot war makes little sense because there is no overt military threat against western leadership. I would argue that Russia’s ultimatum is military containment by agreement, as a first step. I would also argue that because we do not have insight into step 2 (military/technical counter-threats), we cannot reason that step 2 is not highly coordinated with China, to the nth degree. It is so that the USA is no longer the world’s only ‘indispensable nation’. They are now dispensable and replaceable in their current form and the hope is that they reform themselves.

As there is much that we do not know in terms of further steps, there is also much that we do not know about how China is going to interrelate. What we do know is that they will be a part of the final dethroning of Western powers’ force for empire. We know this, because they said so and China is dead serious.

Russia made their proposals known. China did too, just today.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on the United States to work with China to find out the way of peaceful coexistence between the two major countries. He noted some people in the United States are unwilling to admit that other countries also have the right to development, unwilling to accept the fact that China is growing stronger and making progress, unwilling to agree that China and the United States can achieve mutual benefit and win-win results, and are trying to form a camp to contain and suppress China.

“The wrong words and deeds of the U.S. side not only seriously damage the interests of the two peoples, but also seriously impact world peace and stability” Wang said.

Here are the Chinese statements over the past few days:

Shortly after the Putin/Xi Jingping virtual meeting, this question was posed to Foreign Minister Spokesperson Wang Wenbin. Mr Wenbin is a highly competent diplomat.

Question from TASS: In his virtual meeting with Russian President Putin, President Xi Jinping said China will continue to carry out flexible and diverse cooperation with Russia and other member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization to safeguard security and stability in the region. What challenges are China and Russia facing in this aspect? What can China and Russia do to safeguard regional security?

Wang Wenbin: On December 15, President Xi Jinping had a virtual meeting with Russian President Putin. The two heads of state had an in-depth exchange of views on core and major issues of common concerns including safeguarding regional security, and achieved new, important consensus.

The world is witnessing the combined forces of changes and a pandemic both unseen in a century against the backdrop of complex and profound changes in international and regional landscape. We believe that China and Russia, two permanent members of the UN Security Council, take on an important mission in defending regional peace and stability and promoting development and revitalization of all countries. For some time, certain countries have been drawing ideological lines, building new military blocs and stoking regional tensions, which have all brought grave threats and challenges to regional peace and stability and global strategic stability. China and Russia firmly reject this. We will continue to follow the two leaders’ consensus, take up responsibility, unite all forces that love peace and support peace, and make active contribution to realizing sustained, universal and common security in the region and the wider world.

https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/zxxx_662805/202112/t20211215_10470184.html

Certain sentences and words need to be lifted out of ‘diplo-speak’.

Note, the question from the TASS reporter is about regional security. Mr Wenbin, in his response, brought it back to the strategic stability of the wider world.

This sentence: Russia/China take on important mission in defending regional peace and stability and promoting development and revitalization of all countries.

Again, he then speaks about Global Strategic Stability and not only regional.

For some time, certain countries have been drawing ideological lines, building new military blocs and stoking regional tensions, which have all brought grave threats and challenges to regional peace and stability and global strategic stability.

And here is the shocker:

We will continue to follow the two leaders’ consensustake up responsibility, unite all forces that love peace and support peace, and make active contribution to realizing sustained, universal and common security in the region and the wider world.

The phrase the two leader’s consensus indicates that all plans have been made, everyone stands at the ready, and Putin and Xi Jinping will take the next step probably on a phone call. The fate of the world is now in the hands of Putin and Xi Jinping. It is astonishing that China is subjecting itself to The Consensus of the Two Leaders and shows without a shadow of a doubt that they are acting in full concert, strategically, politically, economically coordinated, and we know militarily as well, we just don’t know to what extent.

Another statement from Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin: This statement is interesting in that it shows the emotion (which I’ve never seen him display) of the Chinese people. They are at the end of their strategic patience as well and this is how they feel.

“The era in which the USA acted arbitrarily in the world under the pretext of democracy and human rights is now over.”

Currently, the destruction that the Western powers waged on the world, is transparent. Take a look:  Pentagon documents reveal ‘deeply flawed’ US air war: report

https://peoplesdaily.pdnews.cn/world/pentagon-documents-reveal-deeply-flawed-us-air-war-report-241188.html

Russia and China are stepping into alternative world relations still based on the UN Charter and Law, and based on respect between countries, and more than that, they are proving that it is possible since the first discussions of multi-polarity in the world in 2015 and the first public discussions of Belt and Road in 2013. For years now Russia and China tried to help the Western powers out of their sorry state; but the time has come.  ‘Gung-ho’ and ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’ seem to be over and at least from China side, this is a tipping point.  The Western powers need to face their downright self-inflicted humiliation. This will happen economically by moving the world to a new economic system with new economic tools and will go right through to military intervention should the Western powers continue their arbitrary actions. But nobody will be fighting the ‘West’s War’ and I submit we may see something quite unanticipated by our usual analysis and calculus. It is already unprecedented that Mr. Lavrov published his diplomatic correspondence with France and Germany regarding the Ukraine. It is also unprecedented for draft proposals from Russia to be open to the public at this stage. We are in an unprecedented time.

The fact that both Russia, China, and Iran do not start the shooting, is incontrovertible proof that they are genuine in their statements that they want to bring peace.

China is in, boots ‘n all. If a regional conflagration should break out and it is in Russia’s ballpark (the Ukraine), and Russia can deal with it on her own, China will make sure that the Russian soldiers are the best outfitted and supported of any modern military force that we have ever seen. You will see a voentorg to beat all voentorgs. Russian forces will drink champagne and eat oysters (OK, this is shameless hyperbole, but it makes the point).

Taiwan has simmered down. The latest words there from China in the person of Foreign Minister Wang Yi, is Taiwan’s reunification with China is a question of time. “China must and will be reunified,” he stressed. He noted that there has been growing support for the ‘One-China’ principle around the world, referring to the recent decision by the government of Nicaragua to break ties with Taipei. “Ten days ago, we resumed diplomatic relations with Nicaragua. The total number of countries with [whom China has] diplomatic ties has increased to 181, and the one-China consensus has been consolidated internationally,” he said.

If there is a fight, no matter the size, or the manner of the fight, the Chinese are in and I would argue that they are in right now! Nobody can beat them at producing what is necessary for a fight. Their own aircraft carrier battle groups are out in the ocean through the near Pacific, South China Seas and other seas.  One has to get used to how China presents things. Even the media reporting these maneuvers, puts scare quotes around the words “routine drills”.  Battle groups are out for scare quoted “routine drills”. They do not say that China is readying herself for a defense of her own basin, in which case Russia will support in the same way that China will support Russia. Will anyone be able to penetrate beyond and inside the first island chain?

So, it is clear that the Russia/China double helix is operating fine currently. Mr Wang is not playing a good cop to Russia’s bad cop. He is making it clear that what is happening is not only a Russian problem, but a problem of the strategic stability in the world, It affects not only Russia, but China as well, and no longer can one entity be allowed to attack others like fish in a barrel.

We cannot think of a multi-front war: the West cannot possibly be that deranged.

Yet, the ludicrous rhetoric in the Western spheres continues apace and distracts from reality. It is hardly worthwhile rebutting every accusation. China is not using much rhetoric currently but we can be sure that they note this rhetoric. Knowing the strategic situation in the world, they are not rebutting. There is no need.

We need men ” … who want to sit on a throne of Chinese skulls …

Andrei Martyanov is causing high hilarity about USA representatives that want to ‘kill themselves some Ruskis’ and even offers up a few:

This boy, obviously, despite his tour in Iraq never saw a real war and a real enemy who can actually kill you back even when one is in the bunker inside your own army base.

We can conclude then that the slew of accusations made to Russia, are similar in tone and also in substance, as those made to China. The minds of these accusers cannot contemplate a peaceful world. It seems to be impossible for them. Although Russia is not threatening the Ukraine, and China is not threatening her own Taiwanese province, they believe their belligerent rhetoric can make it so.

Western states are slowly approaching the state of being disconcerted and soon now they will enter a stage of being stunned, as they are now being dictated to on the red lines of the other forces in the world. We can never forget Iran, which showed everyone how to say NO! There will be no conformity to Western red lines. I venture to say that the USA and cronies will not even be allowed to keep operating their Monroe Doctrine. They will not be allowed a sphere of influence. They will only be allowed their space as a pole in multi-polarity. The leftist candidate won the elections in Chile yesterday (although there are questions as to how ‘empire-proof’ he is). The one slogan that was visible is: “If neocolonialism started in Chile, we will end it in Chile”.

Within China, China is looking after China. They are developing their space program, their Belt and Road which is ‘a force for good’ in the world, and building their economy and continuing to create an increasingly varied and better life for their people. The Olympic Games will continue, and in time Taiwan will reunify.

They are also, with Russia and others, building out a new financial system for the world.

What can stop a war at this stage?

  • The West has a very strong and simple reason to avoid a new war: They will lose. Their actions are now futile.
  • The USA is dying. Xi and Putin can still decide to let it die and continue to stay out of the fray. But they have made the decision to enter a confrontational era. We could speculate as to why as the situation reveals itself.
  • China, Asia or the AsiaPacific is ready to end the empirical era. Both Russia and China are ready to end the empirical era in such a way that retaliatory strikes are almost impossible. It is a most complex ballet of threat and counterthreat, coherently managed by the two countries. Russia is not arriving, China is not arriving and Iran is not arriving for the war that the hegemon is inviting them to. How frustrating for them.

What can stop a war? China and Russia, the consensus of the two leaders probably can. I repeat: “The era in which the USA acted arbitrarily in the world under the pretext of democracy and human rights is now over.”

Yankee Go Home!

Related Posts

Assad, Syria and China’s new Silk Road

Count on Syria becoming an important West Asian hub in China’s Belt and Road Initiative

December 07 2021

By Matthew Ehret

https://media.thecradle.co/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Xi-assad.jpg
Photo Credit: The Cradle

Ever since Russia and China began challenging the Anglo-American scorched Earth doctrine in 2011 with their first vetoes against US intervention into Syria, the Gordian knots that have tied up the Arab world in chaos, division and ignorance for decades have finally begun to unravel.

Where just one decade ago the unipolar vision of the ‘new American century’ reigned unchallenged, by 2013 the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) had sprung into life, and the largest purges of China’s deep state on record were launched under Xi Jinping’s watch. This latter crackdown even earned the ire of the American intelligence community, with war hawk John Bolton complaining that Xi’s authoritarianism has made the CIA job of maintaining its spies inside China nearly impossible.

This new operating system, tied closely to Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union, has grown in leaps and bounds. Today, a new multipolar future has emerged; one which plans to actually deliver long-term development for all those who choose to play by its rules.

One of these adherents will be Syria, which is re-emerging onto the world’s stage after having miraculously defended itself from a ten-year military onslaught launched by the old unipolar players.

Of course, the pain and destruction of the war is still deeply felt; illegal US sanctions continue to plague the hungry masses, prevent the reconstruction of basic infrastructure and access to potable water, and cripple schools, hospitals, businesses, and livelihoods.

The BRI and Syria’s new future

On 5 November, China’s President Xi Jinping spoke with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, saying “we welcome the Syrian side’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative and Global Development Initiative” and calling for reconstruction, development, and the defense of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The discussion came in the wake of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s whirlwind tour across West Asia and North Africa in July 2021, during which he met the Arab League’s chief to discuss Syria return to the fold.

By the end of this tour – which coincided with Assad’s re-election – China had signed a four-point proposal for solving Syria’s multifaceted crisis with a focus on large scale reconstruction, ending illegal sanctions and respecting Syria’s sovereignty.

Syria, in turn, re-affirmed its support for China’s territorial integrity in the face of western-sponsored separatist movements in Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

China’s interest in West Asian development was first made known in 2017 when Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang stated:

“Too many people in the Middle East are suffering at the brutal hands of terrorists. We support regional countries in forming synergy, consolidating the momentum of anti-terrorism and striving to restore regional stability and order. We support countries in the region in exploring a development path suited to their national conditions and are ready to share governance experience and jointly build the Belt and Road and promote peace and stability through common development.”

In 2018, China offered $28 billion in development aid to Syria while simultaneously coordinating the integration of Iraq into the BRI, made official in September 2019 when then-Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi unveiled the China-Iraq oil for reconstruction program and Iraq’s broader integration into the BRI framework.

Events coordinated by foreign interests did not permit this momentum for long. Mass protests soon toppled Abdul Mahdi’s government and, with it, the oil-for-reconstruction initiative. While recent months have seen a revival of this initiative from Iraq in piecemeal form, progress has been slow.

Instead, the 25 year Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreement struck between China and Iran in March 2021 has become the main gateway for extending Beijing’s infrastructure and connectivity projects into West Asia.

The construction of the Iran–Iraq Shalamcheh-Basra rail line is now underway, bringing the two neighboring states into an equal cooperative footing and opening prospects for greater rail and energy corridors extending from Iran through Iraq and into Syria, as a southern branch of the BRI.

In April 2019, Syria was invited to attend the first official BRI summit in Beijing, where President Assad stated:

“We have proposed around six projects to the Chinese government in line with the Belt and Road methodology and we are waiting to hear which project, or projects, will be in line with their thinking … I think when this infrastructure is developed, with time, the Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative) passing through Syria becomes a foregone conclusion, because it is not a road you only draw on a map.”

So what, specifically, are those projects?

China and Syria are keeping their cards close to their chest when it comes to details for the moment. But it is not impossible to make some educated guesses about Assad’s wish-list by revisiting his earlier strategic vision for Syria.

Specifically, that would be the Five Seas Strategy that Assad had championed from 2004 to 2011, which disappeared from view once Syria was targeted for destruction.

The Five Seas strategy, in brief

The Five Seas strategy involves the construction of rail, roads and energy grids connecting the water systems of the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, Black Sea, Red Sea and Caspian Sea with Syria. The project serves as a logical node uniting the diverse nations of Mackinder’s world island behind a program of harmonization, integration and win-win industrial cooperation.

In a 2009 interview, President Assad described this project passionately:

“Once the economic space between Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran becomes integrated, we would link the Mediterranean, Caspian, Black Sea, and the [Persian] Gulf . . . we aren’t just important in the Middle East . . . Once we link these four seas, we become the unavoidable intersection of the whole world in investment, transport, and more.”

These weren’t empty words. By 2011, Assad had led delegations and signed agreements with Turkey, Romania, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon to begin the Five Seas projects. This was done at a time when Libya’s President Qaddafi was well underway in building the Great Man-Made River, the largest water project in history alongside a coalition of nations that included Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt.

The true reasons for Qaddafi’s killing, the carving up of Sudan in 2009, and the current efforts at US-sponsored regime change in Ethiopia cannot be comprehended without an understanding of this potent, game-changing strategic paradigm that he and others were spearheading.

The need for secrecy

The secrecy of Chinese-West Asian diplomacy in the emerging post-regime change world now emerging should therefore be understood as an obvious necessity.

For the past decade, every time a West Asian or African nation makes a public announcement of a BRI-compatible program, that same nation has been promptly dragged through different degrees of foreign sabotage. Neither Assad nor the Chinese have any intention to replay that trend at this pivotal moment.

Soon after the heads of Syrian and Turkish intelligence agencies met in Baghdad in early September, Assad reportedly told a Lebanese delegation that “many Arab and non-Arab states are communicating with us, but asking us to keep this a secret.”

The nature of this secret diplomacy soon became clear, when the Arab League made its 23 November announcement of Syria’s re-admission into the fold.

Former sworn enemies of Bashar Assad, such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, have demonstrated their willingness to accept their humiliation, recognize Assad’s legitimacy and adapt to the new powers China and Russia. Unlike decades of Anglo-American promises which treat Arab participants like disposable temporary interests, the China-Russia alliance contains tangible, measurable benefits, like security and development for all participants.

Multipolarity vs the ‘rules-based international order’

While the US wasted the past decade imposing sanctions and punishments on nations, institutions and individuals unaccepting of its global hegemony, China was patiently recruiting West Asian and African states to the BRI: a whopping 17 Arab nations and 46 African nations are taking part today.

NATO member Turkey has also been on the receiving end of Washington’s punishments, and has begun to view China as a potential means to a more independent future – one that comes with the financial resources to mitigate the country’s current economic woes and currency fluctuations.

Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia had once provided vast support for ISIS and Al Qaeda operations across Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, primarily through the purchase of ISIS-controlled oil and the supply of extremist fighters, clandestine funding and arms transfers. Such support has increasingly dried up, leaving ISIS with very little to work outside of what the CIA provides.

Despite US President Joe Biden re-affirming military support in October for the Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) occupying north-east Syria, the Kurdish hand has also been overplayed. Many are finally recognizing that the Kurds have been duped into serving as a counter-gang to ISIS, and that promises for a Kurdish state have proved to be as illusory as the dream of Assad’s overthrow.

Erdogan may have tried to walk both worlds for some time, but it has increasingly become clear that Turkey’s only chance for survival rests with Russian military cooperation and China’s BRI (which crosses Turkey in the form of the Middle Corridor), both which demand a defense of Syria’s sovereignty.

As this new reality dawns on West Asia, and as the old unipolar order continues to veer towards a systemic collapse of historic proportions, there is good reason to believe that the region, or an important chunk of it, is already locked in and counting on the development and connectivity boom coming its way.

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

THE RETURN OF THE TALIBAN 20 YEARS LATER

Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar leaves after signing an agreement with the United States during a ceremony in the Qatari capital Doha on February 29, 2020.
TALIBAN CO-FOUNDER MULLAH ABDUL GHANI BARADAR LEAVES AFTER SIGNING AN AGREEMENT WITH THE UNITED STATES DURING A CEREMONY IN THE QATARI CAPITAL DOHA ON FEBRUARY 29, 2020. (AFP PHOTO)

August 18, 2021

By Vijay Prashad,

Peoples Dispatch.

Vijay Prashad explains the Taliban’s defeat of the US-backed government in Afghanistan following the US troop withdrawal.

On August 15, the Taliban arrived in Kabul. The Taliban’s leadership entered the presidential palace, which Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had vacated when he fled into exile abroad hours before. The country’s borders shut down and Kabul’s main international airport lay silent, except for the cries of those Afghans who had worked for the US and NATO; they knew that their lives would now be at serious risk. The Taliban’s leadership, meanwhile, tried to reassure the public of a “peaceful transition” by saying in several statements that they would not seek retribution, but would go after corruption and lawlessness.

The Taliban’s Entry in Kabul Is a Defeat for the United States

In recent years, the United States has failed to accomplish any of the objectives of its wars. The US entered Afghanistan with horrendous bombing and a lawless campaign of extraordinary rendition in October 2001 with the objective of ejecting the Taliban from the country; now, 20 years later, the Taliban is back. In 2003, two years after the US unleashed a war in Afghanistan, it opened an illegal war against Iraq, which ultimately resulted in an unconditional withdrawal of the United States in 2011 after the refusal by the Iraqi parliament to allow US troops extralegal protections. As the US withdrew from Iraq, it opened a terrible war against Libya in 2011, which resulted in the creation of chaos in the region.

Not one of these wars—Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya—resulted in the creation of a pro-US government. Each of these wars created needless suffering for the civilian populations. Millions of people had their lives disrupted, while hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives in these senseless wars. What faith in humanity can now be expected from a young person in Jalalabad or in Sirte? Will they now turn inward, fearing that any possibility of change has been seized from them by the barbaric wars inflicted upon them and other residents of their countries?

There is no question that the United States continues to have the world’s largest military and that by using its base structure and its aerial and naval power, the US can strike any country at any time. But what is the point of bombing a country if that violence attains no political ends? The US used its advanced drones to assassinate the Taliban leaders, but for each leader that it killed, another half a dozen have emerged. Besides, the men in charge of the Taliban now—including the co-founder of the Taliban and head of its political commission, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar—were there from the start; it would never have been possible to decapitate the entire Taliban leadership. More than $2 trillion has been spent by the United States on a war that it knew could not be won.

Corruption Was the Trojan Horse

In early statements, Mullah Baradar said that his government will focus its attention on the endemic corruption in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, stories spread across Kabul about ministers of Ashraf Ghani’s government attempting to leave the country in cars filled with dollar bills, which was supposed to be the money that was provided by the US to Afghanistan for aid and infrastructure. The drain of wealth from the aid given to the country has been significant. In a 2016 report by the US government’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) relating to the “Lessons Learned from the US Experience with Corruption in Afghanistan,” the investigators write, “Corruption significantly undermined the US mission in Afghanistan by damaging the legitimacy of the Afghan government, strengthening popular support for the insurgency, and channeling material resources to insurgent groups.” SIGAR created a “gallery of greed,” which listed US contractors who siphoned aid money and pocketed it through fraud. More than $2 trillion has been spent on the US occupation of Afghanistan, but it went neither to provide relief nor to build the country’s infrastructure. The money fattened the rich in the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Corruption at the very top of the government depleted morale below. The US pinned its hopes on the training of 300,000 soldiers of the Afghan National Army (ANA), spending $88 billion on this pursuit. In 2019, a purge of “ghost soldiers” in the rolls—soldiers who did not exist—led to the loss of 42,000 troops; it is likely that the number might have been higher. Morale in the ANA has plunged over the past few years, with defections from the army to other forces escalating. Defense of the provincial capitals was also weak, with Kabul falling to the Taliban almost without a fight.

To this end, the recently appointed defense minister to the Ghani government, General Bismillah Mohammadi, commented on Twitter about the governments that have been in power in Afghanistan since late 2001, “They tied our hands behind our backs and sold the homeland. Damn the rich man [Ghani] and his people.” This captures the popular mood in Afghanistan right now.

Afghanistan and Its Neighbors

Hours after taking power, a spokesperson for the Taliban’s political office, Dr. M. Naeem, said that all embassies will be protected, while another spokesperson for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that all former government officials did not need to fear for their lives. These are reassuring messages for now.

It has also been reassuring that the Taliban has said that it is not averse to a government of national unity, although there should be no doubt that such a government would be a rubber stamp for the Taliban’s own political agenda. So far, the Taliban has not articulated a plan for Afghanistan, which is something that the country has needed for at least a generation.

On July 28, Taliban leader Mullah Baradar met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin, China. The outlines of the discussion have not been fully revealed, but what is known is that the Chinese extracted a promise from the Taliban not to allow attacks on China from Afghanistan and not to allow attacks on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure in Central Asia. In return, China would continue its BRI investments in the region, including in Pakistan, which is a key Taliban supporter.

Whether or not the Taliban will be able to control extremist groups is not clear, but what is abundantly clear—in the absence of any credible Afghan opposition to the Taliban—is that the regional powers will have to exert their influence on Kabul to ameliorate the harsh program of the Taliban and its history of support for extremist groups. For instance, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (set up in 2001) revived in 2017 its Afghanistan Contact Group, which held a meeting in Dushanbe in July 2021, and called for a national unity government.

At that meeting, India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar laid out a three-point plan, which achieved near consensus among the fractious neighbors:

“1. An independent, neutral, unified, peaceful, democratic and prosperous nation.

“2. Ceasing violence and terrorist attacks against civilians and state representatives, settle conflict through political dialogue, and respect interests of all ethnic groups, and

“3. Ensure that neighbors are not threatened by terrorism, separatism and extremism.”

That’s the most that can be expected at this moment. The plan promises peace, which is a great advance from what the people of Afghanistan have experienced over the past decades. But what kind of peace? This “peace” does not include the rights of women and children to a world of possibilities. During 20 years of the US occupation, that “peace” was not in evidence either. This peace has no real political power behind it, but there are social movements beneath the surface that might emerge to put such a definition of “peace” on the table. Hope lies there.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest book is Washington Bullets, with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.

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