Pepe Escobar knows a very important of the world that most Americans know little about—Eurasia. From Escobar at consortiumnews.com:
The Indo-China border is a strategic chessboard and it’s gotten way more complex.
Valley near Kangan, Kashmir. (Kashmir Pictures, Flickr)
It was straight from an Orientalist romantic thriller set in the Himalayas: soldiers fighting each other with stones and iron bars in the dead of night on a mountain ridge over 4,000 meters high, some plunging to their deaths into a nearly frozen river and dying of hypothermia.
In November 1996, China and India had agreed not to use guns along their 3,800 km-long border, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which sports an occasional tendency to derail into a Line Out of Control.
Yet this was not just another Himalayan scuffle. Of course there were echoes of the 1962 Sino-Indian war – which started pretty much the same way, leading Beijing to defeat New Delhi on the battlefield. But now the strategic chessboard is way more complex, part of the evolving 21st Century New Great Game.
The situation had to be defused. Top military commanders from China and India finally met face to face this past weekend. And on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister spokesman Zhao Lijian confirmed they “agreed to take necessary measures to promote a cooling of the situation.”
The Indian Army concurred: “There was mutual consensus to disengage (…) from all frictions areas in Eastern Ladakh.”
It’s hard to believe that a refreshingly honest guy like Doug Bandow was once in the goverment’s foreign policy blob. From Bandow at theamericanconservative.com:
Beijing is using threats and aid to pressure other governments to toe the line. Wherever did they get that from?
In a new official strategy of confrontation against the People’s Republic of China, the Trump administration has announced its intention “to compel Beijing to cease or reduce actions harmful to the United States’ vital, national interests and those of our allies and partners.”
Explains the strategy paper:
Given Beijing’s increasing use of economic leverage to extract political concessions from or exact retribution against other countries, the United States judges that Beijing will attempt to convert [One Belt One Road] projects into undue political influence and military access. Beijing uses a combination of threat and inducement to pressure governments, elites, corporations, think tanks, and others—often in an opaque manner—to toe the CCP line and censor free expression. Beijing has restricted trade and tourism with Australia, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Norway, the Philippines, and others, and has detained Canadian citizens, in an effort to interfere in these countries’ internal political and judicial processes.
All true. But which government pioneered the use of economic resources to reward and punish other nations? Hint: it was not China.
The U.S. has long used foreign aid as walking around money for the secretary of state. Countries with American bases have always gotten more cash, as have nations that have made peace with American allies, such as Egypt and Jordan.
In contrast, governments that have crossed Washington have lost money. In 1956, the Eisenhower administration punished Egypt’s Nasser government by revoking its offer to finance the Aswan High Dam. In 1990, Secretary of State James Baker told Yemen’s UN ambassador, “that was the most expensive no vote you ever cast,” after he voted against the UN Security Council resolution authorizing war against Iraq.
The US government has done its best to stymie pipelines it didn’t like from Russia to Europe, but the Russians and Europeans have managed to sidestep the obstacles the US has thrown in their way. From Pepe Escobar at asiatimes.com:
Ukraine was supposed to prevent Russia from deepening energy ties with Germany; it didn’t work out that way
In sharp contrast, whenever China entered the picture, successful completion prevailed. Beijing financed a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Xinjiang, finished in 2009, and will profit from two spectacular Power of Siberia deals with Russia.
And then there’s Ukraine. Maidan was a project of the Barack Obama administration, featuring a sterling cast led by POTUS, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John McCain and last but not least, prime Kiev cookie distributor Victoria “F**k the EU” Nuland.
Ukraine was also supposed to prevent Russia from deepening energy ties with Germany, as well as other European destinations.
Well, it did not exactly play like that. Nord Stream was already operational. South Stream was Gazprom’s project to southeast Europe. Relentless pressure by the Obama administration derailed it. Yet that only worked to enable a resurrection: the already completed TurkStream, with gas starting to flow in January 2020.
The China-US rivalry may be the issue that shapes the 21st century. From Pepe Escobar at asiatimes.com:
Getting back to domestic business quickly is essential for a renewed push on the grand chessboard
The key takeaways of the Two Sessions of the 13th National People’s Congress in Beijing are already in the public domain.
In a nutshell: no GDP target for 2020; a budget deficit of at least 3.6% of GDP; one trillion yuan in special treasury bonds; corporate fees/taxes cut by 2.5 trillion yuan; a defense budget rise of a modest 6.6%; and governments at all levels committed to “tighten their belts.”
The focus, as predicted, is to get China’s domestic economy, post-Covid-19, on track for solid growth in 2021.
Also predictably, the whole focus in the Anglo-American sphere has been on Hong Kong – as in the new legal framework, to be approved next week, engineered to prevent subversion, foreign interference “or any acts that severely endanger national security.” After all, as a Global Times editorial stresses, Hong Kong is an extremely sensitive national security matter.
This is a direct result of what the Chinese observer mission based in Shenzhen learned from the attempt by assorted fifth columnists and weaponized black blocs to nearly destroy Hong Kong last summer.
The headline is somewhat inaccurate. The world has been shaped by one Atlantic power—the US—and the Atlantic countries of Europe have had to go along. Now their willingness to do so recedes as Russia and China rise and pull together the middle of the world in the Belt and Road Initiative. From M. K. Bhadrakumar at counterpunch.org:
53rd Munich Security Conference 2017 – Public Domain
The annual Munich Security Conference that took place February 14-16 this year turned out to be an iconic event, drawing comparison with the one held in the same Bavarian city on February 10, 2007, where in a prophetic speech Russian President Vladimir Putin had criticized the world order characterized by the United States’ global hegemony and its “almost uncontained hyper use of force—military force—in international relations.”
If Putin’s 2007 Munich speech was prescient about an incoming new Cold War and the surge of tensions in Russia’s relations with the West, 13 years later, at the event this year, we witnessed that the transatlantic ties that evolved through the two world wars in the last century and blossomed into a full-fledged alliance system have reached a crossroads.
Deep cracks have appeared in the transatlantic relationship. In an extraordinary opening address, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, an éminence grise in European diplomacy, accused Washington of rejecting “the very concept of an international community.”
The Rumpelstiltskin analogy may be the best way to explain what the United States is doing to itself. From Matthew Ehret at strategic-culture.org:
There are several versions of the old German folk tale of Rumpelstiltskin. The story begins with greedy king who is told by a foolish old miller that a young girl (the miller’s daughter) had the ability to spin hay into gold. When the poor girl is locked into a tower with bales of straw, a loom and orders to transform it all into gold under threat of death, a magical imp appears out of thin air and they reach an agreement: He will use his magic to spin the hay into gold on the condition that the girl gives the imp her first born child. The greedy king is pleased with the wealth that appeared from thin air, and the daughter’s neck is saved. Sadly the day eventually arrives for her to give up a child, and the imp in sadistic glee responds to her pleading tears by giving her three chances annul the contract. All she has to do is guess his name. To make a long story short, his name is discovered and Rumpelstiltskin literally tears himself to pieces in a fit of mad rage.
I think this story exemplifies the self-cannibalization of the deep state over the past several years quite nicely.
It appeared for quite some time that the oligarchy managing the world’s financial system and military-intelligence community from above was able to do magic. If they wanted a nation overthrown, or a troublesome elected official killed, a mere snap of the fingers was all it took. Gold from straw? They could do that too! Just look at the mass of $1.5 quadrillion dollars of derivatives claims which appeared as though out of thin air in the mere space of 30 years! Seriously, back in 1990, these fictitious assets (forms of bets on insurance on securitized debts) amounted to little more than $2 trillion and 10 years before that, had barely any existence whatsoever. NOW… they amount to over twenty times the world’s GDP! How was this possible when the real economy (agro-industrial/infrastructure capital which supports real life) was permitted to atrophy during that same space of time? Magic!
Afghanistan is too geopolitically important for Washington to just up and leave. From Federico Pieraccini at strategic-culture.org:
Nineteen years after September 11, 2001 and 17 years after launching its war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the U.S. seems ready to cut a deal with the Taliban in order to freeze out its Eurasian rivals.
The central government in Kabul has in recent years granted a leading role to Moscow and Beijing in efforts to pacify the country by bringing all parties to the negotiating table. A successful outcome would allow Afghanistan to reap the benefits of its geographical position vis-a-vis Sino-Russian infrastructure projects.
The entry into Afghanistan’s dynamics of China’s economic power and Russia’s military weight promises to spark a multipolar revolution in the country and beyond that would spread to neighbors like India, Pakistan and Iran.
Moscow had even initiated historical negotiations with Taliban representatives, culminating in a visit to Moscow. U.S. sources at the time voiced doubts about the success of any peace plan and tensions between the U.S. and Iran were high, with sanctions imposed on Iran and pressure placed on U.S. allies in the region like India to boycott Iranian oil.
The US government is doing everything it can to kick the Chinese while they’re down. From Pepe Escobar at strategic-culture.org:
The New Silk Roads – or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – were launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013, first in Central Asia (Nur-Sultan) and then Southeast Asia (Jakarta).
One year later, the Chinese economy overtook the U.S. on a PPP basis. Inexorably, year after year since the start of the millennium, the U.S. share of the global economy shrinks while China’s increases.
While the U.S. economy is hollowed out, and the casino financing of the U.S. government – repo markets and all – reads as a dystopian nightmare, the civilization-state steps ahead in myriad areas of technological research, not least because of Made in China 2025.
China largely beats the U.S. on patent filings and produces at least 8 times as many STEM graduates a year than the U.S., earning the status of top contributor to global science.
“The West” as currently used means the US and its confederated empire. Any country outside the empire is viewed as a challenge. From Diana Johnstone at consortiumnews.com:
The only complaint the U.S. allows is that the United States might not defend us enough, when the greater danger comes from being defended too much, writes Diana Johnstone on the Munich conference.
“The West is winning!” U.S. leaders proclaimed at the high-level Annual Security Conference held in Munich last weekend.
Not everybody was quite so sure.
There was a lot of insecurity displayed at a conference billed as “the West’s family meeting” – enlarged to 70 participating nations, including U.S. -designated “losers”.
Trump’s crude Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made nobody feel particular secure by treating the world as a huge video game which “we are winning”. Thanks to our “values”, he proclaimed, the West is winning against the other players that Washington has forced into its zero-sum game: Russia and China, whose alleged desires for “empire” are being thwarted.
Two has two very unattractive options in Syria. From Pablo Escobar at asiatimes.com:
Erdogan de facto supports al-Qaeda remnants while facing either humiliating retreat from or total war against Syria
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, neo-Ottoman extraordinaire, is not exactly inclined to commit seppuku, the Japanese act of ritual suicide.
But if not through the perspective of neo-Ottomanism, how to explain the fact he is de facto supporting al-Qaeda remnants in Syria while facing two unsavory options – a humiliating retreat from or total war against the Syrian Arab Army?
Everything about the slowly evolving, messy chessboard in Idlib hinges on highways: the imperative for the government in Damascus to control both the M5 highway between Damascus and Aleppo and the M4 highway between Latakia and Aleppo. Fully reclaiming these two crucial axes will finally turbo-charge the ailing Syrian economy.
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