Tag Archives: Russia

Europa Scorned and Forsaken, by Alastair Crooke

Europe is in danger of becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of continents. From Alastair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:

Does Europe possess the energy and the humility to look itself in the mirror, and re-position itself diplomatically?

Two events have combined to make a major inflection point for Europe: The first was America’s abandonment of the Great Game ploy of attempting to keep the two Central Asian great land powers – Russia and China – divided and at odds with each other. This was the inexorable consequence to the US’ defeat in Afghanistan – and the loss of its last strategic foothold in Asia.

Washington’s response was a reversion to that old nineteenth century geo-political tactic of maritime containment of Asian land-power – through controlling the sea lanes. However America’s pivot to China as its primordial security interest has resulted in the North Atlantic becoming much less important to Washington – as the US security crux compacts down to ‘blocking’ China in the Pacific.

The Establishment-linked figure, George Friedman (of Stratfor fame), has outlined America’s new post-Afghan strategy on Polish TV. He said tartly: “When we looked for allies [for a maritime force in the Pacific] on which we could count – they were the British and the Australians. The French weren’t there”. Friedman suggested that the threat from Russia is more than a bit exaggerated, and implied that the North Atlantic NATO and Europe are not particularly relevant to the US in the new context of ‘China competition’. “We ask”, Friedman says, “what does NATO do for the problems the US has at this point?”. “This [the AUKUS] is the [alliance] that has existed since World War II. So naturally they [Australia] bought American submarines instead of French submarines: Life goes on”.

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The Silver Lining of the Afghanistan Withdrawal: Afghanistan is No Longer Simply a US Problem, by Doug Bandow

Afghanistan is in a rough neighborhood. It might work out well for the US to let Afghanistan’s neighbors worry about it. From Doug Bandow at aeir.org:

Washington’s tragic misadventure in Afghanistan is over. Despite the botched ending, America’s withdrawal was long overdue. Central Asia never warranted so much U.S. attention.

Afghanistan first drew Washington in after the Soviets invaded. Few Americans knew where the country was. None expressed an interest in building a modern nation there. The idea was simple: arm Afghans to kill Moscow’s soldiers, thereby weakening what President Ronald Reagan accurately called the Evil Empire. Spread democracy and equal rights for women? Not so much.

A decade later the U.S.S.R.’s legions fled back into the Soviet Union. A couple years after that the Soviet-supported state collapsed, which was followed by a civil war among the victorious Mujahedeen. Washington had poured torrents of cash into Afghanistan, but foolishly allowed Pakistan to dole it out. This empowered radical jihadists, including Osama bin Laden, founder of al-Qaeda, Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the anti-Western Haqqani Network, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, founder of the radical Islamist Hezb-e-Islami, theParty of Islam. Some Americans complained that Washington didn’t stick around to “help” the Afghans. Had it done so, Americans would have been treated like Russians—shot at on their way out.

In 1994 a group called the Taliban arose. It enforced a 7th century fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. By 1996, it won control of most of the country by suppressing the Mujahedeen, and ending the chaotic violence which enveloped the country. The Taliban looked inward.

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If We Fight a New Cold War, Who Are We Fighting It With? By Ted Snider

The US would have a tough time winning a Cold War against China. How does it fight against China and all its Eurasian friends, like Russia and Iran? From Ted Snider at antiwar.com:

President Biden’s words were hollow. The content had been cored because the words were empty of any real world content. On September 21, 2021, he told the UN General Assembly that the US is “not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocks.” UN Secretary-General Antonio Gueterres disagreed, warning against the new Cold War and referring to the US and China as “superpowers.”

With whom would a new Cold War be fought? Biden hinted at who the Cold War would be fought with right after saying that the Cold War wouldn’t be fought: “the United States turns our focus to the priorities and the regions of the world, like the Indo-Pacific, that are most consequential today and tomorrow.”

Biden denied that the war with China is a war of aggression. White House press secretary Jen Psaki clarified that “Our relationship with China is one not of conflict but of competition.” Biden referred to “a new era of relentless diplomacy.” Again, words cored of content. The diplomacy is a diplomacy of provocation in Taiwan punctuated by military provocation. And diplomacy is not characterized by the US enticing Australia to cancel its order of conventional submarines that, according to Frank von Hippel, senior research physicist at Princeton University and a specialist in nuclear power, nuclear energy and nuclear arms control and proliferation, are completely adequate if your purpose is defending your maritime property against invading navies, for nuclear-powered submarines that are only preferable if your purpose is offensive attack. That’s sending a message to China, but it’s not diplomacy.

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Escobar: A New World Order Takes Shape, Part 2 – Eurasian Consolidation Ends The US Unipolar Moment

The world, particularly the Eurasian land mass, is being reordered and there’s not much the US government can do about it. From Pepe Escobar at The Asia Times via zerohedge.com:

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

Read Part 1: How The SCO Just Flipped The World Order here

Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s 20th-anniversary summit heralded the beginning of a new geopolitical and geo-economic order…

The 20th anniversary summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, enshrined no less than a new geopolitical paradigm.

Iran, now a full SCO member, was restored to its traditionally prominent Eurasian role, following the recent $400 billion-worth trade and development deal struck with China. Afghanistan was the main topic – with all players agreeing on the path ahead, as detailed in the Dushanbe Declaration. And all Eurasian integration paths are now converging, in unison, towards the new geopolitical – and geoeconomic – paradigm.

Call it a multipolar development dynamic in synergy with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The Dushanbe Declaration was quite explicit on what Eurasian players are aiming at: “a more representative, democratic, just and multipolar world order based on universally recognized principles of international law, cultural and civilizational diversity, mutually beneficial and equal cooperation of states under the central coordinating role of the UN.”

For all the immense challenges inherent to the Afghan jigsaw puzzle, hopeful signs emerged this Tuesday, when Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah met in Kabul with the Russian presidential envoy Zamir Kabulov, China’s special envoy Yue Xiaoyong, and Pakistan’s special envoy Mohammad Sadiq Khan.

This troika – Russia, China, Pakistan – is at the diplomatic forefront. The SCO reached a consensus that Islamabad will be coordinating with the Taliban the formation of a government also including Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras.

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The Harsh Truth Behind Europe’s Energy Crisis, by Cyril Widdershoven

It’s perhaps not wise to throw out your existing hydrocarbon sources of energy until the new, green sources of energy are up to the job of replacing them. Especially when of your prime sources of hydrocarbons—Russia—doesn’t always have your best interests at heart. From Cyril Widdershoven at oilprice.com:

Europe’s energy crunch is continuing, as gas storage volumes have shrunk to 10-year lows. A possible harsh winter could lead to severe energy shortages and possible shutdowns of large parts of the economy.

While the main discussion is currently focused on the potential role of Russia in the energy crisis, a new narrative could soon make the headlines. In a surprise move, the Dutch government has indicated that in a severe supply crunch situation, the Groningen gas field, Europe’s largest onshore gas field, could partially and temporarily be reopened. It seems that the term Dutch Disease could get a new meaning, from being the paradox of a rentier state suffering from plentiful resources to a show of Europe’s lack of realism when it comes to energy transition risks and current market powers.   Dutch Minister Stef Blok has indicated that he is considering the potential reopening of the Groningen field, in particular five wells, especially the one at Slochteren, as indicated by Johan Attema, director of the Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM), the operator of the Groningen field. The reopening of the field, even in the case of an emergency or an energy crisis, is politically controversial.

Until recently, the plan was that Groningen would be closed completely by 2023, ending the large-scale gas production and export by the Netherlands with a bang.

The Dutch media is speculating that minister Blok will be asking for a possible reopening of the Groningen field, a decision that must be made before October 1. If the Minister decides to change the current shutdown plans, the whole Groningen debacle, as some see it, will be prolonged. It is clear, looking at the current deplorable situation of the European energy sector, that Groningen is still needed. The ongoing energy crunch could have grave consequences for the economies and wellbeing of EU member states, changing the narratives in Brussels and the respective European capitals.

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Gazprom: We’re Not Withholding Gas To Europe, by Charles Kennedy

Gazprom may or may not be withholding gas from Europe, but high prices and spot shortages before winter should seal the deal for Nordstream 2 early next year. From Charles Kennedy from oilprice.com:

Russian gas giant Gazprom dismisses speculation and accusations that it is not supplying enough natural gas via pipeline to Europe, a senior official at Gazprom Export says.

So far in 2021, Gazprom’s gas deliveries to Europe have reached historic highs, Sergey Komlev, Head of the Contract Structuring and Pricing Directorate at Gazprom Export, wrote in an article for Gazprom’s corporate magazine, as carried by Russian news agency TASS.

Germany, Turkey, and Italy—some of Gazprom’s largest customers—all boosted imports of Russian gas in the first half of 2021, the manager said.

Gazprom’s exports to European countries rose by 23.2 percent between January and July, Komlev added.

“These figures prove the absurdity of accusing Gazprom of supply shortage,” the executive noted.

Europe is grappling with soaring natural gas and electricity prices ahead of the winter heating season due to tight gas supplies, very low gas inventories, and low wind power generation amid still weather.

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The Great Game moves on, by Alasdair Macleod

The West can no longer stop China and Russia from dominating the Eurasian land mass. At best, they can shift policy and try to keep them confined there via naval power. From Alasdair Macleod at goldmoney.com:

Following America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, her focus has switched to the Pacific with the establishment of a joint Australian and UK naval partnership.

The founder of modern geopolitical theory, Halford Mackinder, had something to say about this in his last paper, written for the Council on Foreign Relations in 1943. Mackinder anticipated this development, though the actors and their roles at that time were different. In particular, he foresaw the economic emergence of China and India and the importance of the Pacific region.

This article discusses the current situation in Mackinder’s context, taking in the consequences of green energy, the importance of trade in the Pacific region, and China’s current deflationary strategy relative to that of declining western powers aggressively pursuing asset inflation.

There is little doubt that the world is rebalancing as Mackinder described nearly eighty years ago. To appreciate it we must look beyond the West’s current economic and monetary difficulties and the loss of its hegemony over Asia, and particularly note the improving conditions of the Asia’s most populous nations.

Introduction

Following NATO’s defeat in the heart of Asia, and with Afghanistan now under the Taliban’s rule, the Chinese/Russian axis now controls the Asian continental mass. Asian nations not directly related to its joint hegemony (not being members, associates, or dialog partners of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) are increasingly dependent upon it for trade and technology. Sub-Saharan Africa is in its sphere of influence. The reality for America is that the total population in or associated with the SCO is 57% of the world population. And America’s grip on its European allies is slipping.

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Eurasia Takes Shape: How the SCO Just Flipped the World Order, by Pepe Escobar

Lately Russia and China have been much more successful with their various initiatives across Eurasia and the Middle East than whatever the Western powers have been trying to do in those areas. From Pepe Escobar at unz.com:

As a rudderless West watched on, the 20th anniversary meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was laser-focused on two key deliverables: shaping up Afghanistan and kicking off a full-spectrum Eurasian integration.

With Iran’s arrival, the SCO member-states now number nine, and they’re focused on fixing Afghanistan and consolidating Eurasia. Photo Credit: The Cradle

The two defining moments of the historic 20th anniversary Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan had to come from the keynote speeches of – who else – the leaders of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Xi Jinping: “Today we will launch procedures to admit Iran as a full member of the SCO.”

Vladimir Putin: “I would like to highlight the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed today between the SCO Secretariat and the Eurasian Economic Commission. It is clearly designed to further Russia’s idea of establishing a Greater Eurasia Partnership covering the SCO, the EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union), ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI).”

In short, over the weekend, Iran was enshrined in its rightful, prime Eurasian role, and all Eurasian integration paths converged toward a new global geopolitical – and geoeconomic – paradigm, with a sonic boom bound to echo for the rest of the century.

That was the killer one-two punch immediately following the Atlantic alliance’s ignominious imperial retreat from Afghanistan. Right as the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 15, the redoubtable Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, told his Iranian colleague Admiral Ali Shamkhani that “the Islamic Republic will become a full member of the SCO.”

Dushanbe revealed itself as the ultimate diplomatic crossover. President Xi firmly rejected any “condescending lecturing” and emphasized development paths and governance models compatible with national conditions. Just like Putin, he stressed the complementary focus of BRI and the EAEU, and in fact summarized a true multilateralist Manifesto for the Global South.

Right on point, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan noted that the SCO should advance “the development of a regional macro-economy.” This is reflected in the SCO’s drive to start using local currencies for trade, bypassing the US dollar.

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That ‘Other’ Reset Unfolding Across West & Central Asia, by Alastair Crooke

Most of Asia and the Middle East, and much of Africa, are resetting towards Russia and China. From Alastair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:

All of Central Asia is re-setting towards the SCO, EAEU, Russia and China. The former is now ‘lost’ to the U.S., Alastair Crooke writes.

The shock of Afghanistan imploding – as if blown away in a puff of wind – plus the frantic U.S. scramble to get away, even as loyal local retainers, and billions of dollars’ worth of baggage were left abandoned on the tarmac, has triggered a political earthquake that is unfolding across Asia. The ‘ground zero’ (i.e. the U.S.) to a complex network structure has been pulled out on old and settled structures and relationships.

In a very real sense, Washington was the hub: and states – particularly Gulf States defined themselves more in relation to the hub – than to each other. Now those relationships, and associated policies, many of which were geared to pleasing and being favoured by the hub, are up for radical review.

Recently, the lately-returned Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren (a Netanyahu appointment), warned a key Israeli commentator, Ben Caspit, in respect to Israel’s future options, to pause. Israel, of course, unlike others, is actually an integral part of the ‘hub’, and not a ‘spoke’, like other states that do have some modicum of space by which to re-order their network connections. Israel however, only has outwardly projecting vectors of external relations based on a strict calculus of Israeli interest. It has had no notion of any wider regional interest – only its own.

Ambassador Oren gave this advice to Caspit: Before settling on our Israeli options, we need to see where the Afghan withdrawal leaves the U.S., too. Where will it be? He noted that in the wake of the fall of Saigon, the U.S. had embarked on a series of diplomatic initiatives. Can it be this (such as reinvigorating regional normalisation with Israel), or will the U.S. sink into the mire of its divisions?

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The US Desperately Needs To Rethink Its Middle East Strategy, by Paul Sullivan

Playing nice in the Middle East is winning China and Russia more friends than the US’s bullying. From Paul Sullivan at oilprice.com:

Is the Middle East still important? This is a seemingly absurd question, yet some are asking this in Washington. The Middle East is the source of massive reserves in oil and gas. Much of the fuel to produce goods and trade from Asia and the EU comes from the Middle East. Much of the world economy relies on Middle East energy. The region has strategic chokepoints like the Strait of Hormuz, The Suez Canal, and The Bab al Mandab. It is a source of some of the more significant threats in the world, such as from ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other groups. It contains some of the most important security connections in the world. Consider the neighbors of the Middle East and not just the Middle East. The Middle East is a crossroads for energy and security. It also could be one of the generators of change and improvement, if it is allowed and supported to do so.  However, as the U.S. becomes more focused on “The Great Powers Conflict” in Asia, especially with China, it is becoming clearer that the U.S. is losing the plot in the Middle East. Consider the slow to no reaction to the shipping of Iranian fuel with the help of Hezbollah and Syria to Lebanon.

The U.S. could have done many different things to help the Lebanese with this without handing a massive public relations and political victory to its adversaries. But, in some ways, Washington’s sanctions have painted it into a corner on such issues. Consider how the U.S. took the anti-missile batteries from Saudi Arabia as the Houthis are still attacking Saudi Arabia with missiles. The Saudis made a deal with the Russians in response to this and other moves by the U.S. The U.S. handed leverage to the Russians. These are just two of many examples of how the plot is being lost.

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