Escobar: MAGA Misses The Eurasia Train

escobar-maga-misses-the-eurasia-train

05-02-19 08:55:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via ConsortiumNews.com,

While China and Russia solidify their economic and political alliance, the U.S. is missing an historic chance to join a multilateral world, instead clinging to military empire…

We should know by now that the heart of the 21stCentury Great Game is the myriad layers of the battle between the United States and the partnership of Russia and China.

Even the U.S. National Defense Strategy says so: “The central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security is the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition by … revisionist powers.” The recently published assessment on U.S. defense implications of China’s global expansionsays so too.

The clash will frame the emergence of a possibly new, post-ideological, strategic world order amidst an extremely volatile unpredictability in which peace is war and an accident may spark a nuclear confrontation.

The U.S. vs. Russia and China will keep challenging the West’s obsession in deriding “illiberalism,” a fearful, rhetorical exercise that equates Russian democracy with China’s one party rule, Iran’s demo-theocracy and Turkey’s neo-Ottoman revival.

It’s immaterial that Russia’s economy is one-tenth of China’s. From boosting trade that bypasses the U.S. dollar, to increasing joint military exercises, the Russia-China symbiosis is poised to advance beyond political and ideological affinities.

China badly needs Russian know-how in its military industry. Beijing will turn this knowledge into plenty of dual use, civilian-military innovations.

The long game indicates Russia and China will break down language and cultural barriers to lead Eurasian integration against American economic hegemony backed by military might.

One could say the Eurasian century is already upon us. The era of the West shaping the world at will (a mere blip of history) is already over. This is despite Western elite denials and fulminations against the so-called “morally reprehensible,” “forces of instability” and “existential threats.”

Standard Chartered, the British financial services company, using a mix of purchasing power exchange rates and GDP growth, has projected that the top five economies in 2030 will be China, the U.S., India, Japan and Russia. These will be followed by Germany, Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey and the UK. Asia will extend its middle class as they are slowly killed off across the West.

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Escobar: Eurasian Davos & The Rise Of The Global South

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28-01-19 09:14:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

How Astana Is Leading The Way In Central Asia

Kazakhstan, which lies at the center of Eurasian integration, is a mix of privatization and protectionism, where the state welfare fund is trying to cut state domination in some industries and protect others

Kazakhstan sits at the heartland of the Great Game of the 21st century, which is all about Eurasia interconnectivity and integration. Astana is a member of both the China-driven New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative, and the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union.

Kazakhstan, the “snow leopard economy” as branded by President Nursultan Nazarbayev over the past decade, could not be more quintessentially Eurasian, its landlocked steppes crisscrossed by 60% of China to Europe rail cargo.

The country also functions as a sort of massive power station for the New Silk Roads, overflowing with oil and gas but also significantly investing in solar, wind and nuclear power.

Astana happens to be the only financial hub between Moscow and Beijing, boasting the Astana International Financial Centre, where the Shanghai Stock Exchange is a major investor and Chinese banks and businesses are listed.

A fascinating mix of privatization and protectionism is also in play.

Samruk Kazyna, the Kazakh national welfare fund, is seeking to reduce the government’s share of the economy, which ranges from energy to banking, from 90% to 20%, even as Astana has made it clear that some strategic commodities and industries are closed to foreign, especially Chinese, investment.

With all that as background, it’s more than natural that Kazakhstan’s unique Eurasian crossroads status has been discussed in detail at the Astana Club.

Its 2018 report, ‘Toward a Greater Eurasia: How to Build a Common Future?’, focuses on everything from geoeconomics and the Central Asian renaissance to geopolitical and security risks. Of particular interest is a new report on the global risks ahead for Eurasia.

Kazakhstan and the ‘stans’ between Russia and China. Map: University of Texas

The Eurasian Davos

There’s near universal consensus across the Global South,

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A two part Pepe Escobar report on the China, Pakistan and the new Great Game | The Vineyard of the Saker

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31-12-18 09:09:00,

On top of the graceful Baltit Fort, overlooking the Hunza Valley’s Shangri-La-style splendor, it’s impossible not to feel dizzy at the view: an overwhelming collision of millennia of geology and centuries of history.

We are at the heart of Gilgit-Baltistan, in Pakistan’s Northern Areas, or – as legend rules, the Roof of the World. This is an area about 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) crammed with spectacular mountain ranges and amidst them, secluded pristine valleys and the largest glaciers outside of the Polar region.

The location feels like vertigo. To the north, beyond the Batura Glacier, is the tiny northeast arm of Afghanistan, the legendary Wakhan corridor. A crest of the Hindu Kush separates Wakhan from the regional capital Gilgit. Xinjiang starts on Wakhan’s uppermost tip. Via the upgraded Karakoram highway, it’s only 240 km from Gilgit to the Khunjerab Pass, 4,934 meters high on the official China-Pakistan border.

What used to be called the Russian Pamir, now in Tajikistan, can be seen with naked eyes from one of the peaks of the Karakoram. To the east, past Skardu and an arduous trek that may last almost a month, lies K2, the second highest peak in the world, among a mighty group north of the Batura Glacier (also known as Baltoro), which is 63km long.

Receding Hopper Glacier

The receding Hopper Glacier in northern Pakistan. Photo: Asia Times

To the south lies Azad (“Free”) Kashmir and slightly to the southeast what locals define as Indian-occupied Kashmir. The former King of Kashmir agreed to be part of India after Partition in 1947 but troops were airlifted to the northern state and after a year of fighting, India went to the UN. A temporary ceasefire line was established in 1948 and runs down from the Karakoram towards the Nanga Parbat – the killer mountain, dividing Kashmir into two virtually sealed halves.

Massive mountain ranges

Driving across the Karakoram Highway (see part 2 of this report) we were face to face with three massive mountain ranges running in different directions. The Karakoram roughly starts where the Hindu Kush ends and then sweeps eastward – a watershed between Central Asian drainage and streams flowing into the Indian Ocean.

original Silk Road, parallel to K’koram hwy

The ancient Silk Road is seen above the Karakoram Highway.

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Escobar: Russia, Ukraine, & The Minsk Agreement Fiction

escobar-russia-ukraine-amp-the-minsk-agreement-fiction

23-12-18 03:56:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Saker Blog

Rostislav Ishchenko is arguably the leading international analyst focused on the extraordinarily turbulent Russia-Ukraine relations. He posts regularly on Ukraina.ru, with frequent English translations here.

In contrast to the 24/7 “Russian aggression” demonization campaign effective on all corners of the Beltway and spreading towards selected European capitals, Ishchenko’s analysis, for instance of the information war deployed on all fronts of the Russia-Ukraine saga comes as a breath of fresh air.

Although we were not able to meet in person during my recent visit to Moscow, due to conflicting schedules (the meeting will take place later in the winter), Ishchenko graciously accepted to answer my most pressing questions regarding what could happen next on the Russia-Ukraine front, with translation by Scott Humor.

Ishchenko’s answers on the situation in Donbass should also be expanded to Crimea, after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed he had information about Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko planning an armed provocation on the border with Crimea in the last ten days of December.

Considering the terrain in winter is usually propitious for tank advance, would Poroshenko, in desperation, go for a major provocation in the Donbass, perhaps between Christmas and New Year’s Eve? 

First of all, this winter is too warm and the area is not yet favorable for an offensive. Second, even if frost strikes and an attack becomes possible, it is too big of a risk for Poroshenko. He does not have enough military power to defeat the DPR/LPR forces, without even mentioning that surprises are still possible as it happened in August 2008 in South Ossetia. After all, the Minsk peace agreement has not been canceled yet, and it is unlikely that the West will be able to stand against Russia in a consolidated manner at the moment when Russia is conducting a peace coercion of the confectioner, who is out of his mind with fear, and whom the West has already written off. The West requires a mandatory holding of elections, and any war would mean a cancellation of elections. If the war is facilitated by Poroshenko, he will be blamed for the cancellation of the elections and there will be no need to protect him.

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Escobar On Conquering Crimea: The ‘Civilized’ & The ‘Barbarians’

escobar-on-conquering-crimea-the-8216civilized8217-amp-the-8216barbarians8217

21-12-18 09:02:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

Washington insists sanctions will remain until Russia returns the peninsula to Ukraine, but this will never happen. For Moscow, Crimea is back to where it belongs, and this is a region that has seen conquerors come and go for centuries…

We are at the remains of Panticapaeum, the capital of the Kingdom of Bosphorus, founded in the second quarter of the 6th century BC on both sides of the Kerch Strait.

We start our walk on the hilltop of Mithridates, in the heart of modern Kerch, where “terrible” king Mithridates of Pontus (134 – 64 BC) was killed. Greek geographer Strabo (63 BC – 23 AD) said Panticapaeum was the mother country of “all the Milesian cities of Bosphorus”. It was a big city that boasted a convenient harbor and a shipyard.

As we climb higher, we come across an obelisk celebrating victory in the Great Patriotic War. This is one of the last ridges in eastern Crimea. To the left is Kerch harbor with no warships, only coastguard patrol boats. To the right, the dark blue Sea of Azov, the Kerch strait – now one of the geopolitical hot spots of the young 21st century – and far in the distance is Krimsky Most, the Crimea bridge.

Crossing the bridge – a 19km-long engineering marvel, built in only two years – is as smooth as it gets and takes less than 15 minutes. On the right, work proceeds on the rail bridge, which will be ready next year.

The Crimea Bridge. Photo: Asia Times

I cross in the direction of Novorossiysk, then turn back from the Russian mainland. There’s a passport control and customs check, even though Crimea is now Russian territory. Cars and buses are carefully examined; a terror attack is always a concern. The guards are polite: “Welcome to Krym”. I say I was already in Krym. They smile.

Bridge over troubled water

Washington officially insists all Crimea-related sanctions will remain until Moscow returns the peninsula to Ukraine. This will never happen. For Moscow, Crimea is already back to where it belongs.

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Escobar: On The Road To A Post-G20 World

escobar-on-the-road-to-a-post-g20-world

06-12-18 09:06:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via ConsortiumNews.com,

The ascendance of China and multilateral trading blocks could eventually spell the doom of the G20 and U.S. global dominance…

The trade war launched by the Trump administration against China may not have been solved by a 2½-hour dinner between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Donald Trump at the G20 in Buenos Aires on Saturday. But it may have opened a path towards a drastic realignment.

Way beyond the histrionics surrounding the “family pic” – and whose nods and winks signaled surefire geopolitical capital – the G20 walked and talked like a last gasp to “save” the current turbo-capitalist world (dis)order.

The sherpas at the G20 lost sleep for two consecutive nights trying to come up with a final declaration capable of appeasing Trump. As virtually every nation at the G20 supports multilateralism on trade, nobody wanted to upset even more the real Big Boss in Buenos Aires: Xi Jinping.

The climax in any case was the U.S.-China bilateral – which carried the potential, if things went downhill, to derail the global economy.

The White House spin was on immediate negotiations – lasting 90 days – over forced transfers of U.S. technology to China; intellectual property protection; an array of non-tariff barriers; and alleged Chinese cyber “intrusions”. If there’s no deal, Washington will raise tariffs on Chinese imports to 25 percent.

Xi and Trump at G20. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

Now compare that with the key take away from Beijing, with Wang Yi, the vastly experienced Chinese Foreign Minister, describing the dinner conversation as “friendly and candid.” There were also no specifics on how substantial the allegedly “immediate” Chinese buying of American agricultural, energy and industrial products will be.

Wang, defiant, outspoken, and an expert on Japan, was promoted to state councillor last year, which means the Ministry of Foreign Affairs now has much more clout over other key Chinese institutions. Last summer, Wang coined a priceless take on Trump’s trade war: “The U.S. often says that it is taken advantage of, but this is perplexing. It’s like someone who buys a hundred-dollar product in a supermarket,

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Escobar: Kerch Strait Chaos Looks “More Like A Cheap Ploy By Desperate Neocons”

escobar-kerch-strait-chaos-looks-8220more-like-a-cheap-ploy-by-desperate-neocons8221

28-11-18 03:51:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

The West is complaining about Russian ‘aggression’ but the incident looks more like a cheap ploy by a desperate Ukrainian president and US conservatives keen to undermine Trump’s next pow-wow with Putin…

When the Ukrainian navy sent a tugboat and two small gunboats on Sunday to force their way through the Kerch Strait into the Sea of Azov, it knew in advance the Russian response would be swift and merciless. 

After all, Kiev was entering waters claimed by Russia with military vessels without clarifying their intent.

The intent, though, was clear; to raise the stakes in the militarization of the Sea of Azov.

The Kerch Strait connects the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea. To reach Mariupol, a key city in the Sea of Azov very close to the dangerous dividing line between Ukraine’s army and the pro-Russian militias in Donbass, the Ukrainian navy needs to go through the Kerch.

Yet since Russia retook control of Crimea via a 2014 referendum, the waters around Kerch are de facto Russian territorial waters.

Kiev announced this past summer it would build a naval base in the Sea of Azov by the end of 2018. That’s an absolute red line for Moscow. Kiev may have to trade access to Mariupol, which, incidentally, also trades closely with the People’s Republic of Donetsk. But forget about military access.

And most of all, forget about supplying a Ukrainian military fleet in the port of Berdyansk capable of sabotaging the immensely successful, Russian-built Crimean bridge.

Russian aircraft fly over the Crimean Bridge that spans the Kerch Strait as a Russian ship blocks the strait, after Russia fired on and seized three Ukrainian ships on Sunday, accusing them of illegally entering its waters. Photo: Kerch Info / AFP

Predictably, Western media has been complaining again about “Russian aggression”, a gift that keeps on giving. Or blaming Russia for its over-reaction, overlooking the fact that Ukraine’s incursion was with military vessels, not fishing boats. Russian resolve was quite visible, as powerful Ka-52 “Alligator” assault helicopters were promptly on the scene.

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Escobar: Erdogan, MbS, Islamic Leadership, & The Price Of Silence

escobar-erdogan-mbs-islamic-leadership-amp-the-price-of-silence

22-11-18 09:29:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

The House of Saud’s ties to the Khashoggi slaying are being milked by the Turkish President for maximum benefit amid debate on leadership of the Islamic world and how the crisis may affect US and Saudi strategy in the Middle East…

It was packaged as a stark, graphic message, echoing across Eurasia: Presidents Erdogan and Putin, in a packed hall in Istanbul on Monday, surrounded by notables, celebrating completion of the 930 kilometer-long offshore section of the TurkStream gas pipeline across the bottom of the Black Sea.

This is no less than a key landmark in that fraught terrain I named ‘Pipelineistan’ in the early 2000s. It was built by Gazprom in only two and a half years despite facing massive pressure from Washington, which had already managed to derail TurkStream’s predecessor, South Stream.

TurkStream is projected as two lines, each capable of delivering 15.75 billion cubic meters of gas a year. The first will supply the Turkish market. The second will run 180 km to Turkey’s western borderlands and supply south and southeast Europe, with first deliveries expected by the end of next year. Potential customers include Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary.

Call it the Gazprom double down. Nord Stream 1 and 2 supply northern Europe while TurkStream supplies southern Europe. Pipelines are steel umbilical cords. They represent liquid connectivity at its best while conclusively decreasing risks of geopolitical friction.

Turkey is already being supplied by Russian gas via Blue Stream and the Trans-Balkan pipeline. Significantly, Turkey is Gazprom’s second largest export market after China.

Erdogan’s speech, strenuously emphasizing the benefits of Turkey’s energy security, was played and replayed all across a rainy, ultra-congested Istanbul. To witness this geopolitical and geoeconomic breakthrough was particularly enlightening, as I was deep into discussing Turkish geopolitics with members of the progressive Turkish Left.

Even the opposition to what in Europe is routinely defined as Erdogan’s brand of “Asian illiberalism” concedes Turkey-Russia trade connectivity – in energy, in the military domain via the sale of the S-400 missile system, in the building of nuclear power plants – has been conducted with consummate skill by Erdogan,

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Escobar: Decoding The Hypersonic Putin On A Day Of Remembrance

escobar-decoding-the-hypersonic-putin-on-a-day-of-remembrance

14-11-18 10:53:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

Sitting alongside French President Macron during the 100th anniversary to commemorate the end of World War I, Putin and Trump stole the show in Paris…

The Elysee Palace protocol was implacable. Nobody in Paris would be allowed to steal the spotlight away from the host, President Emmanuel Macron, during the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day marking the end of World War I.

After all, Macron was investing all his political capital as he visited multiple World War I battlefields while warning against the rise of nationalism and a surge in right-wing populism across the West.

He was careful to always place the emphasis on praising “patriotism.”

A battle of ideas now rages across Europe, epitomized by the clash between the globalist Macron and populism icon Matteo Salvini, the Italian interior minister.

Salvini abhors the Brussels system. Macron is stepping up his defense of a “sovereign Europe.”

And much to the horror of the US establishment, Macron proposes a real “European army” capable of autonomous self-defense side by side with a “real security dialogue with Russia.”

Yet all these “strategic autonomy” ideals collapse when you must share the stage, live, with the undisputed stars of the global show: President Donald  Trump and President Vladimir Putin.

So the optics in Paris were not exactly of a Yalta 2.0 conference. There were no holds barred to keep Trump and Putin apart. Seating arrangements featured, from left to right, Trump, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Macron, his wife Brigitte and Putin. Neither Trump nor Putin, for different reasons, took part in a “walking in the rain” stunt evoking peace.

And yet they connected. Sir Peter Cosgrove, the governor general of Australia, confirmed that Trump and Putin, at a working lunch, had a “lively and friendly” conversation for at least half an hour.

No one better than Putin himself to reveal, even indirectly, what they really talked about. Three themes are absolutely key.

On the Macron-proposed, non-NATO European army: “Europe is … a powerful economic union and it is only natural that they want to be independent and … sovereign in the field of defense and security.”

On the consequences of such an army: It would be “a positive process” that would “strengthen the multipolar world.” On top of it,

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Pepe Escobar: Under The Pakistani Volcano

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05-11-18 07:35:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

While Khan plays on a complex geopolitical chessboard, Chinese aid could be a financial lifeline as Islamabad faces off against deadly religious extremism…

It has been a breathless week, huddled in the shadow of the simmering, bubbling, politico-religious volcano that is Imran Khan’s Pakistan.

And this week’s multi-faceted developments may just signal seismic shifts in Pakistan’s internal and external relations for the foreseeable future.

Before  moving on to bloodier matters, let’s start with the “Mr. Khan Goes to China” episode – essential for reviewing all aspects of what is enthusiastically described by both sides as the “all-weather strategic cooperative partnership”.

Xi’s financial lifeline for Khan?

Prime Minister Khan, leading a fresh government elected in July and facing a range colossal challenges, set the tone from the start. He did not mince words.

“Countries go in cycles, they have their high points, they have their low points,” he said.

“Unfortunately, our country is going through a low point at the moment with two very big deficits, a fiscal deficit and a current account deficit. And so we, as I’ve said, have come to learn.”

Arguably few teachers beat Chinese President Xi Jinping, praised by Khan as a role model.

“China’s phenomenal achievements are worth emulating,” Khan said.

“No other country has tackled poverty and corruption the way China has tackled it.”

The lynchpin of the strategic partnership is inevitably the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of the New Silk Road, or Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI). Before his stint as guest of honor of the First China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Khan met a crucial player in Beijing for CPEC financing: Jin Liquan, president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Right from the start, Pakistan’s new Planning Minister Makhdoom Bukhtiar was confident that Islamabad would not need to reschedule around $2.7 billion in Chinese loans due for repayment in 2018. Instead, what’s in the cards is an improved economic package centered on taking CPEC to the next level.

A financially stable Pakistan is absolutely crucial for the success of BRI.

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Escobar: What Sanctions On Russia And China Really Mean

Escobar: What Sanctions On Russia And China Really Mean

20-10-18 07:52:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

The Pentagon may not be advocating total war against both Russia and China – as it has been interpreted in some quarters …

A crucial Pentagon report on the US defense industrial base and “supply chain resiliency” bluntly accuses China of “military expansion” and “a strategy of economic aggression,” mostly because Beijing is the only source for “a number of chemical products used in munitions and missiles.”

Russia is mentioned only once, but in a crucial paragraph: as a – what else – “threat,” alongside China, for the US defense industry.

The Pentagon, in this report, may not be advocating total war against both Russia and China – as it was interpreted in some quarters. What it does is configure the trade war against China as even more incandescent, while laying bare the true motivations behind the sanctioning of Russia.

The US Department of Commerce has imposed restrictions on 12 Russian corporations that are deemed to be acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the US.” In practice, this means that American corporations cannot export dual-use products to any of the sanctioned Russian companies.

There are very clear reasons behind these sanctions – and they are not related to national security. It’s all about “free market” competition.

At the heart of the storm is the Irkut MC-21 narrow-body passenger jet – the first in the world with a capacity of more than 130 passengers to have composite-based wings.

AeroComposit is responsible for the development of these composite wings. The estimated share of composites in the overall design is 40%.

The MC-21’s PD-14 engine – which is unable to power combat jets – will be manufactured by Aviadvigatel. Until now MC-21s had Pratt & Whitney engines. The PD-14 is the first new engine 100% made in Russia since the break up of the USSR.

Aviation experts are sure that an MC-21 equipped with a PD-14 easily beats the competition; the Airbus A320 and the Boeing-737.

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Pepe Escobar: Welcome To The G-20 From Hell

Pepe Escobar: Welcome To The G-20 From Hell

17-10-18 07:50:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

World leaders wrestle with a maelstrom of complex, burning issues as they prepare for November 30 summit…

The G-20 in Buenos Aires on November 30 could set the world on fire – perhaps literally. Let’s start with the US-China trade war. Washington won’t even start discussing trade with China at the G-20 unless Beijing comes up with a quite detailed list of potential concessions.

The word from Chinese negotiators is not at all bleak. Some sort of agreement could be reached on about a third of US demands. Debate on another third could ensue. But the last third is absolutely off-limits – due to Chinese national security imperatives, such as refusing to allow the opening of the domestic cloud computing market to foreign competition.

Beijing has appointed Vice-Premier Liu He and Vice-President Wang Qishan to supervise all negotiations with Washington. They face an uphill task: to pierce through President Donald Trump’s limited attention span.

On top of it, Beijing demands a “point person” with the authority to negotiate on behalf of Trump – considering the mixed-message traffic jam out of Washington.

Now compare this with the message coming from the research institute fabulously named Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era under the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC): the US has started the “trade friction” essentially “to hinder China’s industrial upgrading.”

That’s the consensus at the top.

And the clash is bound to get worse. Vice President Mike Pence accused China of “meddling in American democracy,” “debt diplomacy,” “currency manipulation,” and “IP theft.” The Foreign Ministry in Beijing dismissed it all as “ridiculous.”

It’s enlightening to pay close attention to what Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the Council on Foreign Relations – as diplomatically as possible: “China will follow a path of development different from historical powers.” And China will not seek hegemony.

From the point of view of the US National Security Strategy, that’s irrelevant; China has been framed as a fierce competitor and even a threat.

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Escobar: ‘The West Against The Rest’ Or ‘The West Against Itself’?

Escobar: ‘The West Against The Rest’ Or ‘The West Against Itself’?

21-09-18 09:27:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via ConsortiumNews.com,

What is the bigger story? The West Against the Rest or The West Against Itself?

The Illiberal Quartet of Xi, Putin, Rouhani and Erdogan is in the line of fire of haughty homilies about Western “values.”

Illiberalism is arrogantly and provocatively depicted in the West repeatedly as a Tartar Invasion 2.0. But closer to home Illiberalism is responsible for the social, civil war in the U.S. as Trump’s America has long ago forgotten what the European Enlightenment was all about.

The Western view is a maelstrom of a Judaeo-Greco-Roman, pseudo-philosophy steeped in Hegel, Toynbee, Spengler and obscure biblical references decrying an Asian attack on the “enlightened” West’s mission civilisatrice.

The maelstrom stunts critical thinking to evaluate Xi’s Confucianism, Putin’s Eurasianism, Rouhani’s realpolitik and “non-Westoxified” Shi’ite Islam, as well as Erdogan’s quest to guide the global Muslim Brotherhood.

Targets of the West.

Instead the West give us phony “analyses” of how NATO should be praised for not allowing Libya to become a Syria, which it indeed has.

Meanwhile a golden rule prevails about one Asian power: never criticize the House of Saud, which happens to be the ultimate manifestation of Illiberalism.

They get a free pass because after all they are “our bastards.”

What the illiberal-bashing frenzy does accomplish is to reduce what should be a crucial debate about a fearful West Against the Rest, to the more pressing issue of The West Against Itself.

This intra-West battle is being manifested in several ways: Viktor Orban in Hungary, eurosceptic coalitions in Austria and Italy, the advance of the ultra right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and the Sweden Democrats. In short it’s The Revenge of the European Deplorables.

Bannon’s ‘Paradise’ Regained

Into this European fray steps Steve Bannon, the master strategist who elected Donald Trump and is now taking the continent by storm. He is about to launch his own think tank, The Movement, in Brussels, to foment no less than a right-wing populist revolution.

It comes replete with Bannon spooking assorted EU lands by paraphrasing Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost: “I prefer to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”

Bannon’s growing influence in Europe has reached the Venice Biennale,

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Escobar: All Hands On Deck As The Caspian Sails Toward Eurasia Integration

Escobar: All Hands On Deck As The Caspian Sails Toward Eurasia Integration

17-08-18 07:35:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

The five states surrounding the sea – Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan – have reached difficult compromises on sovereign and exclusive rights as well as freedom of navigation

The long-awaited deal on the legal status of the Caspian Sea signed on Sunday in the Kazakh port of Aktau is a defining moment in the ongoing, massive drive towards Eurasia integration.

Up to the early 19th century, the quintessentially Eurasian body of water – a connectivity corridor between Asia and Europe over a wealth of oil and gas – was exclusive Persian property. Imperial Russia then took over the northern margin. After the break up of the USSR, the Caspian ended up being shared by five states; Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

Very complex negotiations went on for almost two decades. Was the Caspian a sea or a lake? Should it be divided between the five states into separate, sovereign tracts or developed as a sort of condominium?

Slowly but surely, the five states reached difficult compromises on sovereign and exclusive rights; freedom of navigation; “freedom of access of all the vessels from the Caspian Sea to the world’s oceans and back” – in the words of a Kazakh diplomat; pipeline installation; and crucially, on a military level, the certitude that only armed forces from the five littoral states should be allowed in Caspian waters.

No wonder then that President Putin, in Aktau, described the deal in no uncertain terms as having “epoch-making significance.”

A sea or a lake?

So is the Caspian now a sea or a lake? It’s complicated; the convention signed in Aktau defines it as a sea, but subject to a “special legal status.”

This means the Caspian is regarded as open water, for common use – but the seabed and subsoil are divided. Still a work in progress, the devil is in the details in sorting out how the seabed is divided.

According to the draft text, published two months ago by Russia’s Kommersant, “the delimitation of the floor and mineral resources of the Caspian Sea by sector will be carried out by agreement between the neighboring and facing states taking into account generally recognized principles and legal norms.” Stanislav Pritchin,

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Pepe Escobar: Economic War On Iran Is War On Eurasian Integration

Pepe Escobar: Economic War On Iran Is War On Eurasian Integration

16-08-18 10:05:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

US sanctions on Iran should be interpreted as a piece in a much larger chessboard…

Life carries on in Tehran despite the threat of US sanctions. 

Hysteria reigned supreme after the first round of US sanctions were reinstated against Iran over the past week. War scenarios abound, and yet the key aspect of the economic war unleashed by the Trump administration has been overlooked: Iran is a major piece in a much larger chessboard.

The US sanctions offensive, launched after Washington’s unilateral pullout from the Iran nuclear deal, should be interpreted as an advance gambit in the New Great Game at whose center lies China’s New Silk Road – arguably the most important infrastructure project of the 21st century — and overall Eurasia integration.

The Trump administration’s maneuvers are a testament to how China’s New Silk Road, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), threaten the US establishment.

Eurasian integration on the rise

Eurasian integration is on display in Astana, where Russia, Iran and Turkey are deciding the fate of Syria, in coordination with Damascus.

Iran’s strategic depth in post-war Syria simply won’t vanish. The challenge of Syrian reconstruction will be met largely by Bashar al-Assad’s allies: China, Russia and Iran.

Echoing the Ancient Silk Road, Syria will be configured as an important BRI node, key to Eurasia integration.

In parallel, the Russia-China strategic partnership – from the intersection between the BRI and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) to the expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the solidifying of BRICS Plus — has immense economic stakes in the stability of Iran.

The complex interconnection of Iran with both Russia (via the EAEU and the International North-South Transportation Corridor) and China (via BRI and oil/gas supplies) is even tighter than in the case of Syria in the past seven years of civil war.

Iran is absolutely essential for Russia-China for the partnership to allow any “surgical strike” — as floated in Syria — or worse, hot war initiated by Washington.

A case could be made that with his recent overture to President Putin,

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Escobar: Eagle-Meets-Bear & The Syria Tug-Of-War

Escobar: Eagle-Meets-Bear & The Syria Tug-Of-War

06-07-18 06:27:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

Trump and Putin are likely to discuss the tricky situation in southern Syria when they meet; while the US president says he wants US forces back home, the CIA, Pentagon and Israel may be happier to see them stay so the war-torn state remains unstable…

Syrian government tanks and soldiers take positions in the town of Western Ghariyah, about 15km east of the southern embattled city of Daraa. Photo: AFP/ SANA handout released on June 30, 2018.

Ahead of the Eagle-meets-Bear Trump-Putin summit on July 16 in Helsinki, Syria-centered spin has gone into overdrive. Unknown sources have leaked what is billed as President Trump’s alleged Syria deal discussed with Jordan’s King Abdullah.

Trump would “allow” Damascus, supported by Russian air power, to regain its territory along the borders of Jordan, Israel and Iraq. In return, President Putin and Bashar al-Assad would agree to establish an extended demilitarized zone (DMZ) along these same borders, off-limits to any Iranian forces.

That would set the scene for Trump’s already announced desire to extract US forces out of Syria before October and the US mid-term elections. The president would be able to declare the proverbial “Mission Accomplished” in defeating Daesh or Islamic State.

The CIA and the Pentagon are not exactly enthusiastic with Trump’s alleged Syria gambit, to say the least. For assorted neocons and powerful factions of the industrial-military-surveillance complex, “Assad must go” Syria simply cannot be traded off.

And yet there’s nothing to trade. Syria cannot be “offered” to Russia because Russia is already the major player in deciding what happens in Syria, not only militarily but via the ongoing Astana format alongside Iran and Turkey. No wonder the alleged Trump “deal” was duly dismissed by the Kremlin. 

What will be negotiated in the Trump-Putin summit, as Asia Times has learned, is something completely different. This negotiation, incidentally, will happen after the NATO summit in Brussels and before the next Astana format meeting in Sochi on July 30, as confirmed by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin.

The heart of the matter remains Syria’s territorial integrity and the legitimacy of the government in Damascus.

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Pepe Escobar: Putin & Xi Top The G6+1

Pepe Escobar: Putin & Xi Top The G6+1

12-06-18 07:42:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

All hell broke loose at the G6+1, aka G7, while the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) aimed at global integration and a peaceful multipolar order…

East vs. West: the contrast between the “dueling summits” this weekend was something for the history books.

All hell broke loose at the G6+1, otherwise known as G7, in La Malbaie, Canada, while all focused on divine Eurasian integration at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in China’s Qingdao in Shandong, the home province of Confucius.

US President Donald Trump was the predictable star of the show in Canada. He came late. He left early. He skipped a working breakfast. He disagreed with everybody. He issued a “free trade proclamation”, as in no barriers and tariffs whatsoever, everywhere, after imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on Europe and Canada. He proposed that Russia should be back at the G8 (Putin said he has other priorities). He signed the final communiqué and then he didn’t.

Trump’s “I don’t give a damn” attitude drove the European leaders assembled in Canada crazy. After the official photo shoot, the US president grabbed the arm of new Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and said, in ecstasy, “You’ve had a great electoral victory!”

The Euros were not pleased and forced Conte to abide by the official EU, as in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s, policy: no G8 readmission to Russia as long as Moscow does not respect the Minsk agreements. In fact it is Ukraine that is not respecting the Minsk agreements; Trump and Conte are fully aligned on Russia.

Merkel, in extremis, proposed a “shared evaluation mechanism”, lasting roughly two weeks, to try to defuse rising trade tensions.

Yet the Trump administration does not seem to be interested.

“Strategic” game-changer

Meanwhile, over in Qingdao, the stunning takeaway was offered predictably by Chinese President Xi Jinping; “President Putin and I both think that the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership is mature, firm and stable.”

This is a massive game-changer because officially, so far, this was a “comprehensive partnership.” It’s the first time on record that Xi has put the stress on “strategic”.

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Pepe Escobar: How Singapore, Astana, & St.Petersburg Preview A New World Order

Pepe Escobar: How Singapore, Astana, & St.Petersburg Preview A New World Order

08-06-18 07:39:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

Key economic forums in cities across Eurasia point the way to new power structures rising to challenge Western dominance…

Ahead of the crucial Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Qingdao this coming weekend, three other recent events have offered clues on how the new world order is coming about.

The Astana Economic Forum in Kazakhstan centered on how mega-partnerships are changing world trade. Participants included the president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) Jin Liqun; Andrew Belyaninov from the Eurasian Development Bank; former Italian Prime Minister and president of the EU Commission Romano Prodi; deputy director-general of the WTO Alan Wolff; and Glenn Diesen from the University of Western Sydney.

Diesen, a Norwegian who studied in Holland and teaches in Australia, is the author of a must-read book, Russia’s Geoeconomic Strategy for a Greater Eurasia, in which he analyzes in excruciating detail how Moscow is planning “to manage the continent from the heartland by enhancing collective autonomy and influence, and thus evict US hegemony directed from the periphery.”

In parallel, as Diesen argues, Moscow aims “to ensure the sustainability of an integrated Eurasia by establishing a balance of power or ‘balance of dependence’ to prevent the continent from being dominated by one power, with China being the most plausible candidate.”

In a nutshell; this New Great Game installment revolves around “Russia’s strategy to enhance its bargaining power with the West by pivoting to the East.”

Concerning Astana, Diesen told me that the AIIB’s Liqun “took the hardest stance in defense of diversifying financial instruments, while Belyaninov was very critical of anti-Russian sanctions.”

Diesen argues that: “The emergence of economic mega-blocks actually improves economic relations by creating more symmetry. For example, China’s CIPS (Cross-Border Interbank Payment System) undermined the ability of SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) to be used for economic coercion, while CIPS and SWIFT still cooperate. Similarly, the EAEU [Eurasia Economic Union] gets its strength from the ability to integrate with other regions as opposed to isolating itself.”

And here’s the clincher: “China’s cooperation with the EAEU mitigates Russian concerns about asymmetries,

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Pepe Escobar: Why India Is Ignoring US Sanctions And Sticking With Iran

Pepe Escobar: Why India Is Ignoring US Sanctions And Sticking With Iran

04-06-18 07:20:00,

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

It’s not just about oil – there’s a complex interconnection of geopolitics and geoeconomics between the two countries…

Pay very close attention to what India’s External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, said after meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier this week in New Delhi:

“Our foreign policy is not made under pressure from other countries … We recognize UN sanctions and not country-specific sanctions. We didn’t follow US sanctions on previous occasions either.”

After fellow BRICS members China and Russia, India left no margin for doubt. And there’s more; India will continue to buy oil from Iran – its third top supplier – and is willing to pay in rupees via state bank UCO, which is not exposed to the US. India bought 114% more oil from Iran during the financial year up to March 2018 than in the previous term.

India-US trade amounts to $115 billion a year. In comparison, India-Iran trade is only $13 billion a year. India may grow an impressive 7% in 2018 and has reached a GDP of $2.6 trillion, according to the IMF, ahead of France, Italy, Brazil and Russia. To keep growing, India badly needs energy.

So for New Delhi, buying Iranian energy is a matter of national security. Couple it with the obsession in bypassing Pakistan, and it’s clear this is all about a complex interconnection of geopolitics and geoeconomics.

The comprehensive India and Iran partnership revolves around energy, trade and investment connectivity corridors, banking, insurance, shipping and – crucially – the imminent possibility of doing everything using the rupee and the rial, bypassing the US dollar.

India-Iran already trade in euros – so that is step one in bypassing the long arm of the US Department of the Treasury. Both nations are still using SWIFT. Assuming the EU does not give in to the unilateral US violation of the Iranian nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, India’s oil imports won’t be sanctioned.

If that’s the case, step two will be turbo-charging the already booming trade in rupees and rials to the energy front – facilitated by the fact Tehran has invested in upgrading and perfecting insurance for its fleet of tankers.

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