Ray ID: 54756af30a65f122
Turkish President Erdogan’s visit to Moscow on 27 August will see him and his Russian counterpart hashing out the details of the Syrian end game.
The kinetic (military) phase of the War on Syria is rapidly drawing to a close and being replaced by a potentially much more complex non-kinetic (political) phase of the conflict as evidenced by recent events pertaining to the the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) anti-terrorist operation in Idlib and the upcoming plans to finally form a long-awaited constitutional committee for reforming the country’s founding document. All of these developments concern core interests of Turkey and Russia, especially since the SAA’s liberation offensive succeeded in encircling a Turkish military outpost, so it’s understandable why President Erdogan is rushing to Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart to hash out the details of the Syrian end game.
There has been speculation swirling in the media that the Idlib operation was born out of a secret Russian-Turkish pact whereby Ankara would allow the SAA to liberate part or possibly even all of Idlib in exchange for Moscow agreeing to allow Turkish forces to establish a so-called buffer zone in the northeastern Kurdish-controlled part of the country in coordination with the US. It’s certainly conceivable that something of the sort is in effect owing to the rapid gains that the SAA made, which would have been much more difficult to achieve had it not been for a political decision by the Turkish leadership to not directly resist their advances. After all, if it was this comparatively “easy” all along, Idlib would have been liberated long ago.
This suggests that some kind of agreement was probably reached with Russia behind closed doors, but also that the SAA might have even gone a bit further than either of them expected after it encircled the Turkish military outpost, something that maybe even Moscow was surprised to see happen. It should be stated that while Russia and Syria are close military partners, the former doesn’t “control” the latter, and palpable disagreements have arisen between them from time to time. The Turkish military outpost in Idlib was established as part of the Astana peace process’ so-called “de-escalation zones”, which Damascus officially said that it supported at the time (irrespective of whether this was a sincere statement or done under duress).
On 5 June, the media projectors zeroed in on President Trump and the European leaders of NATO, who, for the anniversary of D-Day, auto-celebrated in Portsmouth “peace, freedom and democracy in Europe,” vowing to “defend them at any time, wherever they may be threatened”. The reference to Russia is clear.
The major medias have either ignored, or somewhat sarcastically relegated to the second zone, the meeting that took place on the same day in Moscow between the Presidents of Russia and China. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, for their thirtieth meeting in six years, refrained from presenting rhetorical concepts, but noted a series of facts.
The exchanges between the two countries, which last year exceeded 100 billion dollars, are now extended by approximately 30 new Chinese projects for investment in Russia, particularly in the energy sector, for a total of 22 billion dollars.
Russia has become the largest oil exporter to China, and is preparing to do the same for natural gas : the largest Eastern gas pipeline will open in December, followed by another from Siberia, plus two huge sites for the export of liquefied natural gas.
The US plan to isolate Russia by means of sanctions, also applied by the EU, combined with the cessation of Russian energy exports to Europe, will therefore be rendered useless.
Russo-Chinese collaboration will not be limited to the energy sector. Joint projects have been launched in the aero-space and other high technology sectors. The communication routes between the two countries (railway, road, river and maritime) are being heavily developed. Cultural exchanges and tourist flows are also expanding rapidly.
This is wide-scale cooperation, whose strategic vision is indicated by two decisions announced at the end of the meeting :
— the signature of an intergovernmental agreement to extend the use of national currencies, (the rouble and the yan), to commercial exchanges and financial transactions, as an alternative to the still-dominant dollar ;
— the intensification of efforts to integrate the New Silk Road, promoted by China, and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), promoted by Russia, with the “aim of creating a greater Eurasian partnership in the future.”
The fact that this aim is not simply economic is confirmed by the “Joint Declaration on the reinforcing of strategic world stability” signed at the end of the meeting.
Polite diplomacy over the dinner table. Smiles on both sides. A nice private dinner. “Everybody is having a good time. Hope so”, says Trump.
Trump and Kim met before the formal dinner party for about half an hour. Kim smiled and said:
“We have exchanged in a very interesting dialogue with each other for about 30 minutes”.
Trump responds with a smile “yes it was good”.
“So we’re going to have a very busy day tomorrow, says Trump.
“And a lot of things are going to be solved. I hope. and I Think it will lead to a really wonderful situation long term… And our relationship is a very special relationship”.
Ultimately, however, there was no official statement or joint communique. What happened. What went wrong?
Prior to the Hanoi encounter, Trump intimated that if a moratorium on nuclear missile testing by the DPRK was reached, he would be satisfied. And that this commitment would then lead to subsequent negotiations.
But this stance was not shared by his top advisers:
“Senior Trump aides have privately expressed skepticism … Some fear that Trump could feel pressure to make a major concession to Kim during face-to-face talks, including a one-on-one session, in hopes of securing a reciprocal commitment he can herald as a political victory. (WPo, February 24, 2018, emphasis added)
Who are these “Senior Trump aides”? The WPo fails to mention the central role of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who was put in charge of the negotiations from the very outset in 2017 when he was head of the CIA.
While we are not privy to what was discussed behind closed doors (with the two leaders and their senior advisors), or what was discussed by Pompeo and Kim Yong-chol in meetings prior to the Hanoi venue, there is evidence that Pompeo was instrumental in the sabotage of peace negotiations both in Singapore and Hanoi.
Back in October 2017, a few months following the beginning of negotations with the DPRK, Pompeo while he was head of the CIA, had hinted in a public statement that Kim Jong-un was on the CIA assassination list:
“If Kim Jong-un suddenly dies,
Bibi Netanyahu misspoke. During a “peace conference” in Warsaw, Poland he said Israel wants war with Iran, then he turned around and said that’s not what he meant and “war” in Hebrew has a different meaning.
Israel’s PM Netanyahu talks of “war” with Iran, then changes his tune.
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) February 14, 2019
Israel has pushed the idea of a “war” against Iran for decades. Iran sits atop a list of countries Bibi and the Likudniks want to take out. It was “mission accomplished” in Iraq and Libya, but a failure in Syria. Iran is a tough nut to crack and not a pushover like Iraq (where twelve years of brutal sanctions worked to soften the country up prior to the Bush dynasty’s second round of “creative destruction”).
Here’s Bibi calling for mass murder in the lead-up to his destruction of Iraq. I say “his” because the “war” was orchestrated by a coterie of Likudnik operatives in the Bush administration.
“If you take out Saddam,” Netanyahu told Congress in 2002, “I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region. And I think that people sitting right next door in Iran… will say the time of such regimes, of such despots is gone.” pic.twitter.com/ZNTxpSP3a2
— Robert Mackey (@RobertMackey) February 14, 2019
If you believe there are multiple meanings of the word “war” in Hebrew and Bibi misspoke or his true meaning was lost in translation, you’re not paying attention. The Israeli state is eager to kill Iranians and flatten Tehran in similar fashion to Aleppo or Fallujah.
Bibi will need Sunni Arabs—in particular the vicious Wahhabi brand—Europe, and of course the United States, for his master plan to be a success. That’s what’s going on right now in Poland—a sort of pre-war powwow, getting all the ducks lined up in a row.
But if you listen to the wife of a former Federal Reserve chairman, Netanyahu and VP Pence are in Poland to honor Jews who died in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
It was obvious that Vladimir Putin was odd man out against the three other summit leaders, all of whom have not abandoned their ambition to see Bashar Assad removed from power
The summit meeting of the German chancellor and the presidents of Turkey, Russia and France in Istanbul this past Saturday has rightfully been called “unprecedented” by the world press. It was the first time Putin, Macron and Merkel sat together since the last G-20. It was the first meeting of two very different groups of backers of a Syrian settlement: the Astana Group, represented by Russia, and the so-called Small Group, represented by France and Germany. But by a conspiracy of silence its net results have been reduced by global media to the hopeful and empty generalization that “the solution to the Syrian crisis can only be political, not military” while the irreconcilable differences among the parties over how to structure the political process and what it will lead to remain unstated. Unstated not only by the French, German and Turkish media, but also by the Russian media, for which I take last night’s News of the Week with Dimitri Kiselyov on the state channel Rossiya-1 as my marker.
In this brief essay, I will focus precisely on the differing, essentially contradictory understandings of the cause of the Syrian tragedy, of the legitimacy of the Syrian government or ”regime,” and on the way that a political settlement can or cannot achieve what was not achieved on the battlefield by the opponents of President Bashar Assad.
My prime material for providing this analysis is the full video broadcast of the press conference which the four leaders held at the conclusion of their 3 hours of talks provided by Ruptly, the German affiliate of RT and posted on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cezjdhuEd18
It bears mention that such broadcasting is a very significant public service to the credit of RT and to the shame of all the mainstream Western media that denigrate the Russian news agency by calling it a propaganda outlet of the Kremlin. Full, uncut transmission of major international events represents the best side of the dis-intermediation that typifies our internet age. It allows each of us to draw our own conclusions on what transpired based on what we hear and see,
As we have already looked at what happened in the summit (https://ru.journal-neo.org/2018/09/22/pyaty-j-mezhkorejskij-sammit-ozhidaniya-i-hronika-soby-tij/) and the reactions to it (https://ru.journal-neo.org/2018/09/25/pyaty-j-mezhkorejskij-sammit-otsenki-i-mezhdunarodnaya-reaktsiya/), we can now discuss the main results and the documents that have been signed, to see whether the initial expectations have been fulfilled. Readers will remember that before the summit certain South Korean media sources wrote that: “denuclearisation will be the key issue for the summit. Other subjects that will be discussed in the summit include the improvement and development of relations between North and South Korea (including a declaration that the Korean War is officially over) and a decrease in military tensions.”
The main result of the summit is the Pyongyang Declaration, consisting of five main points, and also Kim Jong-un’s promise to visit Seoul “in the near future”. This is an important document, but officially it has the status of a memorandum of understanding. It is no coincidence that the South Korean ruling party is now proposing the ratification of the previous such document, the result of the third summit between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un.
The first point of the declaration deals with the reduction of military tensions. It sets out an extensive action plan primarily aimed at minimising the risk of war breaking out over a trifle (https://ru.journal-neo.org/2016/03/14/korejskij-poluostrov-vojna-iz-za-krolika/), a danger that the present author has discussed in more than one article. In addition to creating a direct channel for communications and establishing a special joint committee to deal with emergencies and monitor the implementation of military agreements, the heads of the two countries’ militaries signed not just a declaration but a full-scale agreement aimed at reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula and preventing military clashes from breaking out accidentally. “Both parties have agreed to abstain from any means or methods to infiltrate or invade each other’s territory” and have “agreed to fully abstain from any aggressive actions whether by air, sea or land, that could trigger conflict or military tensions.”
This document sets out in a concrete form the following steps, already agreed by the parties.
The historical Moon-Kim summit ended- after three days of excitement, hope and determination- at the sacred Cheon-ji (Heaven’s Lake) located at the top of Mt Baek-du where Dangun, son of Hwanung who descended from heaven to found the Korean nation more than 4,300 thousand years ago.
Through their meeting, two Koreas reaffirmed their common sacred origin and destiny.
By raising high their tightly united hands, they declared that the reunification of the North and the South is eternal
Before we discuss the contents of the joint declaration of the third Kim-Moon summit, let’s see some of the highlights of the event.
First, the composition of the delegation was meaningful. By and large three groups of people were included. First group was composed of policy decision makers including ministers and the key staff of the Blue House (Korean White House) in charge of foreign affairs and national security. The presence of this group was intended to show Moon’s strong determination to carry out the summit agreements.
The second group represented the business world represented by the heads of Samsung, Hyundai, LG, SK and other Chaebols. It was the first time that most of the heads of Chaebols (family industrial conglomerates) visited North Korea. Their presence was intended to show to the world in general, and, to North Korean in particular, the possibility of Chaebols participation in North Korea’s economic development.
The third group is composed of the heads of two liberal political parties, people representing the world of arts and culture, local government, academics, sports and NGOs. This group was given the task of exploring North-South cooperation in their respective field of interest.
In short, the composition of the delegation showed clearly Moon’s roadmap of North-South cooperation and his strong intention support it. The issue of denuclearization was an important agenda, but this issue was something that should be solved by Washington and Pyongyang. What Moon hoped to get in connection with this issue was Kim’s more concrete and practical commitment to the denuclearization. Moon got it.
There are several other highlights to be mentioned. First, when the Moon’s plane arrived, Kim Jung-un and his first lady waited at the airport; this was unusual;
In writing about several projects such as the Crimea Bridge, the Russia-Sakhalin Bridge, The Sakhalin-Japan bridge, and the dreams of the Bering Strait bridge/tunnel.
I have yet to discuss the two new bridges under construction over the Amur River between Russia and China, which are now close to completion stages.
The Chinese name for the Amur River, Heilong Jiang, means Black Dragon River, and its Mongolian name, Khar Mörön, means Black River. The eastern border section is over 4,000 kilometers long.
Presently, three railway lines cross the entire Russo-Chinese border. The two railway border crossings at Zabaikalsk/Manzhouli and Suifenhe/Grodekovo are over a century old, brought into existence by the original design of Russia’s Trans Siberian Railway that took a shortcut across Manchuria (the Chinese Eastern Railway). The third railway crossing, near Hunchun/Makhalino, operated between 2000 and 2004, was then closed for a few years, and only recently was partially reopened.
Construction has started a while ago on a cross-border Amur River railway bridge near Tongjiang/Nizhneleninskoye, which will become the fourth and the key railway border crossing of the Russian Far East. In fact, it is the only one so far in that vast region.
Not a lot has been reported in our English language press, nonetheless these bridges are key insofar as they represent the first that connect Russia and China by road and rail in what was previously an unbroken 3,000+ kilometer transportation void.
The only ways to cross along this border-defining river was either by ferries, or over the winter ice by truck at one of the few border checkpoints along that huge expanse. The choices did not leave much room for freight or serious recurring trade.
Numerous metaphors arise from the concept of bridge building, not all of which concern bricks and mortar. For example Isaac Newton famously said, “We build too many walls and not enough bridges”, or Nikita Khrushchev who observed, “Politicians are the same all over.
They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers”. There are many such sayings; even fortune cookies have a “wise men build bridges but fools build walls”. Perhaps the best I heard here in Moscow is “Build a bridge and get over it” which seemed to me to be especially apt given our times and the geopolitical reality show once called diplomacy.
Other countries pretend to be interested in free trade; in reality they only care about their own advantage…
The G7 failure to come to terms on trade highlights the problem of governments trying to macromanage trade. And no, the failure to even agree to disagree cannot be blamed on President Trump and his new-found economic nationalism.
The list of countries with the largest trade surplus with the United States is led by China, which exports $375 billion more than it imports. It is followed, very far away, by Mexico ($71 billion), Japan (69 billion), Germany (65 billion), Vietnam (38 billion), Ireland (38 billion) and Italy ($31 billion).
Not surprisingly, the markets with most protectionist measures against the United States are China, the European Union, Japan, Mexico, and India.
These facts explain much more about the failure of the G7 summit than any Manichean analysis on Trump, Trudeau, Macron, or any of the leaders gathered there.
During the last twenty years, the world has carried out a widespread practice in governments’ disastrous idea of “sustaining” GDP with demand-side policies. Build excess capacity, subsidize it, and hope to export that excess to the United States.
Especially China, Germany, and Japan have economies with high state interventionism and therefore very high excess capacity, in part due to a high personal savings rate.
Steel and aluminum, like the automobile industry, are examples of building unnecessary capacity and subsidizing it, country by country, hoping it will be somebody else who closes its inefficient factories to be able to export more to that country.
In Germany, the influence of the automobile industry over the government is legendary. What isn’t are the relatively high tariffs American manufacturers face when exporting to Europe and the low tariffs America itself imposes on automobile imports.
Have Your Cake and Eat It
What is also ironic is that modern-day protectionism didn’t start with Trump. Barriers against global trade increased between 2009 and 2016. The World Trade Organization warned, year after year, since 2010, about the increase in protectionism. The Obama administration, faced with the exponential increase in its trade deficit,