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Russian President Vladmir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan held a four-hour meeting on August 5 in Sochi which may change the course of the Middle East, and end the US occupation of Syria.Continue reading Putin’s Syrian Peace Plan with Erdogan
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Mega Eurasian organizations and their respective projects are now converging at record speed, with one global pole way ahead of the other.
The War of Economic Corridors is now proceeding full speed ahead, with the game-changing first cargo flow of goods from Russia to India via the International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) already in effect.
Very few, both in the east and west, are aware of how this actually has long been in the making: the Russia-Iran-India agreement for implementing a shorter and cheaper Eurasian trade route via the Caspian Sea (compared to the Suez Canal), was first signed in 2000, in the pre-9/11 era.
The INSTC in full operational mode signals a powerful hallmark of Eurasian integration – alongside the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), and last but not least, what I described as “Pipelineistan” two decades ago.
Caspian is key
Let’s have a first look on how these vectors are interacting.
The genesis of the current acceleration lies in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan’s capital, for the 6th Caspian Summit. This event not only brought the evolving Russia-Iran strategic partnership to a deeper level, but crucially, all five Caspian Sea littoral states agreed that no NATO warships or bases will be allowed on site.
That essentially configures the Caspian as a virtual Russian lake, and in a minor sense, Iranian – without compromising the interests of the three “stans,” Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. For all practical purposes, Moscow has tightened its grip on Central Asia a notch.
As the Caspian Sea is connected to the Black Sea by canals off the Volga built by the former USSR, Moscow can always count on a reserve navy of small vessels – invariably equipped with powerful missiles – that may be transferred to the Black Sea in no time if necessary.
Stronger trade and financial links with Iran now proceed in tandem with binding the three “stans” to the Russian matrix. Gas-rich republic Turkmenistan for its part has been historically idiosyncratic – apart from committing most of its exports to China.
Under an arguably more pragmatic young new leader, President Serdar Berdimuhamedow, Ashgabat may eventually opt to become a member of the SCO and/or the EAEU.
Caspian littoral state Azerbaijan on the other hand presents a complex case: an oil and gas producer eyed by the European Union (EU) to become an alternative energy supplier to Russia – although this is not happening anytime soon.
The West Asia connection
Iran’s foreign policy under President Ebrahim Raisi is clearly on a Eurasian and Global South trajectory. Tehran will be formally incorporated into the SCO as a full member in the upcoming summit in Samarkand in September, while its formal application to join the BRICS has been filed.
Purnima Anand, head of the BRICS International Forum, has stated that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are also very much keen on joining BRICS. Should that happen, by 2024 we could be on our way to a powerful West Asia, North Africa hub firmly installed inside one of the key institutions of the multipolar world.
As Putin heads to Tehran next week for trilateral Russia, Iran, Turkey talks, ostensibly about Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is bound to bring up the subject of BRICS.
Tehran is operating on two parallel vectors. In the event the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is revived – a quite dim possibility as it stands, considering the latest shenanigans in Vienna and Doha – that would represent a tactical victory. Yet moving towards Eurasia is on a whole new strategic level.
In the INSTC framework, Iran will make maximum good use of the geostrategically crucial port of Bandar Abbas – straddling the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
Yet as much as it may be portrayed as a major diplomatic victory, it’s clear that Tehran will not be able to make full use of BRICS membership if western – especially US – sanctions are not totally lifted.
Pipelines and the “stans”
A compelling argument can be made that Russia and China might eventually fill the western technology void in the Iranian development process. But there’s a lot more that platforms such as the INSTC, the EAEU and even BRICS can accomplish.
Across “Pipelineistan,” the War of Economic Corridors gets even more complex. Western propaganda simply cannot admit that Azerbaijan, Algeria, Libya, Russia’s allies at OPEC, and even Kazakhstan are not exactly keen on increasing their oil production to help Europe.
Kazakhstan is a tricky case: it is the largest oil producer in Central Asia and set to be a major natural gas supplier, right after Russia and Turkmenistan. More than 250 oil and gas fields are operated in Kazakhstan by 104 companies, including western energy giants such as Chevron, Total, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell.
While exports of oil, natural gas and petroleum products comprise 57 percent of Kazakhstan’s exports, natural gas is responsible for 85 percent of Turkmenistan’s budget (with 80 percent of exports committed to China). Interestingly, Galkynysh is the second largest gas field on the planet.
Compared to the other “stans,” Azerbaijan is a relatively minor producer (despite oil accounting for 86 percent of its total exports) and basically a transit nation. Baku’s super-wealth aspirations center on the Southern Gas Corridor, which includes no less than three pipelines: Baku-Tblisi-Erzurum (BTE); the Turkish-driven Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP); and the Trans-Adriatic (TAP).
The problem with this acronym festival – BTE, TANAP, TAP – is that they all need massive foreign investment to increase capacity, which the EU sorely lacks because every single euro is committed by unelected Brussels Eurocrats to “support” the black hole that is Ukraine. The same financial woes apply to a possible Trans-Caspian Pipeline which would further link to both TANAP and TAP.
In the War of Economic Corridors – the “Pipelineistan” chapter – a crucial aspect is that most Kazakh oil exports to the EU go through Russia, via the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC). As an alternative, the Europeans are mulling on a still fuzzy Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, also known as the Middle Corridor (Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey). They actively discussed it in Brussels last month.
The bottom line is that Russia remains in full control of the Eurasia pipeline chessboard (and we’re not even talking about the Gazprom-operated pipelines Power of Siberia 1 and 2 leading to China).
Gazprom executives know all too well that a fast increase of energy exports to the EU is out of the question. They also factor the Tehran Convention – that helps prevent and control pollution and maintain the environmental integrity of the Caspian Sea, signed by all five littoral members.
Breaking BRI in Russia
China, for its part, is confident that one of its prime strategic nightmares may eventually disappear. The notorious “escape from Malacca” is bound to materialize, in cooperation with Russia, via the Northern Sea Route, which will shorten the trade and connectivity corridor from East Asia to Northern Europe from 11,200 nautical miles to only 6,500 nautical miles. Call it the polar twin of the INSTC.
This also explains why Russia has been busy building a vast array of state-of-the-art icebreakers.
So here we have an interconnection of New Silk Roads (the INSTC proceeds in parallel with BRI and the EAEU), Pipelineistan, and the Northern Sea Route on the way to turn western trade domination completely upside down.
Of course, the Chinese have had it planned for quite a while. The first White Paper on China’s Arctic policy, in January 2018, already showed how Beijing is aiming, “jointly with other states” (that means Russia), to implement sea trade routes in the Arctic within the framework of the Polar Silk Road.
And like clockwork, Putin subsequently confirmed that the Northern Sea Route should interact and complement the Chinese Maritime Silk Road.
Russia-China Economic cooperation is evolving on so many complex, convergent levels that just to keep track of it all is a dizzying experience.
A more detailed analysis will reveal some of the finer points, for instance how BRI and SCO interact, and how BRI projects will have to adapt to the heady consequences of Moscow’s Operation Z in Ukraine, with more emphasis being placed on developing Central and West Asian corridors.
It’s always crucial to consider that one of Washington’s key strategic objectives in the relentless hybrid war against Russia was always to break BRI corridors that crisscross Russian territory.
As it stands, it’s important to realize that dozens of BRI projects in industry and investment and cross-border inter-regional cooperation will end up consolidating the Russian concept of the Greater Eurasia Partnership – which essentially revolves around establishing multilateral cooperation with a vast range of nations belonging to organizations such as the EAEU, the SCO, BRICS and ASEAN.
Welcome to the new Eurasian mantra: Make Economic Corridors, Not War.
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The possibilities offered by the “integration of integrations” track for BRICS+ are substantial, provided that such a platform is open, inclusive and ensures connectivity across regional integration arrangements – this will deliver the much needed “multiplier effect” in the process of economic cooperation and can set off a new process of globalization that connects regional arrangements in the developed and the developing world, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Yaroslav Lissovolik.Continue reading The ‘Multiplier Effect’ of BRICS+
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This is a series of talks where each talk is short and one can enjoy the long video in shorter pieces. An absolute must-listen is the convenor’s opening statement which explains so clearly the concept of multi-polarity or pluripolarity.
The second one by Victor Gao brings a new view to how China perceives these changes in our world.
Ben Norton from Multipolarista takes a look at the influence of socialism in the Belt and Road Initiative.
All of these are worth listening to, and it is easy as the presentations are short, and one can come back to it.
Topics include: * NATO, AUKUS and the military infrastructure of the New Cold War * The evolving China-Russia relationship and the West’s response * The Biden administration’s undermining of the One China Principle * Solomon Islands and the West’s plan for hegemony in the Pacific * NATO’s plan for Ukraine and how this impacts China * Prospects for sovereign development in the Global South
Speakers: * Victor Gao (Vice President, Center for China and Globalization) * Ben Norton (Editor, Multipolarista) * Li Jingjing (Reporter, CGTN) * Jenny Clegg (Author, ‘China’s Global Strategy: Toward a Multipolar World’) * Danny Haiphong (Author, ‘American Exceptionalism and American Innocence’) * Chris Matlhako (SACP Second Deputy General Secretary) * Mustafa Hyder Sayed (Executive Director, Pakistan-China Institute)
* Professor Ding Yifan (Senior Fellow, Taihe Institute, China) * Ju-Hyun Park (Writer and organizer, Nodutdol for Korean Community Development) * Rob Kajiwara (President, Peace For Okinawa Coalition) * Sara Flounders (United National Antiwar Coalition, International Action Center) * Yury Tavrovsky (Chairman, Russian-Chinese Committee for Friendship, Peace and Development)
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This is the Western media’s bizarre messaging to the people of Laos, a nation that was carpet bombed by America, and which is now being vilified for accepting a new $9 billion railway line paid for by China.
Thursday was National Day in Laos, a celebration marking 46 years since the landlocked Southeast Asian nation deposed its monarchy and became a revolutionary communist state, an effort which was supported by Vietnam.
This year, the anniversary had added significance, as it saw the opening of a major new project, an electrified high-speed and freight railway system connecting the capital city, Vientiane with its northern neighbour, China.
The $9 billion project is part of the Belt and Road Initiative, and has been hailed as one of its flagship achievements. It is the first commercial and industrial railway in Laos, which, given its geography and the fact it is surrounded by mountainous terrain, has not previously had many options to expand its exports and generate economic growth.
Now, though, it has a direct rapid link into the world’s second largest economy and the world’s largest consumer market by population, and a connection to the booming ports of Guangdong. In terms of what it will bring to Laos, it is a game changer. So, what’s not to like about it?
To nobody’s surprise, the mainstream media have responded to the railway with the usual anti-China negativity. A plethora of articles sought to paint the project as a ‘debt trap’, promoting the accusation that Beijing loans countries money for projects they cannot afford and then exerts political leverage over it.
The Financial Times, for one, ran with a cynical article headlined ‘Laos to open Chinese-built railway amid fears of Beijing’s influence’. It implied that somehow Laos feels threatened or fears the construction of this very pioneering railway project (which the country’s own leader made sure he was the first to travel on). This suggestion of ‘fears of Chinese influence’ has become a common feature on such stories, which seek to cast doubt over anything positive China may be achieving or doing.
A common Twitter meme among pro-China users which has followed from stories like this asks: “but at what cost?” highlighting the frequency of such negative coverage.
And if you Google “China, but at what cost?” you can find a great many examples of articles published in major outlets. In producing such pieces, the broader intention is to depict Beijing’s actions as unwanted, threatening and constantly facing opposition. In the case of the Laos railway project, the ‘problem’ is it was financed by debt, and therefore it is not a positive step.
Yet this argument is as insulting as it is outright insensitive to Laos’ contemporary history. Anyone who knows anything about Laos’ relatively recent past will be well aware that China is not the country to fear, but the United States – the nation that dropped over 260 million cluster bombs on Laos and completely devastated the country as an extension of the Vietnam War, making it the most single bombed nation in history and claiming over 50,000 lives.
Many of these bombs remain unexploded and litter the countryside of Laos, continuing to kill civilians. In constructing the new railway, workers first had to clear the unexploded ordnance. How is it that the world and the mainstream media remain indifferent to this atrocity? And how, by any stretch of the imagination, can they claim that China is the true threat to Laos, and that the US and its allies act in the true interests of the country?
Herein lies the problem. Such a mindset symbolizes the elitism, chauvinism and self-righteousness of the countries of the West, which are ideologically inclined to believe that they stand for the ‘true interests’ of the ordinary people in the countries they profess to liberate.
Western politics peddles the assumption that through countries’ adherence to liberal democracy, they exclusively hold a single, universal, impartial and moralistic truth, derived from the ontological legacy of Christianity, and they have an obligation to introduce it to others. The West always acts truthfully and in good faith, while its enemies do not. And therefore, so the logic goes, any policy the US or its allies direct towards Laos is motivated by sincere intent and goodwill for its interests, and in turn, anything that China does is bad-faith, expansionist and power-hungry behaviour motivated by a desire to influence or control the country.
This creates the bizarre scenario whereby Beijing is depicted as evil and sinister for building a railway to connect to its neighbour – but we should forget America dropping millions of bombs on the country because it was done in the name of ‘freedom’. I’m sure you can imagine how the media would react if China did the latter.
Those who push this narrative predictably omit any insight into how Laos itself thinks about the situation. Another piece which took a similar stance, published in The Diplomat, was titled ‘Laos-China Railway inaugurated amid mounting debt concerns’.
But like the ‘fears of Beijing influence’ expressed in the FT, who are these ‘concerns’ from? The report cites the “Washington-based Center for Global Development” and what it merely describes as a “US based analyst” as sources who push the ‘debt trap’ narrative. But nowhere in any of these articles is there an actual voice direct from Laos who raises any fear of China, or objects to the railway’s existence.
Instead, they simply talk on the country’s behalf, obscuring the reality that a communist state which suffered from extreme levels of aggression from the US probably does not see its northern neighbour – and its most important economic partner – as a threat to its regime. With many more articles running variations of the same theme, there is minimal effort given to the consideration that the railway will help the country rapidly expand its exports, sustain greater growth and help Laos pay for the project.
The Laos-China railway has provided a textbook example of how the media can distort a story in order to fortify an incriminating narrative, while brushing aside brutal realities. We are shown a lopsided world, where the travesty of a country being bombed into oblivion with consequences lasting decades is ignored, and the preference is to try to convince us how that same country’s first commercial railway line is, in fact, what it should really be scared of.
It is a demonstration of how the power of the English-language, pro-US media distorts reality itself and how they can blow up an issue, yet hide the truth, by professing to care dearly about the well-being and interests of a country which the West poured death, destruction and carnage upon in the name of freedom.
If you believe the narrative being pushed in the UK media, there’s a predictable source to blame for Barbados going it alone as a republic. This speaks volumes about the UK’s uncertainty over its place in the shifting world order.Continue reading Barbados Ditches the Queen
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