The Duplicitous Superpower

How Washington’s Chronic Deceit – especially towards Russia – Has Sabotaged US Foreign Policy.

By Ted Galen Carpenter

The American Conservative (November 28 2017)


Credit: Shutterstock/Northfoto

For any country, the foundation of successful diplomacy is a reputation for credibility and reliability. Governments are wary of concluding agreements with a negotiating partner that violates existing commitments and has a record of duplicity. Recent US administrations have ignored that principle, and their actions have backfired majorly, damaging American foreign policy in the process.

The consequences of previous deceit are most evident in the ongoing effort to achieve a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis. During his recent trip to East Asia, President Trump urged {1} Kim Jong-un’s regime to “come to the negotiating table” and “do the right thing” – relinquish the country’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Presumably, that concession would lead to a lifting (or at least an easing) of international economic sanctions and a more normal relationship between Pyongyang and the international community.

Unfortunately, North Korean leaders have abundant reasons {2} to be wary of such US enticements. Trump’s transparent attempt to renege on Washington’s commitment to the deal with Iran known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) – which the United States and other major powers signed in 2015 to curb Tehran’s nuclear program – certainly does not increase Pyongyang’s incentive to sign a similar agreement. His decision to decertify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA, even when the United Nations confirms that Tehran is adhering {3} to its obligations, appears more than a little disingenuous.

North Korea is likely focused on another incident that raises even greater doubts about US credibility. Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi capitulated on the nuclear issue in December of 2003, abandoning his country’s nuclear program and reiterating a commitment to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In exchange, the United States and its allies lifted economic sanctions and welcomed Libya back into the community of respectable nations. Barely seven years later, though, Washington and its Nato partners double-crossed Qaddafi, launching airstrikes and cruise missile attacks to assist rebels in their campaign to overthrow the Libyan strongman. North Korea and other powers took notice of Qaddafi’s fate, making the already difficult task of getting a de-nuclearization agreement with Pyongyang nearly impossible. {4}

The Libya intervention sullied America’s reputation in another way. Washington and its Nato allies prevailed on the UN Security Council to pass a resolution endorsing a military intervention to protect innocent civilians. Russia and China refrained from vetoing that resolution after Washington’s assurances that military action would be limited in scope and solely for humanitarian purposes. Once the assault began, it quickly became evident that the resolution was merely a fig leaf for another US-led regime-change war.

Beijing, and especially Moscow, understandably felt duped. Secretary of Defense Robert M Gates succinctly described {5} Russia’s reaction, both short-term and long-term:

The Russians later firmly believed they had been deceived on Libya. They had been persuaded to abstain at the UN on the grounds that the resolution provided for a humanitarian mission to prevent the slaughter of civilians. Yet as the list of bombing targets steadily grew, it became obvious that very few targets were off-limits, and that Nato was intent on getting rid of Qaddafi. Convinced they had been tricked, the Russians would subsequently block any such future resolutions, including against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

 

The Libya episode was hardly the first time the Russians concluded that US leaders had cynically misled them {6}. Moscow asserts that when East Germany unraveled in 1990, both US Secretary of State James Baker and West German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher offered verbal assurances that, if Russia accepted a unified Germany within Nato, the alliance would not expand beyond Germany’s eastern border. The official US position that there was nothing in writing affirming such a limitation is correct – and the clarity, extent, and duration of any verbal commitment to refrain from enlargement are certainly matters {7}of intense {8} controversy {9}. But invoking a “you didn’t get it in writing” dodge does not inspire another government’s trust.

There seems to be no limit to Washington’s desire to crowd Russia. Nato has even added the Baltic republics, which had been part of the Soviet Union itself. In early 2008, President George W Bush unsuccessfully tried to admit {10} Georgia and Ukraine, which would have engineered yet another alliance move eastward. By that time, Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders were beyond furious.

The timing of Bush’s attempted ploy could scarcely have been worse. It came on the heels of Russia’s resentment at another example of US duplicity. In 1999, Moscow had reluctantly accepted a UN mandate to cover Nato’s military intervention against Serbia, a long-standing Russian client. The alliance airstrikes and subsequent moves to detach and occupy Serbia’s restless province of Kosovo for the ostensible reason of protecting innocent civilians from atrocities was the same “humanitarian” justification that the West would use subsequently in Libya.

Nine years after the initial Kosovo intervention, the United States adopted an evasive policy move, showing utter contempt for Russia’s wishes and interests in the process. Kosovo wanted to declare its formal independence from Serbia, but it was clear that such a move would face a certain Russian (and probable Chinese) veto in the UN Security Council. Washington and an ad-hoc coalition of European Union countries brazenly bypassed the Council and approved Pristina’s independence declaration. It was an extremely controversial move. Not even all EU members were on board with the policy, since some of them (for example, Spain) had secessionist problems of their own.

Russia’s leaders protested vehemently and warned that the West’s unauthorized action established a dangerous, destabilizing international precedent. Washington rebuffed their complaints, arguing that the Kosovo situation was unique. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, R Nicholas Burns made that point explicitly {11} in a February 2008 State Department briefing. Both the illogic and the hubris of that position were breathtaking.

It is painful for any American to admit that the United States has acquired a well-deserved reputation for duplicity in its foreign policy. But the evidence for that proposition is quite substantial. Indeed, disingenuous US behavior regarding Nato expansion and the resolution of Kosovo’s political status may be the single most important factor for the poisoned bilateral relationship with Moscow. The US track record of duplicity and betrayal is one reason why prospects for resolving the North Korean nuclear issue through diplomacy are so bleak.

Actions have consequences, and Washington’s reputation for disingenuous behavior has complicated America’s own foreign policy objectives. This is a textbook example of a great power shooting itself in the foot.

Links:

{1} http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/11/07/latest-trump-urges-north-korea-to-come-to-table.html

{2} http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-skeptics/libya-the-forgotten-reason-north-korea-desperately-wants-23129

{3} https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iran-adhering-to-nuclear-deal-with-world-powers-un-watchdog-says/2017/08/31/cb408e7d-bc9a-4874-bbdf-001f919a8c86_story.html?utm_term=.35f6210d41e4

{4} http://nationalinterest.org/feature/thanks-libya-north-korea-might-never-negotiate-nuclear-13756

{5} https://www.amazon.com/Duty-Memoirs-Secretary-at-War/dp/0307959473/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1510766413&sr=1-1

{6} http://beta.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-shifrinson-russia-us-nato-deal–20160530-snap-story.html

{7} http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/nato-s-eastward-expansion-did-the-west-break-its-promise-to-moscow-a-663315.html

{8} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/09/how-america-double-crossed-russia-and-shamed-the-west.html

{9} https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/russia-fsu/2014-08-11/broken-promise

{10} https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/apr/01/nato.georgia

{11} https://2001-2009.state.gov/p/us/rm/2008/100976.htm
_____

Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow in defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, is the author of ten books, the contributing editor of ten books, and the author of more than 700 articles and policy studies on international affairs.

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-duplicitous-superpower/

Fighting Israel’s Wars

How the United States Military has become Zionized

by Philip Giraldi

The Unz Review (November 28 2017)

There has been a report {1} that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking into foreign lobbying in Washington while another story relates how his team is investigating the alleged contact {2} of a Donald Trump associate with a Hungarian. Both are part of the ongoing investigation into Russiagate. Unless I am wrong, which happens occasionally, Hungary is a member of the European Union and also of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (“Nato”). It has relatively free elections and its government changes as a result.

No one but the Mueller commission has considered contact with a Hungarian citizen to be a potential threat to American democracy. But then again, no one has really made the case in any kind of credible fashion that meeting with a Russian is either ipso facto criminal or treasonous, or that Moscow’s media does anything beyond what other state-owned broadcasters tend to do, but you wouldn’t know that from reading the mainstream press or from watching MSNBC and CNN.

An independent observer might well note that there is more than a whiff of hypocrisy in all of this. Case in point, the latest globalist-interventionist-neocon think tank {3} the Alliance to Secure Democracy is currently being funded by a bundle of foreign governments, presumably doing so without any interference from Mueller or from those who run the Foreign Agents Registration desk at the Department of the Treasury.

And one other thing you can bet on is that Mueller will not be looking at the country that actually does interfere in American politics most, which is our best friend in the whole world and greatest ally Israel, the beneficiary of roughly one billion dollars worth of lobbying carried out by hundreds of full-time staff on its behalf.

Punish Israel for corrupting our politicians and media? On the contrary, now that we are officially into the holiday season, a whole bunch of goodies designed to make Benjamin Netanyahu’s eyes sparkle are pending. The highest priority item is the Trump Administration’s cooperation with the Israeli government in a frantic effort {4} to bury a United Nations report that includes a database of all the companies that operate in Israel’s illegal settlements. Also regarding the UN, Congress is considering a bill {5} that would block US aid to any country that opposes “the position of the United States”. Lest there be any confusion, Ambassador Nikki Haley has made it clear the American “position” would pretty much consist of never criticizing or voting against Israel.

Congress is meanwhile also making a list and checking it twice, looking into the vexing issue {6} of how to make any and all criticism of Israel equate to anti-Semitism as a step forward to turning such activity into a hate crime with actual criminal penalties. The House Judiciary Committee has been holding meetings to try to decide how exactly one might do that without completely jettisoning the First Amendment, which once upon a time was intended to guarantee free speech. On November 8th, nine experts, seven of whom were Jewish, were summoned to address the issue of “codify[ing] a definition of anti-Semitism that incorporates a controversial component addressing attacks on Israel … [as] a necessary means of stemming anti-Semitism on campuses”.

The proposed amendment to the Civil Rights Act would use language being considered for the still pending Anti-Semitism Awareness Act to considerably expand the currently accepted government acceptance of anti-Semitism as “demonization” of Israel and/or its policies. A broader definition would have real-world consequences as it would potentially block federal funding for colleges and universities where students are allowed to organize events critical of Israel. Fortunately, the hearing did not produce the result desired by Israel. To their credit, four of the witnesses, all Jewish, opposed expanding the definition of anti-Semitism and even some congressmen uncharacteristically indicated that to do so might be a bridge too far.

Indeed, one might argue that there is a tendency in Washington to see the world and even domestic policies through Israel’s eyes. One might even suggest that the United States government is being progressively Zionized because of the free hand that Israel and its supporters have, which gives them the ability to seek benefits for Israel that they would be unlikely to pursue for the United States. To cite only one example, an Israel Victory Caucus was launched {7} in the House of Representatives in April advocating Israeli defeat of all its neighbors. The keynote speaker at the event, noted Islamophobe Daniel Pipes, explained “Victory means imposing your will on your enemy so he no longer wants to continue to fight”, before demanding “What I want the US government to do is say, ‘Israel, do what you need to do to win your war’ “.

Israel has been uniquely successful at imposing its will over Congress and the White House. Every freshman class in Congress, plus spouses, is automatically whisked off for a deluxe all expenses paid propaganda trip to Israel, which is funded by an affiliate of the American Israel Political Action Committee (“AIPAC”). That is supplemented frequently throughout the year through taxpayer-funded CODELS by established politicians to find out the “facts” on what is going on in the Middle East. During congressional recesses, Congressmen are sometimes more likely to be found visiting Israel than dealing with problems in their own districts and they routinely return spouting whatever line is being promoted by the Israeli government.

There is also the training of American police in “Israeli methods”, which is funded both by government and foundations set up for that purpose. Less well known is the inroads Israel has made with the American military establishment. Shoshana Bryen, former executive director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (“JINSA”) and currently affiliated with the Jewish Policy Center, who has been involved in hosting the indoctrination of US national security personnel, recently described it {8} this way:

I have taken more than 400 American security professionals – primarily retired American Admirals and Generals – to Israel in more than thirty trips. And at the other end of their careers, I have sent more than 500 cadets and midshipmen of our service academies to Israel before they received their commissions. And I can say that they all understood the fundamental and profound principles that guide both the United States and Israel. They don’t always agree with Israel’s politics – or Israel’s defense choices – or any other single aspect of Israeli political, military, and social life, but I never found one that didn’t believe in the relationship between Jews and the land of Israel. The United States military, then, is a Zionist institution.

 

Last Monday, Colonel Pat Lang, former special ops officer and head of the Defense Humint Service, considered Bryen’s assertion {9}, writing

It’s an open question but I think the answer is probably yes. The US military now seems to be totally focused on Israeli policy goals in Iran, Syria and Iraq … Israel wants Iran neutered and eliminated as a power rival in the Middle East. The putative Iranian nuclear weapons program is just one target of Israeli policy toward Iran. To reach the goal of Morgenthau-style comfort with regard to Iran, Israel wants to destroy Syria and Hizbullah as allies of Iran … The process of conditioning American officers to make them Zionists has been ongoing for a long time. when I came in the Army in 1962, there was little interest in Israel in the officer corps … [The] 1967 war was a watershed. Israel’s total victory had been unexpected by most. Americans are mentally driven by aggressive sports analogies and Israel was a winner. That made a big difference in spite of the repeated day long attacks by the Israeli air force and navy against USS Liberty, an American SIGINT collector positioned off the Egyptian coast. LBJ suppressed an armed reaction by a US carrier battle group in the area and a subsequent naval investigation. His policy then became one of relatively complete support of Israel. The indoctrination and conditioning program described by Shoshana Bryen began in earnest after that and has carried through to the present under the umbrella of AIPAC and its galaxy of linked organizations especially JINSA. This program has been wildly, incredibly successful. As a result, there is an unthinking willingness among senior, and not so senior American officers to support Israeli policy in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and now Saudi Arabia. The handful of M[iddle] E[ast] trained and educated US officers are ignored, treated as technical experts, or shoved out the door when they speak up.

 

How deeply Israelophilia has been drilled into the American corporate psyche is best illustrated by a recent article {10} that appeared on the National Interest website. The article was written by retired Israeli Colonel Shimon Arad, who apparently has contributed to the site previously, and its thrust is that the United States should only sell military hardware to the Middle East when Israel is satisfied that the sales will not undercut its self-defined military edge. In other words, US defense industries and national security arrangements should be subordinated to Israeli interests and even subject to veto by the Netanyahu government.

Arad’s condescending piece, sub-titled “Israel’s Greatest Fear: An Arms Race Sparked by the F-35”, should be read fully to demonstrate just how arrogant the Israelis have become in dealing with their American puppet. Arad argues that no advanced fighters comparable to what Israel receives for free from the US taxpayer should be sold to any Arab country, no matter how friendly or strategically valuable. Previous pledges that the new F-35 would not be sold to Arabs “played a significant role in [Israel]’s acquiescence to the sale of … advanced … fighters to the Gulf states …” “Acquiescence” is the key word, implying that Israel should by rights have the option to stop such sales by putting pressure on Congress. Arad then goes on to describe how sales to the United Arab Emirates would be a “dangerous precedent”, but he is clearly talking only about Israeli interests as the United States is in no way threatened by such a move. He concludes that “Israel must express its strenuous objection to the release of the F-35 to any and all Gulf and Arab countries”.

In an earlier article {11}, Arad complained about Arab states being sold sophisticated air defenses, presumably because that would make it more difficult for Israel to bomb them. Why an American publication should provide a pulpit to an Israeli who is promoting a narrowly construed Israeli interest that differs significantly from the actual interests of the United States is not completely clear. The site’s readers apparently agreed with that observation in that most of the comments were highly critical both of Arad and of Israel. Someone should remind the colonel that America’s three major military concentrations in the Middle East – five bases in Kuwait, Al-Udeid Airbase in Qatar, and the Fifth-Fleet home base and Naval Central Command in Bahrain – are all in Arab countries that have accommodated Washington in ways that Israel never has. To place them on a list of countries that are somehow always suspect just because Israel perceives nearly all Muslims as enemies, is not in America’s own interest, but this has been the unfortunate pattern in the lopsided relationship prevailing between Washington and Tel Aviv.

The infiltration by little Israel of key sectors of the bureaucracy of a seemingly oblivious giant United States is extraordinary by any measure, but it has been brought about by a highly focused and well-funded powerful domestic lobby that has remarkable access both to the political class and to the media. As Admiral Thomas Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff once put it {12}, “No American president can stand up to Israel”. He should have added Congress and even the Pentagon to his indictment but what he said is, unfortunately, truer now than it was when he made the comment back in 1997.

Links:

{1} http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/business-a-lobbying/360391-mueller-puts-spotlight-on-foreign-lobbying

{2} http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/peace-and-prosperity/2017/november/20/omg-trump-aide-met-with-nato-partner-hungary-during-campaign/

{3} https://www.thenewamerican.com/reviews/opinion/item/26588-another-neoconservative-startup

{4} https://finance.yahoo.com/news/israel-races-head-off-un-061830931.html

{5} https://www.rt.com/usa/409512-us-congress-bill-assistance-un-voting/

{6} https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/1.821751

{7} https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/gop-israel-victory-caucus_us_5902491ce4b0bb2d086c22e7

{8} https://www.jewishpolicycenter.org/2017/11/20/u-s-military-zionist-organization/

{9} http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2017/11/have-the-us-militry-gone-zionist.html

{10} https://www.yahoo.com/news/israel-apos-greatest-fear-arms-013600091.html

{11} http://nationalinterest.org/print/feature/america-fueling-arab-israeli-arms-race-20961?page=show

{12} https://www.counterpunch.org/2007/08/15/quot-no-american-president-can-stand-up-to-israel-quot/

_____

Philip M Giraldi, PhD, is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax-deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based US foreign policy in the Middle East. The website is http://www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, the address is PO Box 2157, Purcellville Virginia 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

http://www.unz.com/pgiraldi/fighting-israels-wars/

Prodigal Japan

Time to Come Home

by Thomas Hon Wing Polin

CounterPunch (November 28 2017)

In recent weeks, the leaders of East Asian archrivals China and Japan have exchanged unusually amicable feelers. Shinzo Abe, Japan’s hard-right premier, met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and prime minister Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the APEC and ASEAN summits. “Recently, China-Japan relations have been gradually improving and there is a positive momentum”, Li told visiting Japanese business chiefs in Beijing shortly afterward. Reported Abe following his encounter with Xi: “President Xi stated that the meeting represented a new start for Japan-China relations, and I completely agreed”.

After a five-year-long nadir in bilateral ties, such talk raised hopes for significant improvement. Friendly relations between the two powers would, of course, provide a big boost to peace and prosperity throughout the Asia-Pacific region. And their economies are generally complementary. But a couple of fundamental obstacles stand in the way.

The first is largely a matter of perception, especially within the international community. Many people actually seem to think of China and Japan as equals, or near-equals – a tendency particularly pronounced in the Western world. That is a result of history, politics, and propaganda, converging in a single fact: Post World War Two, Japan is the US-led imperium’s chief representative in Asia, while the People’s Republic of China is the Empire’s chief bogey there.

This canard must be laid to rest once and for all: China and Japan are NOT equals, or anywhere near equals. China is much bigger, older, and civilizationally richer. The Chinese economy is already more than twice the size of Japan’s, and China’s overall national strength substantially exceeds its neighbor’s.

More importantly, these gaps are set to widen in the foreseeable future – in China’s favor. In power terms, China is the United States to Japan’s United Kingdom. In cultural terms, China is the United Kingdom to Japan’s United States. In the past 150 years, China’s weakness was a historical aberration, as was Japan’s strength. This abnormal period is now over. So looking ahead, expectations stemming from the notion of parity or near-equality between the neighbors should be junked in favor of reality. Therein lies a prerequisite to all sustainable solutions.

Which brings us to the second, more rudimentary problem. There is only one way that lasting Sino-Japanese amiability can be restored: Japan must come clean on its unprovoked atrocity against the Chinese nation during the 1930s and 1940s. No more wishy-washy, insulting “regrets” or “remorse” about the twenty-plus million Chinese civilians killed by the Japanese Imperial Army.

A through-going, unequivocal act of contrition is essential. Once that takes place, the wounds can begin to heal. Japan will recognize and accept China’s centrality in East Asia’s natural order, and China will reciprocate with generosity. Under the Confucian ethos, younger brother gives elder brother due respect, and elder brother returns it by giving all manner of benefits, including security. Peace will reign under heaven.

The United States, of course, will resist such a scenario with all its might. Its realization would mean the end of the American Empire’s East Asia wing. But recent events – especially Donald Trump’s Asian tour – have made it clearer than ever that China is set to displace the US as the region’s dominant power, restoring the historical status. China’s leaders, chastened by their country’s Century of Humiliation, know that the only viable way forward for all nations in the 21st century is mutually beneficial cooperation. That’s now enshrined as the unofficial animus of Beijing’s foreign policy.

For Japan, the wise course would to break free of the predatory Western imperium and return to Asia, where harmony among states has traditionally been the guiding ideology. It will be tough, but perhaps not impossible, especially with a little help from China and Russia. Since the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Japan has looked West obsessively, learning and adapting all things Western quite brilliantly. In the process, it has neglected its Asian soul. It’s time for Japan to come home.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/11/28/prodigal-japan-time-to-come-home/

How Turkey, Iran, Russia, and India …

… Are Playing the New Silk Roads

by Pepe Escobar

CounterPunch (November 24 2017)

Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Hassan Rouhani will hold a summit this Wednesday in Sochi to discuss Syria. Russia, Turkey, and Iran are the three power players at the Astana negotiations – where multiple cease-fires, as hard to implement as they are, at least evolve, slowly but surely, towards the ultimate target – a political settlement.

A stable Syria is crucial to all parties involved in Eurasia integration. As Asia Times reported {1}, China has made it clear that a pacified Syria will eventually become a hub of the New Silk Roads, known as the Belt and Road Initiative (“BRI”) – building on the previous business bonanza of legions of small traders commuting between Yiwu and the Levant.

Away from intractable war and peace issues, it’s even more enlightening to observe how Turkey, Iran, and Russia are playing their overlapping versions of Eurasia economic integration and/or BRI-related business.

Much has to do with the energy/transportation connectivity between railway networks – and, further on the down the road, high-speed rail – and what I have described, since the early 2000s, as Pipelineistan {2}.

The Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (“BTC”) pipeline, a deal brokered in person in Baku by the late Dr Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski, was a major energy/geopolitical coup by the Clinton administration, laying out an umbilical steel cord between Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey.

Now comes the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (“BTK”) railway – inaugurated with great fanfare by Erdogan alongside Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, but also crucially Kazakh Prime Minister Bakhytzhan Sagintayev and Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov. After all, this is about the integration of the Caucasus with Central Asia.

Erdogan actually went further: BTK is “an important chain in the New Silk Road, which aims to connect Asia, Africa, and Europe” {3}. The new transportation corridor is configured as an important Eurasian hub linking not only the Caucasus with Central Asia but also, in the Big Picture, the EU with Western China.

BTK is just the beginning, considering the long-term strategy of Chinese-built high-speed rail from Xinjiang across Central Asia all the way to Iran, Turkey, and of course, the dream destination: the EU. Erdogan can clearly see how Turkey is strategically positioned to profit from it.

Of course, BTK is not a panacea. Other connectivity points between Iran and Turkey will spring up, and other key BRI interconnectors will pick up speed in the next few years, such as the Eurasian Land-Bridge across the revamped Trans-Siberian and an icy version of the Maritime Silk Road: the Northern Sea Route across the Arctic.

What’s particularly interesting in the BTK case is the Pipelineistan interconnection with the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (“TANAP”), bringing natural gas from the massive Azeri gas field Shah Deniz-2 to Turkey and eventually the EU {4}.

Turkish analyst Cemil Ertem stresses …
 

… just like TANAP, the BTK Railway not only connects three countries, but also is one of the main trade and transport routes in Asia and Europe, and particularly Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan ports. It connects Central Asia to Turkey with the Marmaray project in Istanbul and via the Caspian region. Along with the Southern Gas Corridor, which constitutes TANAP’s backbone, it will also connect ports on the South China Sea to Europe via Turkey.

 

It’s no wonder BTK has been met with an ecstatic reception across Turkey – or, should we say, what used to be known as Asia Minor. It does spell out, graphically, Ankara’s pivoting to the East (as in increasing trade with China) as well as a new step in the extremely complex strategic interdependence between Ankara and Moscow; the Central Asian “stans”, after all, fall into Russia’s historical sphere of influence.

Add to it the (pending) Russian sale of the S-400 missile defense system to Ankara, and the Russian and Chinese interest in having Turkey as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (“SCO”).

From IPI to IP and then II

Now compare the BTK coup with one of Pipelineistan’s trademark cliff-hanging soap operas; the IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India), previously dubbed “the peace pipeline” {5}.

IPI originally was supposed to link southeastern Iran with northern India across Balochistan, via the Pakistani port of Gwadar (now a key hub of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, “CPEC”). The Bush and Obama administrations did everything to prevent IPI from ever being built, betting instead on the rival TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) – which would actually traverse a war zone east of Herat, Afghanistan.

TAPI might eventually be built – even with the Taliban being denied their cut (that was exactly the contention twenty years ago with the first Clinton administration: transit rights). Lately, Russia stepped up its game, with Gazprom seducing India into becoming a partner in TAPI’s construction.

But then came the recent announcement by Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak: Moscow and Tehran will sign a memorandum of understanding to build a 1,200-kilometer gas pipeline from Iran to India; call it II. And Gazprom, in parallel, will invest in unexplored Iranian gas fields along the route.

Apart from the fact of a major win for Gazprom – expanding its reach towards South Asia – the clincher is the project won’t be the original IPI (actually IP), where Iran already built the stretch up to the border and offered help for Islamabad to build its own stretch; a move that would be plagued by US sanctions. The Gazprom project will be an underwater pipeline from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean.

From New Delhi’s point of view, this is the ultimate win-win. TAPI remains a nightmarish proposition, and India needs all the gas it can get, fast. Assuming the new Trump administration “Indo-Pacific” rhetoric holds, New Delhi is confident it won’t be slapped with sanctions because it’s doing business with both Iran and Russia.

And then there was another key development coming out of Putin’s recent visit to Tehran: the idea – straight out of BRI – of building a rail link between Saint Petersburg (on the Baltic) and Chabahar port close to the Persian Gulf. Chabahar happens to be the key hub of India’s answer to BRI: a maritime trade link to Afghanistan and Central Asia bypassing Pakistan, and connected to the North-South Transport Corridor (“INSTC”), of which Iran, India, and Russia are key members alongside Caucasus and Central Asian nations.

You don’t need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows across Eurasia; integration, all the way.

This piece first appeared in Asia Times {6}.

Links:

{1} http://www.atimes.com/article/new-silk-road-will-go-syria/

{2} http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175050/pepe_escobar_welcome_to_pipelineistan

{3} https://www.dailysabah.com/economy/2017/10/30/baku-tbilisi-kars-railway-to-stimulate-economic-growth-boost-human-development

{4} http://www.tanap.com/tanap-project/why-tanap/

{5} https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/pipelineistans-new-silk-road/267453

{6} http://www.atimes.com/article/turkey-iran-russia-india-playing-new-silk-roads/

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/11/24/how-turkey-iran-russia-and-india-are-playing-the-new-silk-roads/

The Huge Implications of Russia’s Northern Sea Route

by F William Engdahl

New Eastern Outlook (November 22 2017)

In terms of dealing with some of the world’s harshest weather conditions, no country comes close compared with Russia. Now Russia has made it the highest priority to develop a Northern Sea Route along the Russian Arctic coast to enable LNG and container freight shipments between Asia and Europe that will cut shipping time almost in half and bypass the increasingly risky Suez Canal. China is fully engaged and has now formally incorporated it into its new Silk Road Belt, Road Initiative infrastructure.

Before attending the Hamburg G20 Summit in July, China’s President Xi Jinping made a stopover in Moscow where he and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed the “China-Russia Joint Declaration on Further Strengthening Comprehensive, Strategic and Cooperative Partnership”. The declaration includes the Northern Sea Route as a strategic area of cooperation between China and Russia, as a formal part of China’s Belt, Road Initiative (“BRI”) infrastructure. For its part, Russia is investing major resources in development of new LNG ports and infrastructure along the route to service a growing maritime traffic passing through its Arctic territorial waters.

The Russian Federation, under the direct supervision of President Putin, is building up the economic infrastructure that will create an alternative to the Suez Canal for container and LNG shipping between Europe and Asia. In addition, the developments are opening up huge new undeveloped resources including oil, gas, diamonds, and other minerals along the Russian Exclusive Economic Zone (“EEZ”), transversing its northernmost Siberian coastline.

Officially, Russian legislation defines the Northern Sea Route as the territorial waters along the Russian Arctic coast east of Novaya Zemlya in Russia’s Arkhangelsk Oblast, from the Kara Sea across Siberia, to the Bering Strait that runs between far eastern Russia and Alaska. The entire route lies in Arctic waters and within Russia’s EEZ.

Preliminary geophysical studies confirm that vast oil and gas reserves exist below the sea floor along the Northern Sea Route of Russia’s EEZ waters, increasing interest of the Chinese government in joint resource development with Russia, in addition to the potentially shorter shipping times to and from Europe. For China, which sees increasing threats to its oil supply lines by sea from the Persian Gulf and via the Straits of Malacca, the Russian Northern Sea Route offers a far more secure alternative, a Plan B, in event of US Naval interdiction of the Malacca Straits.

US Geological Survey (“USGS”) estimates are that within the Russian Arctic EEZ some thirty percent of all Arctic recoverable oil and 66% of its total natural gas is to be found. The USGS estimates total Arctic oil recoverable reserves to be about one-third total Saudi reserves. In short, as Mark Twain might have said, there’s “black gold in them thar’ icy waters …”

The United Nations Convention on Law of the Seas (“UNCLOS”), to which Russia and China are signatories, but the USA not, defines an exclusive economic zone to be an area “beyond and adjacent” to a state’s territorial waters and provides the state with “sovereign rights … [over] managing the natural resources” within the zone. China does not contest Russia’s EEZ rights but rather seeks to cooperate in its development now formally within the BRI project.

New Shipping Lanes

The other interest in Russia’s Northern Sea Route is for more economical and faster shipping. In August this year in a test run the Russian LNG tanker, Christophe de Margerie, delivered Norwegian LNG from Hammerfest in Norway to Boryeong in South Korea in just nineteen days, some thirty percent faster than the traditional Suez Canal route despite the fact that the vessel was forced to go through ice fields 1.2 meters thick. The Arctic Sea part of the journey was made in a record six and half days. The Christophe de Margerie is the first joint LNG tanker and icebreaker in the world, built to specification for the state-run Sovcomflot for the transportation of LNG from the Yamal LNG project in the Russian Arctic by a South Korean shipbuilder.

Russia is also cooperating with South Korea in development of the shipping capabilities of its Northern Sea Route. On November 6, Russia’s Minister for Development of the Far East, Aleksandr Galushka, met South Korea’s Minister of Oceans and Fisheries, Kim Yong-suk. The two countries agreed to pursue joint research into investments for an Arctic container line along the Northern Sea Route. The joint development will include shipping hubs to be created in each end of the Northern Sea Route – Murmansk in the west and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the east. Murmansk, bordering the northern regions of Finland and Norway, has ice-free access to the Barents Sea year around.

Korea’s Hyundai Merchant Marine plans test sailings of container ships along the Northern Sea Route in 2020 with container ships capable of carrying 2,500 to 3,500 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit, a measure of container size) on the route. In July 2016, a historical shipment of two major industrial components was made from South Korea to the new Russian Arctic port at Sabetta and from there, on the rivers Ob and Irtysh to the South Ural city of Tobolsk.

New Arctic Port Investments

Murmansk itself is the site of one of Russia’s largest infrastructure projects. Major construction work is currently on-going to complete the so-called Murmansk Transport Hub which includes new roads, railway, ports, and other facilities on the west of the Kola Bay. Murmansk is already a key hub for reloading coal, oil, fish, metals, and other cargo from the European part of Russia. It will serve as the main western gateway for the Northern Sea Route to Asia.

The Russian Federation is also completing a new port at Sabetta on the Yamal Peninsula. The Yamal Peninsula, bordering the Arctic Kara Sea, is the location of Russia’s biggest natural gas reserves with an estimated 55 trillion cubic meters (“tcm”). By comparison, Qatar gas reserves are calculated at 25 tcm, Iran at 34 tcm. The main developer of the Sabetta Port on Yamal is Novatek, Russia’s largest independent gas producer, together with the Russian government.

Sabetta Port is also the site of the major new Yamal LNG Terminal that before the end of 2017 will begin transporting Yamal gas via the Northeast Sea Route to China. When at full capacity, Sabetta Port will handle thirty million tons of goods a year, making Sabetta the world’s largest port north of the Arctic Circle, surpassing Murmansk. Novatek has already pre-sold all its production volumes for Yamal LNG Terminal gas under fifteen- and twenty-year contracts, most to China and other Asian buyers.

Yamal LNG is far from the only area where Russia’s Novatek is cooperating with China. On November 4, Novatek announced it had signed further agreements with Yamal partners China National Petroleum Corporation and China Development Bank for the Arctic LNG 2 project that is potentially larger than the Yamal LNG project. The Arctic LNG 2 project of Novatekon Gydan Peninsula, separated from Yamal by the Gulf of Ob, is to begin construction in 2019.

The Yamal LNG Terminal is a $27 billion project whose lead owner is Russia’s Novatek. When the US Treasury financial warfare targeted Novatek and the Yamal project in 2014 following the Crimea referendum to join the Russian Federation, China lenders stepped in to provide $12 billion to complete the project after China’s state oil company, CNPC bought a twenty percent interest in the Yamal LNG Terminal project. The China Silk Road Fund holds another 9.9% and France’s Total twenty percent with Novatek having 50.1%.

Breaking the Ice, Russian-Style

Opening the potentials of Russia’s Northeast Sea Route to full commercial LNG and container freight traffic flow from the west along the Siberian Arctic littoral to South Korea and China and the rest of Asia requires extraordinary technology solutions, above all in the field of ice-breakers and port infrastructure along the deep-frozen Arctic route. Here Russia is the unequaled world leader. And Russia is about to expand that leading role significantly.

In early 2016 Russia commissioned a new class of nuclear-powered ice-breakers called Arktika-class operated by Atomflot, the ship subsidiary of the giant Russian state Rosatom nuclear group, the world’s largest nuclear power construction company and second largest in terms of uranium deposits producing forty percent of the world’s enriched uranium.

The new Arktika icebreaker is at present the world’s most powerful icebreaker of its kind and when ready for sailing in 2019 will be able to break three meters of ice. A second Arktika-class nuclear icebreaker is due to sail in 2020. At present Russia has a total of fourteen diesel as well as nuclear-powered icebreakers in construction in addition to the just completed Christophe de Margerie. All those fourteen new icebreakers are being constructed at shipyards in the Saint Petersburg area.

Rosatom to Take Lead

Now the Russian government is about to dramatically escalate its development of icebreaker technologies with the clear aim of developing the shipping and resources along its Northeast Sea Route passage as a national economic priority.

In 2016 President Putin made a personal priority of overseeing building up of an ultra-modern state-of-the-art shipbuilding center in Primorsky Krai in the Russian Far East to balance the development of western yards around Saint Petersburg and build up Russia’s economic region around Vladivostok as Russia’s economy, reacting to the incalculable Washington and its sanctions, turns increasingly to self-sufficiency in vital areas.

The Far East shipbuilding is centered on a $4 billion complete reconstruction of the old Zvezda shipyard in Bolshoy Kamen Bay owned by the Russian state’s United Shipbuilding Corporation. Primorsky Krai is also home to the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet. When the giant new Zvezda yard is ready in 2020, it will be Russia’s largest and most modern civilian shipyard, focusing on large-tonnage ship construction of tankers including LNG tankers, Arctic icebreakers, and elements for offshore oil and gas platforms.

On November 18, Russia’s Kommersant business daily announced that Russia’s president Putin wants to turn infrastructure development for the Northern Sea Route over to state nuclear corporation Rosatom. According to the report, Putin approved the idea, which was put to him by his prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, and which would turn all state services for nautical activities, infrastructure development, as well as state property used along the corridor to Rosatom’s management. Among other implications, the decision to make Rosatom solely responsible for the Northern Sea Route development suggests that nuclear-powered ice-breakers are to play a far larger role in the Northeast Sea Route developments.

According to the report, which has yet to be formally confirmed, the Rosatom role was proposed by Rosatom head Alexei Likhachev and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. Rogozin, sanctioned by Washington, has been Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Defense Industry of Russia since 2011. If the new proposal becomes law, Rosatom will oversee all infrastructure and energy building along the 6,000 kilometers of the route through its arctic division.

According to the source, that will mean Rosatom oversees just about everything, from building ports to building communications and navigation infrastructure, as well as coordination scientific research. Under the plan, a new Arctic Division of Rosatom would centralize ports previously controlled by the Ministry of Transport as well as non-nuclear icebreakers operated by Rosmorport and Russia’s nuclear icebreaker fleet. The NSR Administration, the state institution responsible for safety of navigation, would also become part of this new “Arctic Division” at Rosatom. It would be a move to greatly streamline the present fragmentation of responsibility for different aspects of Russia’s Northeast Sea Route transportation development, one of the highest priorities of Moscow and a key building block in the development of the China-Russia collaboration in BRI.

Taking all into account what is very clear is that Russia is developing cutting-edge technology and infrastructure in some of the most extreme climate conditions in the world, in building its economy anew, and that it is successfully doing so in collaboration with China, South Korea, and even to an extent with Japan, contrary to the hopes of Washington war-addicted neoconservatives and their patrons in the US military-industrial complex.

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F William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook.

https://journal-neo.org/2017/11/22/the-huge-implications-of-russia-s-northern-sea-route/

Unserious Nation

by Patrick J Buchanan

http://buchanan.org/blog (November 20 2017)

How stands John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” this Thanksgiving?

How stands the country that was to be “a light unto the nations”?

To those who look to cable TV for news, the answer must at the least be ambiguous. For consider the issues that have lately convulsed the public discourse of the American republic.

Today’s great question seems to be whether our 45th president is as serious a sexual predator as our 42nd was proven to be and whether the confessed sins of Senator Al Franken are as great as the alleged sins of Judge Roy Moore.

On both questions, the divide is, as ever, along partisan lines.

And every day for weeks, beginning with Hollywood king Harvey Weinstein – whose accusers nearly number in three digits – actors, media personalities, and politicians have been falling like nine pins over allegations and admissions of sexual predation.

What is our civil rights issue, and who are today’s successors to the Freedom Riders of the 1960s? Millionaire NFL players “taking a knee” during the national anthem to dishonor the flag of their country to protest racist cops.

And what was the great cultural issue of summer and fall?

An ideological clamor to tear down memorials and monuments to the European discoverers of America, any Founding Father who owned slaves, and any and all Confederate soldiers and statesmen.

Stained-glass windows of Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson have been removed from the National Cathedral. Plaques to Lee and George Washington have been taken down from the walls of the Episcopal church in Alexandria where both men worshipped.

But the city that bears Washington’s name is erecting a new statue on Pennsylvania Avenue – to honor the four-term mayor who served time on a cocaine charge: Marion Shepilov Barry.

Whatever side one may take on these questions, can a country so preoccupied and polarized on such pursuits be taken seriously as a claimant to be the “exceptional nation”, a model to which the world should look and aspire?

Contrast the social, cultural and moral morass in which America is steeped with the disciplined proceedings and clarity of purpose, direction, and goals of our 21st century rival: Xi Jinping’s China.

Our elites assure us that America today is a far better place than we have ever known, surely better than the old America that existed before the liberating cultural revolution of the 1960s.

Yet President Trump ran on a pledge to “Make America Great Again”, implying that while the America he grew up in was great, in the time of Barack Obama it no longer was. And he won.

Certainly, the issues America dealt with half a century ago seem more momentous than what consumes us today.

Consider the matters that riveted America in the summer and fall of 1962, when this columnist began to write editorials for the St Louis Globe-Democrat. What was the civil rights issue of that day?

In September of 1962, Governor Ross Barnett decided not to allow Air Force veteran James Meredith to become the first black student at Ole Miss. Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent US Marshals to escort Meredith in.

Hundreds of demonstrators arrived on campus to join student protests. A riot ensued. Dozens of marshals were injured. A French journalist was shot to death. The Mississippi Guard was federalized. US troops were sent in, just as Ike had sent them into Little Rock when Governor Orville Faubus refused to desegregate Central High.

US power was being used to enforce a federal court order on a recalcitrant state government, as it would in 1963 at the University of Alabama, where Governor George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door.

As civil rights clashes go, this was the real deal.

That fall, in a surprise attack, Chinese troops poured through the passes in the Himalayas, invading India. China declared a truce in November but kept the territories it had occupied in Jammu and Kashmir.

Then there was the Cuban missile crisis, the most dangerous crisis of the Cold War.

Since August, the Globe-Democrat had been calling for a blockade of Cuba, where Soviet ships were regularly unloading weapons. When President Kennedy declared a “quarantine” after revealing that missiles with nuclear warheads that could reach Washington were being installed, the Globe urged unity behind him, as it had in Oxford, Mississippi.

We seemed a more serious and united nation and people then than we are today, where so much that roils our society and consumes our attention seems unserious and even trivial.

“And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods?” wrote the British poet Thomas Macaulay.

Since 1962, this nation has dethroned its God and begun debates about which of the flawed but great men who created the nation should be publicly dishonored. Are we really a better country today than we were then when all the world looked to America as the land of the future?

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http://buchanan.org/blog/unserious-nation-127877

Demise of the Petrodollar …

… Has the Potential to Reshape the Geopolitical World

by James O’Neill

New Eastern Outlook (November 23 2017)

In the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon instigated two changes that had profound effects. The first of these was taking the United States off the gold standard; that is, henceforth US dollars would no longer be convertible to Gold. Ordinarily, this might have been expected to have significant ramifications for the value of the US dollar.

Deleterious effects, however, were avoided by another equally profound change. Nixon’s National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger negotiated an agreement with Saudi Arabia that henceforth all oil(initially from Saudi Arabia but rapidly extended to all OPEC) countries would be traded only in US dollars, the birth of the so-called petrodollar.

It was a classic mafia style arrangement. In exchange for Saudi Arabia’s agreement to the sole use of the dollar for oil transactions, the US underwrote Saudi Arabia’s security thereby ensuring the continuity of one of the world’s most corrupt and repressive regimes.

Also unknown at the time, the US and Saudi Arabia entered an arrangement whereby Islamist terrorist groups (as long as they were Sunni) would be financed by Saudi Arabia and armed by the Americans and then used in pursuit of US geopolitical goals. Operation Cyclone, begun under the Carter administration in the 1970s was an early forerunner of this tactic, but it has been refined and utilized in different formats in a wide number of countries ever since.

The objective was always fundamentally the same: to undermine and if necessary replace governments that were insufficiently compliant with US geopolitical aims. As and when necessary, US troops and their “coalition” allies would be inserted into the target countries. The destruction of Afghanistan (2001 and continuing), Iraq (2003 and continuing), Libya (2011 and continuing) are only three of the better-known examples.

The huge financial cost of these military and geopolitical ventures did not impose a proper price upon the US because of the hegemonic role of the US dollar. The US, in effect, had their multiple wars of choice paid for by other countries as the dollar’s role in world trade created a constant demand for US Treasury bonds.

The role of the US dollar also permitted the US to impose sanctions on recalcitrant countries. The selective nature of the sanctions, always directed toward a US geopolitical or commercial advantage, were clearly an instrument of repressive power. Notwithstanding claims that they were to “punish” the alleged misconduct of the specified country, their actual use betrayed their geopolitical purpose.

Sanctions against Russia for its “invasion” of Ukraine and “annexation” of Crimea, and against Iran for its “nuclear program” are two of the better-known illustrations of sanctions being justified on spurious grounds.

The use and abuse of the dollar’s power are clearly unacceptable, but the capacity to invoke countermeasures was until quite recently severely limited. The single most important countervailing force is the rise of China as the economic powerhouse of the world, and importantly, the creation of alternative structures in trade, finance, and security that translate China’s economic power into a force for major change.

That change is assisted by the number of collateral developments. In 1990, the G7 nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US, and the UK) had a combined GDP approximately six times greater than the seven economically most important emerging nations (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, and South Korea).

By 2013 the “emerging seven” had surpassed the G7’s GDP total and according to the IMF’s estimates for 2017, the GDP of the two groups will be $47 .5 trillion and $37.8 trillion for the emerging seven and the G7 respectively. Turkey, which is growing at five percent per annum, has replaced Mexico in the top emerging seven.

BRICS, which contains four of the emerging seven nations and the Shanghai Corporation Organisation (“SCO”) – which includes China, India, and Russia – are working together on the architecture of a monetary alternative to the dollar. The SCO alone contains 42% of the world’s population.

India’s role in BRICS and the SCO is one reason it is being assiduously cultivated by Australia, Japan, and the United States in an attempt to set up a “quadrilateral four” to slow and undermine the role of China and Russia in creating an alternative to longstanding western domination and exploitation.

It was in this context that Russia’s President Putin at the recent BRICS meeting in Xiamen, China said that “Russia shares the BRICS countries concerns over the unfairness of the global financial and economic architecture, which does not give due regard to the growing weight of the emerging economies”.

This speech developed a theme that Putin had developed in an article published prior to the BRICS meeting. Putin bluntly vowed to destroy the US-led financial system, aiming to reform a system that gives excessive domination to a limited number of reserve (that is, predominantly western) currencies.

China has developed a new Cross Border Interbank Payments System (“CIPS”) to replace the US-dominated SWIFT system, itself used as a tool for financial bullying by the US. Russia has also taken steps to insulate itself from the ill effects of being excluded from SWIFT.

Other major changes are also occurring. Venezuela, with the world’s largest known oil reserves, has ceased accepting payment in US dollars. In the past US retaliation through regime change would have been immediate as happened to Libya’s Gaddafi (confirmed by Clinton’s leaked emails) and the Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, who had announced that he would henceforth accept payment in euros and not dollars.

China and Qatar recently concluded a $50 billion deal denominated in Yuan. There were immediate threats and absurd demands from Saudi Arabia, undoubtedly acting as the voice of the US administration, but nothing more serious. The lack of military intervention or attempted regime change was probably attributable to Turkey’s military intervention, a series of agreements with Iran, and the probable implied threat of Chinese intervention should the Saudis further demonstrate their military incompetence (as in Yemen) by anything as rash as direct military moves against Qatar.

Saudi Arabia is rapidly reaching a crunch point in its relationship with China, a huge purchaser of Saudi Arabia’s oil. It is widely known that China wants future oil contracts denominated in Yuan. The attraction for Saudi Arabia is that the Chinese guarantee their Yuan with gold traded on the Hong Kong and Shanghai exchanges. Ironically, this puts China in the same position as the United States prior to Nixon’s withdrawal from the gold-backed dollar.

The dilemma for the Saudis is that if they comply with the Chinese demands they risk losing the Americans underwriting their security. US-instigated regime change in Saudi Arabia is a very real possibility and the recent maneuverings by Mohammad bin Salman to consolidate his power can be interpreted as a response to that possibility.

Typically, the western media focused on relative trivialities, such as women being able to drive motor vehicles from 2018 (in limited circumstances), rather than examining the underlying geopolitical power struggle.

The other major development worth mentioning in this context is the rapid increase in the number of countries doing deals with China using the Yuan or their own national currencies as the medium of exchange. China’s Belt and Road Initiative, currently involving 65 nations, will undoubtedly accelerate this trend. Russia and China are already each other’s critically important trading partners and all agreements between them are being denominated in either Yuan or Rubles.

It would be naive to assume that this is all going to occur without a massive rearguard action by the Americans who know full well that their ability to defy economic logic is only possible because of the dollar’s unique role, allowing in turn military interventions to prop up their now rapidly declining power.

The United States’ aggressive and provocative actions in the South China Sea, North Korea, Ukraine, Syria, and elsewhere are best interpreted as the flailings of a declining empire. The real question is will the United States accept the disappearance of the unique power that it has wielded since the Bretton Woods agreement of 1944 and adjust its policies accordingly, or destroy us all in their attempts to recapture a lost world.

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James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook.

https://journal-neo.org/2017/11/23/demise-of-the-petrodollar-has-the-potential-to-reshape-the-geopolitical-world/