BRICS

Brazil & the Bloodied BRICS

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on February 12, 2017

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6b/BRICS_leaders_meet_on_the_sidelines_of_2016_G20_Summit_in_China.jpg

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Just going back a few years, the "BRICS" were all the rage as the next great Superpower conglomeration.  BRICS stood for Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa.

3 of them Brazil, India and South Africa also fit in the category of "Emerging Markets", and EMs were where all the Hot Money was flowing for investment during the period, seeking high yields and return on investment.

What could be more perfect, right?  Great resource availability and populations willing to work at low wages to supply industrial products to the world!  Not to mention Russia & China as large military powers with the capability of making a good fight with the FSoA if challenged!  Even if they don't have the aircraft carriers the FSoA has, they have Nuke ICBMs, and they have cruise missiles capable of sending any FSoA Carrier Group to the bottom of Davey Jones Locker.  The Chinese field a 1 Million Man Standing Army.  Lotta potential Boots on the Ground there!

So a lot of betting went down that this group of Nation-States was going to make a serious challenge to the European and Anglo-Amerikan hegemony over the industrial economy, not to mention the Bankstering system which runs it. Even to this day, you have some pundits like Pepe Escobar claiming the Chinese are going to build a "New Silk Road" that will bring the BRICS to ascendancy as the inheritors of the failed policies of the Western Europeans and Anglo-Amerikans.

Unfortunately, something went wrong along the way here, and precisely the opposite has occured or is occuring as I write this article.  What fucked up in the BRICS master plan?

To begin with, it was a typical financialized bubble.  Beyond that, you have countries here with Goobermints that are corrupt beyond belief, it's possible they are all more corrupt than the FSoA Goobermint, although of course that is hard to imagine.  To top it all off, you have the issue that even if said countries have energy resources left like Brazil and Russia do, you have populations that cannot afford to buy those energy resources and retire the debts incurred by the extractors of the energy.

http://www.usfunds.com/media/images/frank-talk-images/2016_ft/Jul-Dec/overnight-indian-prime-minister-narendra-modi-killed-90-nations-currency-12-2016.jpg India already jumped off the cliff with the demonetization of the biggest Rupee notes by His Modiness, which sent the entire economy into a tailspin.  Not to mention the fact it further impoverished already impoverished people, and as bad as their farmer suicide problem was before this, one has to figure it has been worse since.  A VAST number of Indians have no bank account, or even Goobermint ID.  For them, it's entirely a Cash Economy, and no Cash, no Economy.

This of course does not even touch on the Climate and Environment problems the Indians have, or their Energy problems or population overshoot problems.  Then they have the constant battle with the Pakistanis, so overall the place is a complete fucking mess.  They may even start exchanging Nukes with the Pakis, since they both got 'em

Moving down to South Africa, they probably have the worst problems with drought of any of the BRICS, although Brazil is not doing too well with this problem either.  Besides that is the perpetual racial divide problem of South Africa and the fact that its entire economy is a mineral resource extraction economy, and globally nobody is paying much for resources, because the Konsumers of the resources are running out of money to buy them with.  Well, except for the filthy rich who are still buying some Diamonds at Tiffany's, but unfortunately there aren't enough filthy rich to fund an entire economy this way.  Tiffany's isn't doing too good either, they just fired their CEO.

Doing slightly better than these two locations are the Middle Kingdom of China and Mother Russia, but not by all that much plus Newz doesn't really escape well from either Nation-State, so you can't be entirely sure of WTF is going on there.  In Mother Russia, one of Vlad the Impaler's political opponents recently went to the Great Beyond, apparently resultant from Poisoning.  Another one, Alexander Navalny who was a Blogger so I like him 🙂 was convicted of some kind of felony so is no longer eligible to run against Vlad to run Mother Russia. He was probably the only opponent of Vlad who stood some chance of beating him, at least in popular voting.  The Ruskies do have some cheap Oil left though, and their population is not too large given the land mass available there.  On the other hand they have NATO troops massing on their borders, not a good sign.

Of all the BRICS, the Chinese have weathered the storm the best so far, but by no means does this presage a rosy future for them.  In fact the Chinese are TOAST, and are in worse shape than everyone in the BRICS except perhaps the Indians.  Reason of course is Population Overshoot, but by no means is that their only problem.  They've blown a Credit Bubble that makes the one Da Fed blew up look like Child's Balloon next to the Hindenburg.  Forget about not drinking the water, half of it is not even fit for human contact!  You can't walk outside in Beijing without at least a surgical mask on, but really you need a full blown activated charcoal gas mask or better yet a SCUBA tank.  This is not a recipe for a bright future for the Chinese.

However, of all the BRICS, the one in the WORST shape right now and is clearly exeriencing a FAST COLLAPSE is Brazil.  Their economy is in complete collapse, corruption is systemic and now they are losing control of the social structure as well.

In the state of Espirito Santo which borders on the state of Rio de Janeiro which is home to the city of Rio, Corcovado (the big Christ statue on the mountain) and numerous Favelas (slums), the Military Police recently went on strike because…they weren't getting PAID!  Big fucking surprise, who is going to work at anything if you don't get your paycheck at the end of the week?

Problem for these cops of course is that just like under Amerikan Law, Strikes of "publicly essential personnel" are ILLEGAL!  So even if you're not getting paid, you're supposed to KEEP WORKING!  Does this sound like SLAVERY to you?  It does to me.

Since these cops are MILITARY cops, one suspects they can't even quit either until whenever their enlistment in the military runs out.  Not that they would quit anyhow, because in all likelihood there are no other jobs for them to take in the neighborhood.  So they got a bit creative here on this one, and instead of the cops themselves not showing up for work, their families went out and blockaded the stations, so the cops could not go out on patrol.  Of course, they had the option of possibly Arresting their own families for "obstruction of justice", but who is going to go out and arrest their own wives, kids, fathers and mothers, or shoot them?  Not gonna happen.

https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/cee9e57924da473fc287876b61e1fe4a7691ecd1/0_163_5000_3000/master/5000.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=6dca5670e4f694a61b2948765d4f87b9 So in the wake of this absence of cops on the streets of Vitoria (the capital of Espirito Santo), the population at large took the opportunity to go an a rampage of looting, raping and killing.  There is of course a large population of people living the criminal life in Brazil, because there are no opportunties for them in the "legitimate" world.  They deal drugs, they steal, they kill people.  It's like Chicago on Steroids and much larger.  Its not like everyone is a criminal, but without a police presence, it's "Criminals Gone Wild".

So Da Goobernator of Espirito Santo asks for help from Da Federal Gobermint, and they promise to do "watever it takes" to restore order and send in the Military to replace the cops on the streets.  Except how many do they send in?  A Big 200 soldiers to police a city of 2M people!  That is 1 for every 10,000.  Even only 1% of those 10K are criminals, that is still a 100:1 ratio!  However, in this situation it's probably more than 1%, since many normally law abiding type citizens will take the opportunity to go loot the local grocery or Iphone store.

Normally, they put out on the street 1800 cops, so to do the same job you would need around the same number of soldiers.  So now you have to pay the soldiers instead of the cops, and Da Federal Goobermint of Brazil is in no better position to do that than the states are, they are BROKE also!

Even if they could field enough paid soldiers to go in there to restore order, Vitoria and Espirito Santo as a whole is a relatively small state in Brazil.  What happens when the same thing occurs in Rio De Janeiro or Sao Paolo or Brasilia?  Sao Paolo has something like 20M people now, that by itself is an order of magnitude larger than Vitoria.  What is to stop this from spreading to Sao Paolo?  They are broke too, and besides that running short on water and the money to run their sewage treatment plants, garbage collection etc.  It's not just cops not getting their paychecks, just about all the public workers are seeing wages withheld because Da Goobermint doesn't have the money to pay them.

Unlike the FSoA (also broke), the Brazilleiros cannot just issue infinite debt and have it recognized as worth anything.  They have gone through NUMEROUS periods of Hyperinflation, and they are trying to avoid that problem with "austerity", but austerity means people either are paid to little to live on or not paid at all.  Jobs are cut, pensions are cut and you get a downhill spiral as people have no money to spend in the economy.  They can't afford to buy enough food to feed their kids.  At this point, they get desperate, and take desperate measures.  That is what the cops in Espirito Santo are doing.

http://media.gettyimages.com/photos/man-walks-on-dry-cracked-earth-where-water-usually-stands-at-the-picture-id467643149 The problem here of course is that like many other resource based economies, the Brazilleiros are running short on resources people around the globe can afford to buy at the prices they cost to extract.  There are some big oil fields in deep water off the coast of Brazil, but their own state company of Petrobras is broke, and oil majors like Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell are not going to put up debt money to drill these fields, because there is no profit in it.  These companies are already bleeding red ink on properties they are drilling here in the FSoA, and beyond that there is an oil GLUT due to collapsing demand around the world.  So the Brazilians will not be saved by the Oil underneath the ocean floor surrounding them.

It's only a matter of time before the chaos in Espirito Santo spreads to the rest of Brazil.  How much time?  Then from there it spreads to other SA countries dependent on resource exports, and the chaos grows.  Then it makes it to Mexico, then it migrates across the border to the FSoA.  How long will that take?  Timeline, Timeline, Timeline.  Like Location, Location, Location in the world of Real Estate, that's always the question, not what the final outcome is.

Kill List: Smashing the ‘B’ in BRICS

From the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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BRICS

Originally published in Sputnik on June 7, 2016

 


The stakes could not be higher. Not only the future of the BRICS, but the future of a new multipolar world is in the balance. And it all hinges on what happens in Brazil in the next few months.

Let’s start with the Kafkaesque internal turmoil. The coup against President Dilma Rousseff remains an unrivalled media theatre/political tragicomedy gift that keeps on giving. It also doubles as a case of information war converted into a strategic tool of political control. 

From left in front row: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Chinese President Xi Jinping walk for a plenary session during the summit in Ufa, Russia, Thursday, July 9, 2015

© AP PHOTO/ IVAN SEKRETAREV

Brazil’s Dilma Faces Coup: ‘Say Goodbye to BRICS, Say Hello to Washington’

A succession of appalling audio leaks has revealed that key sectors of the Brazilian military as well as selected Supreme Court justices have legitimized the coup against aPresident that has always protected the two-year-old Car Wash corruption investigation. Even Western mainstream media was forced to admit that Dilma did not steal anything but is being impeached by a bunch of thieves. Their agenda; to stifle the Car Wash investigation, which may eventually throw many of them in jail.

The leaks also unveiled a nasty internecine carnage between Brazilian comprador elites — peripheral and mainstream. Essentially the peripherals were used as lowly paperboys in Congress for the dirty work. But now they may be about to become road kill – along the illegitimate, unpopular, interim Michel Temer “government”, led by a bunch of corrupt-to-the-core PMDB politicians, the party that is heir to the sole opposition outfit tolerated during the 1960s-1980s military dictatorship.  

Meet the vassal chancellor

An insidious character in the current golpeachment scam is the interim Minister of Foreign Relations, senator Jose Serra of the PSDB party, the social democrats turned neoliberal enforcers. In the 2002 presidential election – which he lost to Lula — Serra had already tried to get rid of peripheral Brazilian oligarchies. 

Yet now he’s incarnating another role — perfectly positioned not only to retrograde Brazilian foreign policy to some point around the 1964 military coup, but mostly as the Beltway’s point man inside the coup racket.

Exceptionalistan’s key ally in Brazil is the oligarchy in Sao Paulo, the wealthiest state and home to the financial capital of Latin America. This is Brazil’s A-list. It’s from their ranks that an eventual “national savior” may eventually spring up.   

Once the peripherals are history, then no holds would be barred to criminalize – and imprison – an array of leftist leaders, Lula included, as well as manufacture a fake election legitimized by a noxious Supreme Court justice, Gilmar Mendes, a PSDB stooge.

It all hinges on what happens in the next two months. The prosecutor general finally asked the Supreme Court to throw three top peripherals in jail; they are all accused of plotting to derail the Car Wash investigation — an extremely complex juridical-political-police network of myriad concentric/parallel circles.   

 

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff delivers a speech on May 8, 2015, during a ceremony at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany during World War II

© AFP 2016/ EVARISTO SA

Leaked Tapes Expose Coup Plot Against Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff

Meanwhile, the final judgment of Dilma’s impeachment at the Senate is bound to happen on August 16 – 11 days after the start of the Olympic Games. The coup plotters suffered a heavy blow as they were trying hard to accelerate the proceedings. As it stands, the outcome is uncertain; after the leaks, four to five senators are already wavering, as the leaks also implicate Temer personally. The “leader” of a zero-credibility, corruption-crammed scam, he’s among the targets of several corruption investigations and has just been banned from running to political office for the next 8 years.  

The Brazilian mainstream media monopoly (five families) – popularly referred to as PIG, the Brazilian acronym for Pro-Coup Media Party – has changed its anti-left tune and is now also going after selected members of the Temer racket.

According to the constitution, if both the Presidency and Vice-Presidency are vacated in the last two years of a given term, it’s up to Congress to elect the new President.

This implies two possible scenarios. If Dilma is not impeached, it’s increasingly likely she will call for new presidential elections before the end of the year.

If she is impeached, the PIG will tolerate the stooge-crammed Temer interim racket until January 2017 at the most. The next step would be what Serra and about-to-be-jailed Senate leader Renan Calheiros are campaigning for; the end of direct presidential elections and the onset of Brazilian-style parliamentarianism.

 

Michel Temer joined by allies Renan Calherios, Romero Juca, and Henrique Meirelles

© AP PHOTO/ ERALDO PERES

'The Great Destruction': Brazil's New Elite Drowning in Graft Allegations

The man best positioned to be the national savior in this case is former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso – also former “Prince of Sociology” and a major star (during the 1960s and early 1970s) of the dependency theory, then metamorphosed into an avid neoliberal. Cardoso is a very close pal of both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. The Beltway/Wall Street axis loves him. Cardoso would be “elected” mostly by the pack of Congress hyenas who got the Dilma impeachment rolling on April 17.  

The hard node of golpeachment goes way beyond peripheral Brazilian elites. It is comprised of a political party (the PSDB); the Globo media empire; the Federal Police (very cozy with the FBI); the Public Ministry; most of the Supreme Court; and sectors of the military. Only the Beltway/Wall Street axis has the means and the necessary pull to regiment all these players – by hard cash, blackmail or promises of glory.  

And that ties in with key unanswered questions regarding the recent audio leaks. Who taped the conversations. Who leaked them. Why now. Who profits from a nation in total political/economic/juridical chaos, with virtually all institutions totally discredited.  

Neoliberalism or chaos

Those were the days when Washington could mastermind, with impunity, an old-fashioned military coup in its backyard – as in Brazil 1964. Or as in Chile during the original 9/11 – in 1973, as seen through crack Chilean film maker Patricio Guzman’s moving documentary about Salvador Allende.

History, predictably, now repeats itself as farce as the 2016 coup has turned Brazil – the 7th largest economy in the world and a key Global South player – into a Honduras or Paraguay (where recent US-supported coups were successful).  

I have shown how the coup in Brazil is an extremely sophisticated Hybrid War operation going way beyond unconventional warfare (UW); four generation warfare (4GW); color revolutions; and R2P (“responsibility to protect”), all the way to the summit of smart power; a political-financial-judicial-mainstream media soft coup unveiled in slow motion. This is the beauty of a coup when promoted by democratic institutions.   

 

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (C) speaks during a meeting against imperialism in Caracas, in this March 25, 2015 handout picture provided by Miraflores Palace

© REUTERS/ MIRAFLORES PALACE

First Brazil, Next Venezuela: Will the World See a Coup in Caracas?

Neoliberalism may have failed, as even the IMF research wing has concluded. But its rotten corpse still encumbers the whole planet. Neoliberalism is not only an economic model; it surreptitiously takes over the juridical realm as well. In another perverse facet of shock doctrine, neoliberalism cannot prevail without a juridical framework.

When constitutional attributions are redirected to Congress that keeps the Executive under control while generating a culture of political corruption. Politics is subordinated to economics. Companies engage in campaign financing and buy politicians to be able to influence the political powers that be.

That’s how Washington works. And that’s also the key to understand the role of former leader of the Brazilian lower house Eduardo Cunha; he ran a campaign financing racket out of Congress itself, controlling dozens of politicians while profiting from proverbially fat state contracts.

The Three Stooges in what I called the Provisional Banana Scoundrel Republic are Cunha, Calheiros and Temer. Temer is a mere puppet while Cunha remains a sort of shadow Prime Minister, running the show. But not for long. He’s already been suspended as the speaker in Congress; he bagged millions of US dollars in kickbacks for those fat contracts and stashed the loot in secret Swiss accounts; now it’s a matter of time before the Supreme Court has the balls – it’s not a given — to throw him in the slammer.

NATO vs. BRICS, all across the spectrum

And that brings us once again to The Big Picture, as we proceed in parallel with an analysis by Rafael Bautista, the head of a decolonization study group in La Paz, Bolivia. He’s one of the best and brightest in South America who’s very much alert to the fact that whatever happens in Brazil in the next few months will drive the future not only of South America but the whole Global South.

Exceptionalistan’s project for Brazil is no less than the imposition of a remixed Monroe doctrine. The main target of a planned neoliberal restoration is to cut off South America from the BRICS – as in, essentially, the Russia-China strategic partnership.

It’s a short window of opportunity after all those years under the Bush-Obama continuum where Washington was obsessed with MENA (Middle East/Northern Africa), a.k.a. the Greater Middle East. Now South America is back in a starring role in the geopolitical (soft) war theatre. Getting rid of Dilma, Lula, the Workers’ Party, by all means available, is only the start. 

It all comes back to the same, defining 21st century war; NATO against the BRICS; the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); and ultimately the Russia-China strategic partnership. Smashing the “B” in BRICS carries with it the bonus of smashing Mercosur (the South American common market); Unasur (the political Union of South American Nations); ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance); and South American integration as a whole, compounded with integration with key emerging Global South players such as Iran.

The ongoing destabilization of “Syraq” fits the Empire of Chaos; when there’s no regional integration, the only other possibility is balkanization. And yet Russia graphically demonstrated to Beltway planners they cannot win a war in Syria while Iran demonstrated after the nuclear deal that it won’t become a Washington vassal. So the Empire of Chaos might as well secure its own backyard.

A new geopolitical framework had to be part of the package. That’s where the concept of “North America” fits in, backed by the Council on Foreign Relations and devised mostly by former Iraq surge superstar David Petraeus and former World Bank honcho Bob Zoellick, now with Goldman Sachs. Call it a mini who’s who of Exceptionalistan.

You won't see it enounced in public, but the Petraeus/Zoellick concept of “North America” presupposes regime changing and gobbling up Venezuela. The Caribbean is seen as a Mare Nostrum, an American lake. “North America” is in fact a strategic offensive.

It implies controlling the massive oil and water wealth of the Orinoco and the Amazonas, something that would forever guarantee Exceptionalistan’s preeminence south of the border.

The Caribbean is already a done deal; after all Washington controls CAFTA. South America is a tougher nut to crack, roughly polarized by what’s left of ALBA and the US-driven Pacific Alliance. With Brazil falling to a neoliberal restoration, it’s over as a promoter of regional integration. Mercosur would eventually be absorbed into the Pacific Alliance – especially with a man like Serra as Brazil’s top diplomat. So, politically, South America must be annulled at all costs. 

What’s left for South America would be its aggregation — as marginal players, part of the US-driven Pacific Alliance — to those NATO on trade deals, the TPP and TTIP. The “pivot to Asia” – of which TPP is the trade arm — is the Obama doctrine’s push for containment of China, not only in Asia but also across Asia-Pacific. Thus it’s natural that China (Brazil’s number one trade partner) should also be contained in the hegemon’s backyard, South America.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, and beyond

It’s never enough to stress the geo-economic importance of South America. The only way South America can be fully integrated to the multipolar world is by opening up to the Pacific, boosting its strategic connection with Asia, especially China. That’s where the Chinese push to invest in a massive high-speed rail project uniting the Brazilian Atlantic coast with Peru in the Pacific fits in. That’s South American interconnectivity in a nutshell. If Brazil is politically annulled, none of this will ever happen.

Looking ‘Beyond South America’: Brazil Hopes to Become True Global Power

So every coup is now literally allowed in South America; indirect attacks to the Brazilian currency, the real; bribing local comprador elites with the backing of the global financial system; a concerted attempt at the implosion, simultaneously, of the top three economies: Brazil, Argentina andVenezuela. SOUTHCOM went so far as to produce a report on “Venezuela Freedom” earlier this year, signed by commander Kurt Tidd, which proposes a “strategy of tension”, complete with “encirclement” and “suffocation” techniques and allowing to mix street action with a “calculated” use of armed violence. Echoes of Chile 1973 do apply.   

South America is now arguably the prime geopolitical space where Exceptionalistan is laying the bases to restore its unrivalled hegemony — as part of a multi-dimensional, geo-finance war against the BRICS bent on perpetuating the unipolar world. 

All previous moves have lead to this geostrategy of imploding the BRICS and reducing South America to an appendix of North America.

Wikileaks revealed how the NSA spied on Petrobras. In 2008 Brazil came up with its own National Defense Strategy, focused on two key areas; the South Atlantic and the Amazon. This did not sit well with SOUTHCOM. Unasur should have developed it to a continental level, but they didn’t. 

Lula decided to award to Petrobras the prime exploitation of the pre-salt deposits – the largest oil discovery of the 21st century. Dilma’s administration gave a firm push to the BRICS’s New Development Bank (based on the Brazilian BNDES) and also decided to accept Iranian payments bypassing the US dollar. Anyone involved in South-South trade bypassing the US dollar enters a kill list.

Hillary Clinton is the presidential candidate of Wall Street, the Pentagon, the industrial-military complex and the neocons. She is the Goddess of War – and in a Bush-Obama-Clinton continuum she will go to war against any player in the Global South that dares to defy Exceptionalistan.

So the die is cast. We will know for sure by the time there’s a new US President — and arguably a new, unelected Brazilian President — in early 2017. The geostrategic game though remains the same; Brazil must fall so BRICS-led integration must fall, and Exceptionalistan may concentrate all its firepower in an all-out confrontation against Russia-China. 


PepePepe Escobar  is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) "Empire of Chaos" (2014),and "2030" (2015), all published by Nimble Books. 

The Empire of Chaos Strikes Back

empire or-37243gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Brazilian Coupmeisters: Minister Moreira Franco, Vice President Michel Temer, and President Eduardo Cunha

Originally published in Strategic Culture on April 26, 2016

 


Soon after the impeachment motion against President Dilma Rousseff was approved in the Brazilian Congress by what I chose to call Hybrid War hyenas, President-in-Waiting Michel «Brutus» Temer, one of the coup’s articulators, dispatched a senator to Washington as special paperboy to deliver the news on the coup in progress. The senator in question was not on an official mission for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Brutus Temer was alarmed by global media reaction, which is increasingly interpreting what he’s doing – allied with Brutus Two, notoriously corrupt head of the lower house Eduardo Cunha – for what it is: a coup. 

The senator’s mission was allegedly to launch a PR offensive to counter the coup narrative, which is, according to Brutus One, «demoralizing Brazilian institutions».

Nonsense. The paperboy senator was sent to tell the US State Department that everything is proceeding according to plan.

In Washington, the paperboy senator mumbled, «we will explain that Brazil is not a banana republic». Well, it was not, but now, thanks to the Hybrid War hyenas, it is.

When you have a man holding 11 illegal bank accounts in Switzerland, listed in the Panama Papers, and already under investigation by the Supreme Court controlling the political destiny of a whole nation, you have a banana republic.

When you have a self-righteous provincial judge threatening to imprison former President Lula for a modest apartment and a ranch that he does not own, but at the same time is incapable of laying a finger on Brutus Two, alongside largely pompous Supreme Court judges, you have a banana republic.

Now compare Washington’s non-reaction with Moscow’s. The Russian Foreign Ministry, via the irrepressible Maria Zakharova, stressed the crucial BRICS partnership as well as the common Brazil-Russia positions within the G20. And Moscow made it clear that Brazil’s problems should be solved within «the constitutional legal framework and without any external interference».

Everyone knows what «external interference» means. 

Full Spectrum Dominance reloaded

I have been following the Brazilian coup-in-progress with a special emphasis on the US-backed/driven Hybrid Warfare bent on destroying «the neo-developmentalist project for Latin America – uniting at least some of the local elites, invested in developing internal markets, in association with the working classes». The key Hybrid War objective in this case is to install a neoliberal restoration.

Obviously the key target had to be Brazil, a BRICS member and the 7th largest economy in the world.

Imperial hacks go straight to the point when listing the Hybrid War tools and aims of what the Pentagon defined as Full Spectrum Dominance way back in 2002. So, «US power flows from our unmatched military might, yes. Anything that expands the reach of US markets – such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership in trade, for example – adds to the arsenal of US power. But in a deeper way, it’s a product of the dominance of the US economy».

Yet the US economy is far from dominant. What matters now is what drives «business away from America, or allow other nations to build a rival financial architecture that’s less encumbered by a smorgasbord of sanctions». 

«Rival financial architecture» has BRICS written all over it. And a «smorgasbord of sanctions» was not enough to make Iran cry uncle; Tehran will continue to practice a «resistance economy». Not by accident, two of the BRICS – Russia and China – as well as Iran, feature as the Pentagon’s top five existential threats, alongside nuclear-armed North Korea and, as the last lowly priority, «terrorism».

Cold War 2.0 is essentially about Russia and China – but Brazil is also a key player. Edward Snowden revealed how NSA spying was centered on Petrobras, whose proprietary technology was responsible for the largest oil discovery of the young 21st century; the pre-salt deposits. US Big Oil is excluded from its exploitation. That’s anathema; and that requires deployment of Hybrid War techniques inbuilt in Full Spectrum Dominance.

Brazilian comprador elites have been gleefully playing the game. Over two years ago JP Morgan analysts were already conducting seminars with neoliberal macro-economy enforcers preaching how to destabilize the Rousseff government. 

Industry, commerce, banking and agribusiness lobbies have ostensibly favored impeachment, as representing the end of the Lula-Dilma social democracy experiment. So it’s no wonder President-in-Waiting Brutus Temer made a comprehensive deal with Big Capital – including no limits for interests on public debt (way above the international norm); the relation between debt and GDP bound to go up; more expensive credit; and the corollary being cuts on health and education.

As far as Washington is concerned, and that’s bipartisan, it’s absolutely out of the question to allow an autonomous regional power in the South Atlantic, blessed with unrivalled eco-wealth (think the Amazon rainforest and all that water, coupled with the Guarani aquifer) and on top of it closely linked to key BRICS members Russia-China, which have their own strategic partnership.

The pre-salt factor is the cherry in the tropical cake. Out of the question for US Big Oil to allow Petrobras to have the monopoly of exploitation. And just in case, if need be, the US 4th Fleet is already in position in the South Atlantic.

One BRICS down, two to go

The Cheney regime-declared «war on terra» distracted the Empire of Chaos for too long. Now finally comes a – coordinated, global – chaos offensive. From Southwest Asia to South Asia, the Hybrid War dream would be some sort of Iraqi chaos to replace the governments of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and Egypt – as the leading-from-behind Empire of Chaos is trying hard in Syria even though the Assad dynasty was a «secret» US ally for decades.

The Masters of the Universe above paperboy Obama decided to stab the House of Saud in the back – not necessarily a bad thing – over Iran; the prevailing wishful thinking was to have Iranian natural gas replacing Russian natural gas going to Europe, thus collapsing the Russian economy. Major fail.

Yet there’s still another option; the Qatari natural gas pipeline through Saudi Arabia and Syria, also replacing Russian natural gas to Europe. That remains the CIA chief goal in Syria – no matter what; Daesh, the phony Caliphate – this is all just propaganda.

The CIA is also keen on Saudi Arabia destroying the Russian economy through an oil price war – and they do not want that to stop; thus holding over the Saudis those famous 28 pages on 9/11 to keep the oil price war going.

The CIA has also been trying like mad to lure Moscow into a Syrian trap as in 1980s Afghanistan, and as they did with the Kiev coup, even to the extent of ordering the Turkish military, which is their agent, to shoot down a Russian Su-24. The «problem» is that the Kremlin did not bite the poisoned apple.

Way back in the 1980s, the mix of House of Saud unleashing their reserves along with the GCC petrodollar gang, driving the price of oil to $7 a barrel in 1985, together with the Afghanistan Vietnam op, ended up driving the USSR bankrupt. Arguably, the whole op was brilliant – in conception and execution; a Hybrid War of economics plus Vietnam. Now, «leading from behind», Dr. Zbig «Grand Chessboard» Brzezinski – Obama’s foreign policy mentor – is trying to pull off a similar trick.

But oops, we got a problem. The Beijing leadership, already preoccupied with tweaking the Chinese development model, clearly saw the Empire of Chaos’s effort to Divide and Rule (and Conquer) the entire world. If Russia went down, China would be next.

It was only, virtually yesterday, around 2010, when US intel regarded China as their major military threat, and were starting to move against the Middle Kingdom via the «pivoting to Asia». But suddenly the CIA realized that Moscow had spent a trillion dollars jumping two generations ahead in defensive and offensive missiles – not to mention submarines; the weapons of choice for WWIII.

That is when Russia was enthroned as the major threat. Carefully surveying the chessboard, the Beijing leadership then accelerated the alliance with Russia and the BRICS as an alternative force, creating an earthquake in Washington of absolutely devastating proportions.

Now, Beijing has deftly engineered the BRICS into play as a serious alternative power structure – with their own IMF, SWIFT payment system, and World Bank.

Beware the wrath of an Empire of Chaos scorned. That’s what’s in play now against the BRICS; Brazil under siege, the fall of South Africa, the weakness of India, China and Russia progressively surrounded. Hybrid War variations from Ukraine to Brazil, mounting pressure in Central Asia, the «Syraq» powder keg, all point to a concerted Full Spectrum Dominance offensive to break up the BRICS, the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership, and ultimately the New Silk Roads uniting Eurasia. Oil price wars, the ruble collapse, the refugee flood in the EU (caused by «erratic» Sultan Erdogan), 21st century Operation Gladio remixes all over, distract the masses against imaginary enemies while terrorism of the phony Daesh variety is manipulated as a sophisticated diversionist tactic.

It may be brilliant, even masterful, in its conception and in its execution, and it’s so flashy in a cinematic sense. But make no mistake; there will be blowback.


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Hybrid war hyenas tearing Brazil apart

Dilmagc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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DilmaBrazil's President Dilma Rousseff. © Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters​

Originally published in RT on April 19, 2016


The gloomy and repulsive night when the female president of the 7th largest economy in the world was the prey of choice fed to a lynch mob of hyenas in a drab, provincial Circus Maximus will forever live in infamy.

By 367 votes for and 137 against, the impeachment/coup/regime change-light drive against Dilma Rousseff cleared the Brazilian Congressional circus and will now go to the Senate, where a “special commission” will be set up. If approved, Rousseff will then be sidelined for 180 days and a low-rent tropical Brutus, Vice-President Michel Temer, will ascend to power until the Senate’s final verdict.

This lowly farce should serve as a wake-up call not only to the BRICS but to the whole Global South. Who needs NATO, R2P (“responsibility to protect”) or “moderate rebels” when you can get your regime change just by tweaking a nation’s political/judicial system?

The Brazilian Supreme Court has not analyzed the merit of the matter – at least not yet. There’s no solid evidence anywhere Rousseff committed a “crime of responsibility”; she did what every American President since Reagan has done – not to mention leaders all across the world: along with her vice-president, the lowly Brutus, Rousseff got slightly creative with the federal budget’s numbers.

The coup has been sponsored by a certified crook, president of the lower house Eduardo Cunha; reportedly the holder of several illegal accounts in Switzerland, listed in the Panama Papers and under investigation by the Supreme Court. Instead of lording over near-illiterate hyenas in a racist, largely crypto-fascist circus, he should be behind bars. It beggars belief that the Supreme Court has not launched legal action against Cunha. The secret of his power over the circus is a gigantic corruption scheme lasting many years, featuring corporations contributing to his and others’ campaign financing.

And that’s the beauty of a regime change-light/color revolution of Hybrid War when staged in such a dynamically creative nation such as Brazil. The hall of mirrors yields a political simulacrum that would have driven deconstructionists Jean Baudrillard and Umberto Eco, if alive, green with envy; a Congress crammed with fools/patsies/traitors/crooks, some of whom are already being investigated for corruption, has conspired to depose a president who is not under any formal corruption investigation – and has not committed any “crime of responsibility”.

The neoliberal restoration

Still, without a popular vote, the massively rejected tropical Brutus twins, Temer and Cunha, will find it impossible to govern, even though they would perfectly incarnate the project of the immensely arrogant and ignorant Brazilian elites; a neoliberal triumph, with Brazilian “democracy” trampled down six feet under.

It’s impossible to understand what happened at the Circus Maximus this Sunday without knowing there’s a gaggle of Brazilian political parties that are seriously threatened by the non-stop overspill of the Car Wash corruption investigation. To ensure their survival, Car Wash must be “suspended”; and it will, under the bogus “national unity” proposed by lowly Brutus Temer.

But first, Car Wash must produce a high-profile scalp. And that has to be Lula in jail – compared to which the crucifixion of Rousseff is an Aesop fable. Corporate media, led by the noxious Globo empire, would hail it as the ultimate victory, and nobody would care about Car Wash’s enforced retirement.

The 54 million-plus who voted for Rousseff’s reelection in 2014 voted wrong. The overall “project” is a government without vote and without people; a Brazilian-style parliamentary system, without bothering with pesky “elections” and crucially, including very“generous” campaign financing flexibility not bound to incriminate powerful companies/corporations.

In a nutshell, the ultimate aim is to perfectly “align” the Brazilian Executive, Legislative, Judiciary and corporate media interests. Democracy is for suckers. Brazilian elites remote controlling the hyenas know very well that if Lula runs again in 2018, he will win. And Lula has already warned; he won’t buy any “national unity” crap; he’ll be back in the streets fighting whatever illegitimate government pops up.

We’re now open for plundering

As it stands, Rousseff runs the risk of becoming the first major casualty of the NSA-originated, two-year-long Car Wash investigation. The President, admittedly an incompetent economic manager and lacking the right stuff of a master politician, believed that Car Wash – which practically prevented her from governing – would not reach her because she is personally honest. Yet Car Wash’s not so hidden agenda was always regime change. Who cares if in the process the nation is left on the verge of being controlled exactly by many of those indicted by the anti-corruption drive?

Lowly Brutus Temer – a vanity case version of Argentina’s Macri – is the perfect conduit for the implementation of regime change. He represents the powerful banking lobby, the powerful agribusiness lobby and the powerful federation of industries in Brazil’s economic leader, the state of Sao Paulo.

The neo-developmentalist project for Latin America – uniting at least some of the local elites, invested in developing internal markets, in association with the working classes – is now dead, because what may be defined as sub-hegemonic, or peripheral, capitalism is mired in crisis after the 2008 Wall Street-provoked debacle. What’s left is just neoliberal restoration. TINA (“there is no alternative”). This implies, in the Brazilian case, the savage reversion of Lula’s legacy; social policies, technological policies, the drive to globally expand large, competitive Brazilian companies, more public universities, better salaries.

In a message to the nation, Brutus Temer admitted as much; “hope”after impeachment will be absolutely swell for “foreign investment”, as in let them plunder the colony at will; back to the trademark history of Brazil since 1500.

So Wall Street, US Big Oil and the proverbial “American interests” win this round at the circus – thanks to the, once again proverbial, vassal/comprador elites. Chevron execs are already salivating with the prospect of laying their hands on the pre-salt oil deposits; that was already promised by a trusted vassal in the Brazilian opposition.

The coup goes on. The real hyenas haven’t yet pounced. So it's far from over.


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Lula and the BRICS in a fight to the death

Lulagc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Lula

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva © Paulo Whitaker / Reuters

Originally published in RT on March 8, 2016


“BRICS” is the dirtiest of acronyms in the Beltway/Wall Street axis, and for a solid reason: the consolidation of the BRICS is the only organic, global-reach project with the potential to derail Exceptionalistan’s grip over the so-called “international community.”

So it’s no surprise the three key BRICS powers have been under simultaneous attack, on many fronts, for some time now. On Russia, it’s all about Ukraine and Syria, the oil price war, the odd hostile raid over the ruble and the one-size-fits-all “Russian aggression” demonization. On China, it’s all about “Chinese aggression” in the South China Sea and the (failed) raid over the Shanghai/Shenzhen stock exchanges.

Brazil is the weakest link among these three key emerging powers. Already by the end of 2014 it was  clear the usual suspects would go no holds barred to destabilize the seventh largest global economy, aiming at good old regime change via a nasty cocktail of political gridlock (“ungovernability”) dragging the economy to the mud.

Myriad reasons for the attack include the consolidation of the BRICS development bank; the BRICS’s concerted push for trading in their own currencies, bypassing the US dollar and aiming for a new global reserve currency to replace it; the construction of a major underwater fiber-optic telecom cable between Brazil and Europe, as well as the BRICS cable uniting South America to East Asia – both bypassing US control.

And most of all, as usual, the holy of the holies – connected with Exceptionalistan’s burning desire to privatize Brazil’s immense natural wealth. Once again, it’s the oil.

Get Lula or else

WikiLeaks had already exposed how way back in 2009 Big Oil was active in Brazil, trying to modify – by all extortion means necessary – a law proposed by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, establishing profitable state-run Petrobras as the chief operator of all offshore blocks in the largest oil discovery of the young 21st century; the pre-salt deposits.

Lula not only kept Big Oil – especially ExxonMobil and Chevron – out of the picture but he also opened Brazilian oil exploration to China’s Sinopec, as part of the Brazil-China (BRICS within BRICS) strategic partnership.

Hell hath no fury like Exceptionalistan scorned. Like the Mob, it never forgives; Lula one day would have to pay, like Putin must pay for getting rid of US-friendly oligarchs.

The ball started rolling with Edward Snowden revealing how the NSA was spying on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and top Petrobras officials. It continued with the fact that the Brazilian Federal Police cooperate, receive training and/or are fed, closely, by both the FBI and CIA (mostly in the anti-terrorism sphere). And it went on via the two-year-old “Car Wash” investigation, which uncovered a vast corruption network involving players inside Petrobras, top Brazilian construction companies and politicians from the ruling Workers’ Party.

Read more

The National Security Agency(NSA) at Fort Meade, Maryland. (AFP Photo)

NSA spied on Brazil, Mexico presidents – Greenwald

The corruption network is real – with “proof,” usually oral, rarely backed up by documents, obtained mostly from artful dodgers-cum-serial liars who rat on someone as part of a plea bargain.

But for the “Car Wash” prosecutors, the real deal was, from the beginning, how to ensnare Lula.

Enter the tropical Elliott Ness

That brings us to the Hollywood spectacular enacted last Friday in Sao Paulo that sent shockwaves around the world. Lula “detained,” interrogated, humiliated in public. This is how I analyzed it in detail.

Plan A for the Hollywood-style blitz on Lula was an ambitious double down; not only to pave the way for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff under a “guilty by association” stretch, but to “neutralize” Lula for good, preventing him from running for office again in 2018. There was no Plan B.

Predictably – as in many an FBI sting – the whole op backfired. Lula, in a political master class of a speech beamed live across the country, not only convincingly clad himself as the martyr of a conspiracy, but also re-energized his troops; even respectable conservatives vocally condemned the Hollywood show, from a minister in the Supreme Court to a former justice minister, as well as top economist Bresser Pereira, one of the founders of the PSDB – the former social democrats turned Exceptionalistan-allied neoliberal enforcers and leaders of the right-wing opposition.

Bresser actually stated the Brazilian Supreme Court should intervene on Car Wash to prevent abuses. Lula, for instance, had asked for the Supreme Court to detail which jurisprudence was relevant to investigate the accusations against him. Moreover, a lawyer on center stage during the Hollywood blitz said Lula answered all questions during the almost four-hour interrogation without blinking – questions he had already answered before.

Lawyer Celso Bandeira de Mello, for his part, went straight to the point: the Brazilian upper middle classes – which include a largely appalling lot wallowing in arrogance, ignorance and prejudice, whose dream is a condo in Miami – are fearful and terrified to death that Lula may run, and win again, in 2018.

And that brings us to the judge and executioner of the whole drama: Sergio Moro, Car Wash’s leading actor.

Moro’s academic career is hardly exciting. He’s not exactly a theorist heavyweight. He graduated as a lawyer in 1995 in a mediocre university in the middle of nowhere in one of Brazil’s southern states and made a few trips to the US, one of them financed by the State Department to learn about money laundering.

As I noted before, his chef-d’oeuvre is an article published way back in 2004 in an obscure magazine (in Portuguese only, titled Considerations about Mani Pulite, CEJ magazine, issue number 26, July/September 2004), where he clearly extols “authoritarian subversion of juridical order to reach specific targets” and using the media to intoxicate the political atmosphere.

In a nutshell, judge Moro literally transposed the notorious 1990s Mani Pulite (“Clean Hands”) investigation from Italy to Brazil – instrumentalizing to the hilt mainstream media and the judiciary to achieve a sort of “total delegitimization” of the political system. But not the whole political system; just the Workers’ Party, as if the comprador elites permeating Brazil’s rightwing spectrum were cherubic angels.

So it comes as no surprise that Moro’s prime sidekick as Car Wash unrolled is the Marinho family’s oligopoly, the Globo media empire – a nest of reactionary, and not very clever, vipers who entertained very cozy relations with the Brazilian military dictatorship from the 1960s to the 1980s. Not by accident, Globo was informed about Lula’s Hollywood-style “arrest” way before the fact, allowing it to invest in CNN-style blanket coverage.

Moro is viewed by legions in Brazil as an indigenous Elliot Ness. Other lawyers who have closely followed his work though hint he harbors the warped fantasy of a Workers’ Party as a mob leeching and plundering the state apparatus with the aim of delivering it, in pieces, to trade unions.

According to one of these lawyers who talked to Brazilian independent media, a former president of the Lawyers’ Association in Rio, Moro is surrounded by a bunch of young fanatical prosecutors, with little juridical knowledge, and posing as the Brazilian Antonio di Pietro (but without the solidity of the “Clean Hands” Milanese prosecutor). Worse, Moro is oblivious that the implosion of the Italian political system led to the rise of Berlusconi. In Brazil, it would certainly lead to the rise of a clown/village idiot supported by the Globo empire, whose oligopolistic practices are quite Berlusconian.

The digital Pinochets

A case can be made that the Hollywood blitz on Lula holds a direct parallel to the first attempt at a coup d’etat in Chile in 1973, which tested the waters in terms of popular response before the real deal. In the Brazilian remix, assorted Globo media maggots pose as digital Pinochets. At least many a street in Sao Paulo now bears graffiti to the effect of “Military coup – Never again.

Yes, because this is all about a white coup – in the form of a Rousseff impeachment and sending Lula to the gallows. But old (military) habits die hard; Globo media maggots are now extolling the Army to take to the streets to “neutralize” popular militias. And this is just the beginning. Right-wingers are getting ready for a national mobilization on Sunday calling for – what else – Rousseff’s impeachment.

Car Wash’s merit is to investigate corruption, collusion and traffic of influence in abysmally corrupt Brazil. But everyone, every political faction, should be investigated – including those representing Brazilian comprador elites. That’s not the case. Because the political project allied with Car Wash couldn’t care less about “justice”; the only thing that matters is to perpetuate a vicious political crisis as a means to drag the seventh largest economy in the world into the mud and reach the Holy Grail: a white coup, or good ol’ regime change. But 2016 is not 1973, and the whole world by now knows who’s a sucker for regime change.


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Russia’s ultimate lethal weapon

gc2smOff the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Moscow

Originally published in RT on September 17, 2015

 


Let’s start with some classic Russian politics. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov is drawing up Russia's economic strategy for 2016, including the government budget. Siluanov – essentially a liberal, in favor of foreign investment – will present his proposals to the Kremlin by the end of this month.

So far, nothing spectacular. But then, a few days ago, Kommersant leaked that Russia's Security Council asked presidential aide Sergei Glazyev to come up with a separate economic strategy, to be presented to the council this week. This is not exactly a novelty, as the Russian Security Council in the past has asked small strategy groups for their economic assessment.

The Security Council is led by Nikolai Patrushev, the former head of the Federal Security Service. He and Siluanov are not exactly on the same wavelength. 

And here’s where the plot thickens. Glazyev, a brilliant economist, is a Russian nationalist – sanctioned personally by the US.

Glazyev is arguably going no holds barred. He is in favor of barring Russian companies from using foreign currency (which makes sense); taxing the conversion of rubles to foreign currencies (same); banning foreign loans to Russian firms (depending if they are not in US dollars or euro); and – the smoking gun – requiring Russian companies that have Western loans to default.

READ MORE: Russia doesn’t rule out airbase in Syria, but has no plans for construction

Predictably, some sectors of US ‘Think Tankland’ went bonkers, stating with utmost certainty that “the Russian energy sector would not be able to find much financing without connections to the West.” Nonsense. Russian firms would easily find financing from Chinese, Japanese or South Korean sources.

Whatever measure of attention Glazyev will get inside the Kremlin, the whole episode already means that Moscow harbors no illusions in the near future regarding the exceptionalists (one just has to look at the presidential candidates, from ‘El Trumpissimo’ to ‘The Hillarator’); as Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov recently put it, "[we] should expect toughening of the sanctions pressure."

Once thing though is absolutely certain; Moscow won’t bend over backwards to “pacify” Washington.

Neo-Tsarism, anyone?

One might be tempted to see Glazyev drawing up plans to return to some sort of Tsarist self-sufficiency while cutting off ties with the West. Assuming some version of that would be approved by the Kremlin, what’s certain is that it may turn into a huge blow the EU might not recover from.

Imagine Russia defaulting on all its foreign debt – over $700 billion – on which Western sanctions have raised extra, punitive costs in terms of repayment.

The default would be payback for the twin Western manipulation of oil prices and the ruble. The manipulation involved unleashing on the oil market over five million barrels a day of excess reserve production that were held back by a few usual suspects, plus derivative manipulation at the NYMEX, crashing the price.

Then, the derivative manipulation of the ruble crashed the currency. Almost all imports to Russia were virtually blocked – as oil and natural gas exports remained constant. In the long run though, this should create a significant balance of trade surplus for Russia; a very positive factor for long-term growth of Russia’s domestic industry.

Vladimir Yakunin, the former head of Russian Railways, now out due to a reshuffle, recently told AP in no uncertain terms how the aim of US sanctions was to cut off Russia economically from Europe.

Sanctions, coupled with speculation on oil and the ruble, pushed the Russian economy into recession in 2015. Yakunin, like most of the economic/business elite, expect Russia’s economic troubles to last at least until 2017.

Currently the only products that the West needs from Russia are oil and natural gas. A possible Russian default on its debt would have no effect on that demand in the short-term; and most probably in the long-term as well, unless it would contribute to a new financial crisis in the West, something that nearly happened in 1998.

We all remember August 1998, when a Russian default shook the entire Western financial system to the core. If a Russian default is now the object of serious consideration by the highest powers that be – and that includes, of course, the FSB, SVR, GRU – then the specter of The Mother of All Financial Crisis in the West is back. And for the EU, that would be fatal.

It’s your fault we can’t loot

Enter Iran. The lifting of sanctions on Iran – arguably by early 2016 – ultimately has nothing to do with the nuclear dossier. It’s a ‘Pipelineistan Great Game’, as in having everything to do with oil and natural gas.

The US – and EU – wet dream remains to replace Russia with Iran in terms of natural gas and oil imports to the EU. Every serious analyst knows this might take at least a decade, and over $200 billion in investment; not to mention Gazprom would fight it with the formidable – commercial – weapons in its arsenal.

At the same time Western financial powers in the New York-London axis did not anticipate that Moscow would not bow down and accept their demands that Putin lay off Ukraine – so that they could loot Ukraine’s mostly agricultural lands at will. They obviously didn’t learn from history; Putin also did not back off when he stopped them from looting Russia.

So the entire, sorrowful Kiev episode, as much as an infinite NATO expansion gambit, was also an attempt to stop Putin from preventing the Western looting of Ukraine.

What we had as a result was a tectonic geopolitical shift; the reconfiguration of the entire world balance of power as Russia and China deepened their strategic partnership – based on a mutual external threat coming mostly from the US, with the EU as accessories. Russian intelligence very well knows the alliance now makes Russia and China invulnerable, whereas separately they could easily fall victim to trademark Divide and Rule.

As for the counter-NATO angle, Russia has had plenty of time to remilitarize, focusing on defensive and offensive missiles; the key to the next major war, and not obsolete US aircraft carriers. Russian defensive missiles such as the state-of-the-art S-500 and the offensive Topol M – each with ten MIRVs – can easily neutralize whatever the Pentagon may have in store.

After Russia, Western financial ‘Masters of the Universe’ went after China for allying with Russia. The usual financial suspects rigged the Chinese stock market in an attempt to crash the economy, using Wall Street proxies manipulating cash settlement mechanisms to first raise up the prices of the Chinese A shares, creating a giant boom, and then reversing the cash settlement rig to crash the market.

No wonder Beijing, very much aware of what was happening massively intervened; is actively studying cash settlement moves; and is carefully reviewing the records of major stock operators in China.

Round up those central bank suspects

The Kremlin’s got to do something about the Russian Central Bank. The Russian Central Bank kept interest rates high, forcing Russian oil and natural gas producers to finance their operations from Western sources, and thereby plunging the Russian economy into a debt trap. These loans to Russia were part of the New York-London financier axis control mechanism. Were Moscow to “disobey” the West, the West would call in their loans after crashing the ruble, making repayment almost impossible, as they did with Iran.

This is the mechanism through which the West – and its institutions, the IMF, World Bank, BIS, the whole gang – rule. Beijing is moving either to complement or replace this set-up with new and more democratic international institutions. <

If the Russian Central Bank had operated under sounder principles, it would have lent money at interest rates below the West’s, and linked each loan to productive investment. A modus operandi totally different from the US – where much of the central bank credit goes to banks and financiers for their speculative scams.

Michael Hudson, among others, has already made the case that the entire Fed only serves the interest of its financial rulers and does not give a damn about American industrial infrastructure, which was progressively shifted to colonies and/or vassals, as well as to China.

So the ‘Masters of the Universe’ thought hardcore pressure on both Russia and then China would work. It did not. There are reasons to be alarmed; the ‘Masters of the Universe’ will keep raising the ante, higher and higher.

The scenario ahead spells out Russia further moving east while simultaneously moving to extricate itself from most of the West’s institutional architecture. 

The merger of the China-driven New Silk Roads, a.k.a. One Belt, One Road and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, although slow and full of pitfalls, is irreversible. It’s in their mutual interest to invest and develop a pan-Eurasian emporium.

Iranian natural gas will go mostly to the Asian part of Eurasia, and not the EU. And the Chinese economy will at least triple over the next fifteen years as the US continues to de-industrialize.

Whatever Putin and Obama discuss at their possible meeting at the end of the month in New York, exceptionalist pressure over the bear won’t abate. So it pays for the bear to keep a lethal financial weapon in storage.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

How China and Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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Published in Russia Insider on July 24, 2015

A massive overview of all the recent exciting developments on the Eurasian landmass
An alternative to the US-led world order is definitely taking shape and at a lighting pace – giving Washington the creeps


Let’s start with the geopolitical Big Bang you know nothing about, the one that occurred just two weeks ago. Here are its results: from now on, any possible future attack on Iran threatened by the Pentagon (in conjunction with NATO) would essentially be an assault on the planning of an interlocking set of organizations – the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), the EEU (Eurasian Economic Union), the AIIB (the new Chinese-founded Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), and the NDB (the BRICS’ New Development Bank) – whose acronyms you’re unlikely to recognize either.  Still, they represent an emerging new order in Eurasia.

Tehran, Beijing, Moscow, Islamabad, and New Delhi have been actively establishing interlocking security guarantees.They have been simultaneously calling the Atlanticist bluff when it comes to the endless drumbeat of attention given to the flimsy meme of Iran’s “nuclear weapons program.”  And a few days before the Vienna nuclear negotiations finally culminated in an agreement, all of this came together at a twin BRICS/SCO summit in Ufa, Russia – a place you’ve undoubtedly never heard of and a meeting that got next to no attention in the U.S.  

And yet sooner or later, these developments will ensure that the War Party in Washington and assorted neocons (as well as neoliberalcons) already breathing hard over the Iran deal will sweat bullets as their narratives about how the world works crumble.

The Eurasian Silk Road

With the Vienna deal, whose interminable build-up I had the dubious pleasure of following closely, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his diplomatic team have pulled the near-impossible out of an extremely crumpled magician’s hat: an agreement that might actually end sanctions against their country from an asymmetric, largely manufactured conflict.

Think of that meeting in Ufa, the capital of Russia’s Bashkortostan, as a preamble to the long-delayed agreement in Vienna. It caught the new dynamics of the Eurasian continent and signaled the future geopolitical Big Bangness of it all. At Ufa, from July 8th to 10th, the 7th BRICS summit and the 15th Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit overlapped just as a possible Vienna deal was devouring one deadline after another.

Consider it a diplomatic masterstroke of Vladmir Putin’s Russia to have merged those two summits with an informal meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Call it a soft power declaration of war against Washington’s imperial logic, one that would highlight the breadth and depth of an evolving Sino-Russian strategic partnership.

Putting all those heads of state attending each of the meetings under one roof, Moscow offered a vision of an emerging, coordinated geopolitical structure anchored in Eurasian integration. Thus, the importance of Iran: no matter what happens post-Vienna, Iran will be a vital hub/node/crossroads in Eurasia for this new structure.

If you read the declaration that came out of the BRICS summit, one detail should strike you: the austerity-ridden European Union (EU) is barely mentioned. And that’s not an oversight. From the point of view of the leaders of key BRICS nations, they are offering a new approach to Eurasia, the very opposite of the language of sanctions.

Here are just a few examples of the dizzying activity that took place at Ufa, all of it ignored by the American mainstream media. In their meetings, President Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi worked in a practical way to advance what is essentially a Chinese vision of a future Eurasia knit together by a series of interlocking “new Silk Roads.”

Modi approved more Chinese investment in his country, while Xi and Modi together pledged to work to solve the joint border issues that have dogged their countries and, in at least one case, led to war.

The NDB, the BRICS’ response to the World Bank, was officially launched with $50 billion in start-up capital. Focused on funding major infrastructure projects in the BRICS nations, it is capable of accumulating as much as $400 billion in capital, according to its president, Kundapur Vaman Kamath.

Later, it plans to focus on funding such ventures in other developing nations across the Global South – all in their own currencies, which means bypassing the U.S. dollar.  Given its membership, the NDB’s money will clearly be closely linked to the new Silk Roads. 

As Brazilian Development Bank President Luciano Coutinho stressed, in the near future it may also assist European non-EU member states like Serbia and Macedonia. Think of this as the NDB’s attempt to break a Brussels monopoly on Greater Europe. Kamath even advanced the possibility of someday aiding in the reconstruction of Syria.

You won’t be surprised to learn that both the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the NDB are headquartered in China and will work to complement each other’s efforts.

At the same time, Russia’s foreign investment arm, the Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), signed a memorandum of understanding with funds from other BRICS countries and so launched an informal investment consortium in which China’s Silk Road Fund and India’s Infrastructure Development Finance Company will be key partners.

Full Spectrum Transportation Dominance

On the ground level, this should be thought of as part of the New Great Game in Eurasia. Its flip side is the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the Pacific and the Atlantic version of the same, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, both of which Washington is trying to advance to maintain U.S. global economic dominance.

The question these conflicting plans raise is how to integrate trade and commerce across that vast region. From the Chinese and Russian perspectives, Eurasia is to be integrated via a complex network of superhighways, high-speed rail lines, ports, airports, pipelines, and fiber optic cables.

By land, sea, and air, the resulting New Silk Roads are meant to create an economic version of the Pentagon’s doctrine of “Full Spectrum Dominance” – a vision that already has Chinese corporate executives crisscrossing Eurasia sealing infrastructure deals.

For Beijing – back to a 7% growth rate in the second quarter of 2015 despite a recent near-panic on the country’s stock markets – it makes perfect economic sense: as labor costs rise, production will be relocated from the country’s Eastern seaboard to its cheaper Western reaches, while the natural outlets for the production of just about everything will be those parallel and interlocking “belts” of the new Silk Roads.

Meanwhile, Russia is pushing to modernize and diversify its energy-exploitation-dependent economy. Among other things, its leaders hope that the mix of those developing Silk Roads and the tying together of the Eurasian Economic Union – Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan – will translate into myriad transportation and construction projects for which the country’s industrial and engineering know-how will prove crucial.

As the EEU has begun establishing free trade zones with India, Iran, Vietnam, Egypt, and Latin America’s Mercosur bloc (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela), the initial stages of this integration process already reach beyond Eurasia.

Meanwhile, the SCO, which began as little more than a security forum, is expanding and moving into the field of economic cooperation. Its countries, especially four Central Asian “stans” (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan) will rely ever more on the Chinese-driven Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the NDB.

At Ufa, India and Pakistan finalized an upgrading process in which they have moved from observers to members of the SCO. This makes it an alternative G8.

In the meantime, when it comes to embattled Afghanistan, the BRICS nations and the SCO have now called upon “the armed opposition to disarm, accept the Constitution of Afghanistan, and cut ties with Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist organizations.”

 Translation: within the framework of Afghan national unity, the organization would accept the Taliban as part of a future government. Their hopes, with the integration of the region in mind, would be for a future stable Afghanistan able to absorb more Chinese, Russian, Indian, and Iranian investment, and the construction – finally! – of a long-planned, $10 billion, 1,420-kilometer-long Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline that would benefit those energy-hungry new SCO members, Pakistan and India. (They would each receive 42% of the gas, the remaining 16% going to Afghanistan.)

Central Asia is, at the moment, geographic ground zero for the convergence of the economic urges of China, Russia, and India. It was no happenstance that, on his way to Ufa, Prime Minister Modi stopped off in Central Asia.

Like the Chinese leadership in Beijing, Moscow looks forward (as a recent document puts it) to the “interpenetration and integration of the EEU and the Silk Road Economic Belt” into a “Greater Eurasia” and a “steady, developing, safe common neighborhood” for both Russia and China.

And don’t forget Iran. In early 2016, once economic sanctions are fully lifted, it is expected to join the SCO, turning it into a G9. As its foreign minister, Javad Zarif, made clear recently to Russia’s Channel 1 television, Tehran considers the two countries strategic partners. “Russia,” he said, “has been the most important participant in Iran’s nuclear program and it will continue under the current agreement to be Iran’s major nuclear partner.” The same will, he added, be true when it comes to “oil and gas cooperation,” given the shared interest of those two energy-rich nations in “maintaining stability in global market prices.”

Got Corridor, Will Travel

Across Eurasia, BRICS nations are moving on integration projects. A developing Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor is a typical example. It is now being reconfigured as a multilane highway between India and China. Meanwhile, Iran and Russia are developing a transportation corridor from the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the Caspian Sea and the Volga River. Azerbaijan will be connected to the Caspian part of this corridor, while India is planning to use Iran’s southern ports to improve its access to Russia and Central Asia. Now, add in a maritime corridor that will stretch from the Indian city of Mumbai to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and then on to the southern Russian city of Astrakhan. And this just scratches the surface of the planning underway.

Years ago, Vladimir Putin suggested that there could be a “Greater Europe” stretching from Lisbon, Portugal, on the Atlantic to the Russian city of Vladivostok on the Pacific. The EU, under Washington’s thumb, ignored him. Then the Chinese started dreaming about and planning new Silk Roads that would, in reverse Marco Polo fashion, extend from Shanghai to Venice (and then on to Berlin).

Thanks to a set of cross-pollinating political institutions, investment funds, development banks, financial systems, and infrastructure projects that, to date, remain largely under Washington’s radar, a free-trade Eurasian heartland is being born. It will someday link China and Russia to Europe, Southwest Asia, and even Africa. It promises to be an astounding development. Keep your eyes, if you can, on the accumulating facts on the ground, even if they are rarely covered in the American media. They represent the New Great – emphasis on that word – Game in Eurasia.

Location, Location, Location

Tehran is now deeply invested in strengthening its connections to this new Eurasia and the man to watch on this score is Ali Akbar Velayati. He is the head of Iran’s Center for Strategic Research and senior foreign policy adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Velayati stresses that security in Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and the Caucasus hinges on the further enhancement of a Beijing-Moscow-Tehran triple entente.

As he knows, geo-strategically Iran is all about location, location, location. That country offers the best access to open seas in the region apart from Russia and is the only obvious east-west/north-south crossroads for trade from the Central Asian “stans.”

Little wonder then that Iran will soon be an SCO member, even as its “partnership” with Russia is certain to evolve. Its energy resources are already crucial to and considered a matter of national security for China and, in the thinking of that country’s leadership, Iran also fulfills a key role as a hub in those Silk Roads they are planning.

That growing web of literal roads, rail lines, and energy pipelines represents Beijing’s response to the Obama administration’s announced “pivot to Asia” and the U.S. Navy’s urge to meddle in the South China Sea. Beijing is choosing to project power via a vast set of infrastructure projects, especially high-speed rail lines that will reach from its eastern seaboard deep into Eurasia. In this fashion, the Chinese-built railway from Urumqi in Xinjiang Province to Almaty in Kazakhstan will undoubtedly someday be extended to Iran and traverse that country on its way to the Persian Gulf.

A New World for Pentagon Planners

At the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last month, Vladimir Putin told PBS’s Charlie Rose that Moscow and Beijing had always wanted a genuine partnership with the United States, but were spurned by Washington. Hats off, then, to the “leadership” of the Obama administration. Somehow, it has managed to bring together two former geopolitical rivals, while solidifying their pan-Eurasian grand strategy.

Even the recent deal with Iran in Vienna is unlikely – especially given the war hawks in Congress – to truly end Washington’s 36-year-long Great Wall of Mistrust with Iran. Instead, the odds are that Iran, freed from sanctions, will indeed be absorbed into the Sino-Russian project to integrate Eurasia, which leads us to the spectacle of Washington’s warriors, unable to act effectively, yet screaming like banshees.

NATO’s supreme commander Dr. Strangelove, sorry, American General Philip Breedlove, insists that the West must create a rapid-reaction force – online – to counteract Russia’s “false narratives.”

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter claims to be seriously considering unilaterally redeploying nuclear-capable missiles in Europe.

The nominee to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Commandant Joseph Dunford, recently directly labeled Russia America’s true “existential threat”; Air Force General Paul Selva, nominated to be the new vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, seconded that assessment, using the same phrase and putting Russia, China and Iran, in that order, as more threatening than the Islamic State (ISIS). In the meantime, Republican presidential candidates and a bevy of congressional war hawks simply shout and fume when it comes to both the Iranian deal and the Russians.

In response to the Ukrainian situation and the “threat” of a resurgent Russia (behind which stands a resurgent China), a Washington-centric militarization of Europe is proceeding apace. NATO is now reportedly obsessed with what’s being called “strategy rethink” – as in drawing up detailed futuristic war scenarios on European soil. As economist Michael Hudson has pointed out, even financial politics are becoming militarized and linked to NATO’s new Cold War 2.0.

In its latest National Military Strategy, the Pentagon suggests that the risk of an American war with another nation (as opposed to terror outfits), while low, is “growing” and identifies four nations as “threats”: North Korea, a case apart, and predictably the three nations that form the new Eurasian core: Russia, China, and Iran.

They are depicted in the document as “revisionist states,” openly defying what the Pentagon identifies as “international security and stability”; that is, the distinctly un-level playing field created by globalized, exclusionary, turbo-charged casino capitalism and Washington’s brand of militarism.

The Pentagon, of course, does not do diplomacy. Seemingly unaware of the Vienna negotiations, it continued to accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons. And that “military option” against Iran is never off the table.

So consider it the Mother of All Blockbusters to watch how the Pentagon and the war hawks in Congress will react to the post-Vienna and – though it was barely noticed in Washington – the post-Ufa environment, especially under a new White House tenant in 2017.

It will be a spectacle. Count on it. Will the next version of Washington try to make it up to “lost” Russia or send in the troops? Will it contain China or the “caliphate” of ISIS? Will it work with Iran to fight ISIS or spurn it? Will it truly pivot to Asia for good and ditch the Middle East or vice-versa? Or might it try to contain Russia, China, and Iran simultaneously or find some way to play them against each other?

In the end, whatever Washington may do, it will certainly reflect a fear of the increasing strategic depth Russia and China are developing economically, a reality now becoming visible across Eurasia. At Ufa, Putin told Xi on the record: “Combining efforts, no doubt we [Russia and China] will overcome all the problems before us.”

Read “efforts” as new Silk Roads, that Eurasian Economic Union, the growing BRICS block, the expanding Shanghai Cooperation Organization, those China-based banks, and all the rest of what adds up to the beginning of a new integration of significant parts of the Eurasian land mass. As for Washington, fly like an eagle? Try instead: scream like a banshee.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

BRICS/SCO sow panic in Exceptionalistan

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Originally published in RT on July 13, 2015

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As austerity-ravaged Europe watches its undemocratic “institutions” grapple with the Greek tragedy, and the US backtracks on a fair nuclear deal with Iran, geopolitical tectonic plates are shifting in the Urals.

Can you feel an inchoate multipolar world? Well, just look right here at the BRICS 2015 Ufa declaration. The EU is hardly featured in the BRICS declaration and not by accident.

Forget about the dead on arrival G7. This – the joint BRICS/SCO summit – is the real deal in 2015. Russia’s diplomatic masterstroke was to merge two summits – BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – with a third, informal meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). 

After all, some nations with leaders present in Ufa are members of at least one of these organizations. But the absolute key point is that getting BRICS, SCO and EEU leaders in one place packs a graphic punch about the emergence of a coordinated, Eurasia-wide, and in some aspects worldwide drive towards a more equitable world order not dictated by exceptionalists.

And then there’s Iran. President Rouhani met President Putin in Ufa to discuss a formidable range of topics. Not least the coming acceptance of Iran as a member of the SCO, assuming there is a deal in Vienna and after UN sanctions are lifted. 
Right on cue, and also not by accident, US President Barack Obama issued marching orders to Secretary of State John Kerry to backtrack from some positions the entire Iran/P5+1 diplomatic corps was already taking for granted – as a top Iranian negotiator confirmed to me in Vienna.

So here’s the not-so-veiled message to Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif: Iran will be “punished” for getting too close to Moscow.

Have strategy, will travel


Only Russia is a member of all three organizations – BRICS, SCO and EEU. Russia and China are key members of two – BRICS and SCO. The Russia-driven EEU is slowly but surely merging with the China-driven New Silk Roads. The key structural framework is the ever-solidifying Russia-China strategic partnership.

As the Pentagon remains self-absorbed in its 2002-concocted Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine, Russia and China counterpunch with full spectrum cooperation on politics, economics, finance, diplomacy and defense.

The endgame – which will be the apex of the current New Great Game in Eurasia – is a new global geopolitical structure anchored on Eurasian integration. Thus the importance of Iran: no matter what happens in Vienna, Iran is the vital hub/node in Eurasia.

The road has been long for the SCO. I remember when Euro-bureaucrats only a few years ago dismissed it as a mere talk shop. What started as a security forum to integrate the Central Asian “stans” so they would not be ravaged by terrorism and extremism evolved into a serious economic/political organization.

So now the SCO is starting to add to, and draw upon, the BRICS’s ever expanding economic cooperation, which features two essential pillars: the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the BRICS’s New Development Bank (NDB). As for the EEU, it is also indirectly linked to China, as part of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

This will all translate in the next few years into a complex maze of economic and trade/commerce networks traversing Eurasia. Call it the road map of the myriad New Silk Road(s).

Faster! Dust up our war plans!

Here’s just a sample of what has been decided in Ufa: Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping actively discussed, face-to-face, interlinks in the New Silk Road(s); India will become a full member of the SCO next year; Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov was appointed chairman of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB), which will finance infrastructure projects not only in the five BRICS countries, but in other developing nations as well. And all that based in their own currencies, bypassing the US dollar.

The NDB has the potential to accumulate as much as $400 billion in capital, according to bank head KV Kamath. The parent capital is $100 billion.

Currency swaps are the way to go. It already applies to Russia and China on trade in futures, and Putin has dubbed its expansion to other nations as “interesting.”

A strategy for BRICS economic partnership has been devised that “touches upon the responsibility of different ministers and requires high-level coordination,” according to Russia’s Economic Development Minister Aleksey Ulyukaev, which means in essence easier trade between BRICS nations.

Both the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the NDB are headquartered in China. However, they won’t compete with each other; they will add to and complement one another.

Russia’s Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) signed a memorandum of understanding with the other BRICS. Significantly, China’s Silk Road Fund and India’s IDFC (Infrastructure Development Finance Company) are key partners.

Russia will lift restrictions on Chinese banks working in Russia, accelerating Beijing’s drive to invest in all sectors of the Russian economy.

Russia proposed a roadmap for investment cooperation. Crucially, that includes the possibility of an energy association, according to Putin, as well as an international energy research center.

The subject of energy brings us to Greece. Russia’s Turkish Stream pipeline – yet another diplomatic/energy counterpunch after the EU scored a proverbial own goal by scotching the South Stream – will be linked to Greece.

No wonder that elicited panic in Exceptionalistan. What if Syriza’s “flirting with Moscow” becomes a strategic shift, thus causing NATO’s eastern flank to fall to pieces?

It doesn’t matter that Russia wants a strong EU – and the EU won’t be strong without Greece, as Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized in Ufa.

So what does NATO propose to seduce anyone across Eurasia away from all the frantic BRICS, SCO and EEU politico/economic activity? Nothing less than an obsession with a “strategy rethink.” In other words, detailed “secret” scenarios for a war on European soil.

That’s all one needs to know about who wants what in the new, emerging geopolitical order.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

St. Petersburg in the heart of the action: SPIEF

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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spief-20151.si

Originally published in Asia Times on June 20, 2015

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The dogs of western fear and sanctions bark, while the Eurasian caravan passes.

And no caravanserai could possibly compete with the 19th edition of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). Thousands of global business leaders – including Europeans, but not Americans; after all, President Putin is “the new Hitler” – representing over 1,000 international companies/corporations, including the CEOs of BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total, hit town in style.

Fascinating panels all around – including discussions on the BRICs; the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); the New Silk Road(s); the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU); and of course the theme of all themes, “The Making of the Asia-Pacific Century: Rebalancing East,” with former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Predictably, there’s been plenty of anticipation regarding the BRICs New Development Bank, with big news coming next month at the BRICs summit in Ufa. Brazilian Paulo Nogueira Batista, the new vice-president of the bank, looks forward to the first meeting of the governors.

And on another key theme — bypassing the US dollar — it was up to Anatoliy Aksakov, chairman of the Duma Committee on Economic Policy, Innovative Development and Entrepreneurship, to cut to the chase; “We need to transition to conducting mutual settlements in national currencies, and we believe that all the conditions are already in place for this.”

The action was not only rhetorical. Here’s just a fraction of the deals clinched at SPIEF. Predictably, it’s been a Pipelineistan show all around.

– The pipes for the Turkish Stream pipeline under the Black Sea will start to be laid down this month, or at latest by July, according to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.

– Gazprom’s CEO Aleksey Miller and Greek Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis practically clinched the extension of Turkish Stream to Greece. They are “preparing an appropriate intergovernmental memorandum,” according to Gazprom.

– Gazprom also announced it will build a new double pipeline from Russia to Germany, across the Baltic Sea, in partnership with Germany’s E.ON, Anglo-Dutch Shell and Austria’s OMV.

In another crucial Eurasian front, India signed a framework agreement to create a free trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union. Indian Minister of Commerce Nirmala Sitharaman was euphoric: “The two regions are big, anything done together should naturally lead to bigger outcomes.”

Oh, and those were the days of Bandar Bush threatening to unleash jihadis on Russia.

Instead, a remarkable meeting took place, between Putin and Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi deputy crown prince and defense minister (the actual conductor of the war on Yemen). This was the logical conclusion of Putin being in touch, for weeks, with the new master of the House of Saud, King Salman.

The House of Saud politely spun it as a discussion on “relations and aspects of cooperation between the two friendly countries.” Facts on the ground included Russia and Saudi Arabia’s oil ministers discussing a broad cooperation agreement; the signing of six nuclear technology agreements; and the Supreme Imponderable; Putin and the deputy crown prince discussing oil prices. Could this be the end of the Saudi-led oil price war?

If that was not enough, on the Asian front the superstar executive chairman of Alibaba Group, Jack Ma, went no holds barred to say: “It is high time for market players to invest in Russia.” Beijing, by the way, currently estimates the value of signed and almost signed agreements with Russia at a whopping $1 trillion. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov preferred to hold a “humbler” estimate.

Well, if only other sanctioned and “isolated” nations – because of their “aggression” – could be capable of such a business performance.

And where were the Masters?

Before the St. Petersburg forum, Putin was delivering an invariable message every time he met a western leader. He would talk about bilateral trade, and then remark things could be way, way better. At the forum, it’s beyond evident that the EU’s policy of sanctioning Russia is a disaster – whatever the European Council decides next week.

Those masters of Kafkaesque bureaucracy at the European Commission (EC) keep swearing Europe is not suffering. Who’re you going to believe? EC bureaucrats who only care about their fat retirement pensions, or this Austrian study?

And then there was The Big Meeting on the sidelines of SPIEF: Putin with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The question here is not Greece becoming a BRICs member tomorrow, for instance. Yves Smith at her Naked Capitalism blog may have succinctly nailed it; “The objective risk of a new Greece-Russia alliance … is whether Europeans are worried enough about this risk to change course.”

There’s no evidence – yet – there will be a change of course. Iron Chancellor Merkel is now openly brandishing the Russia card – as in Moscow getting a foothold in the EU — to keep other EU nations in tune with the German austerity obsession.

As for the Last Word at the forum, it was hard to beat Tsipras; Europe “should stop considering itself the centre of the universe, it should understand that the center of world economic development is shifting to other regions.”

So were there any real Masters of the Universe present at SPIEF?

In the real world, there are a number of institutions and conferences that serve as the basis for “coordination” policies. But the Masters of the Universe are not there. They pull the strings of the marionettes that attend the meetings — and then whatever they decided is coordinated below.

Putin did not miss anything by being snubbed at the G7 in the Bavarian Alps (actually G1 + “junior partners”). He would be meeting with figureheads, anyway.

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS), featuring the key central bankers, they meet once a month for “coordination purposes.” The Bilderberg group, the Trilateral Commission, and Davos also meet for coordination purposes. A case can be made that SPIEF is now the key coordination forum for Eurasia. Masters of the Universe – real or self-perceived – may snub it at their own peril.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Why NATO Is Terrified of Russia

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Originally published in RT on May 1, 2015

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The twin-pronged attack – oil price war/raid on the ruble – aimed at destroying the Russian economy and place it into a form of Western natural resource vassalage has failed.

Natural resources were also essentially the reason for reducing Iran to a Western vassalage. That never had anything to do with Tehran developing a nuclear weapon, which was banned by both the leader of the Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

The ‘New Great Game’ in Eurasia was always about control of the Eurasian land mass. Minor setbacks to the American elite project do not mean the game will be restricted to a mere “war of attrition”. Rather the contrary.

All about PGS

In Ukraine, the Kremlin has been more than explicit there are two definitive red lines. Ukraine won’t join NATO. And Moscow won’t allow the popular republics of Donetsk and Lugansk to be crushed.

We are coming closer to a potentially explosive deadline – when EU sanctions expire in July. An EU in turmoil but still enslaved to NATO – see the pathetic “Dragoon Ride” convoy from the Baltics to Poland or the “Atlantic Resolve” NATO show-off exercise – may decide to expand them, and even try to exclude Russia from SWIFT.

Only fools believe Washington is going to risk American lives over Ukraine or even Poland. Yet let’s plan a few steps ahead. If it ever comes to the unthinkable – a war between NATO and Russia in Ukraine – Russian defense circles are sure of conventional and nuclear superiority on sea and land. And the Pentagon knows it. Russia would reduce NATO forces to smithereens in a matter of hours. And then would come Washington’s stark choice: accept ignominious defeat or escalate to tactical nuclear weapons.

The Pentagon knows that Russia has the air and missile defense capabilities to counter anything embedded in the US Prompt Global Strike (PGS). Simultaneously though, Moscow is saying it would rather not use these capabilities.

Major General Kirill Makarov, Russia’s Aerospace Defense Forces’ deputy chief, has been very clear about the PGS threat. Moscow’s December 2014 new military doctrine qualifies PGS as well as NATO’s current military buildup as the top two security threats to Russia.

Unlike non-stop Pentagon/NATO bragging/demonizing, what Russian defense circles don’t need to advertise is how they are now a couple of generations ahead of the US in their advanced weaponry.

The bottom line is that while the Pentagon was mired in the Afghanistan and Iraq quagmires, they completely missed Russia’s technological jump ahead. The same applies to China’s ability to hit US satellites and thus pulverize American ICBM satellite guidance systems.

The current privileged scenario is Russia playing for time until it has totally sealed Russia’s air space to American ICBMs, stealth aircraft and cruise missiles – via the S-500 system.

This has not escaped the attention of the British Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) – as it gamed sometime ago whether Washington might launch a first strike against Russia.According to the JIC, Washington might go rogue if “a) an extreme government were to take over in the United States, b) and there was increased lack of confidence by the United States in some if not all of her Western allies owing to political developments in their countries, c) and there was some sudden advance in the USA in the sphere of weapons, etc. that the counsels of impatience may get the upper hand.”

US ‘Think Tankland’ spinning that Russian military planners should take advantage of their superiority to launch a first strike nuclear attack against the US is bogus; the Russian doctrine is eminently defensive.

Yet that does not exclude Washington doing the unthinkable the next time the Pentagon thinks of itself to be in the position Russia is now in.

SWIFT changes

The whole game used to be about who ruled the waves – the geopolitical gift the US inherited from Great Britain. Control of the seas meant the US inheriting five empires; Japan, Germany, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands. All those massive US carrier task forces patrolling the oceans to guarantee “free trade” – as the hegemonic propaganda machine goes – could be turned against China in a flash. It’s a mechanism similar to the carefully choreographed “leading from behind” financial op to simultaneously crash the ruble/launch an oil war and thus smash Russia into submission.

Washington’s master plan remains deceptively simple; to “neutralize” China by Japan, and Russia by Germany, with the US backing its two anchors, Germany and Japan. Russia is the de facto only BRICS nation blocking the master plan.

This was the case until Beijing launched the New Silk Road(s), which essentially mean the linking of all Eurasia into a “win-win” trade/commerce bonanza on high-speed rail, and in the process diverting freight tonnage overland and away from the seas.

So NATO’s non-stop Russia demonizing is in fact quaint. Think about NATO picking a fight against the constantly evolving, complex Russia-China strategic partnership. And in a not so remote future, as I indicated here, Germany, Russia and China have what it takes to be the essential pillars of a fully integrated Eurasia.

As it stands, the key shadow play is Moscow and Beijing silently preparing their own SWIFT system while Russia prepares to seal its air space with S-500s. Western Ukraine is doomed; leave it to the austerity-ravaged EU – which, by the way, doesn’t want it. And all this while the same EU tries to handicap the US commercially with a rigged euro that still doesn’t allow it to penetrate more US markets.

As for an irrelevant NATO, all it can do is cry, cry, cry.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Words US ‘think-tank-land’ dare not speak

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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BRICS 2014

Published in Asia Times on March 9, 2015

Winston Churchill once said, “I feel lonely without a war.” He also badly missed the loss of empire. Churchill’s successor – the ‘Empire of Chaos’ – now faces the same quandary. Some wars – as in Ukraine, by proxy – are not going so well.

And the loss of empire increasingly manifests itself in myriad moves by selected players aiming towards a multipolar world.

So no wonder US ‘Think Tankland’ is going bonkers, releasing wacky CIA-tinted “forecasts” where Russia is bound to disintegrate, and China is turning into a communist dictatorship. So much (imperial) wishful thinking, so little time to prolong hegemony.

The acronym that all these “forecasts” dare not reveal is BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). BRICS is worse than the plague as far as the ‘Masters of the Universe’ that really control the current – rigged – world system are concerned. True, the BRICS are facing multiple problems. Brazil at the moment is totally paralyzed; a long, complex, self-defeating process, now coupled with intimations of regime change by local ‘Empire of Chaos’ minions. It will take time, but Brazil will rebound.

That leaves the “RIC” – Russia, India and China – in BRICS as the key drivers of change. For all their interlocking discrepancies, they all agree they don’t need to challenge the hegemon directly while aiming for a new multipolar order.

The BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) – a key alternative to the IMF enabling developing nations to get rid of the US dollar as a reserve currency – will be operative by the end of this year. The NDB will finance infrastructure and sustainable development projects not only in the BRICS nations but other developing nations. Forget about the Western-controlled World Bank, whose capital and lending capacity are never increased by the so-called Western “powers.” The NDB will be an open institution. BRICS nations will keep 55 percent of the voting power, and outside their domain no country will be allowed more than 7 percent of votes. But crucially, developing nations may also become partners and receive loans.

Damn those communists

A tripartite entente cordiale is also in the making. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in China next May – and ‘Chindia’ will certainly engage in a breakthrough concerning their bitter territorial disputes. As much as Delhi has a lot to benefit from China’s massive capital investment and exports, Beijing wants to profit from India’s vast market and technology savvy. In parallel, Beijing has already volunteered economic help to Russia – if Moscow asks for it – on top of their evolving strategic partnership.

The US “pivoting to Asia” – launched at the Pentagon – is all dressed up with no place to go. Bullying Southeast Asia, South Asia and, for that matter, East Asia as a whole into becoming mere ‘Empire of Chaos’ vassals – and on top of it confronting China – was always a non-starter. Not to mention believing in the fairy tale of a remilitarized Japan able to “contain” China.

Isolating the “communist dictatorship” won’t fly. Just watch, for instance, the imminent high-speed rail link between Kunming, in Yunnan province, and Singapore, traversing a key chunk of a Southeast Asia which for Washington would never qualify to be more than a bunch of client states. The emerging 21st century Asia is all about interconnection; and the inexorable sun in this galaxy is China.

As China has embarked in an extremely complex tweaking of its economic development model, as I outlined here, China’s monopoly of low-end manufacturing – its previous industrial base – is migrating across the developing world, especially around the Indian Ocean basin. Good news for the Global South – and that includes everyone from African nations such as Kenya and Tanzania to parts of Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Of course the ‘Empire of Chaos’, business-wise, won’t be thrown out of Asia. But its days as an Asian hegemon, or a geopolitical Mob offering “protection”, are over.

The Chinese remix of Go West, Young Man – in fact go everywhere – started as early as 1999. Of the top 10 biggest container ports in the world, no less than 7 are in China (the others are Singapore, Rotterdam, and Pusan in South Korea). As far as the 12th Chinese 5-year plan – whose last year is 2015 – is concerned, most of the goals of the seven technology areas China wanted to be in the leading positions have been achieved, and in some cases even superseded.

The Bank of China will increasingly let the yuan move more freely against the US dollar. It will be dumping a lot of US dollars every once in a while. The 20-year old US dollar peg will gradually fade. The biggest trading nation on the planet, and the second largest economy simply cannot be anchored to a single currency. And Beijing knows very well how a dollar peg magnifies any external shocks to the Chinese economy.

Sykes-Picot is us

 A parallel process in Southwest Asia will also be developing; the dismantling of the nation-state in the Middle East – as in remixing the Sykes-Picot agreement of a hundred years ago. What a stark contrast to the return of the nation-state in Europe.

There have been rumblings that the remixed Sykes is Obama and the remixed Picot is Putin. Not really. It’s the ‘Empire of Chaos’ that is actually acting as the new Sykes-Picot, directly and indirectly reconfiguring the “Greater Middle East.” Former NATO capo Gen. Wesley Clark has recently “revealed” what everyone already knew; the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh fake Caliphate is financed by “close allies of the United States,” as in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel. Compare that with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon admitting that ISIS “does not represent a threat to Israeli interests.” Daesh does the unraveling of Sykes-Picot for the US.

The ‘Empire of Chaos’ actively sought the disintegration of Iraq, Syria and especially Libya. And now, leading the House of Saud, “our” bastard in charge King Salman is none other than the former, choice jihad recruiter for Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, the Afghan Salafist who was the brains behind both Osama bin Laden and alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad.

This is classic ‘Empire of Chaos’ in motion (exceptionalists don’t do nation building, just nation splintering). And there will be plenty of nasty, nation-shattering sequels, from the Central Asian stans to Xinjiang in China, not to mention festering, Ukraine, a.k.a Nulandistan.

Parts of Af-Pak could well turn into a branch of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh right on the borders of Russia, India, China, and Iran. From an ‘Empire of Chaos’ perspective, this potential bloodbath in the “Eurasian Balkans” – to quote eminent Russophobe Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski – is the famous “offer you can’t refuse.”

Russia and China, meanwhile, will keep betting on Eurasian integration; strengthening the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and their own internal coordination inside the BRICS; and using plenty of intel resources to go after The Caliph’s goons.

And as much as the Obama administration may be desperate for a final nuclear deal with Iran, Russia and China got to Tehran first. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Tehran two weeks ago; stressing Iran is one of China’s “foreign policy priorities” and of great “strategic importance.” Sooner rather than later Iran will be a member of the SCO. China already does plenty of roaring trade with Iran, and so does Russia, selling weapons and building nuclear plants.

 

Berlin-Moscow-Beijing?

And then there’s the German question.

Germany now exports 50 percent of its GDP. It used to be only 24 percent in 1990. For the past 10 years, half of German growth depended on exports. Translation: this is a giant economy that badly needs global markets to keep expanding. An ailing EU, by definition, does not fit the bill.

German exports are changing their recipient address. Only 40 percent – and going down – now goes to the EU; the real growth is in Asia. So Germany, in practice, is moving away from the eurozone. That does not entail Germany breaking up the euro; that would be interpreted as a nasty betrayal of the much-lauded “European project.”

What the trade picture unveils is the reason for Germany’s hardball with Greece: either you surrender, completely, or you leave the euro. What Germany wants is to keep a partnership with France and dominate Eastern Europe as an economic satellite, relying on Poland. So expect Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy to face a German wall of intransigence. So much for European “integration,” it works as long as Germany dictates all the rules.

The spanner in the works is that the double fiasco Greece + Ukraine has been exposing. Berlin as an extremely flawed European hegemon – and that’s quite an understatement. Berlin suddenly woke up to the real, nightmarish possibility of a full blown, American-instigated war in Europe’s eastern borderlands against Russia. No wonder Angela Merkel had to fly to Moscow in a hurry.

Moscow – diplomatically – was the winner. And Russia won again when Turkey – fed up with trying to join the EU and being constantly blocked by, who else, Germany and France – decided to pivot to Eurasia for good, ignoring NATO and amplifying relations with both Russia and China.

That happened in the framework of a major ‘Pipelineistan’ game-changer. After Moscow cleverly negotiated the realignment of South Stream towards Turk Stream, right up to the Greek border, Putin and Greek Prime Minister Tsipras also agreed to a pipeline extension from the Turkish border across Greece to southern Europe. So Gazprom will be firmly implanted not only in Turkey but also Greece, which in itself will become mightily strategic in European ‘Pipelineistan’.

So Germany, sooner or later, must answer a categorical imperative – how to keep running massive trade surpluses while dumping their euro trade partners. The only possible answer is more trade with Russia, China and East Asia. It will take quite a while, and there will be many bumps on the road, but a Berlin-Moscow-Beijing trade/commercial axis – or the “RC” in BRICS meet Germany – is all but inevitable.

And no, you won’t read that in any wacky US ‘Think Tankland’ “forecast.”

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Chaos: Practice and Applications

From the keyboard of Dmitry Orlov
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Luciano Podcaminsky

Luciano Podcaminsky

Published at Club Orlov on March 10, 2015

 

The term “chaos” has been popping up a lot lately in the increasingly collapse-prone world in which we find ourselves. Pepe Escobar has even published a book on it. Titled Empire of Chaos, it describes a scenario “where a[n American] plutocracy progressively projects its own internal disintegration upon the whole world.” Escobar’s chaos is tailor-made; its purpose is “to prevent an economic integration of Eurasia that would leave the U.S. a non-hegemon, or worse still, an outsider.”

Escobar is not the only one thinking along these lines; here is Vladimir Putin speaking at the Valdai Conference in 2014:

A unilateral diktat and imposing one’s own models produces the opposite result. Instead of settling conflicts it leads to their escalation, instead of sovereign and stable states we see the growing spread of chaos, and instead of democracy there is support for a very dubious public ranging from open neo-fascists to Islamic radicals.

Why do they support such people? They do this because they decide to use them as instruments along the way in achieving their goals but then burn their fingers and recoil. I never cease to be amazed by the way that our partners just keep stepping on the same rake, as we say here in Russia, that is to say, make the same mistake over and over.

Indeed, Escobar’s chaos doesn’t seem to be working too well. Eurasian integration is very much on track, with China and Russia now acting as an economic, military and political unit, and with other Eurasian states eager to play a role. The European Union is, for the moment, being excluded from Eurasia because it is effectively under American occupation, but this state of affairs is unlikely to last due to budgetary problems. (To be precise, we have to say that it is under NATO occupation, but if we dig just a little, we find that NATO is really just the US military with a European façade hammered onto it Potemkin village-style.)

And so the term “empire” seems rather misplaced. Empires are ambitious undertakings that seek to exert control over their domain, and what sort of an empire is it if its main activity is stepping on the same rake over and over again? A silly one? Then why not just call it “The Silly Empire”? Indeed, there are lots of fun silly imperial activities to choose from. For example: arm and train moderate opposition to a regime you want to overthrow; find out that it isn’t moderate at all; try to bomb them into submission and fail at that too.

Some people raise the criticism that the empire does in fact function because somebody somewhere is profiting from all this chaos. Indeed they are, but taking this as a sign of imperial success is tantamount to regarding getting mugged on the way to the supermarket as a sign of economic success. Success has nothing to do with it, but Escobar’s “internal disintegration” does seem apt: the disintegrating empire’s internal chaos is leaking out and causing chaos everywhere. Still, the US makes every effort to exert control, mainly by exerting pressure on friends and enemies alike, and by demanding unquestioning obedience. Some might call this “controlled chaos.”

But what is “controlled chaos”? How does one control chaos, and is it even possible? Let’s delve.

Chaos Theory

There is a branch of mathematics called chaos theory. It deals with dynamic systems that exhibit a certain set of behaviors:

• For any causal relationship that can be observed, tiny differences in initial conditions cause large differences in outcome. The hackneyed example is the “butterfly effect” where the hypothetical flapping of the wings of a butterfly influences the course of a hurricane some weeks later. Or, to pick a more meaningful example, if the stock market were a chaotic system, then investing a million dollars in an index fund might result in a portfolio of about a million dollars a few months later; whereas investing a million and one dollars might result in a portfolio of minus a trillion dollars and change.

• Unpredictability beyond a short time-period: given finite initial information about a system, its behavior beyond a short period of time becomes impossible to predict. Since information about a real-world system is always finite, being limited by what can be observed and measured, chaotic systems are by their nature unpredictable.

• Topological mixing: any given region of a chaotic system’s phase space will eventually overlap with every other region. Chaotic systems can have several distinct states, but eventually these states will mix. For example, if a certain bank were a chaotic system, with two distinct states—solvent and bankrupt—then these states would eventually mix.

Mathematicians like to play with models of chaos, which are deterministic and time-invariant: they can run a simulation over and over again with slightly different inputs, and observe the result. But real-world chaotic systems are non-deterministic and non-time-invariant: not only do they produce wildly different outputs based on very slightly different inputs, but they produce different outputs every time. What’s more, even if deterministic chaotic systems did exist in nature, they would be indistinguishable from so-called “stochastic” systems—ones that exhibit randomness.

Control Theory

Another branch of mathematics deals with ways of controlling dynamic processes. A typical example is a thermostat: it maintains constant temperature by turning a heat source on if the temperature drops below a certain threshold, and off again if it rises above a certain other threshold. (The difference between the two thresholds is called “hysteresis.”) Another typical example is the autopilot: it is a device that computes the difference between the programmed course and the actual course, called an “error signal,” and applies that error signal to a control mechanism to keep the boat or the plane on course. There are many variations on this theme, but the overall scheme is always the same: measure system output, compare to reference, compute error signal, and apply it as negative feedback to the system.

In order to apply control theory to a system, that system must obey certain principles. One is the superposition principle: output must be proportional to the input. Left rudder always causes the boat to turn left; more left rudder causes it to boat to turn left faster. Another is time-invariance: the boat reacts to changes in rudder angle the same way every time. These are necessities; but most applications of control theory make an additional assumption of linearity: that changes in system behavior are linearly proportional to changes in control input. Since all real-world systems are non-linear, an effort is usually made to endow them with a relatively linear flat spot in the middle of their useful range. Turn a boat’s rudder a little bit, and the boat turns as expected; turn it too far, and it stalls and no longer works.

Applying control theory to chaotic systems is tricky, because of the issue of “controllability”: is it possible to put a system in a particular state by applying particular control signals? In a chaotic system, very small error signals can produce very large differences in system output. Therefore, a chaotic system cannot be controlled. However, an uncontrollable system can sometimes be stabilized and made to cycle around within a particular, useful, or at least non-lethal, part of its phase space. Generally, to stabilize the system, it must be observable: it must be possible to measure the output of the system and use it to issue corrections. However, even an an unobservable system can still be stabilized, by detecting its state periodically and applying a control signal to push it incrementally in the right direction.

Here is a real-world example. Suppose you are hurtling along a slush-covered highway in a subcompact car with bald summer tires. At some point a very minor perturbation of some sort will transform this controllable system into an uncontrollable one: the car will start spinning. Since it can no longer be steered, it will slide toward the barrier on one side of the highway or the other. It will also become unobservable: with the driver spinning along with the car, it will become impossible to observe the car’s trajectory based on short glimpses of the roadway spinning past. Can this situation be stabilized?

Yes, it turns out that it can be. This is a trick I learned from a jet fighter pilot, which I was then able to apply to the exact scenario I just described. If a jet starts tumbling out of control, the pilot’s job is to get it to stop tumbling and to get it back to level flight. This is done by twisting one’s head back and forth in rhythm with the spin, catching glimpses of the horizon, and working the yoke, also in rhythm to the spin, to slow it down, and to make the horizon go horizontal.

In a car, the driver’s job is to get the car to stop spinning without hitting the barrier on either side of the highway. This is done by twisting one’s head in rhythm to the spin, catching glimpses of the barriers on each side of the road, and working the steering wheel, also in rhythm to get the car to stop spinning while keeping it away from either barrier. If the car is spinning clockwise, then a clockwise twist to the steering wheel will move it forward, a counterclockwise twist will move it backward, and a stomp on the brakes will slow down its forward or backward motion somewhat.

This is typically the best that can be done in controlling chaos: using small perturbations to keep the system within a certain range of safe, useful states, keeping it out of any number of useless or dangerous ones. But there is one more caveat: such applications of control theory to chaotic systems require finding out the properties of the chaotic system ahead of time. That’s rather tricky to do if a system evolves continuously in response to these small perturbations. In situations that involve politics or military matters, applying the same control measure twice is about as effective as telling the same joke twice to the same audience: you become the joke.

The moral of this story should be obvious by now: as with the car on a slush-covered highway, any fool can get it to spin out, but that same fool is then unlikely to have the presence of mind, the skill and the steel nerves to keep it from hitting one of the barriers. Same goes for the would-be builders of an “empire of controlled chaos”: sure, they can generate chaos, but controlling it in a manner that allows them to derive some benefit from it is rather out of the question, and even their ability to stabilize it, so that they are not themselves hurt by it, is in grave doubt.

 


Dmitry Orlov is a Russian-American engineer and a writer on subjects related to “potential economic, ecological and political decline and collapse in the United States,” something he has called “permanent crisis”. He  has written The Five Stages of Collapse and Reinventing Collapse, continues to write regularly on his “Club Orlov” blog and at EnergyBulletin.Net.

Germany’s future lies East

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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THE ROVING EYE

Reuters / Ueslei Marcelino

Reuters / Ueslei Marcelino 

Originally published in Asia Times on March 3, 2015
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

What the BRICS plus Germany are really up to?

Winston Churchill once said, “I feel lonely without a war.” He also badly missed the loss of empire. Churchill’s successor – the ‘Empire of Chaos’ – now faces the same quandary. Some wars – as in Ukraine, by proxy – are not going so well.

And the loss of empire increasingly manifests itself in myriad moves by selected players aiming towards a multipolar world.

So no wonder US ‘Think Tankland’ is going bonkers, releasing wacky CIA-tinted “forecasts” where Russia is bound to disintegrate, and China is turning into a communist dictatorship. So much (imperial) wishful thinking, so little time to prolong hegemony.

The acronym that all these “forecasts” dare not reveal is BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). BRICS is worse than the plague as far as the ‘Masters of the Universe’ that really control the current – rigged – world system are concerned. True, the BRICS are facing multiple problems. Brazil at the moment is totally paralyzed; a long, complex, self-defeating process, now coupled with intimations of regime change by local ‘Empire of Chaos’ minions. It will take time, but Brazil will rebound.

That leaves the “RIC” – Russia, India and China – in BRICS as the key drivers of change. For all their interlocking discrepancies, they all agree they don’t need to challenge the hegemon directly while aiming for a new multipolar order.

The BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) – a key alternative to the IMF enabling developing nations to get rid of the US dollar as a reserve currency – will be operative by the end of this year. The NDB will finance infrastructure and sustainable development projects not only in the BRICS nations but other developing nations. Forget about the Western-controlled World Bank, whose capital and lending capacity are never increased by the so-called Western “powers.” The NDB will be an open institution. BRICS nations will keep 55 percent of the voting power, and outside their domain no country will be allowed more than 7 percent of votes. But crucially, developing nations may also become partners and receive loans.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech as he attends the VI BRICS Summit in Fortaleza July 15, 2014.(Reuters / Paulo Whitaker )

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech as he attends the VI BRICS Summit in Fortaleza July 15, 2014.(Reuters / Paulo Whitaker )

Damn those communists

A tripartite entente cordiale is also in the making. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in China next May – and ‘Chindia’ will certainly engage in a breakthrough concerning their bitter territorial disputes. As much as Delhi has a lot to benefit from China’s massive capital investment and exports, Beijing wants to profit from India’s vast market and technology savvy. In parallel, Beijing has already volunteered economic help to Russia – if Moscow asks for it – on top of their evolving strategic partnership.

The US “pivoting to Asia” – launched at the Pentagon – is all dressed up with no place to go. Bullying Southeast Asia, South Asia and, for that matter, East Asia as a whole into becoming mere ‘Empire of Chaos’ vassals – and on top of it confronting China – was always a non-starter. Not to mention believing in the fairy tale of a remilitarized Japan able to “contain” China.

Isolating the “communist dictatorship” won’t fly. Just watch, for instance, the imminent high-speed rail link between Kunming, in Yunnan province, and Singapore, traversing a key chunk of a Southeast Asia which for Washington would never qualify to be more than a bunch of client states. The emerging 21st century Asia is all about interconnection; and the inexorable sun in this galaxy is China.

As China has embarked in an extremely complex tweaking of its economic development model, as I outlined here, China’s monopoly of low-end manufacturing – its previous industrial base – is migrating across the developing world, especially around the Indian Ocean basin. Good news for the Global South – and that includes everyone from African nations such as Kenya and Tanzania to parts of Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Of course the ‘Empire of Chaos’, business-wise, won’t be thrown out of Asia. But its days as an Asian hegemon, or a geopolitical Mob offering “protection”, are over.

The Chinese remix of Go West, Young Man – in fact go everywhere – started as early as 1999. Of the top 10 biggest container ports in the world, no less than 7 are in China (the others are Singapore, Rotterdam, and Pusan in South Korea). As far as the 12th Chinese 5-year plan – whose last year is 2015 – is concerned, most of the goals of the seven technology areas China wanted to be in the leading positions have been achieved, and in some cases even superseded.

The Bank of China will increasingly let the yuan move more freely against the US dollar. It will be dumping a lot of US dollars every once in a while. The 20-year old US dollar peg will gradually fade. The biggest trading nation on the planet, and the second largest economy simply cannot be anchored to a single currency. And Beijing knows very well how a dollar peg magnifies any external shocks to the Chinese economy.

Sykes-Picot is us

A parallel process in Southwest Asia will also be developing; the dismantling of the nation-state in the Middle East – as in remixing the Sykes-Picot agreement of a hundred years ago. What a stark contrast to the return of the nation-state in Europe.

There have been rumblings that the remixed Sykes is Obama and the remixed Picot is Putin. Not really. It’s the ‘Empire of Chaos’ that is actually acting as the new Sykes-Picot, directly and indirectly reconfiguring the “Greater Middle East.” Former NATO capo Gen. Wesley Clark has recently “revealed” what everyone already knew; the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh fake Caliphate is financed by “close allies of the United States,” as in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel. Compare that with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon admitting that ISIS “does not represent a threat to Israeli interests.” Daesh does the unraveling of Sykes-Picot for the US.

The ‘Empire of Chaos’ actively sought the disintegration of Iraq, Syria and especially Libya. And now, leading the House of Saud, “our” bastard in charge King Salman is none other than the former, choice jihad recruiter for Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, the Afghan Salafist who was the brains behind both Osama bin Laden and alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad.

This is classic ‘Empire of Chaos’ in motion (exceptionalists don’t do nation building, just nation splintering). And there will be plenty of nasty, nation-shattering sequels, from the Central Asian stans to Xinjiang in China, not to mention festering, Ukraine, a.k.a Nulandistan.

Parts of Af-Pak could well turn into a branch of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh right on the borders of Russia, India, China, and Iran. From an ‘Empire of Chaos’ perspective, this potential bloodbath in the “Eurasian Balkans” – to quote eminent Russophobe Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski – is the famous “offer you can’t refuse.”

Russia and China, meanwhile, will keep betting on Eurasian integration; strengthening the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and their own internal coordination inside the BRICS; and using plenty of intel resources to go after The Caliph’s goons.

And as much as the Obama administration may be desperate for a final nuclear deal with Iran, Russia and China got to Tehran first. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Tehran two weeks ago; stressing Iran is one of China’s “foreign policy priorities” and of great “strategic importance.” Sooner rather than later Iran will be a member of the SCO. China already does plenty of roaring trade with Iran, and so does Russia, selling weapons and building nuclear plants.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel.(Reuters / Eric Vidal)

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.(Reuters / Eric Vidal)

Berlin-Moscow-Beijing?

And then there’s the German question.

Germany now exports 50 percent of its GDP. It used to be only 24 percent in 1990. For the past 10 years, half of German growth depended on exports. Translation: this is a giant economy that badly needs global markets to keep expanding. An ailing EU, by definition, does not fit the bill.

German exports are changing their recipient address. Only 40 percent – and going down – now goes to the EU; the real growth is in Asia. So Germany, in practice, is moving away from the eurozone. That does not entail Germany breaking up the euro; that would be interpreted as a nasty betrayal of the much-lauded “European project.”

What the trade picture unveils is the reason for Germany’s hardball with Greece: either you surrender, completely, or you leave the euro. What Germany wants is to keep a partnership with France and dominate Eastern Europe as an economic satellite, relying on Poland. So expect Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy to face a German wall of intransigence. So much for European “integration,” it works as long as Germany dictates all the rules.

The spanner in the works is that the double fiasco Greece + Ukraine has been exposing. Berlin as an extremely flawed European hegemon – and that’s quite an understatement. Berlin suddenly woke up to the real, nightmarish possibility of a full blown, American-instigated war in Europe’s eastern borderlands against Russia. No wonder Angela Merkel had to fly to Moscow in a hurry.

Moscow – diplomatically – was the winner. And Russia won again when Turkey – fed up with trying to join the EU and being constantly blocked by, who else, Germany and France – decided to pivot to Eurasia for good, ignoring NATO and amplifying relations with both Russia and China.

That happened in the framework of a major ‘Pipelineistan’ game-changer. After Moscow cleverly negotiated the realignment of South Stream towards Turk Stream, right up to the Greek border, Putin and Greek Prime Minister Tsipras also agreed to a pipeline extension from the Turkish border across Greece to southern Europe. So Gazprom will be firmly implanted not only in Turkey but also Greece, which in itself will become mightily strategic in European ‘Pipelineistan’.

So Germany, sooner or later, must answer a categorical imperative – how to keep running massive trade surpluses while dumping their euro trade partners. The only possible answer is more trade with Russia, China and East Asia. It will take quite a while, and there will be many bumps on the road, but a Berlin-Moscow-Beijing trade/commercial axis – or the “RC” in BRICS meet Germany – is all but inevitable.

And no, you won’t read that in any wacky US ‘Think Tankland’ “forecast.”

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

From Minsk to Brussels, it’s all about Germany

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) talks to France's President Francois Hollande during a meeting with the media after peace talks on resolving the Ukrainian crisis in Minsk, February 12, 2015. (Reuters / Grigory Dukor)

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) talks to France’s President Francois Hollande during a meeting with the media after peace talks on resolving the Ukrainian crisis in Minsk, February 12, 2015. (Reuters / Grigory Dukor)

Originally published in RT on February 13, 2015

Germany holds the key to where Europe goes next. A fragile deal may have been reached on Ukraine, but there’s still no deal with Greece. In both cases, there’s much more than meets the eye.

Let’s start with the grueling Eurogroup negotiation in Brussels over the Greek debt.

Greek officials swear they never received a draft of a possible agreement leaked by Eurogroup bureaucrats to the Financial Times. This draft, crucially, referred to an agreement “amending and extending and successfully concluding,” the current austerity-heavy bailout.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble cut off “amending”. This is the draft that was leaked. But then Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis called Prime Minister Tsipras – and the statement, still not signed, was rejected. So this was a top Tsipras decision.

Tsipras could not possibly balk – not after previously raising the stakes – as in promising to boost the Greek minimum wage and halt privatizations. He’s still betting the house that the Troika won’t allow a ‘Grexit’. Yet he may be wrong; the possibility of ‘Grexit’ is hovering around 35 percent to 40 percent, and it will be much higher if no deal is reached on the next crunch meeting, Monday.

Tsipras and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem at least agreed that Greek officials and the Troika (EC, ECB, IMF) should start talking “at a technical level.” Translation: they will be comparing the current austerity nightmare with new Greek proposals.

Athens essentially has only two choices. Either the Troika accedes to some form of debt repudiation – real or as a sleight of hand (that’s Syriza’s proposal – an arrangement that fosters growth); or ‘Grexit’ ensues, with Athens creating its own central bank and currency as an independent nation. There’s no third choice; a debt of 175 percent of Greece’s GDP is totally unpayable.

As much as the Troika and its institutional derivatives spin ‘Grexit’ won’t be a big deal, the fact is a Greek debt default could have a more devastating effect than the Lehman Brothers case. It was not the fundamentals at Lehman that caused widespread panic when it went down; but the fear that their derivative exposures would bring down the system.

And cutting through all the spin, what remains, essentially, is what European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Le Figaro a few days ago; it’s out of the question to suppress the Greek debt and, most of all, “there can be no democratic option against European treaties.” There it is, crystal clear: EU institutions work against democracy.

Plan B remains a distinct possibility. Moscow has already invited Tsipras to meet with Putin. And Beijing has invited Tsipras to meet with Prime Minister Li Keqiang. These are the “R” and the “C” in BRICS in action.

It’s worth remembering Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos when he articulated if not a majority view, at least a substantial perception among Greek public opinion; “We want a deal. But if there is no deal, and if we see that Germany remains rigid and wants to blow Europe apart, then we will have to go to Plan B… We have other ways of finding money. It could be the United States at best, it could be Russia, it could be China or other countries.”

Alea jacta est. Troika or RC?

And it’s all about NATO

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses a news conference after a European Union leaders summit in Brussels February 12, 2015. (Reuters / Francois Lenoir)

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses a news conference after a European Union leaders summit in Brussels February 12, 2015. (Reuters / Francois Lenoir)

Then there’s Minsk. What was achieved after nearly 17 hours of a grueling marathon is not exactly, in French President Francois Hollande’s words, a “global” agreement and a “global ceasefire” in Ukraine.

There’s every possibility the ceasefire will be nullified only a few minutes after its implementation at midnight this Saturday – irony of ironies, at the end of Valentine’s Day. Significantly, the final statement bears no important signatures: Putin, Merkel, Hollande and Poroshenko.

German Foreign Minister Steinmeier was cautious, warning Minsk 2.0 is not exactly a breakthrough, but at least de-escalates matters. Merkel preferred to spin that Putin had to pressure the Eastern Ukraine federalists of the DNR and the LNR to agree to the ceasefire.

Predictably, like clockwork, even before the ceasefire, the IMF – under Washington’s orders – suddenly announced it would continue to rape, sorry, help bailout bankrupt, failed state Ukraine with a tranche of$17.5 billion, part of a large $40 billion, four-year “rescue” package. Translation: Kiev’s goons now have fresh cash to throw at a war they don’t want to give up on.

Poroshenko himself took no time to torpedo the ceasefire – spinning there’s no autonomy granted to the areas controlled by the federalists, and refusing to confirm Putin’s assertion that Kiev has agreed to terminate the vicious economic blockade of Donbass.

The precise contours of the demilitarized zone – bordering one frontline in September and a very different frontline five months later – remain a mystery. And Washington immediately turned the “withdrawal of foreign forces” clause into a joke. The Pentagon has already announced it will begin training Ukraine’s National Guard next month.

Minsk 2.0 hardly qualifies as a band-aid. Ukraine is unredeemable. It would only come back from the dead if a tsunami of cash – almost equivalent to the cost of German reunification – were poured in. Needless to add, no one in Europe wants to dish out even a few devalued euro.

This was, remains, and will continue to be, essentially about NATO expansion. Washington and the Kiev marionettes will never allow any constitutional reform that lets the Donbass block NATO embedded in Ukraine. So the ‘Empire of Chaos’, in a nutshell, won’t cease from using Ukraine to bully Russia. The ‘Empire of Chaos’ is not exactly in the business of nation building – quite the contrary.

Crossing the German bridge

And that brings us to the crucial role played by Germany – with France as sidekick.

Chancellor Merkel had to go to Moscow to negotiate with Putin because she saw which way the wind was blowing – counterproductive sanctions; Ukrainian economy in free fall; Kiev’s goons defeated on the battlefield. That was as much an imperative as a crucial demarcation away from the imperial NATO expansion obsession.

As Immanuel Wallerstein has observed Moscow is pursuing “a careful policy. Not totally in control of the Donetsk-Lugansk autonomists, Russia is nonetheless making sure that the autonomists cannot be eliminated militarily. The Russian price for real peace is a commitment by NATO that Ukraine is not a potential member.”

So Merkel may have defused the Obama administration’s drive to weaponize Kiev – but only for a moment. There’s no evidence – yet – that the Obama administration and its embedded neo-con cells have admitted that the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (DPR and LPR) are essentially “lost” to Kiev’s influence.

Hollande provided the perfect cover for Merkel. It was Hollande who publicly supported autonomy – as in federalization – for the DPR and the LPR. At the same time, both Merkel and Hollande know that Kiev will never de facto accept it (and even a substantial portion of the Donbass only accepts federalization as a stepping stone to eventual secession and union with Russia.)

Merkel – at least in terms of German public opinion – did manage to achieve her goal, emerging as a victor (“The world chancellor,” as the tabloid Bild coined it) after her frequent-flyer marathon. Putin also emerged a victor of sorts – as Merkel essentially rehashed proposals he made months ago. So yes, whichever angle we look at it, this was in fact a Moscow-Berlin deal.It’s easy to see who is extremely disgruntled and will do everything to bomb it; Washington, Kiev, London, Warsaw and the hysterical “Russia is invading” Baltic states.

Last but not least, let’s call attention to the monumental white elephant in the room. Minsk 2.0 was conducted in the total absence of the ‘Empire of Chaos’ and the (increasingly irrelevant) “special relationship” British minions.

Slowly but surely, public opinion across Europe – and especially Germany – is experiencing a tectonic shift. The obsession by the ‘Empire of Chaos’ to further weaponize Kiev has horrified millions – resurrecting the specter of a war in Europe’s eastern borderlands. Not only in Germany but also in France, Italy, Spain, there is a growing continental consensus against NATO.

Even at the height of a vicious Russia demonization campaign unleashed by virtually the whole German corporate media, a Deutschland Trend survey revealed that most Germans are against NATO troops in Eastern Europe. And no less than 49 percent would rather see Germany position itself as a bridge between East and West. The leadership in Beijing definitely took note.

So it’s tempting to hop on the Merkel/Hollande peace train as the heart of Europe finally exercising their sovereignty and frontally defying the ‘Empire of Chaos’. Perhaps that could be the embryo of a German-French partnership for peace in Europe and even beyond, from the Middle East to Africa.

That would frontally antagonize NATO’s screenplay – which implies the ’Empire of Chaos’ ruling uncontested over Europe, the Middle East and even across Eurasia, with continental European powers, especially Germany, France and yes, Russia, at the margins.

Sooner or later European politicians will have to wake up and smell the coffee; the notion of a German-French-Russian pan-European peace/trade partnership is way more popular than reflected in failed corporate media.

Now it’s up to Germany to clean up its act on Greece. The choice is stark. The EU may embark on a quadruple-dip recession as the ECB further destroys what is left of the European middle class. Or Germany, reflecting the thinking among its captains of industry, may tell the EU – Troika included – that the way to go is to shift the strategic, trade and political focus from West to the East. That would start by stuffing the corporate US-devised TTIP treaty – that’s NATO on trade. After all, this is going to be the Eurasian century – and this train has already left the station.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Forecast 2015 — Life in the Breakdown Lane

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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"Order Out of Chaos" by Anthony Freda

“Order Out of Chaos” by Anthony Freda

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation January 4, 2015
All images by Anthony Freda

“Don’t look back — something might be gaining on you,” Satchel Paige famously warned. For connoisseurs of civilizational collapse, 2014 was merely annoying, a continued pile-up of over-investments in complexity with mounting diminishing returns, metastasizing fragility, and no satisfying resolution. So we enter 2015 with greater tensions than ever before and therefore the likelihood that the inevitable breakdown will release more destructive energy and be that much harder to recover from.

I don’t know how anyone can trust the statistical bullshit emanating from our government reporting agencies, or the legacy news organizations that report them. Yet the meme has remained firmly fixed in the popular imagination: the US economy has recovered! GDP grows 5 percent in Q3! Manufacturing renaissance! Energy independence! Cleanest shirt in the laundry basket! Best-looking house in a bad neighborhood…!

¡No hay problema!

This is simply the power of wishful thinking on display. No one — with the exception of a few “doomer” cranks — wants to believe that industrial civilization is in trouble deep. The staggering credulity this represents would be a fascinating case study in itself if there were not so many other things that demand our attention right now. Let’s just write this phenomenon off as the diminishing returns of career log-rolling in politics, finance, media, and academia. All the professional “thought-leaders” pitch in to support the “hologram” of eternal progress that issues their paychecks and bonuses. This culture of pervasive racketeering that we’ve engineered has made us obtuse. The particular brand of stupidity on display also points to another signal vanity of our time: the conviction that if you measure things enough, you can control them.

I’m of the view that the measurers only pretend to measure and can only pretend to control things, especially in the most fragile of the systems that we depend on for running all the other systems of techno-industrial economic life: finance. The pretense has endured a lot longer than many of us had expected. The legerdemain employed by banking officials and their handmaidens was greatly augmented by the sheer wish that fragility (i.e. risk) had been successfully and permanently banished from the universe. That “magic” at least sustained a universal faith in currencies until the middle of last year when so many monies went south — except the dollar, levitating on blowback of the deflationary wind flattening everything else.

All this unreality in money and markets should be expected in the conditions just preceding systemic collapse of an entire trans-national industrial civilization, just as one should expect societies to construct their most grandiose monuments to themselves shortly before collapse. The Mayans R us. One year, they were cavorting bloodthirstily atop their garish painted pyramids and a generation later the jungle was stealing back over the temple steps and the population was a tenth of its former size. The same thing is going to happen to us, except there will be a hell of a lot more worthless, toxic debris left on the landscape.

Of course, even that is a more long-term projection than the exercise at hand calls for, viz., the forecast for measly little 2015. So without further throat-clearing, permit me to break it down for you:

Finance and Banking

As 2014 closed out, that kit-bag of frauds, swindles, Ponzis, grifts, bait-and-switches, and three-card-monte scams is looking at least as wobbly as it did in 2007 when Wall Street was busy manufacturing booby-trapped MBSs and CDOs. Except we know the true aggregate risk at stake has only grown larger and more hazardous due to all the strenuous efforts by authorities since the panic of 2008 to evade any natural process for clearing mal-investment and debt gone bad. A lot of that stank was simply shoveled into the Federal Reserve’s basement, where it sits to this day, composting steamily. As to be expected (and averred to in my previous books and blogs) financial repression, market intervention, and statistical distortion will produce ever more financial perversity. That is the hazard in decoupling truth from reality. Imposed dishonesty will always express itself in unexpected ways. Who expected the price of oil to fall by nearly half in a few months? (More on that below.)

These days, perversity expresses itself in a morbidly obese dollar gorging on junk while bulimic currencies elsewhere projectile-vomit their value away as the economies attached to them die of malnutrition. Perhaps this comes as a surprise to central bankers standing at their control panels like recording engineers at the soundboard, tweaking all the dials and slides expecting to achieve a perfect repressive inflation rate of 2-plus percent so they can melt away the onerous debt of sovereign balance sheets and Too Big To Fail banks — incidentally squeezing the citizenry of purchasing power in small annual increments that add up, after a while, to worthless money. They did manage to extend the inflation of stock market indexes another year, which the public is supposed to interpret as “prosperity.” Half a trillion dollars in stock buybacks of S & P companies were executed in 2014, much of it done with money, i.e. “leverage,” borrowed at zero interest. Stock buybacks boost share prices, of course, but they don’t represent any real increased value in a given company. They’re just snakes eating their own tails.

The belief that the world’s “reserve” currency is an implacable force, and that central bankers are omnipotent has made this trade appear to be an irresistible trend — Don’t fight the Fed! Since it’s a matrix of fraud based on thin air money detached from real productive activity, it is certain to blow up. And since 2015 is seven years past the last blowup, it can happen any time. All it requires is some small slippage somewhere, that one equivalent extra grain of sand or snowflake to bring the accumulate mass of false value down in a financial earthquake or avalanche. That obese dollar has been gorging on the equivalent of cheez kurls and Little Debbie Snack cakes, so it only grows more diseased as it gains weight. Sentient observers cannot fail to notice the advancing sickness.

Meanwhile, the US is stupidly waging currency war against other nations that can only blow back by incurring the animosity of every trading partner we have on the only planet available to live on. In 2015, I expect Russia to enlist China’s aid in undermining the dollar’s reserve status. Both countries have weaponry in the form of cash reserves and gold in their vaults. They also have the computer hacking expertise to start seriously messing with US markets — as much Fed technicians and TBTF bank algos do — bringing on mysterious flash crashes, derivatives “accidents,” and other abnormal events that will leave even the Goldman Sachs MIT graduates scratching their heads. Such hacking may accomplish what years of arrant market interventions by US technicians failed to produce: a deadly loss of faith on all the institutions that govern money and markets. Then the US will be the cleanest shirt in a laundry basket that is on fire.

The dollar these days represents two kinds of capital. The first is the stuff that the US has built and invested in since, say, the end of World War Two: a wasteland of aging and decrepitating suburban sprawl, that is, the infrastructure of a living arrangement with no future, the greatest entropic sink in human history. It extends to whole cities and their subsystems, e.g. the hell-hole of Las Vegas with Hoover dam and the dwindling reservoir of Lake Mead. Before mid-century, Las Vegas will be as desolate as Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. Try to imagine the money that went into building all that stupid shit in the desert. In another decade, across America, the housing subdivisions and commercial highway strips filled with tilt-up box stores, muffler shops and burger dispensaries will retain less value than the pyramids of Palenque had for the Mayans after their society rolled over and died. The so-called real economy is a New Age serfdom of burger fryers and janitors, indentured to that entropic sink. Below them is a widening slough of methedrine, child abuse, and tattoo art on its way to becoming Soylent Green. To put it bluntly, the dollar is entropy’s algo bitch.

The second kind of capital the dollar represents is the imaginary value based on sheer lying, making shit up, and borrowing from a future that has no chance of being paid back. This is the capital ginned up on “American exceptionalism” and “energy independence,” fairy tale memes functioning as collateral for the aforementioned malinvestments that add up to “The American way of life.” This capital has no substance, since it is just made up of intellectual and emotional dishonesty. This is the kind of constructed narrative that addicts and other functional cripples resort to to justify their behavior, and the fragility of it will sooner or later lead to the well-known condition of “hitting bottom.” That is the event horizon where the remnants of America enter what I call the World Made By Hand. It will be the greatest socio-economic shift since the fall of Rome, only much swifter.

Oil

AnthonyFredaTinManTTIt really deserves a sub-category of its own because it is the primary resource of our techno-industrial society and its troubles lie behind much of the present disturbances of our times. Despite the triumphal agitprop of the past few years, peak oil is for real. It just manifests more strangely than most people thought, namely, the simpleminded idea that it would only show up as ever-rising prices. No, I made point in The Long Emergency (2005) — and other commentators did too — that peak oil would manifest as volatility. And so since the actual moment of peak conventional crude around 2005, we’ve seen pretty wild oscillations in the price of oil. This is due to the harsh reality that the price people and enterprises can afford to pay for increasingly harder-to-get oil is less than the price that makes it possible to get it. This sets up a yo-yo-ing instability in economic performance that exacerbates even normal wave patterns in the business cycle (which are, in turn, aggravated by banks and governments’ interventions such as ZIRP to suppress those cycles). Below $70-a-barrel the producers go broke; above $70-a-barrel the customers go broke. So the price wobbles up and down as financial Ponzis like shale oil are introduced onto the scene in the hope that debt finagling and mineral rights leasing scams can substitute for physics and geological reality. One trouble with this is that each violent oscillation generates more economic and financial destruction. Activities like motoring, aviation, manufacturing, and retail are badly affected and the entire financial system is made more fragile by worsening increments. Most importantly, the cost structure of the oil industry itself gets battered to a degree that fewer companies can survive to produce the remaining oil.

The big story for 2014 was the crash of oil prices. It is yet being celebrated in other blogger’s 2015 forecasts as a boon to America. Wait until they find out that almost all of the “good jobs” added in recent years were associated with the shale drilling industry that is now being put out of business by low oil prices. Wait until they find out how the failure of junk bond financing thunders through the bond markets and the savage wilderness of derivatives — and ultimately into their ruined pension funds. Wait until they discover that it was but a symptom of the compressive deflationary depression now gripping the entire techno-industrialized world.

Here are my financial forecast particulars for 2015:

  • Early in 2015 the ECB proposes a lame QE program and is laughed out of the room. European markets tank.
  • Greek elections in January produce a government that stands up to the EU and ECB and causes a fatal slippage of faith in the ability of that project to continue.
  • Second half of 2015, the rest of the world gangs up and counter-attacks the US dollar.
  • Bond markets in Europe implode in first half and the contagion spreads to the US as fear and distrust rises about viability of US safe haven status.
  • Derivatives associated with currencies, interest rates, and junk bonds trigger a bloodbath in credit default swaps (CDS) and the appearance of countless black holes through which debt and “wealth” disappear forever.
  • US stock markets continue to bid upward in the first half of 2015, crater in Q3 as faith in paper and pixels erodes. DJA and S & P fall 30 to 40 percent in the initial crash, then further into 2016.
  • Gold and silver slide in the first half, then take off as debt and equity markets craters, faith in abstract instruments evaporates, faith in central bank omnipotence dissolves, and citizens all over the world desperately seek safety from currency war.
  • Goldman Sachs, Citicorp, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, DeutscheBank, SocGen, all succumb to insolvency. American government and Federal Reserve officials don’t dare attempt to rescue them again.
  • By the end of 2015, central banks everywhere stand in general discredit. In the US, the Federal Reserve’s mandate is publically debated and revised back to its original mission as lender of last resort. It is forbidden to engage in further interventions and a new less-secretive mechanism is drawn up for regulating basic interest rates.
  • Oil prices creep back into the $65 – $70 range by May 2015. It is not enough to halt the destruction in the shale, tar sand, and deepwater sectors. As contraction in the failing global economy accelerates, oil sinks back to the $40 range in October…
  • …unless mischief in the Middle East (in particular, the Islamic State messing with Saudi Arabia) leads to gross and perhaps fatally permanent disruption in world oil markets — and then all bets are off for both the continuity of advanced economies and for peace between nations.

Geopolitics

freedon firghter fredaThe signal event of 2015 will be the disintegration of Tom Friedman’s global economy, the trade and banking relations we have known for about a quarter century, especially the frictionless flow of goods and capital between East and West. The tactical blunders of the USA and its Euro-partners drive the so-called emerging markets, led by China’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization, into a skein of work-arounds to undermine and avoid the US dollar trade. They don’t exactly replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency but the workarounds lead to a period of worldwide currency turmoil that can only be resolved by monies being at least partially backed by gold. Both China and Russia will continue to work to convert their dollar reserves into Gold whenever possible. Meanwhile, America and Great Britain’s campaign to discredit and devalue gold will only permit their rivals to acquire more at a cheaper price.

The rest of the world is sick of America’s interventionist shenanigans and its moronic exported culture of burgers, Grand Theft Auto, and twerking Jezebels. They are aided by America’s own obdurate foolishness and poor strategic choices, for instance the blowback from the Ukraine misadventure of 2014. Who in the White House, Pentagon, or State Department thought it was a great idea to undermine the fragile stability of Ukraine? Is there any question that Ukraine was ever not in Russia’s sphere of influence? Or that Russia would allow it to be dragooned into NATO and used as a forward base for American firepower? Dmitry Orlov’s explanation for all this is the most cogent on the web:

What the Anglo-imperialists were paying for in corrupting Ukraine’s politics was a ring-side seat at a fight between Ukraine and Russia. And what they got instead is a two-legged stool at a bar-room brawl between Eastern and Western Ukraine.

Read the whole darn thing; it’s not long.

We succeeded in turning a marginally-bankrupt, marginally-independent nation into a complete basketcase that is going Dark Age as I write — no money, no work, no fuel, no heat, no food, no prospects. Having completely botched the operation, and misplayed the game against Russia’s Putin — and Russia’s legitimate interest in a stable next-door neighbor — the US will now abandon Ukraine. It will be forgotten as surely as the US-sponsored Ukrainian air force’s role in the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 — the incriminating details of which were buried by the Dutch investigating officials. Eventually, the Russians will have to care for the dying Ukraine. They will not be enthusiastic about it. They will do little and do it slowly.

Likewise our economic sanctions campaign against Russia (including the attack on the ruble) is now blowing back on the Eurozone’s export economy. Russia has survived much worse than Western sanctions in recent history. Russia will survive by turning east to Asia. This is already happening and is well publicized. What it means for Europe sooner than later is the loss of their access to imported oil and gas from Russia. Meanwhile, the North Sea fields and the Dutch Groningen gas field are dying. Good luck staying warm, Europe.

The blowback of Europe’s foolish partnership with the US campaign to punish Russia can only discredit the ruling parties and boost new right-wing parties such as France’s National Front and Britain’s UK Independence Party, both deeply nationalistic, anti Euro Union, and anti endless immigration.

The Islamic State was another legacy of blowback from American foreign adventurism. It was spawned out of the remnants of Al Qaeda in poor, broken Iraq and its conquests in 2014 ranged clear across northern Syria to several major cities in Iraq (Faluja, Tikrit, Mosul) right up to the suburbs of Baghdad. They made a lot of money off of captured oil wells and ransoming western hostages, and they shocked Western decency with their YouTube decapitations of hostages that the US and UK refused to ransom. The US’s response now is to bomb their installations and bivouacs. That can only drive them, literally, underground. IS will thrive on Western punishment. It has vast potential to recruit the population of idle, under-employed young men all across North Africa and the Middle East, and beyond to Europe and the band of Islamic society that stretches below Russia across mid-Asia. The catch is, if and when they come to actually rule most of these territories, they will be running economies reduced to Dark Age levels.

As I write, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has just entered the hospital. At 91, he is closer to the end of his story than the middle. Meanwhile, the tanking of crude oil prices has critically impaired an Arabian economy that depends on oil sales for more than 80 percent of its operating revenue. Much of that revenue goes to a national welfare system that pays just about everybody to not work. There will be a lot less money to go around now and a lot of grievance over it. The population of the Arabian Peninsula is so far beyond critical overshoot that the situation can only get ugly, especially since a large part of that excessive population consists of testosterone-jacked young men under 30 with nothing to occupy their hours but chitchat over tea and religious mummery. Consider also that when King Abdullah goes, there is liable to be a deeply destabilizing fight for the throne among the hordes of princes and competing clans — despite whomever Abdullah has named as his successor. You may be sure the Islamic State will be standing by to add fuel to those fires. That, in and of itself, could bring on a fast end of the oil age. Bear in mind, too, that the eastern side of Saudi Arabia, where most of the oil infrastructure is, contains a majority Shi’ite population. In a conflict between Sunni IS and Iran-backed Arabian Shia, a lot of stuff could just get blown up. At the least, itr could badly interrupt 30 percent of the world’s oil supply.

China is obviously struggling to prevent a financial freefall brought on by 20-plus years of extravagant debt creation and a lot mal-investment in the service of a very late entry into the techno-industrial frolic. It can’t be denied that they made a good show of it in a very short time, but they got in at the blow-off stage. Now conditions are changing unfavorably. The global economy that made China the world’s workshop is unwinding in a vortex of currency war, trade friction, territorial dispute, ethnic ill-will, and the disturbances that attend the great background problem of peak cheap oil.

The Chinese will work sedulously to try for a soft landing in the great economic contraction that looms. Chinese banking being non-transparent, overly subject to blundering central control, and deeply corrupt, may not bode well for that project. However, China has many cushions to fall back on short-term in the form of foreign money reserves and stockpiles of raw materials. But sooner or later they have to reckon with their dependence on continued oil imports. That is clearly the basis of China’s current flirtation with Russia — but with Russia arguably past its own oil production peak, that’s not a long-term strategy. China has cranked up the world’s mightiest production line of photovoltaic hardware, but solar won’t replace oil the way things currently run, and whatever they rig up may not last more than one generation if there’s no supporting platform of an oil economy for the manufacture of solar replacement parts.

Japan’s suicidal experiment with hyper-turbo ZIRP and QE is not accomplishing much except exacerbating global currency carry trades and driving down the nation’s standard of living. It may succeed in destroying the Yen and what remains of its economy in 2015. Fukushima remains unresolved and Japan’s energy future looks plain dismal. They have no energy resources of their own whatsoever. Any serious mischief in the Middle East oil fields will finish them off. The nation has been on the fast track to become the first post-industrial neo-medieval society. They could be fortunate to land back there and set up their shop while there are still residual riches in the world to work with. They might also go cuckoo and start a war with China for control over the oil fields of the South China sea. It is hard to see any other outcome from such a conflict other than China kicking Japan’s ass.

Geopolitical forecast particulars for 2015

  • Russia toughs out sanctions imposed by the USA; European partners drop their sanctions as self-evidently counter-productive. Russia threatens to post-pone debt repayments to Western banks. The ruble stabilizes.
  • Russia endures Islamic terrorist attacks and responds very harshly, embarrassing the wimpy West.
  • Baghdad Falls to Islamic State forces. Years of American endeavor are lost just like that. The IS attempts to use Iraqi oil reserves to fund its operations. It has a hard time keeping the infrastructure in repair. The USA refrains from bombing Iraqi oil installations, a decision viewed as weakness by IS.
  • The Islamic State makes inroads across North Africa. Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco are all susceptible.
  • Formerly marginal political parties win big across Europe, forcing nations to rethink wide-open immigration policies. Neo-liberalism sinks into deep Weimar-style discredit. Open ethnic warfare breaks out in France, Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden.
  • European economies continue to sink for the simple reason that the growth era of techno-industrialism is over, along with affordable oil, and no amount of debt production will bring it back. All the machinations of the EU and the ECB are dedicated to overcoming this implacable reality, and thus will only lead to deeper and more intractable problems.
  • Beginning with the late January elections, which Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza party wins, Greece plays hardball with the EU for debt restructuring that amounts really to forgiveness of utterly unpayable €322 billion ($398 billion). If the EU calls Greece’s bluff and kicks them out, a European banking meltdown is almost certain. If Greece stays, then other hopelessly indebted nations of the EU declare they want the same deal. Pretty much a rock and hard place. Impossible to call except to say the situation promises mucho turmoil in 2015. ¡Hay problema!
  • Ebola contagion persists and rips across sub-Saharan Africa. Other nations are forced to pass severe travel restrictions to-and-from Africa.
  • Nigeria descends into bloody political turmoil as its oil industry falls apart in response to low prices. UN intervention accomplishes nothing. In wartime conditions, Ebola gains a foothold in Lagos, one of the world’s most overpopulated slum cities.
  • Pakistan and Afghanistan both continue to melt down into ungovernability. India is forced to take over administration of Pakistan and remove nukes. America continues to pretend that its mission in Afghanistan has some purpose, but it only remains a black hole of military expenditure and becomes a rancorous issue in the run-up to the 2016 Presidential election.

The USA Homefront 2015

shootout dream fredaFor one who has been a close observer of the US socio-political-economic scene since the Kennedy era, the nation has gotten itself into a pretty sorry state. The pervasive racketeering that poisons American life from the money-in-politics farce, to the shameless, chiseling medical-pharma cabal, to the SNAP-card and disability rights empire of grift, to the college loan swindle, to the disgusting security state apparatus, to the corporate tyranny of local life and economies, to the delusional techno-narcissism of the media, to the despotic and puerile gender preoccupations of academia — all of it adds up to a society that cares as little for the present as it does for the future. And that’s aside from the pathetic digital device addiction of the generation coming up, and the sheer sordid behavior of the tattooed, drug-saturated, pornified masses of adults now forever foreclosed from a purposeful existence or a decent standard of living.

Even physically America is a sorry-ass spectacle: between our decrepitating cities, abandoned Main Streets, gruesome strip-mall highways, repellent and monotonous suburbs, dreary industrial ruins, profaned countryside, and desecrated coastline, there is little left to actually love about This land is Your Land. We’ve made so many collective bad choices about how we live that one can’t help feeling we are simply a wicked people who deserve to be punished.

Whole classes already are, of course. What used to be a working class with aspirations has devolved to the forlorn savagery averred to above. Our thought-leaders are devoid of thought. Our hopes and dreams are absurd sci-fi fantasies prompting us toward robot-assisted suicide. Our political stratagems of recent years accomplish nothing except making more trouble for ourselves while inciting the enmity of people elsewhere.

Barack Obama’s signal failure — aside from letting the banks get away with murder and omitting to counter the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision — has been his total evasion of measures that would prepare the nation for the vast changes in social and economic imperative that will attend the transition out of the techno-industrial era when he is out of office. These include supporting local small scale agriculture (rather than giant corporate agri-biz); promoting and supporting the reconstruction of local economic networks (Main Street business); eliminating multitudinous federal regulations that prevent individuals and small enterprises from operating; closing the hundreds of superfluous US military bases around the world; giving federal support to rebuild the US passenger rail system; promoting walkable communities — especially the re-activation of existing small towns and cities — instead of mindless obeisance to the suburban “home-building” industry (and its step-child in the commercial highway strip development racket) — and truly reforming medical care without the connivance of the insurance racketeers.

Obama and his party can be faulted for fostering the myth that every young person needs a college degree — leading a whole generation into debt penury for no good purpose, while depriving society of a long list of vocational roles and livelihoods based on providing genuine service or value. We will be a nation of unemployed gender studies graduates instead of plumbers, electricians, organic farmers, arborists, carpenters, machinists, nurses and paramedics, small business owners, et cetera.

This enormous bundles of myths and misplaced expectations for yesterday’s tomorrow prevents the collective national imagination from summoning a revised American Dream based on repairing the massive destruction of recent decades.

The political mood has not been murkier in my longish lifetime. Both major parties edge toward extinction as the Whigs did in the mid-1850s. The citizenry not sunk in drugs and depravity — that is, people who still read the news in some form and would like to care about their country — deserve a new faction or party that can at least express their discontent with the current situation. They will surely not get this in the generally supposed coming contest between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. I hope they will be so insulted by this dynastic grab that more than one new party will form and make a big stank about it. The Tea Party was a good start in that spirit, but it tripped on its internal contradictions and its association with Dixieland-style religious fundamentalist idiocy and cracker war-mongering.

All that redounds on the current state of the Republican Party, a gang of venal ignoramuses pimping for lost causes. Despite having won the 2014 midterms, and capturing both houses of congress and governorships, they seem increasingly out-of-touch with the realities of economic contraction, peak oil, and climate irregularities. The old magic of stirring up the animals on social issues of abortion, bedroom activities, and allegiance to Jesus fail to move the old base, which is becoming economically quite desperate. That base also becomes conscious of how they have been hornswoggled into voting against their own interests for years in the sense that author Thomas Frank so aptly described in What’s the Matter With Kansas.

Race relations turned very sour in 2014 with more highly publicized killings of young black men in ambiguous circumstances. The chief martyr of the year, Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo., was a poor candidate for sainthood, and did not help advance the credibility of claims that police brutality rather than the misbehavior of young men is behind a lot of strife abroad in the land. One gets the feeling that black race hustlers are in the driver’s seat recklessly pushing African Americans toward open warfare with everybody else. My view of the situation is not popular with Progressives, viz: that black separatism and its offshoots in “diversity” politics and multi-culturalism tragically promote an antagonistic, alienated, oppositional black politics at the expense of a common culture for blacks and whites with common values and common standards of behavior. It has gotten so bad that reasonable people can sadly conclude that the long civil rights project has ended in failure. We are treading on dangerous ground here, with foolishly outmoded ideas about what to expect from each other, and of course all this begs the questions: What now? What next?

Domestic Forecast Particulars for 2015 

  • Markets tanking in Q3 destroy the illusion of “recovery.” It becomes obvious that the story was a lie and the public mood grows much more surly.
  • 2014 proves to be the year of peak shale oil. After the shakeout of 2015 due to low oil prices, production never returns to previous levels. The fairy tales of “energy independence” and “Saudi America” fall apart, deeply demoralizing a gulled public and adding yet another layer of discredit to the people in charge of things.
  • Different kinds of political revolt break out around the country among varied groups, left, right, and center. Some of it revolves around life-and-death struggles for the souls of the floundering major parties. Some of it is organized violence against the government and especially against the US security state apparatus, including overly militarized local police forces.
  • Low-grade racial warfare erupts across the US. Flash mobs, knock-out games, lootings, and hammer attack type outrages generate counter-attacks. By summertime the conflict heats up. Firefights become routine and casualties mount. President Obama proves to be tragically ineffectual in restoring peace.
  • Anti-immigration sentiment in Europe spreads to the US as falling oil prices produce political disorder in Mexico prompting tens of thousands to try to flee north.
  • Bank of America is the first of the Too Big To Fails to enter the event horizon of failure. Obama can’t get congress to go along with a bailout. By Thanksgiving, there is turmoil among the banks as they scramble to cover losses. A public furor over using taxpayer money to cover derivatives losses leads to an unprecedented concerted action by states to attempt “nullification” campaigns.
  • Citibank applies for a bail-in of account holders. Dithering, frightened federal authorities are too slow to respond, permitting a run on deposits.
  • Hillary is loudly booed and hectored at campaign stops as “a tool of Wall Street.” Her coffers overflow with TBTF bank contributions. She bows out of the presidential contest as the public mood toward her sours. But not before she generates a lot of resentful opposition and alienates many Democratic Party voters who are also furious over the eight-years of Obama’s “hope” and “change” hand-jive. Elizabeth Warren is dragooned to replace her — dubbed the “Un-Hillary” — rescuing the party from a near-death experience. She openly feuds with party bosses, who plot against her, and undermine her campaign.
  • Senator Rand Paul agitates to abolish the Federal Reserve. His senate colleagues are shamed into considering legislative reform of the Fed’s mandate. Debate on the issue is the only thing the Republican dominated congress and senate accomplish in 2015. Paul decides to challenge Jeb Bush for the 2016 nomination. This blows the Republican party apart.
  • At Christmas 2015, the DJA sits at 13,500, the S & P is at 1200. Gold is at 1750, silver at 42.

Good luck everybody. Gird your loins and fasten your seat belts.

 

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Russia, China mock divide and rule

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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THE ROVING EYE

Map-New_Silk_Road

Originally published in Asia Times on December 23, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

ROME and BEIJING – The Roman Empire did it. The British Empire copied it in style. The Empire of Chaos has always done it. They all do it. Divide et impera. Divide and rule – or divide and conquer. It’s nasty, brutish and effective. Not forever though, like diamonds, because empires do crumble.

A room with a view to the Pantheon may be a celebration of Venus – but also a glimpse on the works of Mars. I had been in Rome essentially for a symposium – Global WARning – organized by a very committed, talented group led by a former member of European Parliament, Giulietto Chiesa. Three days later, as the run on the rouble was unleashed, Chiesa was arrested and expelled from Estonia as persona non grata, yet another graphic illustration of the anti-Russia hysteria gripping the Baltic nations and the Orwellian grip NATO has on Europe’s weak links. [1] Dissent is simply not allowed.

At the symposium, held in a divinely frescoed former 15th century Dominican refectory now part of the Italian parliament’s library, Sergey Glazyev, on the phone from Moscow, gave a stark reading of Cold War 2.0. There’s no real “government” in Kiev; the US ambassador is in charge. An anti-Russia doctrine has been hatched in Washington to foment war in Europe – and European politicians are its collaborators. Washington wants a war in Europe because it is losing the competition with China.

Glazyev addressed the sanctions dementia: Russia is trying simultaneously to reorganize the politics of the International Monetary Fund, fight capital flight and minimize the effect of banks closing credit lines for many businessmen. Yet the end result of sanctions, he says, is that Europe will be the ultimate losers economically; bureaucracy in Europe has lost economic focus as American geopoliticians have taken over.

Only three days before the run on the rouble, I asked Rosneft’s Mikhail Leontyev (Press-Secretary – Director of the Information and Advertisement Department) about the growing rumors of the Russian government getting ready to apply currency controls. At the time, no one knew an attack on rouble would be so swift, and conceived as a checkmate to destroy the Russian economy. After sublime espressos at the Tazza d’Oro, right by the Pantheon, Leontyev told me that currency controls were indeed a possibility. But not yet.

What he did emphasize was this was outright financial war, helped by a fifth column in the Russian establishment. The only equal component in this asymmetrical war was nuclear forces. And yet Russia would not surrender. Leontyev characterized Europe not as a historical subject but as an object: “The European project is an American project.” And “democracy” had become fiction.

The run on the rouble came and went like a devastating economic hurricane. Yet you don’t threat a checkmate against a skilled chess player unless your firepower is stronger than Jupiter’s lightning bolt. Moscow survived. Gazprom heeded the request of President Vladimir Putin and will sell its US dollar reserves on the domestic market. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier went on the record against the EU further “turning the screw” as in more counterproductive sanctions against Moscow. And at his annual press conference, Putin emphasized how Russia would weather the storm. Yet I was especially intrigued by what he did not say. [2]

As Mars took over, in a frenetic acceleration of history, I retreated to my Pantheon room trying to channel Seneca; from euthymia – interior serenity – to that state of imperturbability the Stoics defined as aponia. Still, it’s hard to cultivate euthymia when Cold War 2.0 rages.

Show me your imperturbable missile
Russia could always deploy an economic “nuclear” option, declaring a moratorium on its foreign debt. Then, if Western banks seized Russian assets, Moscow could seize every Western investment in Russia. In any event, the Pentagon and NATO’s aim of a shooting war in the European theater would not happen; unless Washington was foolish enough to start it.

Still, that remains a serious possibility, with the Empire of Chaos accusing Russia of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) even as it prepares to force Europe in 2015 to accept the deployment of US nuclear cruise missiles.

Russia could outmaneuver Western financial markets by cutting them off from its wealth of oil and natural gas. The markets would inevitably collapse – uncontrolled chaos for the Empire of Chaos (or “controlled chaos”, in Putin’s own words). Imagine the crumbling of the quadrillion-plus of derivatives. It would take years for the “West” to replace Russian oil and natural gas, but the EU’s economy would be instantly devastated.

Just this lightning-bolt Western attack on the rouble – and oil prices – using the crushing power of Wall Street firms had already shaken European banks exposed to Russia to the core; their credit default swaps soared. Imagine those banks collapsing in a Lehman Brothers-style house of cards if Russia decided to default – thus unleashing a chain reaction. Think about a non-nuclear MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) – in fact warless. Still, Russia is self-sufficient in all kinds of energy, mineral wealth and agriculture. Europe isn’t. This could become the lethal result of war by sanctions.

Essentially, the Empire of Chaos is bluffing, using Europe as pawns. The Empire of Chaos is as lousy at chess as it is at history. What it excels in is in upping the ante to force Russia to back down. Russia won’t back down.

Darkness dawns at the break of chaos
Paraphrasing Bob Dylan in When I Paint My Masterpiece, I left Rome and landed in Beijing. Today’s Marco Polos travel Air China; in 10 years, they will be zooming up in reverse, taking high-speed rail from Shanghai to Berlin. [3]

From a room in imperial Rome to a room in a peaceful hutong – a lateral reminiscence of imperial China. In Rome, the barbarians swarm inside the gates, softly pillaging the crumbs of such a rich heritage, and that includes the local Mafia. In Beijing, the barbarians are kept under strict surveillance; of course there’s a Panopticon element to it, essential to assure internal social peace. The leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – ever since the earth-shattering reforms by the Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping – is perfectly conscious that its Mandate of Heaven is directly conditioned by the perfect fine-tuning of nationalism and what we could term “neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics”.

In a different vein of the “soft beds of the East” seducing Marcus Aurelius, the silky splendors of chic Beijing offer a glimpse of an extremely self-assured emerging power. After all, Europe is nothing but a catalogue of multiple sclerosis and Japan is under its sixth recession in 20 years.

To top it off, in 2014 President Xi Jinping has deployed unprecedented diplomatic/geostrategic frenzy – ultimately tied to the long-term project of slowly but surely keeping on erasing US supremacy in Asia and rearranging the global chessboard. What Xi said in Shanghai in May encapsulates the project; “It’s time for Asians to manage the affairs of Asia.” At the APEC meeting in November, he doubled down, promoting an “Asia-Pacific dream”.

Meanwhile, frenzy is the norm. Apart from the two monster, US$725 billion gas deals – Power of Siberia and Altai pipeline – and a recent New Silk Road-related offensive in Eastern Europe, [4] virtually no one in the West remembers that in September Chinese Prime Minister Li Keiqiang signed no fewer than 38 trade deals with the Russians, including a swap deal and a fiscal deal, which imply total economic interplay.

A case can be made that the geopolitical shift towards Russia-China integration is arguably the greatest strategic maneuver of the last 100 years. Xi’s ultimate master plan is unambiguous: a Russia-China-Germany trade/commerce alliance. German business/industry wants it badly, although German politicians still haven’t got the message. Xi – and Putin – are building a new economic reality on the Eurasian ground, crammed with crucial political, economic and strategic ramifications.

Of course, this will be an extremely rocky road. It has not leaked to Western corporate media yet, but independent-minded academics in Europe (yes, they do exist, almost like a secret society) are increasingly alarmed there is no alternative model to the chaotic, entropic hardcore neoliberalism/casino capitalism racket promoted by the Masters of the Universe.

Even if Eurasian integration prevails in the long run, and Wall Street becomes a sort of local stock exchange, the Chinese and the emerging multipolar world still seem to be locked into the existing neoliberal model.

And yet, as much as Lao Tzu, already an octogenarian, gave the young Confucius an intellectual slap on the face, the “West” could do with a wake-up call. Divide et impera? It’s not working. And it’s bound to fail miserably.

As it stands, what we do know is that 2015 will be a hair-raising year in myriad aspects. Because from Europe to Asia, from the ruins of the Roman empire to the re-emerging Middle Kingdom, we all still remain under the sign of a fearful, dangerous, rampantly irrational Empire of Chaos.

Notes:
1. See here.
2. What Putin is not telling us, Russia Today, December 18, 2014.
3. Eurasian Integration vs. the Empire of Chaos, TomDispatch, December 16, 2014.
4. China set to make tracks for Europe, China Daily, December 18, 2014. China’s Li cements new export corridor into Europe, Channel News Asia, December 16, 2014.

Pepe Escobar’s latest book, just out, is Empire of Chaos. Follow him on Facebook.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Go west, young Han

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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THE ROVING EYE

chinarailway

Originally published in Asia Times on December 17, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

November 18, 2014: it’s a day that should live forever in history. On that day, in the city of Yiwu in China’s Zhejiang province, 300 kilometers south of Shanghai, the first train carrying 82 containers of export goods weighing more than 1,000 tons left a massive warehouse complex heading for Madrid. It arrived on December 9.

Welcome to the new trans-Eurasia choo-choo train. At over 13,000 kilometers, it will regularly traverse the longest freight train route in the world, 40% farther than the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway. Its cargo will cross China from East to West, then Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, France, and finally Spain.

You may not have the faintest idea where Yiwu is, but businessmen plying their trades across Eurasia, especially from the Arab world, are already hooked on the city “where amazing happens!” We’re talking about the largest wholesale center for small-sized consumer goods – from clothes to toys – possibly anywhere on Earth.

The Yiwu-Madrid route across Eurasia represents the beginning of a set of game-changing developments. It will be an efficient logistics channel of incredible length. It will represent geopolitics with a human touch, knitting together small traders and huge markets across a vast landmass. It’s already a graphic example of Eurasian integration on the go. And most of all, it’s the first building block on China’s “New Silk Road”, conceivably the project of the new century and undoubtedly the greatest trade story in the world for the next decade.

Go west, young Han. One day, if everything happens according to plan (and according to the dreams of China’s leaders), all this will be yours – via high-speed rail, no less. The trip from China to Europe will be a two-day affair, not the 21 days of the present moment. In fact, as that freight train left Yiwu, the D8602 bullet train was leaving Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, heading for Hami in China’s far west. That’s the first high-speed railway built in Xinjiang, and more like it will be coming soon across China at what is likely to prove dizzying speed.

Today, 90% of the global container trade still travels by ocean, and that’s what Beijing plans to change. Its embryonic, still relatively slow New Silk Road represents its first breakthrough in what is bound to be an overland trans-continental container trade revolution.

And with it will go a basket of future “win-win” deals, including lower transportation costs, the expansion of Chinese construction companies ever further into the Central Asian “stans”, as well as into Europe, an easier and faster way to move uranium and rare metals from Central Asia elsewhere, and the opening of myriad new markets harboring hundreds of millions of people.

So if Washington is intent on “pivoting to Asia,” China has its own plan in mind. Think of it as a pirouette to Europe across Eurasia.

Defecting to the East?
The speed with which all of this is happening is staggering. Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the New Silk Road Economic Belt in Astana, Kazakhstan, in September 2013. One month later, while in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, he announced a 21st-century Maritime Silk Road. Beijing defines the overall concept behind its planning as “one road and one belt”, when what it’s actually thinking about is a boggling maze of prospective roads, rail lines, sea lanes, and belts.

We’re talking about a national strategy that aims to draw on the historical aura of the ancient Silk Road, which bridged and connected civilizations, east and west, while creating the basis for a vast set of interlocked pan-Eurasian economic cooperation zones. Already the Chinese leadership has green-lighted a $40 billion infrastructure fund, overseen by the China Development Bank, to build roads, high-speed rail lines, and energy pipelines in assorted Chinese provinces. The fund will sooner or later expand to cover projects in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Europe. But Central Asia is the key immediate target.

Chinese companies will be investing in, and bidding for contracts in, dozens of countries along those planned silk roads. After three decades of development while sucking up foreign investment at breakneck speed, China’s strategy is now to let its own capital flow to its neighbors. It’s already clinched $30 billion in contracts with Kazakhstan and $15 billion with Uzbekistan. It has provided Turkmenistan with $8 billion in loans and a billion more has gone to Tajikistan.

In 2013, relations with Kyrgyzstan were upgraded to what the Chinese term “strategic level.” China is already the largest trading partner for all of them except Uzbekistan and, though the former Central Asian socialist republics of the Soviet Union are still tied to Russia’s network of energy pipelines, China is at work there, too, creating its own version of Pipelineistan, including a new gas pipeline to Turkmenistan, with more to come.

The competition among Chinese provinces for much of this business and the infrastructure that goes with it will be fierce. Xinjiang is already being reconfigured by Beijing as a key hub in its new Eurasian network. In early November 2014, Guangdong – the “factory of the world” – hosted the first international expo for the country’s Maritime Silk Road and representatives of no less than 42 countries attended the party.

President Xi himself is now enthusiastically selling his home province, Shaanxi, which once harbored the start of the historic Silk Road in Xian, as a twenty-first-century transportation hub. He’s made his New Silk Road pitch for it to, among others, Tajikistan, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, India, and Afghanistan.

Just like the historic Silk Road, the new one has to be thought of in the plural. Imagine it as a future branching maze of roads, rail lines, and pipelines. A key stretch is going to run through Central Asia, Iran, and Turkey, with Istanbul as a crossroads site. Iran and Central Asia are already actively promoting their own connections to it.

Another key stretch will follow the Trans-Siberian Railway with Moscow as a key node. Once that trans-Siberian high-speed rail remix is completed, travel time between Beijing and Moscow will plunge from the current six and a half days to only 33 hours. In the end, Rotterdam, Duisburg, and Berlin could all be nodes on this future “highway” and German business execs are enthusiastic about the prospect.

The Maritime Silk Road will start in Guangdong province en route to the Malacca Strait, the Indian Ocean, the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, ending essentially in Venice, which would be poetic justice indeed. Think of it as Marco Polo in reverse.

All of this is slated to be completed by 2025, providing China with the kind of future “soft power” that it now sorely lacks. When President Xi hails the push to “break the connectivity bottleneck” across Asia, he’s also promising Chinese credit to a wide range of countries.

Now, mix the Silk Road strategy with heightened cooperation among the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), with accelerated cooperation among the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), with a more influential Chinese role over the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) – no wonder there’s the perception across the Global South that, while the US remains embroiled in its endless wars, the world is defecting to the East.

New banks and new dreams
The recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing was certainly a Chinese success story, but the bigger APEC story went virtually unreported in the United States. Twenty-two Asian countries approved the creation of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) only one year after Xi initially proposed it. This is to be yet another bank, like the BRICS Development Bank, that will help finance projects in energy, telecommunications, and transportation. Its initial capital will be $50 billion and China and India will be its main shareholders.

Consider its establishment a Sino-Indian response to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), founded in 1966 under the aegis of the World Bank and considered by most of the world as a stalking horse for the Washington consensus. When China and India insist that the new bank’s loans will be made on the basis of “justice, equity, and transparency”, they mean that to be in stark contrast to the ADB (which remains a US-Japan affair with those two countries contributing 31% of its capital and holding 25% of its voting power) – and a sign of a coming new order in Asia. In addition, at a purely practical level, the ADB won’t finance the real needs of the Asian infrastructure push that the Chinese leadership is dreaming about, which is why the AIIB is going to come in so handy.

Keep in mind that China is already the top trading partner for India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. It’s in second place when it comes to Sri Lanka and Nepal. It’s number one again when it comes to virtually all the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), despite China’s recent well-publicized conflicts over who controls waters rich in energy deposits in the region. We’re talking here about the compelling dream of a convergence of 600 million people in Southeast Asia, 1.3 billion in China, and 1.5 billion on the Indian subcontinent.

Only three APEC members – apart from the US – did not vote to approve the new bank: Japan, South Korea, and Australia, all under immense pressure from the Obama administration. (Indonesia signed on a few days late.) And Australia is finding it increasingly difficult to resist the lure of what, these days, is being called “yuan diplomacy”.

In fact, whatever the overwhelming majority of Asian nations may think about China’s self-described “peaceful rise”, most are already shying away from or turning their backs on a Washington-and-NATO-dominated trade and commercial world and the set of pacts – from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) for Europe to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for Asia – that would go with it.

When dragon embraces bear
Russian President Vladimir Putin had a fabulous APEC. After his country and China clinched a massive $400 billion natural gas deal in May – around the Power of Siberia pipeline, whose construction began this year – they added a second agreement worth $325 billion around the Altai pipeline originating in western Siberia.

These two mega-energy deals don’t mean that Beijing will become Moscow-dependent when it comes to energy, though it’s estimated that they will provide 17% of China’s natural gas needs by 2020. (Gas, however, makes up only 10% per cent of China’s energy mix at present.) But these deals signal where the wind is blowing in the heart of Eurasia. Though Chinese banks can’t replace those affected by Washington and EU sanctions against Russia, they are offering a Moscow battered by recent plummeting oil prices some relief in the form of access to Chinese credit.

On the military front, Russia and China are now committed to large-scale joint military exercises, while Russia’s advanced S-400 air defense missile system will soon enough be heading for Beijing. In addition, for the first time in the post-Cold War era, Putin recently raised the old Soviet-era doctrine of “collective security” in Asia as a possible pillar for a new Sino-Russian strategic partnership.

Chinese President Xi has taken to calling all this the “evergreen tree of Chinese-Russian friendship” – or you could think of it as Putin’s strategic “pivot” to China. In either case, Washington is not exactly thrilled to see Russia and China beginning to mesh their strengths: Russian excellence in aerospace, defense technology, and heavy equipment manufacturing matching Chinese excellence in agriculture, light industry, and information technology.

It’s also been clear for years that, across Eurasia, Russian, not Western, pipelines are likely to prevail. The latest spectacular Pipelineistan opera – Gazprom’s cancellation of the prospective South Stream pipeline that was to bring yet more Russian natural gas to Europe – will, in the end, only guarantee an even greater energy integration of both Turkey and Russia into the new Eurasia.

So long to the unipolar moment
All these interlocked developments suggest a geopolitical tectonic shift in Eurasia that the American media simply hasn’t begun to grasp. Which doesn’t mean that no one notices anything. You can smell the incipient panic in the air in the Washington establishment. The Council on Foreign Relations is already publishing laments about the possibility that the former sole superpower’s exceptionalist moment is “unraveling”. The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission can only blame the Chinese leadership for being “disloyal”, adverse to “reform”, and an enemy of the “liberalization” of their own economy.

The usual suspects carp that upstart China is upsetting the “international order”, will doom “peace and prosperity” in Asia for all eternity, and may be creating a “new kind of Cold War” in the region. From Washington’s perspective, a rising China, of course, remains the major “threat” in Asia, if not the world, even as the Pentagon spends gigantic sums to keep its sprawling global empire of bases intact. Those Washington-based stories about the new China threat in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, however, never mention that China remains encircled by US bases, while lacking a base of its own outside its territory.

Of course, China does face titanic problems, including the pressures being applied by the globe’s “sole superpower”. Among other things, Beijing fears threats to the security of its sea-borne energy supply from abroad, which helps explain its massive investment in helping create a welcoming Eurasian Pipelineistan from Central Asia to Siberia. Fears for its energy future also explain its urge to “escape from Malacca” by reaching for energy supplies in Africa and South America, and its much-discussed offensive to claim energy-rich areas of the East and South China seas, which Beijing is betting could become a “second Persian Gulf”, ultimately yielding 130 billion barrels of oil.

On the internal front, President Xi has outlined in detail his vision of a “results-oriented” path for his country over the next decade. As road maps go, China’s “must-do” list of reforms is nothing short of impressive. And worrying about keeping China’s economy, already the world’s number one by size, rolling along at a feverish pitch, Xi is also turbo-charging the fight against corruption, graft, and waste, especially within the Communist Party itself.

Economic efficiency is another crucial problem. Chinese state-owned enterprises are now investing a staggering $2.3 trillion a year – 43% of the country’s total investment – in infrastructure. Yet studies at Tsinghua University’s School of Management have shown that an array of investments in facilities ranging from steel mills to cement factories have only added to overcapacity and so actually undercut China’s productivity.

Xiaolu Wang and Yixiao Zhou, authors of the academic paper “Deepening Reform for China’s Long-term Growth and Development”, contend that it will be difficult for China to jump from middle-income to high-income status – a key requirement for a truly global power. For this, an avalanche of extra government funds would have to go into areas like social security/unemployment benefits and healthcare, which take up at present 9.8% and 15.1% of the 2014 budget – high for some Western countries but not high enough for China’s needs.

Still, anyone who has closely followed what China has accomplished over these past three decades knows that, whatever its problems, whatever the threats, it won’t fall apart. As a measure of the country’s ambitions for economically reconfiguring the commercial and power maps of the world, China’s leaders are also thinking about how, in the near future, relations with Europe, too, could be reshaped in ways that would be historic.

What about that “harmonious community”?

At the same moment that China is proposing a new Eurasian integration, Washington has opted for an “empire of chaos”, a dysfunctional global system now breeding mayhem and blowback across the Greater Middle East into Africa and even to the peripheries of Europe.

In this context, a “new Cold War” paranoia is on the rise in the US, Europe, and Russia. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who knows a thing or two about Cold Wars (having ended one), couldn’t be more alarmed. Washington’s agenda of “isolating” and arguably crippling Russia is ultimately dangerous, even if in the long run it may also be doomed to failure.

At the moment, whatever its weaknesses, Moscow remains the only power capable of negotiating a global strategic balance with Washington and putting some limits on its empire of chaos. NATO nations still follow meekly in Washington’s wake and China as yet lacks the strategic clout.

Russia, like China, is betting on Eurasian integration. No one, of course, knows how all this will end. Only four years ago, Vladimir Putin was proposing “a harmonious economic community stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok”, involving a trans-Eurasian free trade agreement. Yet today, with the US, NATO, and Russia locked in a Cold War-like battle in the shadows over Ukraine, and with the European Union incapable of disentangling itself from NATO, the most immediate new paradigm seems to be less total integration than war hysteria and fear of future chaos spreading to other parts of Eurasia.

Don’t rule out a change in the dynamics of the situation, however. In the long run, it seems to be in the cards. One day, Germany may lead parts of Europe away from NATO’s “logic”, since German business leaders and industrialists have an eye on their potentially lucrative commercial future in a new Eurasia. Strange as it might seem amid today’s war of words over Ukraine, the endgame could still prove to involve a Berlin-Moscow-Beijing alliance.

At present, the choice between the two available models on the planet seems stark indeed: Eurasian integration or a spreading empire of chaos. China and Russia know what they want, and so, it seems, does Washington. The question is: What will the other moving parts of Eurasia choose to do?

Pepe Escobar‘s latest book is Empire of Chaos (Nimble Books). Follow him on Facebook.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Do the Trans-Siberian shuffle

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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THE ROVING EYE

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Originally published in Asia Times on October 23, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

A specter haunts the elites of the Empire of Chaos; the new Russia-China strategic partnership. It’s manifesting itself in myriad ways – energy deals, investment deals, a closer political alliance inside the G-20, the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a concerted effort to progressively bypass the petrodollar. I have described this long process as essential to the birth of the Eurasian century.

From a Washington/Wall Street point of view, it was so much easier in those long gone, unipolar, “end of history” days. China was still tiptoeing on the banks of the river of capital accumulation, and Russia was down if not out.

So allow me a flashback to the early 1990s. I had been on the road in Asia for months, from all points Southeast Asia to India, Nepal, the Himalayas and the eastern Chinese seaboard. Then I finally hit Beijing – waiting in the bitter winter of early 1992 to take the Trans-Siberian to Moscow. I was barely aware of the collapse of the Soviet Union – not exactly a news item in the Himalayas. I was also fortunate enough to be in southern China just a few days after Deng Xiaoping made his famous tour – whose key consequence was to catapult the dragon to dizzying development heights. A look back to those heady times may have the merit of illuminating our present.

All aboard the night train
It’s 8:32 pm in Beijing Railway Station, and the Trans-Manchurian Train 19 to Moscow is about to depart. It’s minus 9 degrees Celsius. A bunch of Romanian crazies are trying to load more than 20 huge, vaguely green bundles stuffed with Made-in-China gear into one of the carriages. The Russian comptroller spouts out a “Nyet”. Romanian chicks immerse in Transylvanic hysteria. Then a stash of George Washingtons changes hands at the final whistle, just in time for PLA soldiers and lady sweepers sporting the ubiquitous red armband with the words “Serve The People” to impassibly observe the happy ending.

A cacophony of Russians, Poles, Romanians, Czechs and Mongols has deployed dozens of bags, bundles and sacks to totally overload the train corridors. 300 kg of shoes. 500 kg of jackets. 200 kg of T-shirts. Thousands of beauty cream pots that will be all the rage from Bucharest to Cracow. A “bed” on the train is a concavity over one of the bundles. That will be story for six days, across over 9,000 snowy kilometers in the former USSR, now Russia, from East to West.

At the comptroller’s compartment, more bags – whose content will be sold in the streets of Moscow. With so many George Washingtons in sight, the success of her bazaar is guaranteed – what with multiple stops on the way and an unregulated “free” market in every platform. The whole of Eastern Europe is loaded with stuff and dying to make a quick buck.

In the Chinese stretch of the journey, nothing happens, unlike the 1930s, when Japan occupied Manchuria, installed puppet Pu Yi on the throne and was ready to take over Asia. The Terminator action starts in Zabaikalsk, at the Russian-China border – after we cross a huge Arc of Triumph in cement, complete with Leninist motto and not-yet-destroyed hammer and sickle. Customs – on both sides – is absolutely deserted.

The train changes configuration to adapt to the new tracks. Yet all sights are set on the new dining car; exit Chinese, which only offered a miserable pork with soya sauce; enter Russian, crammed with goulash, soup, salami, frozen fish, black caviar, champagne from Crimea, coffee, eggs, even cheese – everything on the black market paid with US dollars.

With the border behind us, it’s go-go bazaar time. Everyone freaks out, because we instantly move from Beijing time to Moscow time. Sunrise is at 1 in the morning. The black market is running at $1 = 110 roubles, the rouble in free fall as we cut through the sublime snowy infinite desert of the Siberian tundra, where each spectacular sunrise under a slight Arctic fog is an epiphany celebrated with more Crimea champagne.

Occasionally we spot reindeers or even huskies. The taiga – coveted by Japan, Korea and the US – is enveloped in snow. Beyond lay the ghosts of the 20 million corpses in Stalin’s gulags, the hunters of the rare Amu tiger (fewer than 200 left) and the sinister Norilsk complex; 2 million tons a year of sulphuric acid and other heavy metals dumped in the atmosphere – the reason for that Arctic fog.

The train stops stretch for 15 and even 20 minutes, reaching a nadir in Novosibirsk and Perm, which previously housed a notorious gulag. At every stop, hordes of Russians in Genghis Khan mode attack the train with little plastic bags. The best deal in the Trans-Siberian is anoraks and leather jackets. Jao, from Beijing, sells 50 in three days, at up to US$50 each; she paid $20 each in the Beijing hutongs. The Russians buy everything in sight and sell roubles – now plunging to 160 to the US dollar – as well as vodka, beer, salami, champagne and local $1 Pepsi bottles.

The whole of Eastern Europe has taken over Train 19. Post-Ceausescu Romanians are the most exuberant – from former boxers to hookers to a seedy gangster in a tracksuit boasting about his two hours with a Russian doll for $10 (the going rate is $20). There’s an Albanian contingent, young Polish students, shirtless Mongol nomads feverishly counting their profits, babushkas bored to death and even a loquacious Chinese dandy.

The Russian carriages, once elegant, are a mess: foul air, dense cigarette smoke, drenched in sweat, toilets crammed with sacks, and “Kapitan”, the only waiter, trying to make a quick buck selling Soviet paraphernalia. I find it the ideal setting to devour almost 1,000 pages of Norman Mailer’s Harlot’s Ghost, a history of the CIA.

Blame it on glasnost
Train 19 is not only a bazaar but also a multinational Agora. Young Russians elaborate how the almost genius perversity of the Soviet system led it to boost to the limit all the problems of modern industrial societies – offering nearly none of its benefits. Eastern Europeans volunteer that it was not the Cold War that finished off “real socialism”; it was the invasion of the capitalist economy combined with the inefficiency and “stupidity” (copyright by a Polish undergraduate) of the socialist economy.

Russians say that glasnost finished off authority and perestroika finished off the economy – and there was nothing to replace either. End result: physics graduates selling caviar tins in a moving train for survival. Everyone praises Gorbachev but essentially condemn him to a short historical footnote. In the train, I heard arguments that would be reproduced years later in countless US academic studies.

All the Trans-Siberian navigators exhibit a solidarity not to be found at the United Nations; they exchange currencies, swap addresses, lend money and the indispensable calculators, help to load and unload the loot, accept bundles in their compartment, offer their places for half an hour for those who only have the corridor to sleep, and crack jokes about the small Bank of China yuan bills. They are all ardent defenders of this unheard of form of direct democracy that is synonym with the end of the Cold War.

Amid the casino lurks the most improbable character: Lulu, a diminutive Bangladeshi, always attached to a Samsonite, dabbling in Allah-only-knows mysterious activities, passport filled with dodgy visas, Saudi Arabian included. Chinese and Russians treat him like an allergic Pekingese. Train chow is predictably unbearable for this strict Muslim, who wakes us all up everyday at 5 am with his prayers – Rashid Muhammad spends six days literally on bread and water.

Skolka? That’s the Trans-Manchurian bazaar motto, a preview of Moscow. Pink Floyd launched the legendary Dark Side of the Moon at the height of the Brejnev era; Moscow suburbs look like the ghostly, dark side of the moon. Stalin’s lunatic legacy is alleviated only by a solitary kiosk selling flowers, fruit or sweet Georgia brandy.

We arrive as zombies – and only a few hours late – at Yaroslavlsky Vakzal, one of nine Moscow train stations, where a deluge of Volga taxis fight for the precious Chinese cargo. Those moving on to Eastern Europe without a reservation are doomed: seats for Warsaw and Berlin are only available in 40 days.

In Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing, I had witnessed the spectacular success of post-Tiananmen Chinese “market socialism”, where the economy was the locomotive and politics was dispatched to the bottom end of the train. Nothing more astonishing than the contrast with Moscow, where politics was the locomotive.

I’m housed by Dmitri, an odontology student, three metro stops from the Kremlin, paying $6 a day, a small fortune; he and his girlfriend precariously subdivide the two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with a whole family, dog included, besides the occasional Western visitors, who sleep in the master bedroom. This is considered an upper middle-class lifestyle.

At the beautiful metro stations, it’s the return of the Trans-Siberian bazaar; on sale are political or porno samizdats, second-hand clothes, bottles of every possible liquid. Only when I reach Red Square do I see the light; at the Himalayas and China, my time-zone was still on Gorbachev. What’s now at the top of the Kremlin is a Russian flag – as well as in the center of Dzerzhinsky square, in front of the KGB. As a perfect idiot, I aim for the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the former head of the Soviet secret police, only to be warned by a student that it had been torn down weeks ago. Gorbachev is now a vodka brand. And I can’t get inside the KGB building.

The whole city is converted into a giant Turkish bazaar. After Boris Yeltsin liberated the sidewalks, everyone wants to exercise this privatizatsiya thing. Until 1990, nobody knew what a checkbook or a credit card was, and $1 was equivalent to 1 rouble. There are absolutely astonishing street markets on Prospekt Marka and Gorki street, everyone silently in line exhibiting their wares; a broken doll, a solitary shoe, dusty champagne bottles, perfume, instant coffee, sardine tins, an empty beer bottle.

The streets are filled with all the stuff brought by the Trans-Siberian navigators, but the supermarkets are empty. There’s very little milk or meat, but lots of canned fish and interminable lines to buy nothing – with potential consumers resigned to play chess.

The biggest hit in town is the new McDonald’s on Pushkin square – one of the busiest in the world, selling full meals for 50 cents by cashiers sporting an Eva Herzigova smile. In front of the MacD, a paper Gorbie poses for tourists, and a crowd sells caviar tins for $5 and champagne for $3. At the GUM department store, there is not much except a few Sony and Honda showrooms and a new Dior window.

The recent past does not let go; it’s impossible to call Europe. It’s impossible to send a fax from the Post Office. It’s impossible to make a train reservation. It’s impossible to make a plane reservation – at least on the Aeroflot shop in Lubyanka; only at the cavernous Intourist Hotel.

At the lugubrious ground floor of the Mockba Hotel, deaf and dumb characters straight out of an Ionesco play crowd the corridors while a beer black-market does brisk business in front of the hotel bar. A glass of champagne goes for 50 cents. At the hall of the legendary Metropol – the 1899 Grand Dame favored by Trotsky – a dry martini is a steep $7,70. The Metropol is the new Wall Street; Danes, Italians, Americans and Chinese discuss all deals this side of a Brave New World downing Heinekens at $5 a pop.

On Armed Forces Day, a Sunday, there’s a communist demonstration, repressed with tact, boasting large numbers of old ladies carrying flowers and flags. For their part, Moscow punks with anarchist flags protest against the Armed Forces. A pre-historic Volga takes me to Sheremetyevo as if I was running from a 1950s Cold War B-movie set. The Volga gurgles, stops, cools off, runs, gurgles, stops again, cools off; a metaphor of the new Russia, and I almost miss Aeroflot SU 576 back to Paris.

Nothing will ever be the (unipolar) same
Those were the days. That McDonald’s – symbol of unipolar, “end of history”, Pax Americana – has been recently shut down. It’s harder and harder for the Empire of Chaos to rule the world alone while McDonald’s serves burgers. Across Pushkin square, the fashionable Cafe Pouchkine now serves the best of Russian haute cuisine.

And still, both Russia and China are seen as pariahs by the unipolar, imperial elite. It’s as if we were still frozen in those early 1990s days. Russia and China may have changed almost beyond recognition – but for the Empire of Chaos the priorities are to tear Russia apart, starting with Ukraine, and “pivot to Asia” via an anti-China military/economic axis in the Western Pacific.

Meanwhile, the Trans-Siberian will soon be linked with the Chinese-driven New Silk Roads. And then one day in the early 2020s this will all be a high-speed rail network, linking Eurasia in a flash. And nothing will ever be the (unipolar) same. Except for the back-to-Russia Crimean champagne.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Can China and Russia Squeeze Washington Out of Eurasia?

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The Future of a Beijing-Moscow-Berlin Alliance

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Published in Tom Dispatch on October 5, 2014

 

A specter haunts the fast-aging “New American Century”: the possibility of a future Beijing-Moscow-Berlin strategic trade and commercial alliance. Let’s call it the BMB.

Its likelihood is being seriously discussed at the highest levels in Beijing and Moscow, and viewed with interest in Berlin, New Delhi, and Tehran. But don’t mention it inside Washington’s Beltway or at NATO headquarters in Brussels. There, the star of the show today and tomorrow is the new Osama bin Laden: Caliph Ibrahim, aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the elusive, self-appointed beheading prophet of a new mini-state and movement that has provided an acronym feast — ISIS/ISIL/IS — for hysterics in Washington and elsewhere.

No matter how often Washington remixes its Global War on Terror, however, the tectonic plates of Eurasian geopolitics continue to shift, and they’re not going to stop just because American elites refuse to accept that their historically brief “unipolar moment” is on the wane. For them, the closing of the era of “full spectrum dominance,” as the Pentagon likes to call it, is inconceivable. After all, the necessity for the indispensable nation to control all space — military, economic, cultural, cyber, and outer — is little short of a religious doctrine. Exceptionalist missionaries don’t do equality. At best, they do “coalitions of the willing” like the one crammed with “over 40 countries” assembled to fight ISIS/ISIL/IS and either applauding (and plotting) from the sidelines or sending the odd plane or two toward Iraq or Syria.

NATO, which unlike some of its members won’t officially fight Jihadistan, remains a top-down outfit controlled by Washington. It’s never fully bothered to take in the European Union (EU) or considered allowing Russia to “feel” European. As for the Caliph, he’s just a minor diversion. A postmodern cynic might even contend that he was an emissary sent onto the global playing field by China and Russia to take the eye of the planet’s hyperpower off the ball.

Divide and Isolate

So how does full spectrum dominance apply when two actual competitor powers, Russia and China, begin to make their presences felt? Washington’s approach to each — in Ukraine and in Asian waters — might be thought of as divide and isolate.

In order to keep the Pacific Ocean as a classic “American lake,” the Obama administration has been “pivoting” back to Asia for several years now. This has involved only modest military moves, but an immodest attempt to pit Chinese nationalism against the Japanese variety, while strengthening alliances and relations across Southeast Asia with a focus on South China Sea energy disputes. At the same time, it has moved to lock a future trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), in place.

In Russia’s western borderlands, the Obama administration has stoked the embers of regime change in Kiev into flames (fanned by local cheerleaders Poland and the Baltic nations) and into what clearly looked, to Vladimir Putin and Russia’s leadership, like an existential threat to Moscow. Unlike the U.S., whose sphere of influence (and military bases) are global, Russia was not to retain any significant influence in its former near abroad, which, when it comes to Kiev, is not for most Russians, “abroad” at all.

For Moscow, it seemed as if Washington and its NATO allies were increasingly interested in imposing a new Iron Curtain on their country from the Baltic to the Black Sea, with Ukraine simply as the tip of the spear. In BMB terms, think of it as an attempt to isolate Russia and impose a new barrier to relations with Germany. The ultimate aim would be to split Eurasia, preventing future moves toward trade and commercial integration via a process not controlled through Washington.

From Beijing’s point of view, the Ukraine crisis was a case of Washington crossing every imaginable red line to harass and isolate Russia. To its leaders, this looks like a concerted attempt to destabilize the region in ways favorable to American interests, supported by a full range of Washington’s elite from neocons and Cold War “liberals” to humanitarian interventionists in the Susan Rice and Samantha Power mold. Of course, if you’ve been following the Ukraine crisis from Washington, such perspectives seem as alien as any those of any Martian. But the world looks different from the heart of Eurasia than it does from Washington — especially from a rising China with its newly minted “Chinese dream” (Zhongguo meng).

As laid out by President Xi Jinping, that dream would include a future network of Chinese-organized new Silk Roads that would create the equivalent of a Trans-Asian Express for Eurasian commerce. So if Beijing, for instance, feels pressure from Washington and Tokyo on the naval front, part of its response is a two-pronged, trade-based advance across the Eurasian landmass, one prong via Siberia and the other through the Central Asian “stans.”

In this sense, though you wouldn’t know it if you only followed the American media or “debates” in Washington, we’re potentially entering a new world. Once upon a time not so long ago, Beijing’s leadership was flirting with the idea of rewriting the geopolitical/economic game side by side with the U.S., while Putin’s Moscow hinted at the possibility of someday joining NATO. No longer. Today, the part of the West that both countries are interested in is a possible future Germany no longer dominated by American power and Washington’s wishes.

Moscow has, in fact, been involved in no less than half a century of strategic dialogue with Berlin that has included industrial cooperation and increasing energy interdependence. In many quarters of the Global South this has been noted and Germany is starting to be viewed as “the sixth BRICS” power (after Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

In the midst of global crises ranging from Syria to Ukraine, Berlin’s geostrategic interests seem to be slowly diverging from Washington’s. German industrialists, in particular, appear eager to pursue unlimited commercial deals with Russia and China. These might set their country on a path to global power unlimited by the EU’s borders and, in the long term, signal the end of the era in which Germany, however politely dealt with, was essentially an American satellite.

It will be a long and winding road. The Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, is still addicted to a strong Atlanticist agenda and a preemptive obedience to Washington. There are still tens of thousands of American soldiers on German soil. Yet, for the first time, German chancellor Angela Merkel has been hesitating when it comes to imposing ever-heavier sanctions on Russia over the situation in Ukraine, because no fewer than 300,000 German jobs depend on relations with that country. Industrial leaders and the financial establishment have already sounded the alarm, fearing such sanctions would be totally counterproductive.

China’s Silk Road Banquet

China’s new geopolitical power play in Eurasia has few parallels in modern history. The days when the “Little Helmsman” Deng Xiaoping insisted that the country “keep a low profile” on the global stage are long gone. Of course, there are disagreements and conflicting strategies when it comes to managing the country’s hot spots: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, the South China Sea, competitors India and Japan, and problematic allies like North Korea and Pakistan. And popular unrest in some Beijing-dominated “peripheries” is growing to incendiary levels.

The country’s number one priority remains domestic and focused on carrying out President Xi’s economic reforms, while increasing “transparency” and fighting corruption within the ruling Communist Party. A distant second is the question of how to progressively hedge against the Pentagon’s “pivot” plans in the region — via the build-up of a blue-water navy, nuclear submarines, and a technologically advanced air force — without getting so assertive as to freak out Washington’s “China threat”-minded establishment.

Meanwhile, with the U.S. Navy controlling global sea lanes for the foreseeable future, planning for those new Silk Roads across Eurasia is proceeding apace. The end result should prove a triumph of integrated infrastructure — roads, high-speed rail, pipelines, ports — that will connect China to Western Europe and the Mediterranean Sea, the old Roman imperial Mare Nostrum, in every imaginable way.

In a reverse Marco Polo-style journey, remixed for the Google world, one key Silk Road branch will go from the former imperial capital Xian to Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, then through Central Asia, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey’s Anatolia, ending in Venice. Another will be a maritime Silk Road starting from Fujian province and going through the Malacca strait, the Indian Ocean, Nairobi in Kenya, and finally all the way to the Mediterranean via the Suez canal. Taken together, it’s what Beijing refers to as the Silk Road Economic Belt.

China’s strategy is to create a network of interconnections among no less than five key regions: Russia (the key bridge between Asia and Europe), the Central Asian “stans,” Southwest Asia (with major roles for Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey), the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe (including Belarus, Moldova, and depending upon its stability, Ukraine). And don’t forget Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, which could be thought of as Silk Road plus.

Silk Road plus would involve connecting the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor to the China-Pakistan economic corridor, and could offer Beijing privileged access to the Indian Ocean. Once again, a total package — roads, high-speed rail, pipelines, and fiber optic networks — would link the region to China.

Xi himself put the India-China connection in a neat package of images in an op-ed he published in the Hindu prior to his recent visit to New Delhi. “The combination of the ‘world’s factory’ and the ‘world’s back office,’” he wrote, “will produce the most competitive production base and the most attractive consumer market.”

The central node of China’s elaborate planning for the Eurasian future is Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Province and the site of the largest commercial fair in Central Asia, the China-Eurasia Fair. Since 2000, one of Beijing’s top priorities has been to urbanize that largely desert but oil-rich province and industrialize it, whatever it takes. And what it takes, as Beijing sees it, is the hardcore Sinicization of the region — with its corollary, the suppression of any possibility of ethnic Uighur dissent. People’s Liberation Army General Li Yazhou has, in these terms, described Central Asia as “the most subtle slice of cake donated by the sky to modern China.”

Most of China’s vision of a new Eurasia tied to Beijing by every form of transport and communication was vividly detailed in “Marching Westwards: The Rebalancing of China’s Geostrategy,” a landmark 2012 essay published by scholar Wang Jisi of the Center of International and Strategic Studies at Beijing University. As a response to such a future set of Eurasian connections, the best the Obama administration has come up with is a version of naval containment from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea, while sharpening conflicts with and strategic alliances around China from Japan to India. (NATO is, of course, left with the task of containing Russia in Eastern Europe.)

An Iron Curtain vs. Silk Roads

The $400 billion “gas deal of the century,” signed by Putin and the Chinese president last May, laid the groundwork for the building of the Power of Siberia pipeline, already under construction in Yakutsk. It will bring a flood of Russian natural gas onto the Chinese market. It clearly represents just the beginning of a turbocharged, energy-based strategic alliance between the two countries. Meanwhile, German businessmen and industrialists have been noting another emerging reality: as much as the final market for made-in-China products traveling on future new Silk Roads will be Europe, the reverse also applies. In one possible commercial future, China is slated to become Germany’s top trading partner by 2018, surging ahead of both the U.S. and France.

A potential barrier to such developments, welcomed in Washington, is Cold War 2.0, which is already tearing not NATO, but the EU apart. In the EU of this moment, the anti-Russian camp includes Great Britain, Sweden, Poland, Romania, and the Baltic nations. Italy and Hungary, on the other hand, can be counted in the pro-Russian camp, while a still unpredictable Germany is the key to whether the future will hold a new Iron Curtain or “Go East” mindset. For this, Ukraine remains the key. If it is successfully Finlandized (with significant autonomy for its regions), as Moscow has been proposing — a suggestion that is anathema to Washington — the Go-East path will remain open. If not, a BMB future will be a dicier proposition.

It should be noted that another vision of the Eurasian economic future is also on the horizon. Washington is attempting to impose a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on Europe and a similar Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Asia. Both favor globalizing American corporations and their aim is visibly to impede the ascent of the BRICS economies and the rise of other emerging markets, while solidifying American global economic hegemony.

Two stark facts, carefully noted in Moscow, Beijing, and Berlin, suggest the hardcore geopolitics behind these two “commercial” pacts. The TPP excludes China and the TTIP excludes Russia. They represent, that is, the barely disguised sinews of a future trade/monetary war. On my own recent travels, I have had quality agricultural producers in Spain, Italy, and France repeatedly tell me that TTIP is nothing but an economic version of NATO, the military alliance that China’s Xi Jinping calls, perhaps wishfully, an “obsolete structure.”

There is significant resistance to the TTIP among many EU nations (especially in the Club Med countries of southern Europe), as there is against the TPP among Asian nations (especially Japan and Malaysia). It is this that gives the Chinese and the Russians hope for their new Silk Roads and a new style of trade across the Eurasian heartland backed by a Russian-supported Eurasian Union. To this, key figures in German business and industrial circles, for whom relations with Russia remain essential, are paying close attention.

After all, Berlin has not shown overwhelming concern for the rest of the crisis-ridden EU (three recessions in five years). Via a much-despised troika — the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission — Berlin is, for all practical purposes, already at the helm of Europe, thriving, and looking east for more.

Three months ago, German chancellor Angela Merkel visited Beijing. Hardly featured in the news was the political acceleration of a potentially groundbreaking project: an uninterrupted high-speed rail connection between Beijing and Berlin. When finally built, it will prove a transportation and trade magnet for dozens of nations along its route from Asia to Europe. Passing through Moscow, it could become the ultimate Silk Road integrator for Europe and perhaps the ultimate nightmare for Washington.

“Losing” Russia

In a blaze of media attention, the recent NATO summit in Wales yielded only a modest “rapid reaction force” for deployment in any future Ukraine-like situations. Meanwhile, the expanding Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a possible Asian counterpart to NATO, met in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. In Washington and Western Europe essentially no one noticed. They should have. There, China, Russia, and four Central Asian “stans” agreed to add an impressive set of new members: India, Pakistan, and Iran. The implications could be far-reaching. After all, India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now on the brink of its own version of Silk Road mania. Behind it lies the possibility of a “Chindia” economic rapprochement, which could change the Eurasian geopolitical map. At the same time, Iran is also being woven into the “Chindia” fold.

So the SCO is slowly but surely shaping up as the most important international organization in Asia. It’s already clear that one of its key long-term objectives will be to stop trading in U.S. dollars, while advancing the use of the petroyuan and petroruble in the energy trade. The U.S., of course, will never be welcomed into the organization.

All of this lies in the future, however. In the present, the Kremlin keeps signaling that it once again wants to start talking with Washington, while Beijing has never wanted to stop. Yet the Obama administration remains myopically embedded in its own version of a zero-sum game, relying on its technological and military might to maintain an advantageous position in Eurasia. Beijing, however, has access to markets and loads of cash, while Moscow has loads of energy. Triangular cooperation between Washington, Beijing, and Moscow would undoubtedly be — as the Chinese would say — a win-win-win game, but don’t hold your breath.

Instead, expect China and Russia to deepen their strategic partnership, while pulling in other Eurasian regional powers. Beijing has bet the farm that the U.S./NATO confrontation with Russia over Ukraine will leave Vladimir Putin turning east. At the same time, Moscow is carefully calibrating what its ongoing reorientation toward such an economic powerhouse will mean. Someday, it’s possible that voices of sanity in Washington will be wondering aloud how the U.S. “lost” Russia to China.

In the meantime, think of China as a magnet for a new world order in a future Eurasian century. The same integration process Russia is facing, for instance, seems increasingly to apply to India and other Eurasian nations, and possibly sooner or later to a neutral Germany as well. In the endgame of such a process, the U.S. might find itself progressively squeezed out of Eurasia, with the BMB emerging as a game-changer. Place your bets soon. They’ll be called in by 2025.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

NATO Attacks!!

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THE ROVING EYE

Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen walks past a guard of honour at the Czech government HQ

Originally published in Asia Times on September 3, 2014
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First thing we do, let’s kill all the myths. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is nothing but the Security Council of the Empire of Chaos. 

You don’t need to be a neo-Foucault hooked on Orwellian/Panopticon practices to admire the hyper-democratic“ring of steel” crossing average roads, parks and even ringing castle walls to “protect” dozens of NATO heads of state and ministers, 10,000 supporting characters and 2,000 journalists from the real world in Newport, Wales – and beyond. 

NATO’s summit in Wales also provides outgoing secretary-general Anders “Fogh of War” Rasmussen the chance to display his full attack dog repertoire. It’s as if he’s auditioning for a starring role in a remake of Tim Burton’s epic Mars Attacks! 

Fogh of War is all over the place, talking “pre-positioning of supplies, equipment” – euphemism for weapons; boosting bases and headquarters in host countries; and touting a 10,000-strong, rapid reaction “spearhead” force to respond to Russian “aggression” and deployable in a maximum of five days. 

Meanwhile, in a bad cop-bad cop routine, outgoing president of the European Commission, outstanding mediocrity Jose Manuel Barroso, leaked that Russian President Vladimir Putin told him over the phone later last week he could take Kiev in a fortnight if he wanted. 

Well, Putin could. If he wanted. But he doesn’t want it. What matters is what he told Rossiya state TV; that Kiev should promote inclusive talks about the future statute of Eastern Ukraine. Once again, the Western spin was that he was advocating the birth of a Novorossiya state. Here, The Saker analyzes in detail the implications of what Russia really wants, and what the Novorossiya forces really want. 

With Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite predictably spinning that Russia is “at war with Europe”, and British Prime Minister David Cameron evoking – what else – Munich 1938 (Chamberlain appeasing Hitler), Fogh of War has had all the ammo he needs to sell his Einsatzgruppen. Cynics are excused to believe NATO’s spearhead force is actually The Caliph’s IS goons raising hell in “Syraq”. 

Warmongering, though, is not an easy sell in a crisis-hit EU these days. Not only Germany, but also France, Italy, Spain, Romania, Hungary and even Poland have expressed “reluctance” one way or another to back NATO’s strategy of a more “robust” presence in Eastern Europe and the Baltic. Moreover, the Empire of Chaos and its Brit junior partner in the “special relationship” want everyone to shell out more cash (a minimum of 2% of GDP). Even as the EU is facing no less than its third recession in five years. 

The bottom line is there will be no more rotation on NATO’s Eastern front. Legally, the set up cannot be defined as “permanent”, because it will go against a 1997 NATO-Russia pact. But it will be permanent. That applies to Szczecin, in Poland, near the Baltic, and the so-called multinational Corps Northeast – land, air and sea. Estonia and Latvia for all practical purposes are being touted as “Putin’s next targets”. And defending them from “Russian aggression” is NATO’s new red line. 

Additionally, Finland and Sweden may sign NATO Host Nation agreements. This implies NATO forces may use Swedish and Finnish territory in the future on the way to what’s hazily referred to as “operations”. At least deployment of foreign troops still needs parliamentary approval – and Swedes and Finns are bound to raise eyebrows. 

No R2P for you, buddy 
Even with all this Mars Attacks! hysteria, NATO in thesis won’t discuss Ukraine in depth in Wales – or an imminent R2P (“responsibility to protect”) Ukraine from the remixed “Evil Empire” (copyright Ronnie Reagan). But there will be “military consultations” and a bit of cash shelled out to the Kiev military – who are having their (bankrupt) collective behind solemnly kicked by the federalist/separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine as much as NATO had theirs kicked by a bunch of Pashtuns with Kalashnikovs in Afghanistan. 

By the way, the latest US$1.4 billion the International Monetary Fund shelled out to Ukraine – the Mobster-style interest will hit much later – will be used by an already bankrupt Kiev mostly to pay for a bunch of T-72 tanks it bought from Hungary. Money for nothing, tanks for free. 

Ukraine, it must be stressed, is not a NATO member. Technically, every NATO bureaucrat in Brussels admits that a candidate country must request membership. And countries with regions mired in an international dispute are not accepted. So Ukraine would only be considered if Kiev gave up Crimea. It’s not going to happen. 

Still, Washington’s obsessive play to annex Ukraine to NATO will keep marching on (in the matter of accession, by the way, the European Union would issue a firm “no”). Outgoing Prime Minister Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk as well as President Poroshenko, are desperate for a NATO intervention, or at least Ukraine being accepted as some form of privileged ally. Yats expects “monumental decisions from our Western partners at the summit”. In vain. 

NATO somehow is already in Ukraine. A NATO cyber center group has been in Kiev since March, operating in the building of the Council of National Security and Defense. So it is a bunch of NATO bureaucrats who actually determine the news agenda in Ukraine – and the non-stop demonization of all things Russia. 

Ukraine is all about Germany now. Berlin wants a political solution. Fast. Berlin wants Russian gas flowing via Ukraine again. Fast. Berlin does not want US missile defense in Eastern Europe – no matter what the Baltic states scream. That’s why Poroshenko’s latest “Invasion! Invasion! Invasion!” craze is nothing but pure desperation by a lowly, bankrupt vassal of the Empire of Chaos. Of course that does not prevent Fogh of War – who got the NATO job because he was an enthusiastic cheerleader of the rape of Iraq – to keep crying “Invasion!” till all Danish retrievers come home. 

Real deal
And then there’s NATO’s recent record. An ignominious defeat in Afghanistan. A “humanitarian” bombing that reduced once-stable Libya to a miserable failed state immersed in total anarchy and ravaged by rabid militias. Not exactly fabulous PR for NATO’s future as a coalition assembly line with global “vocation”, capable of pulling off expeditionary wars all around the world by creating the appearance of a military and political consensus unified by – what else – an Empire of Chaos doctrine: NATO’s “strategic concept” approved at the 2010 Lisbon summit. (See US a kid in a NATO candy store, Asia Times Online, November 25, 2010.) 

Since those go-go “Bubba” Clinton years; through the “pre-emptive” Dubya era; and now under the R2P dementia of Obama’s warring Medusas (Rice, Power, Hillary), the Pentagon dreams of NATO as global Robocop, dominating all the roles embodied by the UN and the EU in terms of security. This has absolutely nothing to do with the original collective defense of NATO signatories against possible territorial attacks. Oh, sorry; we forgot the attacks by those (non-existent) nuclear missiles deployed by evil Iran. 

The Ukraine battleground at least has the merit of showing the alliance is naked. For the Full Spectrum Dominance Pentagon, what really matters above all is something that’s been actually happening since the fall of the Soviet Union; unlimited NATO expansion to the westernmost borders of Russia. 

The real deal this September is not NATO. It’s the SCO’s summit. Expect the proverbial tectonic shifts of geopolitical plaques in the upcoming meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – a shift as far-reaching as when the Ottoman empire failed at the gates of Vienna in 1683. On the initiative of Russia and China, at the SCO summit, India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia will be invited to become permanent members. Once again, the battle lines are drawn. NATO vs SCO. NATO vs BRICS. NATO vs Global South. Therefore, NATO attacks! 

 

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

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