[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/21/21 6:59am
The telephone conversation that took place on 9th September between the presidents of the People’s Republic of China and the USA, initiated by the latter, is well worth commenting on. Notably, this was only the second interaction between the leaders of the world’s two leading powers in over six months. During the first of these calls, carried out on 10th February, Xi Jinping congratulated Joe Biden (narrowly avoiding being the last head of state to do so) upon assuming the office of president of the United States. The very fact that such interactions are exceptional constitutes evidence of continuing political tensions in Sino-American relations, although remarks from the first conversation, and Biden’s rhetoric on the campaign trail in general when questions concerning his future policy towards China were raised, bore a cautious optimism. However, instead of reducing the level of confrontation with China, some of Washington’s long-held claims against Beijing have only become more acute. This especially concerns issues of “human rights violations” in China’s borderlands (primarily in the Xinjiang Uygur and Tibetan Autonomous Regions) and Hong Kong. The degree of tension around the Taiwain problem has only increased. Nonetheless, there have recently been attempts to, if nothing else, slow the pace of deterioration of Sino-American relations that already present a rather gloomy picture. As concerns the USA, the driving force behind these positive trends is mainly American business, and also, apparently, some groups (fighting between themselves) of the American political establishment. It is not impossible that the latter actually performs the representative functions of the former in US government structures. It is due to the efforts of both sides that the long bilateral negotiations on launching a process to correct (hugely significant) “distortions” in bilateral trade concluded successfully in January 2020 with the signature of the so-called “Phase One agreement”. The ratification of this document still remains almost the only positive in an otherwise bleak (to put it mildly) picture of Sino-American relations. However, the process of the practical implementation of this agreement, occasionally reported on in NEO, runs into obvious obstruction within the American establishment. The next signals from Washington (mainly from the Ministry of Commerce), about the desire both to implement all the points of the agreement and to supplement it with documents on the following phases,” warrant all the more attention. The positive reaction to the aforementioned telephone call from representatives of American companies whose businesses significantly target the Chinese market seemed entirely natural. Among them are such giants as Boeing, Intel, and Coca-Cola. In turn, the Ministry of Commerce of the PRC has shown a mutual readiness to develop relations. In particular, based on the results of the first seven months of this year, it points to obvious signs of recovery and further development of bilateral trade after their dramatic decline in the last “Covid” year. It is particularly striking that there is a noticeable excess in the rate of growth of imports from the USA over exports to this country. This served as the basis for setting the objectives of the Phase One agreement. There are signs of the strengthening of the aforementioned political group in the American establishment, which, again, stands (at the very least) for halting the deterioration of US relations with their main geopolitical opponents (i.e., with the PRC and the Russian Federation). In Beijing, after ten months of “reflection,” they generally reacted positively to the appointment of a new US ambassador. And this was not “just anybody,” but such a prominent figure in American politics as Nicholas Burns. It can be assumed that one of the emissaries of the designated group on the international stage is the former Secretary of State John Kerry. Currently, the title of his official position is “United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate”. The author is not well informed on the problems of climate change, but it is concerning that it is taking on an increased importance in close connection to the “restructuring” of the world economy and, possibly, playing an instrumental role in relation to it. Furthermore, the source of the problem itself is apparently the same place from which an increased concern about “ecology,” gender equality, the rights of dogs, young children, coloured people, as well as people with dozens of sexual deviations, originates. But it is what it is, and why not make the most of some aspects of another collective insanity? For example, working on the fringes of well-funded “climate” events in order to reduce the level of tension in relations between the leading world powers. John Kerry is hardly an authority amongst professional climate scientists, but the position allows him (under a pretext that is perfectly plausible and “neutral”) to hold meetings with representatives of countries with which the USA has seemingly difficult relations today. First and foremost, these, again, include Russia and China. In light of this, you will recall the (ostensibly random) meeting held in Delhi between Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the beginning of April. Both appeared to be “en route” to their next trips abroad. It can be assumed, in particular, that the idea and main content of the subsequent meeting in Geneva two months later between the presidents of the Russian Federation and the USA had already been discussed during this “chance” meeting between Kerry and Lavrov. The author will not be surprised, if it transpires that a meaningful consequence of the arrival of Kerry, the “climate scientist,” in Moscow at the start of July turned out to be the implementation of one of the main practical results of the aforementioned meeting of the presidents on launching negotiations to ensure strategic stability. The US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, held such talks with her Russian counterparts in Geneva two weeks later. As for the USA’s main geopolitical opponent now, Kerry has already visited China twice this year. His first visit to the country turned out to be a continuation of the aforementioned tour during which he met with Lavrov in India. The “climate” envoy’s second visit to China took place a week before the President’s call with Xi Jinping. The commentators on both of these visits (particularly the last one) are largely skeptical about their impact. In particular, it is notable that, whilst on the territory of China, Kerry could only communicate via videoconference with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi, who is higher in the Chinese power hierarchy. The American guest didn’t manage to extricate the fairly narrow “climate” problem from the general negative context of bilateral relations. Notably, it was made clear to him that attempts to organize bilateral cooperation to limit carbon dioxide emissions were counterproductive since this will inevitably affect the entire range of Sino-American economic relations, in which, as stated above, serious problems exist. To reiterate, against this unhappy background of bilateral relations, a telephone call took place between the leaders of the USA and China. The White House’s official statement about its content, which is communicated in one long paragraph with very general turns of phrase, is noteworthy for its brevity and its reserved tone. This topic is described in more detail in an article from the Chinese newspaper Global Times. The headline suggests that Biden called Jinping with the intention of arranging a direct meeting with him. Judging by a number of signs (for example, in relation to the Afghan problem) it is becoming increasingly urgent for the American side in particular. But now Beijing is already setting out the conditions for its arrangement, on one or another appropriate occasion, which could be the upcoming summits on the climate problem and the next G20 summit. Incidentally, these conditions are quite acceptable and in no way offensive. All that is required is that the opposing party in negotiations, with whom concern is expressed, are treated as an equal partner. Ongoing propagandistic attacks on the PRC for the aforementioned reasons, and (what is much more serious) the continuation of attempts to form an anti-Chinese military-political bloc in the region, are inconsistent with this (minimal) condition. The QUAD project is considered the prototype for the bloc with the USA, Japan, India, and Australia as participants. The second QUAD summit is scheduled to be held in Washington on 29th September. It is worth noting that this shall be a direct meeting. Having this kind of “baggage”, it is unclear what the American president was expecting when offering his Chinese counterpart a direct meeting. Biden’s opposite number made it clear that before it is held experts from both countries need to work in all spheres of international relations between the world’s two leading powers. And on his own, John Kerry the “climate scientist” clearly won’t be enough. Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the problems of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.  

[Category: China, Columns, Eastern Asia, Featured, Locations, Politics]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/21/21 6:59am
The telephone conversation that took place on 9th September between the presidents of the People’s Republic of China and the USA, initiated by the latter, is well worth commenting on. Notably, this was only the second interaction between the leaders of the world’s two leading powers in over six months. During the first of these calls, carried out on 10th February, Xi Jinping congratulated Joe Biden (narrowly avoiding being the last head of state to do so) upon assuming the office of president of the United States. The very fact that such interactions are exceptional constitutes evidence of continuing political tensions in Sino-American relations, although remarks from the first conversation, and Biden’s rhetoric on the campaign trail in general when questions concerning his future policy towards China were raised, bore a cautious optimism. However, instead of reducing the level of confrontation with China, some of Washington’s long-held claims against Beijing have only become more acute. This especially concerns issues of “human rights violations” in China’s borderlands (primarily in the Xinjiang Uygur and Tibetan Autonomous Regions) and Hong Kong. The degree of tension around the Taiwain problem has only increased. Nonetheless, there have recently been attempts to, if nothing else, slow the pace of deterioration of Sino-American relations that already present a rather gloomy picture. As concerns the USA, the driving force behind these positive trends is mainly American business, and also, apparently, some groups (fighting between themselves) of the American political establishment. It is not impossible that the latter actually performs the representative functions of the former in US government structures. It is due to the efforts of both sides that the long bilateral negotiations on launching a process to correct (hugely significant) “distortions” in bilateral trade concluded successfully in January 2020 with the signature of the so-called “Phase One agreement”. The ratification of this document still remains almost the only positive in an otherwise bleak (to put it mildly) picture of Sino-American relations. However, the process of the practical implementation of this agreement, occasionally reported on in NEO, runs into obvious obstruction within the American establishment. The next signals from Washington (mainly from the Ministry of Commerce), about the desire both to implement all the points of the agreement and to supplement it with documents on the following phases,” warrant all the more attention. The positive reaction to the aforementioned telephone call from representatives of American companies whose businesses significantly target the Chinese market seemed entirely natural. Among them are such giants as Boeing, Intel, and Coca-Cola. In turn, the Ministry of Commerce of the PRC has shown a mutual readiness to develop relations. In particular, based on the results of the first seven months of this year, it points to obvious signs of recovery and further development of bilateral trade after their dramatic decline in the last “Covid” year. It is particularly striking that there is a noticeable excess in the rate of growth of imports from the USA over exports to this country. This served as the basis for setting the objectives of the Phase One agreement. There are signs of the strengthening of the aforementioned political group in the American establishment, which, again, stands (at the very least) for halting the deterioration of US relations with their main geopolitical opponents (i.e., with the PRC and the Russian Federation). In Beijing, after ten months of “reflection,” they generally reacted positively to the appointment of a new US ambassador. And this was not “just anybody,” but such a prominent figure in American politics as Nicholas Burns. It can be assumed that one of the emissaries of the designated group on the international stage is the former Secretary of State John Kerry. Currently, the title of his official position is “United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate”. The author is not well informed on the problems of climate change, but it is concerning that it is taking on an increased importance in close connection to the “restructuring” of the world economy and, possibly, playing an instrumental role in relation to it. Furthermore, the source of the problem itself is apparently the same place from which an increased concern about “ecology,” gender equality, the rights of dogs, young children, coloured people, as well as people with dozens of sexual deviations, originates. But it is what it is, and why not make the most of some aspects of another collective insanity? For example, working on the fringes of well-funded “climate” events in order to reduce the level of tension in relations between the leading world powers. John Kerry is hardly an authority amongst professional climate scientists, but the position allows him (under a pretext that is perfectly plausible and “neutral”) to hold meetings with representatives of countries with which the USA has seemingly difficult relations today. First and foremost, these, again, include Russia and China. In light of this, you will recall the (ostensibly random) meeting held in Delhi between Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the beginning of April. Both appeared to be “en route” to their next trips abroad. It can be assumed, in particular, that the idea and main content of the subsequent meeting in Geneva two months later between the presidents of the Russian Federation and the USA had already been discussed during this “chance” meeting between Kerry and Lavrov. The author will not be surprised, if it transpires that a meaningful consequence of the arrival of Kerry, the “climate scientist,” in Moscow at the start of July turned out to be the implementation of one of the main practical results of the aforementioned meeting of the presidents on launching negotiations to ensure strategic stability. The US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, held such talks with her Russian counterparts in Geneva two weeks later. As for the USA’s main geopolitical opponent now, Kerry has already visited China twice this year. His first visit to the country turned out to be a continuation of the aforementioned tour during which he met with Lavrov in India. The “climate” envoy’s second visit to China took place a week before the President’s call with Xi Jinping. The commentators on both of these visits (particularly the last one) are largely skeptical about their impact. In particular, it is notable that, whilst on the territory of China, Kerry could only communicate via videoconference with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi, who is higher in the Chinese power hierarchy. The American guest didn’t manage to extricate the fairly narrow “climate” problem from the general negative context of bilateral relations. Notably, it was made clear to him that attempts to organize bilateral cooperation to limit carbon dioxide emissions were counterproductive since this will inevitably affect the entire range of Sino-American economic relations, in which, as stated above, serious problems exist. To reiterate, against this unhappy background of bilateral relations, a telephone call took place between the leaders of the USA and China. The White House’s official statement about its content, which is communicated in one long paragraph with very general turns of phrase, is noteworthy for its brevity and its reserved tone. This topic is described in more detail in an article from the Chinese newspaper Global Times. The headline suggests that Biden called Jinping with the intention of arranging a direct meeting with him. Judging by a number of signs (for example, in relation to the Afghan problem) it is becoming increasingly urgent for the American side in particular. But now Beijing is already setting out the conditions for its arrangement, on one or another appropriate occasion, which could be the upcoming summits on the climate problem and the next G20 summit. Incidentally, these conditions are quite acceptable and in no way offensive. All that is required is that the opposing party in negotiations, with whom concern is expressed, are treated as an equal partner. Ongoing propagandistic attacks on the PRC for the aforementioned reasons, and (what is much more serious) the continuation of attempts to form an anti-Chinese military-political bloc in the region, are inconsistent with this (minimal) condition. The QUAD project is considered the prototype for the bloc with the USA, Japan, India, and Australia as participants. The second QUAD summit is scheduled to be held in Washington on 29th September. It is worth noting that this shall be a direct meeting. Having this kind of “baggage”, it is unclear what the American president was expecting when offering his Chinese counterpart a direct meeting. Biden’s opposite number made it clear that before it is held experts from both countries need to work in all spheres of international relations between the world’s two leading powers. And on his own, John Kerry the “climate scientist” clearly won’t be enough. Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the problems of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.  

[Category: China, Columns, Eastern Asia, Featured, Locations, Politics]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/21/21 12:25am
Through assessing the latest developments in Central Asia (CA), one can frequently find a discussion of the region being influenced by Pan-Turkism, in various commentaries. This is a secular nationalist doctrine actively disseminated by current Turkish authorities and it refers to the concepts about the need for political consolidation of Turkic peoples based on ethnic, cultural, and linguistic commonality. However, apart from Pan-Turkism, Pan-Asianism, an ideological and political movement calling for unity, integration, and hegemony of the Asian peoples, is an essential factor in developing the situation in Central Asia that Japan intensively uses. The ideology of Pan-Asianism, based on the belief that Asian values should take precedence over any other, particularly European values, had witnessed immense growth in Japan in the previous century. The most remarkable flourishing of Pan-Asianism occurred during World War II when Japanese propaganda taught this ideology in the Asian territories occupied by Japanese troops as part of the idea of The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. It is worth noting that among nationalist historians and ethnographers in Japan, there is a general idea that the origins of the Japanese nation may be traced somewhere in the region of modern-day Central Asia and Mongolia rather than on the Korean peninsula. Immediately after the Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese authorities emphasized the need to cultivate an Asian spirit, as opposed to Western domination in defining Japans future role in Asia.  In the proclaimed Asia is One thesis, the Japanese mission in Asia was no longer seen as establishing control over it, but as stimulating its awakening, reconstructing Asia, up to and including the creation of Pax Japonica to save Asia from white imperialism. Pan-Asianism became actively implanted in Central Asia by Japan after the collapse of the USSR when Tokyo began to shape and implement policies toward the region, attention to which was driven by Japanese long-term economic and political interests. The Land of the Rising Sun was interested in gaining access to the regions fuel and energy complex and, above all, to raw material deposits. Japans heavy dependence on foreign hydrocarbon supplies has led it to seek unhindered access to such resources in Central Asian countries and to establish reliable oil and gas transportation routes for its own supplies. For this reason, a key challenge for Japan in Central Asia has been the development of alternative export pipelines. In particular, Japan proposed several pipeline projects to access Central Asian hydrocarbon resources, mainly through China. In 1997, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto presented an updated vision of Japanese international relations, its centerpiece being the re-creation of the Great Silk Road that had once served as a bridge between Japan and the West. Central Asian countries had a key role in charting the new path. In addition, in relation to Central Asia, Japan launched the Central Asian Initiative aimed at including local countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD in 1993 and the Silk Road Diplomacy Program of Action in 1998 to support a democratic transition, promote economic reform, and reconstruct transport infrastructure and exploration of natural resources. Unlike the US or EU countries, the apparent feature of Tokyos policy is economic gain, but the political importance of developing relations with Central Asia has also always been implicit. This was particularly evident with establishing the regular high-level diplomatic dialogue Central Asia + Japan (5+1) in the capital of Kazakhstan in 2004 on Tokyo’s initiative. In its first joint statement, the participants clearly outlined the international status of the new diplomatic format, which has become the central platform for the agreement of the most promising areas of relations. In todays plan, they include: political dialogue, intra-regional cooperation, business promotion, intellectual dialogue, and cultural exchanges. This 5+1 format was subsequently actively supported by other countries in their relations with Central Asia, especially the USA, the European Union, India, China, and others. In putting forward this initiative, Tokyo was first and foremost counting on the support of the countries of the region in its movement to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. The states of the region, on the other hand, were eager to develop relations with Japan as an alternative source of financial and technological support free from geopolitical oaths. Within a relatively short time, Japan has managed to establish itself firmly in the Central Asian region. Its activities here initially emphasized a common Asian identity with these countries. As a result, cultural and racial similarities and, consequently, particular emotional affinities became an integral part of official rhetoric. Moreover, unlike in East Asia, Japans reputation is not tarnished by its experience of military aggression in this region. Even more so, Central Asian residents remember tens of thousands of Japanese prisoners of war present in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan after World War II. There remain buildings erected by their hands, such as the Central Telegraph and the Ministry of Culture in Tashkent, the Academy of Sciences in Almaty, and the Farkhad Dam in Tajikistan. Japan, a country that has renounced the use of military force in resolving international disputes and rarely resorts to economic coercion (sanctions), relies on the potential of soft power, including traditional and modern culture, business models, innovations, and other aspects, in its activities in Central Asia. Japan advocates democracy through development, believing that economic prosperity would be translated into improved democracy and human rights. In part, this approach is attributed to the fact that democracy was introduced in Japan from outside during the post-war reform of the political system. Therefore, in furthering democracy in Central Asia, Japan is promoting Western values with an Eastern flavor, which is much more appealing to local regimes than the rigid approach of Europe and the United States. At the same time, it should not be forgotten that Japans rise as a Central Asian ally capable of assuming the role of regional leader is generally consistent with the United States policy of maintaining a balance of power, especially as an economic and political-military counterweight to Russia and China. There is much evidence of US-Japanese concerted action in Central Asia, including several instances in which Japan has played a supporting role in securing an American presence in the region. For example, after the events of September 11, 2001, US authorities officially acknowledged the need for financial assistance to Uzbekistan. They asked namely Japan to do this because it was expected that Uzbekistan would play a key role in the military campaign against neighboring Afghanistan. Meanwhile, even before that time, Japans total investment in the countrys oil and gas industry and transport infrastructure (railroads, construction, and modernization of highways and airports) had exceeded $1.6 billion by 2001. At the same time, it is clear that Japan helped maintain Uzbekistans loyalty to the United States and made it possible for Tashkent to decide back in the day to open Karshi-Khanabad Air Base as part of its declared war on terrorism. To further strengthen ties with Uzbekistan, in 2002, first the United States and then Japan (under apparent pressure from Washington) signed an agreement on strategic cooperation with Uzbekistan, and then, to intensify external economic assistance to this Central Asian country, Japan, with the active role played by the United States, signed an agreement on the development of economic cooperation with, and assistance to economic reforms in, Uzbekistan. Notably, Uzbekistan is the only Central Asian country with which Japan has signed a separate economic cooperation agreement. Although in 2005, Uzbekistan demanded the closure of the US Karshi-Khanabad airbase, leading to the deterioration of Uzbek-American relations; in contrast, cooperation between Japan and Uzbekistan continues to remain at a reasonably high level. And one can be sure that should the situation inside Uzbekistan change, Japan will make every effort to facilitate the resumption of close cooperation with the United States, and perhaps even in the military sphere. Japan has also seriously assisted the United States in establishing another American military base in Central Asia in the recent past, at Manas International Airport in Kyrgyzstan. In 1996, Japan gave the first $5 million grant to modernize the airport, and in 2000 it completed Phase 2: Extension of the runway to accommodate heavy cargo aircraft, construction of modern terminals to receive and dispatch cargo, replacement of radar equipment, and so on. A total of about $55 million was allocated to resolve purely technical issues about the possibility of stationing US troops in Kyrgyzstan. In this regard, it should be emphasized that, from the very beginning, Japans policy in Central Asia was not only a part of its foreign policy in the world, solving its own problems of Pan-Asianism in the region, but also a complementary element of US policy in Central Asia, ensuring the promotion of American interests there. Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Central Asia, Columns, Economics, Featured, Locations]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/20/21 2:59pm
Australia has just confirmed that its allegiance to the United States exceeds its own interests, and even its relationship with other, previously friendly nations, such as France. The triggering point for this degradation of Australia’s position in the world was the decision, announced this past week by prime minister Scott Morrison, to ditch the planned purchase of French submarines and replace them with a nuclear-powered option from the United States. The agreement with France has existed for several years, although the actual construction of the planned submarines had not actually started. They were not expected to become available to the Australian Navy for at least a decade, although there has never been a publicly available explanation as to why their construction should take so long. To compound the betrayal of the French contract, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had held talks with his French counterpart Emanuel Macron as recently as the summit of western leaders held in England earlier this year. Unknown to the French, the Australians had already agreed a deal with the Americans and the British. As recently as August 30 this year the French and Australian defence ministers had held a meeting and had issued a statement confirming their bilateral cooperation, including on matters of defence. Yet only 16 days later the French discovered that the Australians had in fact made a deal with the Americans and the British, the immediate consequence of which was the cancellation of the $90 billion deal with France. The French foreign minister Jean Yves De Drian was furious, calling it “a stab in the back. We had established a trusting relationship with Australia and this trust was betrayed.” A loss of French friendship was only one of the consequences of the United States – United Kingdom – Australia deal. The British and United States versions of the submarines that Australia had agreed to purchase used a nuclear reactor that runs on highly enriched uranium (HEU 60%). Australia does not have the means to produce uranium at this level of enrichment. It means that in order to operate the submarines, Australia will be dependent upon the United States and the United Kingdom for that fuel. To further add to Australia’s dependence upon the Americans it was also announced that the submarines will be equipped with the United States manufactured Tomahawk missiles, which are an old technology and vastly inferior to their Russian counterparts. The purchase of the submarines is clearly part of the United States strategy against China which only adds to the absurdity of the purchase. China is far and away Australia’s largest trading partner, yet the submarines are professed to include the role of protecting Australia’s trading interests. This merely highlights the absurdity of the Australian position. The real reasons for Australia’s conflicting role with China lie in the demands of the United States security partnership. In a speech given two years ago to an Australian audience of security and defence writers, the United States academic John Meirsheimer spelt out the political reality to his audience. “Right”, said Meirsheimer to his audience, “you have a choice here: you can go with China rather than the United States. There are two things I will say about that. Number one, if you go with China you want to understand that you are our enemy. You’re either with us or against us and if you’re friendly with China, you are undermining the United States in this security competition.” This warning calls to mind the well-known quote from Henry Kissinger. “to be an enemy of United States can be dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal.” This is a truism that successive political leaders in Australia have taken to heart. It helps to explain Australia’s eager participation in the United States wars of choice, from Vietnam in the 1960s and nineteen seventies to Afghanistan 2001-2020 and participating in the wholly illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, 2003-to the present. It is a subservience reflected in both major political parties. Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam withdrew Australian troops from their participation in the Vietnam war in 1972. The Americans never forgave him for that and together with their lackey the Governor General John Kerr, engineered the overthrow of the Whitlam government in 1975. It was an experience that has influenced Australian politics ever since. It helps to explain the extraordinary subservience of the Labor Party to United States foreign policy misadventures. The reaction of China’s governing party was also brutally frank. In an editorial in the party mouthpiece, the Global Times, on 16 September 2021 the Times said that the United States is “hysterically polarising its alliance system.” It publicly doubted the claim by Washington that the submarines would not carry nuclear weapons describing such assurances as “not reliable”. The editorial further said that “Washington is losing its mind by trying to rally allies against China, creating antagonisms and destruction beyond its control.” The editorial noted that there used to be no grudges between China and Australia, but that in pursuing its one-sided policy tilting towards the United States “Australia has turned itself into an adversary of China.” The editorial went on to issue a blunt warning to Australians. If the latter becomes involved in the disputes in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, then “military targets in Australia will become targets of Chinese missiles.” Is advised Australia “to prepare for the worst” as a consequence of becoming an anti-China spearhead. Australia cannot claim that it has not been warned. Unfortunately, those warnings are likely to fall on deaf ears. Australia effectively sold its soul to the United States more than a generation ago, and there is absolutely no sign in the political leadership of any party except the Greens, that the dangers of continuing along this path are recognised. The latest decision by the Morrison government even more firmly entrenches Australia within the American view of the world. In a little noticed additional comment made at the same time as the submarine decision was announced, the government said that there would be an increase in the United States use of naval facilities in the country. There has been no public debate about this decision and indeed most Australians are aware of the extent to which the Americans already use Australian facilities. United States satellite spying facility at Pine Gap in the Northern Territory is already a “no go” zone for Australians. The submarine decision really confirms that to all practical intents and purposes Australia has no independent foreign policy, but is simply a lackey of the United States. James O’Neill, an Australian-based former Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Asian-Pacific region, Australia, Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/20/21 2:55pm
Australia, the UK and the US announced the formation of “AUKUS,” an amalgamation of the three nation’s initials, as a tripartite “defense alliance.” Despite claims that the alliance is aimed at no particular country (and no particular country was mentioned during its announcement), the Western media has not reported it as such, and China the obvious target of this “AUKUS” alliance doesn’t perceive it as such. The Guardian in its article, “Alliance with Australia and US a ‘downpayment on global Britain’,” would explicitly state:  Britain’s post-Brexit foreign policy is taking shape, and the early moves are hardly very surprising: a tripartite defence alliance with the US and Australia – handily compressed to Aukus – clearly designed to send a message to Beijing. Chinese state media, Global Times, would make it abundantly clear that China understood this with a headline reading, “AUKUS another hostile signal to China, worsens Asia-Pacific security.” AUKUS begins with the three nations announcing plans to design, develop, and deliver nuclear-powered attack submarines to Australia, which currently has 6 Collins-class diesel electric submarines delivered between the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. The abovementioned Guardian article noted that Rolls Royce and BAE Systems would likely win contracts as part of this deal. Considering the 18 month period the Guardian reported would be used to plan this process and the several years it takes for BAE Systems to build and commission nuclear-powered submarines, Australia may put these new submarines into service around 2030. The Price of this New Alliance As an extra caveat, and perhaps warning to Australia, the new deal is likely to result in a French-Australian submarine deal falling through. Worth 65.6 billion US dollars, this will not be the first time US machinations have cost Paris dearly. In 2015 France was forced to reimburse Russia when it failed to deliver two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships after Paris was pressured to cancel the deal by Washington. The adage, “no honor among thieves,” comes to mind. France, an eager accomplice in Washington’s various wars of aggression since the turn of the century now finds itself on the receiving end of American exceptionalism. France’s misfortunes today will almost certainly be Australia’s tomorrow as “AUKUS” runs its course. In many ways, Australia has already begun paying its own price. Australia’s largest trade partner in 2019 was China. Australian exports to China outmatched all Australian exports to North America and Europe combined. Prompted by the US to pressure China across a range of fabricated accusations, Chinese-Australian trade dropped significantly, with ABC Australia itself claiming by as much as 40%. While Australia says it is working to compensate for these losses by expanding into alternative markets, such effort could have been used to double Australian trade rather than merely recover from politically-motivated and very much self-inflicted economic damage in its trade row with China. A War Alliance Predicated on Lies The “security challenges” AUKUS claims to be addressing include two obvious flashpoints, both the product of persistent US provocations. The first is centered around Taiwan where the current, US-backed ruling government in Taipei continues to inch toward independence. It should be remembered that Taiwan is recognized by virtually all nations (including the United States) as part of China under the “One China” policy. To illustrate this, the US itself does not have an official embassy in Taipei. But while the US officially recognizes Taiwan’s status under international law, it has unofficially and consistently undermined it by supporting pro-independence political groups in Taiwan. The other flashpoint is in the South China Sea where the US accuses China of “bullying” other nations by making “excessive” maritime claims. The US regularly conducts “Freedom of Navigation Operations” (FNOPs) throughout the region. The official US Navy website in a statement titled, “7th Fleet conducts Freedom of Navigation Operation” (July 12, 2021), for example, would claim: The United States challenges excessive maritime claims around the world regardless of the identity of the claimant. The international law of the sea as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention provides for certain rights and freedoms and other lawful uses of the sea to all nations. Not mentioned is the fact that the US itself is not actually a signatory of the 1982 Law of the Sea of Conventions and is in fact one of only a few nations not to sign it. The US Navy also makes another telling admission when it claimed: China, Taiwan, and Vietnam each claim sovereignty over the Paracel Islands. This reveals that it is not China “bullying” nations in the region over the South China Sea, but instead a series of overlapping claims. Nations in the region have disputes not only with China, but also with each other. This is revealed in headlines like the Wall Street Journal’s 2016 article, “Indonesia Blows Up 23 Foreign Fishing Boats to Send a Message,” in which the Indonesian government destroyed captured Malaysian and Vietnamese fishing boats. Vietnamese news portal Binh Duong News’ article, “Malaysian Navy seizes Vietnamese fishing boats,” and Bangkok Post’s article, “3 Malaysian trawlers seized near Satun,” also help illustrate many nations in the region are engaged in heated maritime disputes with often theatrical results but always avoid actual conflict and are eventually resolved bilaterally. This is not unlike maritime disputes taking place anywhere else in the world, including in Europe, where just this year the New York Times reported on the mobilization of British and French naval vessels over contesting fishing waters near Jersey island. This row too was resolved peacefully. The South China Sea’s various overlapping disputes have been exploited by the US. Washington has injected itself into the middle of what would be commonplace and long-standing maritime disputes to depict them as one-sided bullying by China to justify America’s large and growing naval presence in the region and to recruit nations into belligerent alliances precisely like AUKUS. The US even went as far as initiating a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at the Hague, the Netherlands in 2016 allegedly on behalf of the Philippines. It was American lawyer Paul Reichler and the Western law firm Foley Hoag not Filipino lawyers who led the effort. The non-binding politically-motivated ruling was not even used by the Philippines who instead opted for bilateral talks with Beijing to establish a mechanism to ease tensions in the South China Sea and even cooperate in contested waters, according to the Philippines’ own Department of Foreign Affairs website. For added irony and to further illustrate how these disputes are not one-sided Chinese “bullying,” upon the conclusion of the PCA’s ruling, not only did Beijing reject it, Taiwan did too. According to a 2016 New York Times article, Taiwan also then sent a patrol ship to the contested waters. Together, with the Taiwan issue, these two flashpoints are clearly artificial, kept in motion by a constant investment by Washington in terms of political pressure and propaganda as well as a steady stream of military provocations. Toward War with China These flashpoints are cultivated specifically to rally nations against China, to isolate and contain the rising nation, and to grant the US an extension to what it itself calls its “primacy” over Asia. However, they may also serve as impetus for a limited US-initiated war with China, a war the US would prefer to fight sooner rather than later. In a 2016 RAND Corporation paper (PDF) commissioned by the US Army and titled, “War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable,” a compelling argument is made for the preservation of American hegemony through a limited war predicted to remain conventional and confined to East Asia. The paper notes: We postulate that a war would be regional and conventional. It would be waged mainly by ships on and beneath the sea, by aircraft and missiles of many sorts, and in space (against satellites) and cyberspace (against computer systems). We assume that fighting would start and remain in East Asia, where potential Sino-US flash points and nearly all Chinese forces are located. It’s worth emphasizing that US planners admit that China’s forces are confined to Chinese territory and that the only way a conflict would breakout would be if US forces were in close proximity to them and provoked into conflict where “potential Sino-US flash points” are located, e.g. the South China Sea, or Taiwan. The paper notes that the time frame studied stretched from 2015 to 2025. The paper also describes the obvious benefits of, and thus motive for the US provoking such a conflict. It states: The prospect of a military standoff means that war could eventually be decided by nonmilitary factors. These should favor the United States now and in the future. Although war would harm both economies, damage to China’s could be catastrophic and lasting: on the order of a 25–35 percent reduction in Chinese gross domestic product (GDP) in a yearlong war, compared with a reduction in US GDP on the order of 5–10 percent. Even a mild conflict, unless ended promptly, could weaken China’s economy. A long and severe war could ravage China’s economy, stall its hard-earned development, and cause widespread hardship and dislocation. Such economic damage could in turn aggravate political turmoil and embolden separatists in China. The US is clearly preparing the grounds for such a conflict, cultivating the very “separatists” the paper notes the conflict would “embolden,” while attacking and attempting to block China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which is currently diversifying away from China’s dependency on vulnerable Asia-Pacific maritime trade routes. Through the creation of what are clearly military alliances like AUKUS, the US is ensuring it has the military muscle before, during, and after any such conflict to wage and win it, before then doubling down on a containment strategy to ensure Western hegemony over the Indo-Pacific region for decades to come. The current status quo all but guarantees China’s economy (as well as military and political influence) will irreversibly surpass the US’ within a decade. The closing window of opportunity the US has to prevent China’s as well as Asia’s surpassing of the West in a transfer of primacy from West to East that has not occurred in centuries, almost certainly was the impetus behind “AUKUS.” Only time will tell whether or not “AUKUS” will simply buy the US time before being surpassed by China, or if it is one of several final pieces being put in place before the hypothetical conflict RAND Corporation described in the pages of its 2016 paper is turned into a bloody reality. Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Eastern Asia, Featured, Locations, Politics]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/20/21 2:50pm
On August 25, 2021, South Korea expressed “strong regret” that Japan was unilaterally implementing its plan to release radioactive water from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant “without any prior consultations or seeking consent from the South Korean government”.  Oh, my gosh Tokyo Electric Power Company Holding Inc. (TEPCO) has unveiled a preliminary construction plan of an undersea tunnel to release radioactive water from the plant. The length of the tunnel planned to be built near the plant’s destroyed reactor will be one kilometer, and the place of water release will be outside the fishery area. According to Koo Yun-cheol, Minister for Government Policy Coordination in South Korea, Japan should “immediately halt” its plan to release radioactive water into the sea and “consult and communicate sufficiently beforehand” with neighboring countries. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry expressed disapproval to Makoto Hayashi, minister plenipotentiary at the embassy in Seoul. We have repeatedly written that Anti-Japaneseism is one of the key pillars of South Korean ideology. One of the culture war front sections is related to the inflated scare stories that “Japan will soon discharge contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean,”  especially after the Japanese government announced plans in April 2021 to release contaminated water in the spring of 2023, as all water storage tanks would be full as early as the fall of 2022. It sounds pretty scary because the defaulting creates the picture of the one-time discharge of 1.25 million tons of raw water used to cool the reactor. The situation is somewhat different, as we wrote about in detail in a previous article on this subject. Most of the radioactive elements in the water have been removed, and only radioactive tritium remains, the consequences of which are considered somewhat controversial and need to be further investigated.  Then, there is no talking about a one-time release, but that in 2 years, when the water storage tanks are finally full, Japan will start to release water in a “thin trickle” so that the contaminated water will not harm anyone. Thirdly, the IAEA has reviewed the Japanese water discharge plan and found nothing dangerous. In such a situation, South Korea can’t help but continue the hysteria going on since April when the first reports came in and the decision to release the water was finally made. This is done on several fronts. First, the Japanese side is constantly being asked to “reveal the truth.” Although Tokyo is actively sharing information, it is not complete from South Korea’s point of view. The constant demand for more information must give the impression that Tokyo is not telling the whole story. And if the Japanese claim that everything has already been told and shown, it only proves that they are being devious. Therefore, on April 19, South Korea’s foreign minister said that if Japan follows the due processes under the standards of IAEA, South Korea has no particular reason to object. But Japan must meet three conditions: provide sufficient scientific evidence and information, share such information sufficiently in advance, consult more sufficiently in advance, and guarantee South Korea’s participation in IAEA’s safety verification proces. A panel of experts from the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute called on Japan to withdraw its decision, calling for more information. In June 2021, the said institute punished its employee surnamed Hwang, who published a report without management approval stating that the discharge of contaminated water would have only a minor impact on Korea. The expert dared to write that if all this water is quietly poured into the ocean over a period of one year, it will give a radiation dose of only one to three hundred millionths of the annual limit allowed for humans. By the time the current carried the contaminated water to Korea, it would already be safe. Japan, however, had nothing against it from the start: On April 19, the Japanese Ambassador to South Korea, Koichi Aiboshisaid, stated that he believed South Korean experts could be part of the UN-led team, but that this was a matter to be consulted on between the IAEA and the South Korean government. On September 9, Lydie Evrard, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, said that the IAEA would include South Korea and China in a team to assess the release of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant. In addition, the IAEA will send an 11-member expert team to Japan in late 2021 to review the planned water release. It will comprise representatives from different countries, including South Korea. According to Lydie Evrard, the process of releasing water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean is under preparation and could take several years. Therefore, the IAEA will continue to provide the necessary support in this matter. But one has to understand what these experts are going to do. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi shares the concerns of countries neighboring Japan but stresses that the role of the expert group is not to assess the condition of discharged water but to verify that the discharge procedure meets international standards and inform the public. On the one hand, South Korea actively demanded the inclusion of South Korean experts in the IAEA’s international group of experts. On the other hand, it is openly stated that the IAEA needs additional commissions in parallel, as the “Korean voice” may not be heard. As Yang Ki-ho, a professor of Japanese studies at Sungkonghoe University, said, “We need to remain cautious about joining an IAEA investigation team. If Japan tampers with data and the IAEA team comes up with results favorable to Tokyo, we would not be able to reject it.” The second area is the use of a variety of NGOs. Such are less bound by the knowledge of the situation and common sense, declaring the horrors of the ecological catastrophe that Japan is experiencing and getting ready to sue the country. However, the real harmful consequences will become clear only two years later, when it will be possible to analyze the results of the first discharges. There were a lot of voices in April. South Korean fishermen protested right at sea by raising flags with crossed-out nuclear power plant symbols and skulls. A group of progressive university students held a sit-in protest in front of the Japanese embassy for four days straight and then shaved their heads in protest against Japan. One of the country’s largest women’s organizations, the YWCA, has called on the Japanese government to immediately abandon its plan to dump contaminated water into the sea. They condemned Tokyo’s planned release of radioactive water as a criminal act that would ultimately lead to the death of all humanity. On April 22, members of the Korea Federation for Environmental Movements said they filed a lawsuit against the nuclear power plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. with the Busan District Court: “If the radioactive water is sent out to the ocean, it could reach the waters off Busan, threaten the safety of its citizens and damage their properties by polluting fish and seafood.” The goal is to get a court injunction to stop the release of water, and then under the civil code of the ROK to get each plaintiff 10 million won ($8,960). Later, the situation did not change.  Professor Seo Kyung-duk of Sungshin Women’s University, known as a fighter against Chinese cultural influence, has launched an online campaign urging Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso to drink wastewater from the disabled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, uploading a poster of Aso holding a glass of water with text reading “You drink first!” On August 27, several NGOs, including the Korean Federation for Environmental Movements and Korea Radiation Watch, held a joint press conference in Seoul to warn of the serious environmental problems resulting from the discharge of contaminated water through the undersea tunnel. “If radioactive wastewater is discharged through an undersea tunnel, more serious problems will occur in marine ecosystems.” “Radioactive materials will spread much wider and faster in the Pacific Ocean, resulting in unpredictable pollution.” There are several reasons for that. Reminders that the Japanese haven’t changed and are plotting something scary is an excellent way to switch from internal problems. Moreover, the issue of women for comfort is squeezed almost dry. To make matters worse, grandmothers continue to die, and the scandals of how the community organizations concerned embezzled money meant for them have been swept under the rug and have not entirely subsided. And even the attempt to spin the issue of forcibly displaced workers in parallel is increasingly starting to fail. Whereas earlier South Korean courts actively stampeded lawsuits based on which Seoul had the right (as it believed) to seize Japanese assets, more and more often, courts are issuing inconvenient decisions for “patriots,” daring to refer to international law. But the Fukushima issue fits well with fears of an environmental crisis, especially since Tokyo cannot say that its proposed option is 100% safe. That’s why the pressure is in the public sphere, not in the official one. Although the Moon administration promised to refer the issue to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, it has not done so. Perhaps the point is that several Japanese politicians have written that “the amount of tritium released from the Korean nuclear power plant is greater than Japan’s.” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said in a press conference April 13 that “nuclear plants in Korea, China and Taiwan are also releasing wastewater containing tritium”, after which it became clear that, in line with this, Japan would be urging Korea and China to reveal confidential data on their radioactive waste. There is no hope for the US position either. On April 18, US Presidential Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry expressed confidence that the Japanese government had conducted comprehensive consultations with the IAEA before deciding to discharge the water.   John Kerry later said it was “inappropriate” to the American side “to interfere” with this environmental issue. The South Korean media, of course, writes that “Biden administration supports Japan for political reasons.” They include the fact that Tokyo is perceived as a more important ally than Seoul and, as Yang Ki Ho believes, it has to do with US decades-long involvement in the building of Japanese nuclear power plants. But how true is what the Korea Times wrote: “Following Japan’s decision to dump contaminated water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, soured relations between Korea and Japan are sinking deeper into the abyss”? Noise is noise, but in terms of facts, despite claims of victory in the trade war, it was Seoul that started to back down.  Read the following materials on this topic to find out exactly how. Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History, leading research fellow at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of the Far East at the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.  

[Category: Columns, Eastern Asia, Featured, Japan, Locations, Politics]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/20/21 6:59am
The unchecked expansion of the US secretive military biolabs network along the Russian borders is a matter of concern not only to Moscow but also to many post-Soviet republics and the international community.  To this date, the United States has created an actual spider web of secret biolabs around the world. Since 1997, Pentagon has dragged in this program more than 30 countries as partners of this American initiative. All these installations do not include 400 facilities on the mainland United States which are also involved in working with pathogens. Various viruses and bacteria are capable not only of killing civilians, but also can cause panic and dire economic ramifications. Constant use of such “invisible troops” can undermine any country, even a powerful one. Hence, the use of pathogens becomes a superb tool of sabotage. And the United States seems to understand that perfectly well. As a matter of fact, nobody would follow the footsteps of the Japanese Unit 731 trying to drop ceramic bombs filled with fleas since in the modern world the work with local pathogen vectors comes to the forefront.  Mosquitoes, flies and other insects do not recognize state borders and are able to bring to Russia or China, countries officially dubbed by Washington as the main adversaries of the United States” strains of particularly dangerous viruses and bacteria. Washingtons refusal to support the creation of a verification mechanism in the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention is a reason to question the goals of the United States and the purpose of their overseas biological laboratories, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has repeatedly said. “Since 2001 (almost 20 years), Russia and the majority of other countries, including China, have advocated an agreement on drafting a relevant protocol to the said convention, which would create a mechanism for verifying the commitment to not develop biological weapons,” the Russian minister said. He also mentioned that the US is just about the only country to categorically oppose this proposal. This problem has become increasingly urgent in recent years, and reluctance to ensure the transparency of its military biological activities in various world regions suggests many questions about what is really going on and what goals US biolabs are pursing.  The international community is also, of course, getting a bit suspicious, especially in light of intermittent incidents leading to various dangerous pandemic outbreaks in areas where these US biolabs are situated. Thus, two people that were admitted to the hospital in the Aksy district of the Jalal-Abad region of Kyrgyzstan on 13 September with a suspected case of anthrax tested positive for this disease, reports the news agency 24.kg citing the department supervisor of the Republican Center for Quarantine and Especially dangerous Infections Kubanychbek Bekturdiev. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian capital, according to the local media, has seen three cases of a rare disease called dirofilariasis so far this year.  It is transmitted by mosquitoes when they bite humans. This ailment is incited by parasites — roundworms Dirofilaria which affect both animals and people. Ukraine, a home to 14 biolabs funded by the US Department of Defense, has also become a hotbed for various infectious epidemics afflicting local residents and their domestic animals alike. Those secretive activities in US biolabs are partly unveiled by recent media reports citing hacker Raid Forums which contains leaked e-mails between the Lugar Center, the Pentagon biolaboratory in Tbilisi, and the US Embassy to Georgia and the Georgian Ministry of Health. In particular, these document shed light on a new $161 million clandestine program which is due to start shortly. With that in mind experts think that the know-hows developed in the US biolab in Georgia can be adapted for military purposes as part of following secret bioweapon projects: Project 1059 focusing on orthopoxviruses that can infect humans and mammals, including human smallpox virus (natural smallpox), monkeypox virus, vaccinia virus, cowpox virus, cattle smallpox virus, camelpox virus and Cantagalo virus; Project 1439: Molecular Virological Research in Georgia regarding Hantavirus and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus strains; Project 1447: Samples collection under the Hepatitis C Elimination Program in Georgia Leaked confidential reports show that at least 249 patients participating in the “Hepatitis C Elimination Program” succumbed to an unknown cause in Georgia. Project 1911 regarding infections caused by insects in Georgia and Azerbaijan. Within these secret programs the US biolab in Georgia at the Lugar Center in Tbilisi has gathered the worlds largest collection of rodents and ectoparasites (ticks, fleas). On 7 April the secretary of Russias Security Council Nikolai Patrushev claimed that Moscow has a good reason to believe the US is developing biological weapons in biolabs under American control. According to the Russian Security Council, most of these laboratories have been implanted by the United States along the Russian and Chinese borders. With that in mind, at the end of April Russia initiated the creation of the Coordinating Council of authorized bodies of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member states on biological security. And on 15 September, according to the Russian Security Council’s press office, the secretaries of the security councils of the CSTO agreed to establish Coordinating Council of the authorized bodies of the organizations countries on biological security issues. The future Coordination Council will analyze the situation in terms of ensuring biological safety in CSTO member states, organize the exchange of experiences, and put together recommendations for establishing and developing coordinated activities in this field, the message said. Its functions will include, in particular, the development of proposals on joint practical measures of the CSTO states to prevent threats to national, regional and international security associated with the impact of biological factors.  In addition, the countries intend to improve the legal framework for cooperation within the CSTO and strengthen the interaction of specialized structures in the field of biological safety. Vladimir Platov, an expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.  

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics, Russia in the World]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/19/21 11:59pm
The events in Afghanistan has grabbed the world’s attention as the observers try to project not only the country’s future path, but also to determine the role main foreign actors on the world’s chessboard played in this process while seeking to answer the main question: “Who is the real winner in Afghanistan?” By all means, the answer to this question cannot be found solely by going through regional media’s coverage of the events that ensued in the first nine days between the fall of the Afghan provincial capital on 6 August and the capture of Kabul on August 15. Neither does it explain how Afghan troops, well-equipped and trained by the US, just vanished into thin air in the face of Taliban guerillas (outlawed in Russia), wearing sneakers and armed, to put it mildly, with not state-of-the art equipment. Nevertheless the shocking fall of Kabul showcased the fact that the United States is on the back foot, and this process has spread to Asia and Africa entailing serious geopolitical ramifications for America’s global power. It has become increasingly obvious that Taliban’s victory is objectively pushing Washington out of Central Asia which will benefit China in terms of securing control over several parts of this strategically vital region, a home to 70% of world population and production. While assessing US operations in Afghanistan it is worth remembering the remarkable comments of a prominent Russian orientalist and the Academic Director of Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vitaly Naumkin, who in exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat recalled a statement by the US president Joe Biden saying: Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to be nation building.  It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy.  Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: Preventing a terrorist attack on American homeland. In other words, since the very beginning of the 20-year chaos in Afghanistan that the US military brought upon millions of Afghan people who relied on America to create a new democratic state the latter were left high and dry! So how can anyone speak about US victory in Afghanistan? But China did not achieve its victory in Afghanistan overnight; it was a result of a precise and balanced policy of the “Silk Road Economic belt announced by President Xi Jinping back in 2013 which has already started to expand the space for development of all Eurasian states through infrastructure that would connect the Pacific Ocean with the Baltic Sea while creating a major market possessing an unprecedented potential. Over the past eight years, China has spent more than a trillion dollars on its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to build a transcontinental network of railroads, oil pipelines and industrial infrastructure with the purpose of becoming the worlds most prominent economic power. As Beijing successfully built infrastructure along northern, eastern and western Afghan borders, it also set the stage for this war-torn country, now free from US influence and rife with untapped mineral resources (estimated at one trillion dollars), to fall into its lap without a single shot. While Washington was spending billions to sow chaos, Beijing launched a gas pipeline Central Asia-China in the north of Afghanistan which will eventually run for 6,500 kilometers through the heart of Eurasia. That was possible due to cooperation of the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation with Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Beijing also spent $46 billion to construct the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a framework of roads, railways, pipelines stretching for more than 3,000 km along the eastern Afghan border from the western Chinese provinces to the Pakistani commercial port of Gwadar, now modernized by China. Considering all this Taliban may strike lucrative deals on the extraction of enormous rare mineral reserves with China even today.  Even just these advantages stemming from cooperation with China may allow Afghanistan to ban opium production, now a booming industry in this country. Moreover, a spokesperson of the new Taliban government has already pledged to do so. Therefore, it is no wonder that Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid called China the “principal partner” of the new Afghanistan on the global stage while Beijing reiterated its commitment to invest and rebuild Afghanistan. A statement to this effect has become the strongest signal yet of diplomatic priorities of Taliban as well as its plans to solve the economic crisis hurting Afghanistan. Assessing the prospects of cooperation between the Taliban and foreign powers Mohammad Akbar Agha, a former Taliban field commander and now the leader of Afghanistan’s High Council of Salvation, said on 5 September that the new Afghan authorities are quite interested in establishing relations with Russia, Iran and Pakistan since they enjoy close ties with China. Qatar is another undisputed winner in Afghanistan. This small Persian Gulf state was instrumental to solving the Afghan crisis of the past two decades. Making consistent steps and acting as a mediator between Taliban and the international community Qatar managed to enhance its global and regional footprint and became one of the most valuable partners to have for many countries. In 2020 Qatar became the venue where Washington and the Taliban cut a historic deal on the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Doha sends tons of food, medicines, and various humanitarian supplies to this country. While two-thirds of all those evacuated to Doha moved to other countries, Qatar is still housing about 20 thousand Afghan refugees. The Qatari authorities provide them with food and medical care, some Afghans have even been placed in villas originally built for the World Cup. Doha has become not only to the main transit point for evacuees from Afghanistan, but also a haven for Western embassies leaving Kabul. Now this city is a cluster of many foreign embassies (US, UK, Italy, Japan and other countries) but is also the center of all diplomatic activities in Kabul. Western diplomats and politicians have become frequent visitors to Doha. In August, the head of the German Foreign Ministry Heiko Maas flew to this place, while in early September Doha received the UK foreign secretary and Dutch and Italian foreign ministers. On September 12 in Kabul Taliban leaders (outlawed in Russia) agreed with Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani, the Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, on the further development of relations. A statement to this effect was published on the Twitter page of the Mohammad Naim, a spokesperson for Taliban’s political office. While it is unclear what influence Qatar has on the Taliban and whether it will be able to adjust its course, this country remains the bridge between Taliban and the international community. No doubt, however, that the future hinges on the further development in Afghanistan. Afghan crisis brought up Qatar to the top-tier club of international politics making the Persian Gulf state a valuable and welcomed friend. This is certainly extremely important for this reginal power which has only recently emerged from regional isolation. Valery Kulikov, expert politologist, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Afghanistan, Central Asia, Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/18/21 11:45pm
On September 3 this year, the current Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that he would not run for president of the ruling (still and for now) Liberal Democratic Party. It also means that he will not be able to retain his top government position in case of a (not predetermined) LDP victory in the upcoming regular parliamentary elections. Therefore, the period of Yoshihide Suga’s term of office will be limited to one year. One involuntarily associates it with the prime ministerial merry-go-round of 2006-2012, when Washington allegedly had no time to remember the face of the next head of government of its key Asian ally. The above-mentioned period started with the resignation (September 2006) of Junichiro Koizumi. Generally speaking, rapid succession of prime ministers is a quite common phenomenon in Japans recent history, which began in the second half of the 19th century. The last period of flickering among senior officials lasted until late 2012 when Shinzo Abe became prime minister for the second time. He took office for the first time after Junichiro Koizumi’s departure. There were five people in the interval before the second accession of Shinzo Abe to the specified post. Today, Shinzo Abe, who has served three consecutive terms as prime minister, is considered perhaps the most remarkable statesman of the entire mentioned 150-year period of the countrys history. The announcement last August of the imminent resignation of Shinzo Abe as prime minister was quite expected for several reasons, the main one among them was conditioned by the electorate being tired of the flickering of one and the same (though talented) actor on the main political stage of the country, for eight years. He began to be blamed for relative trivialities, like some sort of Cherry Blossom party held supposedly at the government expense. By the summer of 2020, several similar allegations were superimposed on the dramatic deterioration of the COVID-19 epidemic in Japan. The mentioned factor of the next general elections began to gain importance. The LDP leadership, which had already grown accustomed to the relative ease with which it won various electoral contests after Shinzo Abe became party president in the fall of 2012, sensed that this time Abe would drag the party to the bottom. The layman needed to be shown the partys ability to timely take into account errors and being able update. The symbol for this was to be the new composition of the government headed by Yoshihide Suga, a close friend of Shinzo Abe, in whose government he always held the post of chief of staff (Chief Cabinet Secretary). On September 16, 2020, the cabinet led by Yoshihide Suga received the approval of both houses of parliament by a separate vote. It also enjoyed very high initial support among the population (at 65-70%). However, two or three months later, a trend emerged for a sharp decline in the rating of the new government and its head. The set of reasons for this tendency, discussed earlier in the NEO, was almost entirely tied to the same covid problems. A very experienced organizer of implementing (someone elses) decisions, Yoshihide Suga did not prove to be a decisive politician at the highest levels of government. In particular, according to Japanese experts, the imposition of restrictive measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 has clearly been delayed. Apparently, the new prime ministers popularity would also have been bolstered by the final cancellation of the Olympic Games, which had already been postponed for a year. The majority of the population was in favor of such a decision. The first discernible wake-up call to the LDP came in April of this year when the party was defeated in a rerun election for two seats in the upper house and one in the lower house of parliament. A bloc of opposition forces won in all three constituencies.  It was then that there was talk about the possibility of losing the ruling party position in the forthcoming general elections as well. Recall that the LDP has led the country almost continuously since the mid-1950s. Another severe blow to the Liberal Democratic Partys reputation was the defeat of a candidate it supported in the August 22 mayoral election in Yokohama, the countrys second-most populous city. The outcome of this vote was mainly symbolic because Yoshihide Suga had once been elected to parliament from one of the citys constituencies. Equally symbolic was the fact that the new mayor of Yokohama was a member of the opposition (a local university professor) who had never before been involved in any administrative or economic activity. And he defeated the former head (with the rank of minister) of the National Commission on Civil Security. A person quite experienced just in questions of different kinds of management. In doing so, the townspeople made it clear to the ruling party that they agreed to see anyone in the Yokohama mayors chair but not its representative. The protest nature of the voting in Japans second most important city was confirmed by the results of an opinion poll conducted a week later by the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper ( ). In particular, it turned out that the support rating of the incumbent Cabinet of Ministers fell to a record low of 26%.  However, it is worth noting that the popularity of other parties (including the main opposition parties) is at an even lower level. Today, this does not allow us to make definite forecasts about the upcoming parliamentary elections, tentatively scheduled for late October-early November. Commentators on the issue of the LDPs defeat in the above-mentioned elections point to approximately the exact reasons for it, which in the fall of 2020 forced Shinzo Abe to resign, except for the absence of a factor of more or less serious incidents that would cast a shadow on the personal reputation of Yoshihide Suga. Note that the negative outcome for the LDP in the last election (in Yokohama) was superimposed on another (its hard to say which one), covid wave among the population. The state of emergency now applies to 21 of the 47 prefectures (there were 7 in January), and it is being extended again until the end of September. Nevertheless, as early as August 23, the day after the voting results appeared in Yokohama, Yoshihide Suga demonstrated his ability to hold his ground, that is, his willingness to run for re-election as LDP president. But ten days later, his own new statement was issued that he would not run for the post of the party leader to be elected at the appropriate party event scheduled for September 29. As of early September, Taro Kono, Minister for Administrative Reforms (formerly head of the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs), was occupying the leading position among several contenders. His current departments responsibilities include the so-called Northern Territories problem and vaccination of the population against COVID-19. As for the first additional burden among Taro Konos duties, no progress has been noted so far. His preferred starting position in the race for the LDP leadership is attributed to the relatively rapid pace of vaccination of the Japanese people. Finally, we note that Yoshihide Suga concludes his political career by participating in a very noteworthy (in terms of possible consequences) second QUAD summit to be held in Washington on September 24. It seems important to point out the face-to-face format of the forthcoming meeting. It should be reminded that the first one, held online, took place only half a year earlier. It means the prime minister of one of the worlds leading powers is abandoning the ship of global politics at a time when the sea is in a rather turbulent state. Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific Region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.  

[Category: Columns, Eastern Asia, Featured, Japan, Locations, Politics]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/18/21 2:55am
South Koreas armed forces have recently engaged in a series of demonstrative exercises. Had they occurred in the North, they would have prompted alarmist headlines, glib political rhetoric, and angry speeches at the UN Security Council. As reported on September 7 by the Korean Agency for Defense Development, on September 1, 2021, there was a successful test underwater launch (using the so-called technology of the cold start) of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) of the Hyunmoo 4-4 (variation of the Hyunmoo-2B with a flight range of up to 500 km) from South Koreas newest submarine, the Dosan Ahn Changho (KSS-III) with a displacement of 3,000 tons. As a result, the ROK has become the eighth country in the world to possess homegrown SLBMs, after the US, Russia, the UK, France, India, China, and North Korea. Reading the news about the ROKs missile program, it may seem that after restrictions on South Korean missile development were lifted during the Biden-Moon summit, Seoul has been seriously engaged in developing longer-range, high-power large missiles. It should be reminded that in 1979, amid Park Chung-hees attempts to develop his own nuclear missile program, the ROK was forced to develop missiles under US control to obtain the appropriate technology, but the agreement limited the maximum capability of South Korean missiles to a range of 180 kilometers with a payload of 500 kilograms. Seoul and Washington have since held a series of talks to loosen the restrictions. In January 2001, the two countries agreed to increase the maximum range to 300 kilometers and the warhead weight to 500 kilograms and excluded cruise missiles from the range limit if the warhead weighed less than 500 kilograms. In 2012, the range limit for non-cruise missiles was increased to 800 kilometers, and in 2017, the payload limit was removed. In 2020, Washington allowed Seoul to develop solid-propellant space rockets, which are simpler in design and easier to transport, and the 2021 summit finally removed range restrictions. As a result, South Korea developed the Hyunmoo IV ballistic missile in 2020, which can fly up to 800 kilometers with a payload of 2,000 kilograms. It is reported that medium-range ballistic missiles with a range of 1,000 to 3,000 kilometers are being developed based on this missile. South Korea has Hyunmoo-III B and Hyunmoo-III C cruise missiles, ranging 1,000 kilometers and 1,500 kilometers, respectively. Still, ballistic missiles are believed to be more strategically important because cruise missiles flying at low altitudes and speeds are easier to intercept. On September 2, the ROK Ministry of Defense unveiled an ordnance alterations plan from 2022 to 2026. It is to develop new surface-to-surface and ship-to-ground missiles with increased range and power. The program is to spend 315.2 trillion won ($273 billion) over five years, an increase of 5.8% over the previous five years. First of all, we need to take note of the short-range missile with a warhead weighing up to 3 tons, which is in the final stage of development. The ministry said the new missiles “with increased destructive power” will be capable of destroying enemies tunnels and buildings with accuracy precise enough to hit the size of an entrance of a building. According to some Russian experts, they are designed to destroy the underground tunnel infrastructure of DPRK (read between the lines: North Korea nuclear program facilities). Mass production of an analogue of the Cheongung II interceptor missile, which is considered equivalent to the US Patriot missile is expected in the near future. According to the South Korea Agency for Defense Development, the medium-range anti-aircraft missile tests have been safely completed. The missile will soon go into mass production. Given South Koreas defense capabilities, there is a chance that they will produce more of these missiles than the North. This is quite an important point because if we look at the situation on and around the peninsula, not from the perspective of North Korea threatens the world, but from the perspective of a regional arms race, the effect of a South Korean military launch is as large as if not larger. Especially given US insistence on including the ROK in an anti-China alliance. In addition, a plan to purchase Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-3 interceptor missiles from the United States at the cost of 770 billion won has been approved. There is an opinion that the US is trying to get out of an unpleasant situation in this way. They clearly would like to turn the ROK into a beachhead for US missiles, but this is causing a very harsh reaction from China. Washington apparently expects that the appearance of medium-range missiles from Seoul will provoke a less violent reaction from China than the deployment of American missiles on South Korean territory. Another dimension of South Koreas missile program is space. Again, one may recall how similar North Korean directions were branded as military developments, only disguised as peaceful space exploration. South Korea has sought to develop a domestic space launch vehicle since 2010, and in 2013 the country launched its two-stage Naro rocket, but its first stage was built in Russia. On March 25, the ROK Ministry of Science reported that the Korea Aerospace Research Institute successfully conducted the third and final test of four 75-ton liquid-propellant engines of the 200-ton rocket, named Nuri. ROK’s President Moon Jae-in expressed satisfaction with the test results and noted that such results bring the coming of the South Korean space era closer. On October 21, a rocket is expected to be launched, which will try to lift a 1.5-ton mock payload into the air, and on May 19, 2022, there will be a launch of a dummy payload with a 200-kg satellite. Such satellite-to-mockup ratios are circumstantial evidence that this missile program has a military purpose since 1.5 tonnes of operational load most likely means a warhead. On June 18, 2021, South Korea said it would develop more than 100 miniature satellites over the next decade to establish a national security monitoring system and test next-generation network communications. By 2031, it is planned to launch 14 communications satellites in low earth orbit to create a satellite communications network to prepare for 6G technology and test autonomous ship control systems and maritime traffic services; 22 satellites to monitor radio wave activity in space; and 13 test satellites for removing space trash. The latter formulation may conceal the development of technologies for destroying enemy satellites. Incidentally, North Korea was also about to launch observation satellites to track enemy action and provide communications for its own units. On June 21, South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook indicated that the country would strengthen space defense capabilities and establish a joint operations system to combat growing space threats. The minister noted that lifting range and payload restrictions on South Korean missiles has opened up new horizons for the domestic defense industry. And on August 19, the ROKs defense procurement agency announced that the ROK plans to invest 1.6 trillion won ($1.4 billion) over the next ten years to develop basic military satellite technology. The South Korean Agency for Defense Development (ADD) said on September 10 that they would begin developing an ultra-small satellite system next year at the cost of 11.2 billion won ($9.6 million) to detect security threats such as North Korean missile launchers. The satellite reconnaissance system includes several ultra-small satellites moving in low orbit, detecting unusual movements within its detection zone. The first ultra-small satellite is scheduled for launch in 2025. The Agency for Defense Development is also developing a military reconnaissance satellite equipped with high-sensitivity radar to launch it next year. Also of note is Koreas planning to build a domestic counterpart to Israels Iron Dome as a system designed to detect, identify and destroy incoming threats such as short-range missiles, artillery shells and unmanned aerial vehicles. On June 28, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) presided over by the defense minister, approved the 2.89 trillion won ($2.56 billion) project, which is expected to begin in earnest next year and be completed around 2035. By the way, when journalists asked why the cost of developing the Korean version was so much higher than that of the Israeli counterpart, which cost 230 billion won in terms of the ROK currency, a representative of the defense procurement program said that it would be a more expensive and high-tech project designed for North Korean rockets, not for primitive Hamas production projects. In all, the arms procurement Agency has allocated 1.485 trillion won ($1.3 billion) for defense technology research and development (R&D) in 2022. It must be said that during Moon Jae-ins rule, the military R&D budget grew at an average of 39% per year, and in 2019 South Koreas defense budget stood at $43 billion and was ranked 10th in the world. A few words should also be said about the submarine that was used to launch the SLBM. The commissioning ceremony for the mid-range diesel submarine named after South Koreas prominent independence fighter Dosan Ahn Changho was held at Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineerings shipyard on Geojedo Island in the East Sea on August 13. It is the first Changbogo-III Batch-I class submarine to be built by 2023 using proprietary technology as part of a 3 trillion won ($2.7 billion) project launched in 2007. The 83.5m long and 9.6m wide submarine is served by a crew of 50. It carries six ballistic missiles and can operate underwater for about three weeks without surfacing using the AIP system. Seventy-six percent of the components were locally produced, which helped the military reduce costs by reducing dependence on technology produced overseas. The submarine was launched in September 2018 and will be put on combat duty in August 2022 after undergoing sea trials and assessing its performance. At the same time, the Korean Defense Procurement Agency announced on September 10 that it had signed a contract with Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering worth 985.7 billion won ($853 million) to build the next submarine of this type. The second unit of three Changbogo-III Batch-II class submarines will have 80% domestic production components, a displacement of 3,600 thousand tons and ten launchers for ballistic missiles instead of six. All three units are to be put on combat duty in 2029. Moreover, according to Shin Jong-woo, a senior researcher at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, although the 3000-ton class submarine is diesel-powered, its successful development and a high proportion of locally produced parts have proven that South Korea has set the stage for building 4,000-ton or 5,000-ton nuclear-powered submarines in the near future. However, the development of missile technology is only one aspect of South Koreas military capabilities: the purchase of new helicopters, the construction of new frigates and destroyers and the project to build a light aircraft carrier (more details in a future article) are all things that North Korean propaganda interprets as the development of the material base for a future invasion. To summarize, South Korea is doing what the North has only contemplated mass production of submarines with 3,000-ton displacement for short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, and it is doing it with a vengeance. Although such development of military capabilities has no specific limitations and the South (as well as the North) has every right to do so, such a step aggravates the situation and triggers an arms race no less than similar actions by the DPRK. And when the ROK has medium-range missiles with a range of 1,000 to 3,000 km, there is a good question as to whom these missiles will be aimed at, because, at that range, they could be successfully aimed at Tokyo and Beijing or Shanghai. But unlike similar activity in the North, news of this kind does not make the front page. Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History, leading research fellow at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of the Far East at the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.  

[Category: Columns, Eastern Asia, Featured, Locations, Politics, South Korea]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/17/21 2:58pm
Joe Biden’s most recent 90 minutes call with China’s Xi has created the impression of a US attempt to reset its ties with China. The White House readout says that a “broad, strategic discussion” has taken place resulting in a mutual agreement to engage “openly and straightforwardly” on areas where their interests converge as well as where “our interests, values and perspectives diverge.” The tone adopted by Joe Biden is completely different from the previous call between the two leaders in which Joe Biden vowed to protect “the American people’s security, prosperity, health, and way of life, and preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific”, underscoring America’s “fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan.” Fast forward to September 2021: Biden’s focus has dramatically shifted from opposing China to “responsibly” managing bi-lateral ties to preserve “peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and the world”, ensuring that their “competition does not veer into conflict.” Why has Joe Biden changed his China narrative? For one thing, America’s debacle in Afghanistan has seriously damaged its credibility as the sole super-power of the world. The loss of this credibility means that the US, its military might notwithstanding, lacks the necessary support from its allies to pursue yet another global adventure. As it stands, it is specifically the US withdrawal from Afghanistan that has put its ties with Europe/NATO on the line. There is an increasing desire in Europe to assert its strategic autonomy, a line of action that extends to the continent’s ties with China and Russia managed independently of the US influence. Similarly, the US push to revive its damaged ties with Southeast Asia, too, has failed to elicit the level of support it thought it will be able to get. For the Southeast Asian nations, it remains that the US has little more than conflict with China to offer, a lacuna that the Joe Biden administration has so far failed to address. On the other hand, Southeast Asia has been very consistent in showing an extreme lack of appetite for pursuing an aggressive policy vis-à-vis China. In short, it does not share the US desperation to contain China. The US failure in securing the desired, cold war level of support from the allies in Europe and Southeast Asia has left the US with no option but to redefine its overall foreign policy approach. Media reports in the US have called this foreign policy shift a “pragmatic realism” or the so-called “Biden doctrine.” The most recent readout shows that the “Biden doctrine” is looking to recast its ties with China in less ideological terms. While the Joe Biden administration still wants to “compete” with China, the fact that Biden, who actually made the recent call and initiated the contact after seven months of disconnection, emphasised “responsible” competition shows how Biden is consciously dialling down the US reliance – and insistence – on military backed hard competition. In other words, while Biden remains the realist that prizes hard power, he is growing conscious of the need to pursue US interests in ways that are less costly. In the absence of willing allies in Europe and Southeast Asia, the Biden administration cannot singlehandedly confront and contain China from the Oval office in the White House. What has also added to the necessity of reframing the US policy is the hard-line and stubborn stance taken by Beijing towards the US unilateralism. China has been confronting the US through all possible means. Despite sanctions, China has made investments in Iran and continues to buy its oil. Two weeks ago, when John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy talked to China’s foreign minister, he was clearly warned that deteriorating US-China relations could seriously undermine cooperation on climate change. Wang Yi was blunt and frank when he told Kerry that US-China cooperation on climate China cannot be separated from the broader trajectory of their overall ties. China’s refusal to compartmentalise its ties with US to deal with areas of cooperation and conflict separately has left the Biden administration in a quandary. In July, the US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was handed over a long list of complaints from China which showed how the US was trying to contain, undermine and suppress China’s development and interests around the world. China’s stark refusal to bow down to the pressure the US has been exerting ever since 2016 means that the US has not enough diplomatic or economic options to achieve success. The fact that its allies in Europe and Southeast Asia, too, have refused to offer unconditional support means that the US is unable to pursue a hard policy vis-à-vis China that relies on creating a strong ring of military alliances around China. Given the failure to win over allies, the Biden administration’s much anticipated ‘Asia Pivot 2.0’ seems to have hit a roadblock; hence, the emphasis on a new policy. While the US could ideally compete with China on the economic front, there is no denying that a shift from military competition to economic competition itself requires a major policy shift. Biden’s attempt to dial down the rhetoric indicates this very shift, although it is yet to develop and announce a programme to boost US economic ties with its allies in Southeast Asia. Unless the Biden administration can actually develop such a programme, the actual prospects of its success against China will remain grim. Failure to do so could actually push the US once again towards hard competition. Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics, USA in the World]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/17/21 2:55pm
A bizarre war of words has erupted in recent days in the pages of financial media between billionaire hedge fund and color revolution specialist, George Soros, and the gigantic BlackRock investment group. The issue is a decision by BlackRock CEO Larry Fink to open the first foreign-owned mutual fund in China presumably to attract the savings of China’s new (and fast disappearing) middle income population. In a recent newspaper interview Soros called the BlackRock decision a threat to BlackRock investors and to US national security. This seemingly absurd clash of views between two financial predator giants of Wall Street hides a far larger story—the looming systemic collapse inside China of a financial debt pyramid that is possibly the largest in the world. It could have a domino effect on the entire world economy far greater than the September 2008 Lehman Crisis. “Global economic terrorist..:” On September 6 Soros wrote a guest Editorial in the Wall Street Journal sharply criticizing BlackRock for investing in China: “It is a sad mistake to pour billions of dollars into China now. This is likely to lose money for BlackRock customers and, more importantly, harm the national security interests of the US and other democracies.” Not like Soros to cite US national security He went on to say, “The BlackRock Initiative threatens the national security interests of the US and other democracies because money invested in China will help advance President Xi’s regime, which is repressive at home and aggressive abroad.” BlackRock issued a response stating, “The US and China have a large and complex economic relationshipThrough our investment activity, US-based asset managers and other financial institutions contribute to the economic interconnection of the world’s two largest economies.“ At a time when the bloated debt edifice of China banks and real estate conglomerates is collapsing almost daily, the defense of BlackRock and CEO Fink hardly ring true. It suggests there is far more behind the BlackRock-China relation as well as behind the Soros attack. Two days before Soros’ OpEd in the journal, the official China Global Times wrote a scathing article calling Soros a “global economic terrorist.” One of their charges was that Soros money financed a “color revolution” in Hong Kong in 2019 against Beijing new laws de facto ending the island’s independent status. However the sharp attack on Soros was far more likely caused by an OpEd Soros wrote in the London Financial Times five days earlier in which he sharply attacked Xi Jinping and the current crackdown on private Chinese companies such as Jack Ma’s Alibaba and Ant Financial. In an August 30 OpEd Soros called President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on private enterprise, “a significant drag on the Chinese economy” that “could lead to a crash.” He further pointed out that major western stock indices such as MorganStanley’s MSCI and BlackRock’s ESG Aware, have “effectively forced hundreds of billions of dollars belonging to US investors into Chinese companies whose corporate governance does not meet the required standard — power and accountability is now exercised by one man (Xi) who is not accountable to any international authority.” He urged Congress to pass laws that would limit asset managers’ investments to “companies where actual governance structures are both transparent and aligned with stakeholders.” The curious aspect about the Soros charges against Beijing financial transparency is that they are factually correct, based on public statements by Chinese regulators as well as Wall Street managers and regulators. China’s financial markets are opaque, and rules change unpredictably as to who gets rescued and who not. The ongoing meltdown of China’s huge Evergrande real estate and financial group is only one recent instance of the high risk of investing today in China. Not so Evergrande The world’s “most valuable” real estate group is also the world’s most indebted real estate group. Evergrande, based in Shenzhen, has been teetering on the edge of bankruptcy for months as it defaults on loan after loan and the major credit rating agencies lower its rating to junk status. The group owes a total of $305 billion and that debt is both offshore in dollar loans as well as domestic unregulated loans from what are termed WMPs or wealth management products. As its finances implode and unit apartment sales plunge, tens of thousands of prospective apartment owners are threatened with having paid for unfinished apartments. To date the central bank of China has not intervened but speculation grows that a state bailout of the group is days away in order to prevent a systemic financial contagion. The reason is apparently that Evergrande is only the tip of a very debt-bloated China corporate sector iceberg. In August China Huarong Asset Management Co., a so-called “bad bank” created by the Finance Ministry to take on assets of troubled Chinese companies, itself had to be bailed out by the state to prevent what many feared would be China’s “Lehman crisis.” Huarong is one of four such state-owned companies created in the wake of the 1998 Asia financial crisis to manage assets of bankrupt state companies. While majority owned by the Chinese Finance Ministry, since 2014 it has sold shares to others including Goldman Sachs and Warburg Pincus. After 2014 Huarong grew into a non-bank financial giant and financed spectacular growth via debt. That began to unwind in 2020 during the covid crisis. In January 2021 a Chinese court tried the chairman, Lai Xiaomin, who was sentenced to death without reprieve for bribery, embezzlement, and bigamy, in a strange collection of charges. The court declared, “He endangered [China’s] financial stability. When the Huarong group failed to release its annual financial report by the deadline end of March, fears grew of a bankruptcy chain-reaction as billions of its offshore dollar bonds were at risk. Total debts were estimated at some $209 billion. Reportedly, instead of conservatively managing distressed assets, Lai used the state Finance Ministry status of the non-bank bank to deal in everything from private equity to real estate speculation to junk bond trading, borrowing billions wildly. The state forced its own CITIC group to bailout Huarong in August. Yet it’s clear this is only the beginning of a snowballing financial crisis in China. Crash landing? For months the Xi Politburo has tried, with increasing desperation, to halt the growth of a colossal financial bubble in its real estate sector. Earlier this year Xi issued the slogan “housing is for living, not for speculation.” His moves to freeze and slowly deflate the huge real estate bubble are likely far too late. Real estate construction and sales are the largest single part of Chinese GDP, over 28% by official estimates. To demand that investment go now into “productive” projects and not speculation in real estate ever-rising prices is not so easy. Xi has increasingly taken steps to control China’s out-of-control real estate bubble, and its threat of a systemic crisis like that in the US in 2008, by instituting steps to restrain real estate lending. According to Chinese data the amount of real estate total financing is down 13% for the first half of 2021 compared with 2020. At the same time debt due by Chinese real estate companies on bonds and other debts are more than RMB 1.3 trillion or $200 billion in 2021, and almost RMB 1 trillion in 2022. The contracting real estate sector will make such a huge repayment increasingly impossible and lead no doubt to new defaults across China. Recently Ping An, China’s largest insurance group, also heavily invested in real estate, was forced to set aside $5.5 billion in loan loss provisions related to its investment in defaulter, China Fortune Land Development Co. If it were only Evergrande that is insolvent due to unpayable debts in a contracting economy, Chinese authorities could no doubt manage it in one or another way by demanding its state banks or large groups like CITIC simply swallow the bad debts to contain spread of the crisis. The problem is that Evergrande, Huarong, PingAn and other large Chinese property investors are clearly only symptoms of an economy which has taken on debt far beyond what was prudent. In April Beijing’s CCP State Council told local governments that their so-called Local Government Financing Vehicles with estimated (no one knows) trillions of dollars they had in unregulated shadow bank loans used to finance local projects, had to get rid of excess bad loans or go under. On July 1 Beijing announced that local government revenues from land sales to developers, some half of all local revenues, must be sent to the central Beijing Finance Ministry and no longer used locally. That insures a catastrophic collapse in the multi-trillion dollar local shadow banks and construction projects. No more Beijing bailouts. At the same time solvency of China’s fragile multi-trillion “small” banking sector is in doubt, as bank closings increase. Now with national state-owned giants nearing bankruptcy, the verbal war between BlackRock and George Soros takes on a significant new light. China is in a serious debt collapse crisis. China already has the world’s largest extent of high-speed rail track and those are losing money. The Belt Road Initiative is bogged down in debts that countries are unable to repay and China banks have sharply cut loans to BRI Silk Road projects from $75 billion in 2016 to $4 billion in 2020. Its demographic crisis means the endless flow of cheap rural labor to build that infrastructure is sharply declining. The middle class is deeply indebted from buying new cars and homes when times were good. Total household debt including mortgage and consumer loans for cars and household appliances in 2020 was a whopping 62% of GDP. The Institute of International Finance (IIF) estimated that China’s total domestic debt rose to 335 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020. Beijing’s Wall St Bailout? It appears that Beijing is seeking a major de facto bailout from foreign investors into its troubled stocks and bonds led by Wall Street. Major Wall Street banks and investors have had close involvement in China for several years. With the US stock markets at dangerous historic highs and the EU in deep trouble, they perhaps hope China can save them, despite the clear evidence that Chinese corporate accounting rules are opaque, as Evergrande shows. Since 2019 Morgan Stanley’s widely used MSCI All Country World Index, has been allowed to list major Chinese companies, which, as Soros accurately noted, forces western stock funds to buy billions of dollars of China stocks. BlackRock is permitted now to invest Chinese personal savings in its funds. It is not clear if there are other parts to the deal. This is the pot of potential gold which has Wall Street and BlackRock lining up outside Beijing. The Soros condemnation of BlackRock, the largest private investment fund in the world, clearly is strategic. Could it be that Soros intends to replay his 1998 toppling of the Russian bond market bubble after taking his profits? If so, no wonder the official China media calls Soros an “economic terrorist.” Whatever the trigger, such a collapse of the China debt bubble would make the 2008 Lehman crisis pale. F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: China, Columns, Eastern Asia, Economics, Featured, Locations]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/17/21 6:59am
On September 11-12, North Korea successfully test-fired a new type of long-range cruise missile. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the missiles “traveled for 7,580 seconds along an oval and pattern-8 flight orbits in the air above the territorial land and waters” in North Korea “and hit targets 1,500 km away,” and all design requirements were met. This was the third missile test-firing conducted by the DPRK this year. On March 21, the North test-fired two cruise missiles off the west coast, and four days later, it test-fired two KN-23 ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, believed to be an upgraded version of the Iskander-type missile. Kim Jong-un did not attend the tests. The South Korean military says the North’s recently unveiled weapons resemble the US long-range Tomahawk and South Korea’s Hyunmoo-3C cruise missiles. Ballistic missiles have a much longer range and travel faster than cruise missiles of the same size. But cruise missiles fly at low altitudes, which makes them difficult to detect. At the same time, cruise missiles can also carry nuclear warheads. US military reactions at the time of this writing have been reduced to “we’re looking into the details” or saying trivial things. According to a statement issued by the US Indo-Pacific Command on September 12, the tests “highlights DPRK’s continuing focus on developing its military program.” “We will continue to monitor the situation and are consulting with our allies and partners,” the statement said. The US Indo-Pacific Command statement issued just hours after the North’s announcement of the test fires noted that such activity “highlights DPRK’s continuing focus on developing its military program and the threat that it poses to its neighbors and the international community. The US commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad.” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said an in-depth analysis was being conducted in close cooperation with US intelligence agencies. Still, they declined to confirm details, including where the test was conducted and whether the launches were detected in advance. The South Korean media couldn’t help but call the launch “a low-level provocation amid stalled talks with the United States.” Ostensibly, Pyongyang appears to have conducted the test-firings in a way that demonstrates its military power, but by using cruise missiles, not ballistic missiles, it avoided provoking the USA and the neighboring countries too much.  However, the author draws attention to some observations. First, the test fires occurred without Kim Jong-un’s attendance; second, if Kim had wanted to demonstrate something, the missile would have been ceremoniously rolled out at a parade on September 9 to mark the 73rd anniversary of North Korea’s founding. Third, the DPRK is banned from ballistic technology under several UN Security Council resolutions, but cruise missiles are not subject to these sanctions. Overall, the test suggests that the DPRK continues to develop its military potential in line with its leader’s promises of cruise missiles, military satellites, and hypersonic weapons. In doing so, the North is keeping promises made back to Trump although, in terms of range, it’s a medium-range missile; it’s a cruise missile, not a ballistic missile. The author does not find any connection of the test firing to any current political events. Instead, the date was determined by technical necessity, as indirectly evidenced by the absence of the country’s leader at the trials. And while one can see a correlation with, for example, a meeting of the special representatives from Japan, the USA and the ROK for the Korean peninsula nuclear issue, this is the type of connection that is easy to find if one wants to see such a thing. On the other hand, one can once again draw attention to the inadequate coverage of the test fires in the South Korean and world media, especially in comparison to the launch of the SLBM in South Korea, which is no less critical to the regional arms race. Let’s also look at the international community’s reaction, which so far seems relatively calm: if it continues that way, it’s a good sign. The freeze may end if the test firing is interpreted as a breach of promises and a reason to try new sanctions. In the meantime, we can congratulate the North for expanding its arsenal of strategic deterrence. Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History, leading research fellow at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of the Far East at the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Eastern Asia, Featured, Locations, North Korea, Politics]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/17/21 12:30am
In recent years, there has been an undisguised deterioration in relations between Washington and Islamabad. However, this breakdown with a country once considered a critical military and political ally of the United States in South Asia and the Middle East has long been evident. The US-Pakistan alliance has already been severely damaged since the killing of Osama bin Laden by US commandos inside Pakistan in 2011 behind the backs of Pakistani intelligence agencies. This and many other incidents have badly strained relations between the Pakistani and US authorities. The result is that the number of US-positive people in Pakistan has plummeted in recent years and now stands at no more than 10-12% of the population. During Barack Obamas presidency, the deterioration in relations continued, with US authorities increasing pressure on Pakistan by refusing in 2016 to provide $300 million in military aid to a key ally in South Asia. The Pentagons decision attributed to insufficient activity by Pakistani security forces in combating the Haqqani network (a terrorist group banned in Russia) operating in the border areas with Afghanistan. Much of this escalation coincided with the growing crisis in Islamabads relations with India accusing Pakistan of supporting terrorists in Kashmir. Washington has clearly decided to side with New Delhi. US cooperation with Pakistan was also severely tested in the Trump era. During his speech at Fort Myer base in Arlington, Virginia, on August 22, 2017, he actually accused Islamabad of supporting terrorists. Moreover, despite the Afghan grouping of US troops being supplied through the Pakistani border, the United States deliberately went to this cooling of relations with Islamabad. However, there is reasonable ground to believe that the real reason for the US falling-out with Pakistan is not related to terrorism but Chinas growing influence on the Islamic Republics policies. In this context, Washingtons sharp reorientation towards developing and deepening relations with India is a future counterweight to Chinese expansion in White House policy. India itself hastened to take advantage of the situation to pull the United States to its side in the dispute with Pakistan. Against this backdrop, an unprecedented decision was taken in January 2018 by Pakistans leadership. Islamabad has responded to the American accusations with dignity, showing that the nuclear weapons state with a population of many millions is no longer going to bow and scrape before Uncle Sam by making guilty excuses. As a result, Pakistani authorities decided to suspend cooperation with the United States through the Ministry of Defense and intelligence agencies. In fact, it was an indication that the country was abandoning further alliance with Washington. Moreover, Pakistans Foreign Ministry explained American charges against the country because the US and NATO campaign in Afghanistan is failing, so Washington is looking for a scapegoat, and Pakistan appears to be a very convenient country for American politicians and generals in this case. Of course, Islamabad itself would never take such a demonstrative step if the US had not created the preconditions for a deterioration in bilateral relations. However, it should be emphasized that the US alliance with Pakistan has always been purely situational, tactical in nature. Therefore, this partnership has had a very shaky foundation from the beginning. The long-standing friendship of the two states was based primarily on the confrontation with the Communist block during the Cold War. At that time, the Soviet Union was supporting India, Pakistans main adversary, and was also active in neighboring Afghanistan, which could not fail to alarm the elite of Pakistan. In these circumstances, it was Pakistan that Washington chose as the key link in helping the Afghan mujahideen, who were fighting against the Soviet troops and the army of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Anti-US sentiment in Pakistan also has a long history. Back in 1979, an angry mob set fire to the American Embassy in Islamabad the diplomats barely escaped. Even then, Pakistani society did not believe in friendly relations with the United States. It was the mistrust of Washington that led, among other things, to the South Asian nations authorities categorically refusing to reduce its tactical nuclear weapons capabilities at the suggestion of the White House in 2015. The arrival at the beginning of the year of Joe Bidens new administration in the White House initially seemed to offer an encouraging sign regarding a possible settlement of bilateral relations. And the occasion was the announcement of the inclusion in the Biden administration of two Americans of Pakistani origin. These are Ali Zaidi, as the first Deputy White House National Climate Advisor, and Salman Ahmed, he joined Bidens foreign policy team as the Director of the Secretary of States Policy Planning Staff. Ahmed previously served as senior director of strategic planning for Barack Obama’s United States National Security Council. Salman Ahmed has also served as chief of staff of the US mission to the UN and as senior political advisor to the US permanent representative to the UN. However, given that Joe Bidens election campaign (as well as Donald Trumps) was in serious competition for Indian Americans votes, the above appointments have not changed the White Houses attitude towards Indias already established influence in the US. And a striking example of this is Joe Bidens nomination, less than 100 hours before his inauguration, of 20 Indian Americans, including 13 women, to key posts in his administration, a record in itself for this small ethnic community which makes up 1% of the countrys population. For years, Islamabads significant contributions to the war against terrorism in Afghanistan have sustained the close ties between Washington and Islamabad. But the cooling of relations between Washington and Islamabad has to some extent devalued Pakistans contribution to the American war against terrorism. It has also indirectly weakened the countrys special status in international affairs. This also harmed the implementation of the US deal with the Taliban, as evidenced, among other things, by the course of events in Afghanistan as US troops withdrew from the country. There will always be a risk of terrorism, and Biden objectively cannot discount Pakistans importance in bringing stability to the Afghan situation. With respect to Pakistan, Washingtons choice, of course, will certainly have to determine the balance of US policy with both New Delhi and Islamabad, where the White House expects each of these countries to fulfill its purpose in carrying out relevant and essential functions for the US. That is, India to contain China through the Indo-Pacific strategy and Pakistan to fight terrorism in Afghanistan. However, the United States, which has long since forgotten how to use diplomacy to seek the truth and resolve complex inter-state issues and has switched entirely to a policy of threats and sanctions, has decided to use a decidedly coercive method in determining the prospects for future bilateral relations with Pakistan. And this was confirmed by United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said on September 13 that the US administration intends to assess the role Pakistan has played in supporting the radical Taliban (banned in Russia) and the events in Afghanistan. During a speech in Washington, the secretary of state noted that Pakistans actions in many cases go against US interests. In this regard, he said, US authorities intend to review in the coming days or weeks what role Pakistan has played in the last 20 years in the context of the situation in Afghanistan and the countrys takeover by the Taliban. According to Blinken, Washington will also discuss what role, from the US perspective, Pakistan should play in Afghanistan in the coming years, and what it needs to do. To support the US position on Pakistan in the media space and with the explicit coordination with Washington, the German publication Die Welt even published an article The main enemy has always sat in Islamabad with explicit recommendations on how to punish Pakistan for the apparent defeat of the US in Afghanistan. However, such moves by the White House and its advisers in Western Europe are unlikely to restore the former cooperative business relationship between the US and Pakistan. Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Pakistan, Politics, Southern Asia]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/16/21 2:59pm
Something strange has happened to America. Millions of Americans are demonstrating symptoms of what are generally referred to as pathological disorders, generally personality disorders, of the kind normally attributed to abandonment by parents or sexual abuse as children. You see it every day, not just in violence against nurses or school officials but in the overall tone of America, anger infused with stupidity and bad manners. The symptoms are unmistakable as millions of Americans are drawn to “cult level” beliefs, including political and religious extremism that would put the Taliban (banned in Russia) to shame. Let us also be clear. America never had a real love affair with truth when it came to what the American public was taught in schools or indoctrinated through media. What used to be controlled only by select elites like the Rockefeller or Ford Foundations has now fallen into the hands of the likes of Alex Jones or Joe Rogan. The old lies, certainly poisonous and insidious, have been replaced with buffoonery and vitriolic, but along with the change in tone, there is also a change in quality. Painful rhetoric is now not just incomprehensible, but it reeks of illiteracy and basic ignorance, simple ignorance, not knowing right from wrong. Then again, are things really worse? When America “bought” the wars of lies such as Vietnam or the even more reprehensible national tantrum in response to 9/11, millions died because of war profiteering fully supported by the news media and a corrupt government. Thus, when millions of America’s least educated or most intellectually “vulnerable” lap up vaccine or election hoaxes they may be “totally wrong” but are they? Are American elections rigged by the CIA? It doesn’t take a genius to see the “unseen hand” even in the process of selecting candidates, much less with the elections themselves. The most glaring examples are Bush in 2000 or Trump in 2016 where normally accurate exit polls were off by “double digits,” something statisticians would report, if allowed, is impossible. Similarly, if Americans don’t believe Dr. Fauci, could it be that America’s medical community has always treated the public as guinea pigs? America has the worst availability of healthcare of any advanced nation with profiteering my “big Pharma” and the medical corporations working hand in hand with corrupt politicians to create a scandalously failed medial system that has long preyed on the American people. Then one day we get a pandemic, and nobody wants to play along. Who is responsible? Is it the lunatic fringe reporting by Fox News or was it all prestaged by engineering a society of gullible and complacent healthcare consumers? There is evidence that the United States may well have, as a nation, degenerated into not just something ungovernable but something even worse, not just a breakdown of political and social cohesion. Any reports from the United States, be it political leaders or the continual voices of angry Trump supporters have one thing in common. They show American adults acting like spoiled children, often raving like lunatics, often violent, generally irrational and, above all sharing one common trait and that is a lack of quality education. The breakdown reflects many things, certainly a failure of American families, of schools, a failure of religious leaders and, clearest of all, a lack of positive role models among “social elites.” Let us be clear, celebrities have always been a mixed lot, spoiled, privileged or “preachy.” The few that mean or meant well like Ed Asner are a distinct minority. Others, like George Clooney, are coopted into supporting organizations like the White Helmets in Syria, no longer seen as “clean hands” first responders after armies of witnesses have accused them of full complicity in terror acts. But the truth is ugly. America has had a full “meltdown” where schools run by powerful teacher’s unions and supported by politicians have overridden parental authority and act as “re-education camps” on behalf of ignorance and mediocrity. But even decent schools would be unable to override a society that is “dumbed down” not just by the mindless game apps, bad schools, drugs everywhere, cheap and available or the tabloidization of the news media. The well-financed and carefully orchestrated hatred of educated elites, denialism of science and the newfound wild acceptance of anything conspiratorial reeks of something quite purposeful. Why would someone, some group, some cult or secret organization want the most militarily powerful nation in history to be controlled by those now elevated to high authority who are more than unstable. Listen to American media personalities like Tucker Carlson. This week disgraced former President Donald Trump was interviewed by disgraced former White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Newsmax, a fringe network supporting supremacist hoaxes. The former president stated that he believed the United States would be completely destroyed from within before the next presidential election. Spicer tried to shut him up, but nobody shuts up Donald Trump. Worse still, Trump may well have been correct. Trump’s behavior of late has become more irrational than usual after revelations that the military had removed command authority from Trump based on their estimation that he was likely to try to start a nuclear war after an unsuccessful coup attempt on January 6, 2021. General Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff actually called his Chinese counterpart, General Li Zuecheng two days after the coup attempt, assuring China that Trump would not be allowed to attack China with nuclear weapons. From PBS, an excerpt from a transcript of a news broadcast: Yamiche Alcindor: Well, General Milley was taking extraordinary steps and having extraordinary conversations with a number of people, chief among them, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. this, of course, at the time on January 8, when a call was made from Speaker Pelosi to General Milley saying: I want to know what youre doing to make sure that former President Trump is not allowed to misuse the nuclear codes or not allowed to get into some sort of military action that is not wise. During that call — we want to put it up for folks — during that call, Speaker Pelosi said this of President — of former President Trump: Hes crazy. You know hes crazy. Hes crazy. And what he did yesterday, referring to the Capitol seize, the Capitol attack on January 6, what he did yesterday is further evidence of his craziness. And, remarkably, General Milley replied: I agree with you on everything. Now, those are sources on Capitol Hill confirming those exact words to me tonight. And what this really shows you is that someone like General Milley, who is not seen as political, not seen as a Democrat or Republican, here he is on the phone with a Democrat who is a target of former President Trumps anger, saying: I agree with you. I also want to point out another conversation that General Milley had, and that was with Gina Haspel. She was the former director of the CIA. And heres what Gina Haspel reportedly told General Milley: We are on the way to a right-wing coup, again, going back to this idea of January 6 really shaking people up. Its extraordinary conversations really underlying the idea that former President Trump was seen as someone who was a loose cannon in his own administration. When looking at this most extreme situation, there are two ways to go, blaming Trump as an “elite” willing to sacrifice 100 million in a cruel attempt to retain power or something worse. What if Trump is, as so many of his followers believe, simply one of them? Trump’s education is spotty, his college records classified as national security secrets and there is that one issue, that he is accused of paying someone to not only take his entrance exams but to have quite possibility attended college for him, taking tests, writing papers. But we also hear the same things about former Vice President Dick Cheney and former President George W. Bush as well, as both share key characteristics with Trump: An aversion to telling the truth Very low verbal communications skills Long histories of personal meltdowns and/or substance abuse No visible history of real employment If we took those same four characteristics and applied them to many, Tucker Carlson or Joe Rogan for instance, or Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or perhaps the majority of the members of America’s congress, we might well find some consistencies. Conclusion Some of it may well be the abandonment of “expertise” as a source of respect for Americans. It takes real talent and expertise to operate heavy equipment, to lay tile or carpeting correctly or do brain surgery. Those who have real and specific expertise are now pushed aside in the eyes of the public where anyone with a device, internet access and a case of narcissistic personality disorders can now become a vaccine expert, a political commentator or an expert on space travel or military technology. They can be on television or be elected to high public office. The same applies with “facts” or “information.” The new definition of “freedom” and “beliefs” has been augmented to include demands that all “facts” or “information” be considered “equal.” If you believe you are the king of Sweden, then that belief must be not only respected but defended by others, often with violence at over the objection and rights of others. This is how today’s American “new think” works. Vaccines can cause pregnancy, they can cause sterility, they can be used to track, to control or even to prevent disease. All is simply “information” or “facts” and even “alternative facts.” Nothing is wrong anymore and those who say things continually are not liars or criminals, they are patriots. Welcome to America. Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War that has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades and consulted with governments challenged by security issues. He’s a senior editor and chairman of the board of Veterans Today, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Society, USA in the World]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/16/21 2:55pm
Indonesia, a country of 270 million people and ASEAN’s largest economy, is actively involved in the affairs of Southeast Asia and seeks to maintain peace, stability and economic development in the region for its own security and to accelerate its economic growth. For its part, the Russian Federation, whose foreign policy objectives include strengthening its authority in the international arena and promoting order in other countries, is interested in cooperation with ASEAN countries, which, among other things, are promising trading partners for Russia. The goals of Russia and Indonesia coincide in many ways, and that is why the ties between the two states have become increasingly strong over the past few years. The military sphere plays an important role in relations between Russia and Indonesia. In 2016, a defense cooperation agreement was signed between the two states. The leadership of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) stated that the National Army of Indonesia is in desperate need of the state-of-the-art weapons to improve its combat readiness. FSMTC also reported that Russia may begin to produce weapons in the country. The fact that Indonesia’s army is mainly equipped with outdated equipment is of serious concern to Jakarta, primarily because tensions in global and regional politics keep growing every year. Back in early 2020, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu said that military-technical cooperation between Russia and Indonesia has every chance to reach the strategic level. The Russian defense minister noted that his ministry views Indonesia as one of Russia’s key partners in the Asia-Pacific region, and the dialogue with this country is based on mutual respect and friendship. According to Shoygu, there is a high probability in the foreseeable future that a declaration on strategic partnership will be signed, which will be an important step in building warm diplomatic relations and will strengthen the degree of friendship between the two countries. At the end of July 2021, the FSMTC of Russia announced that Russia was planning to supply a batch of Su-35 multi-role fighter jets to Indonesia. The agreement to supply 11 fighters was signed back in 2018, but to date it is still not implemented for a variety of reasons. According to the FSMTC, Russia intends to supply the latest weapons to Indonesia. The Russian leadership believes that by modernizing its armed forces, Indonesia will be able to conduct a more independent foreign policy without relying on outside forces. It is important to note that the US and its allies are not interested in a stronger Jakarta, which is why they put vigorous pressure on the Indonesian authorities to minimize cooperation in the military sphere with Moscow. Nevertheless, the Indonesian government is still interested in contacts with Russia, because lately it has become obvious that Washington is gradually losing its former position in the world, and American statements are losing their authority every year. Unfortunately, the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has painfully affected trade and economic relations between Russia and Indonesia. However, thanks to effective quarantine measures, the virus gradually recedes, leading to a resumption of previous trade volumes. In the first quarter of 2021, trade between the two countries totaled about $1.5 billion, about 30% more than in 2020. This suggests that when restrictions are finally lifted, mutually beneficial relations will reach an even higher level. The Russian Federation exports to Indonesia primarily chemical products, metals, timber, pulp and paper products, and mineral products. Indonesia, in turn, supplies Russia with fertilizers, cereals, seafood and rubber products. Russia is famous for providing countries around the world with all possible assistance in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic. To hasten the end of the pandemic, the Russian Federation is actively distributing the Sputnik V vaccine, which many scientists believe is one of the most effective vaccines today. The Indonesian Medicines Agency is very appreciative of the drug and has allowed the possibility of approving the vaccine for emergency use in the near future. Indonesia recognized all Russian vaccines against coronavirus as suitable for allowing the entry of vaccinated tourists. This indicates not only the desire of the country’s leadership to restore the previous economic growth indicators as soon as possible, but also a high level of confidence in the quality of medicine from Russia. In addition, negotiations on direct deliveries of Sputnik V to Indonesia have recently been underway. Cooperation between the two states is not yet as close as it could be, but the Russian-Indonesian partnership enjoys fruitful foundations. Both countries seek to be independent of Washington’s policies, promote peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and increase foreign trade. Jakarta is interested in modernizing its army, and Moscow can provide tangible support in this regard. On July 6, 2021, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met in Jakarta. Colleagues reviewed and analyzed geopolitical issues of universal concern, as well as issues of bilateral relations between Russia and Indonesia. Both sides positively assessed the Russian-Indonesian dialogue and expressed hope to continue strengthening ties. During the joint press conference that followed the meeting, Lavrov said that relations between Russia and Indonesia are so trustworthy that they can be characterized as nothing less than a strategic partnership. Retno Marsudi confirmed the high level of Russian-Indonesian relations, in particular by asking Russia to support the implementation of the Five Points of Consensus. This is a package of agreements between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its member Republic of the Union of Myanmar to resolve by peaceful means the political differences in that state. By involving the Russian Federation in solving a problem common to Indonesia and other ASEAN countries, Indonesia shows to them its trust in Russia. In conclusion, significant contracts between Russia and Indonesia can be expected to be signed in the near future. It is also safe to assume that reciprocal visits of heads of state may take place sometime foreseeable. For example, during the aforementioned meeting of foreign ministers, which was held on July 6, 2021, they also mentioned the possibility of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Jakarta. It is likely that the Indonesian president will be willing to pay a return visit to Moscow, which will hopefully strengthen further relations between Russia and Indonesia. Petr Konovalov, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Economics, Featured, Locations, Southeast Asia]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/16/21 2:50pm
The mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in connection with Irans nuclear activities is strictly limited to technical issues and highly confidential, however the political exploitation of the issue is carried on by certain Western powers in stark contradiction with the principles of independence, impartiality, and professionalism that the the Agency is supposed to uphold. It also distorts the reputation of this international institution, which is only tasked with of conducting inspections. Tehrans official view on the nature of cooperation with the IAEA which was announced by the Iranian Foreign Ministry this month and it is entirely consistent with the Agency’s statute. This view was expressed in connection with the Agencys latest report, which deliberately increased speculation on such issues as the state of cooperation between Tehran and the IAEA and the allegedly numerous obstacles in its path. For example, Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, who is said to be fully controlled by Washington, announced without any evidence that the IAEA activities in Iran have allegedly been significantly weakened recently compared to any other period since the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) six years ago. He added that he was increasingly concerned about some alleged undeclared Iranian nuclear facilities and that Tehran needed to address these issues immediately. Last month, the IAEA mentioned next-generation centrifuges and stockpiles of uranium metal, and Rafael Grossi said Iran had launched a new cascade of advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium to 60% and did so in reference to the entirely independent Reuters agency. Not the IAEA, which has hundreds of inspectors at its disposal, but Reuters, apparently on behalf of the CIA, also stated that Iran, in addition to 164 cascades of IR-6 centrifuges, had also launched a new cascade of 153 IR-4 centrifuges at Natanz. In addition to issues related to the cascade, there is another issue in the report, namely, the increasing uranium metal enrichment and stockpiles. And, according to the IAEA, Iran has produced 200 grams of uranium metal enriched by 20%. Immediately after the publication of the new IAEA report, the Iranian Foreign Ministry and Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Kazem Gharibabadi reacted to it by stating: All of Irans nuclear activities, including enrichment at various levels and the production of uranium metal, are conducted within the framework of Irans nuclear rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and are in full compliance with safeguards obligations. Iran had been working closely with the IAEA since 2013 when the nuclear talks began until the one-year anniversary of the US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This year, unannounced inspections were conducted on average three times a month. According to the report, the Agency has also increased the number of active inspectors in Iran to 285, an increase of 6%. The report states these inspections are characterized by random selection, unpredictability and rapid access that strengthen their deterrent effect in countries where inspections are conducted. Grossi earlier said in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel that his organization performed more than 400 inspections in Iran in 2018. Incidentally, the world remembers how similarly rude and unpredictable inspections were carried out in Iraq to find biological weapons there. It was then officially announced that Saddam Hussein allegedly possessed such deadly weapons. The United States undertook the honorable mission of ridding the world of bacteriological weapons by invading Iraq and throwing that once prosperous state back to the Middle Ages. Apparently, this is precisely the scenario the West is now trying to play out with Iran. However these are somewhat different times and will Washington have the power, means and finances to attack this huge Asian country? It should be recalled that Tehrans fulfillment of commitments related to the JCPOA is one side of the coin. And the need for other parties to honor their commitments is another that is equally important. Despite Irans voluntary compliance with its commitments, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA. At the same time, the European parties to the agreement took no tangible steps to salvage the deal and limited themselves to empty verbal support. Given the prevailing circumstances, the Islamic Republic of Iran had no choice but to reduce its commitments, legitimately invoking paragraphs 26 and 36 of the JCPOA. According to these paragraphs, if the other party fails to comply with its obligations, Iran has the right to suspend its obligations in whole or in part. Concerning cooperation between Iran and the IAEA, the Iranians have suspended the voluntary implementation of the JCPOA after the Iranian Parliament passed a law called Strategic Action Plan to Lift Sanctions and Protect Iranian Nations Interest. However, based on ratification, Iran continues to cooperate with the IAEA, often to its detriment. Lets recall that Tehran and the IAEA reached an agreement late last year. The agreement, which was supposed to last three months, was extended for another month after it ended without tangible results, and anti-Iran sanctions were not lifted. Since there were no changes to the sanctions through the fault of the US, Tehran did not insist on extending the agreement for the third time in July. Political experts believe that unlike the tenure of the late IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, this UN body is under the influence of Western powers in the new era. Ignoring 17 positive reports on Tehrans constructive cooperation and the Wests failure to comply with its obligations, the latter seeks to exaggerate Irans nuclear activities. The IAEA, led by Grossi and with enormous US influence, declares Irans nuclear activities a threat to the world. At the same time, Tehran continues to cooperate with the Agency under a safeguards agreement. However, the IAEA remains blistfully ignorant of certain nuclear-weapon states such as Israel, which is not a party to The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and has not even allowed IAEA inspectors to visit its nuclear facilities. From an observers perspective, the apparent politicization of the IAEA and the US insistence on continued sanctions will lead to an increasing reduction in cooperation between Tehran and this international organization. It is pretty straightforward that the deeper these differences get, the more difficult it will become to eliminate them. That is why it is expected the US will not use the IAEA to promote its policy, and the Agency will continue its mission while remaining independent in order not to further undermine the JCPOA and its position of an important international UN organization. Many experts unanimously note that Grossi should first and foremost pay attention to the fact that Tehrans determination to strictly fulfill its obligations and its long-term cooperation with the IAEA do not mean accepting unreasonable and unilateral demands. It is expected that the Agency will duly fulfil its mission and will not fall prey to the political gamesmanship of the great powers in its assessments of the peaceful nuclear activities of the Iranians. On this occasion, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh stated harshly: Governing Board meetings are just regular meetings. I stress that neither side should calculate and go in a direction that could affect the Vienna talks. Everyone must note that the political use of the Agencys technical platform will lead to a different response from Tehran. It is pretty clear what steps Iran and its leadership will take in this case and how this will affect the situation in the entire Middle East. Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” .  

[Category: Columns, Economics, Featured, Locations, Southeast Asia]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/16/21 6:35am
With Joe Biden’s arrival in the White House, several irritants have once again come to the forefront in US-Saudi Arabia relations. The Saudis are unhappy with President Biden’s intention to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in relations with Iran, as well as the US refusal to see the Houthi movement in Yemen as a “terrorist organization”. The Biden administration’s repeatedly expressed desire to bring the issue of human rights abuses, which was not raised under Donald Trump, back into the realm of bilateral relations, was also of particular concern. Riyadh’s global criticism of Washington’s sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia by Western powers to continue the war in Yemen did not go unnoticed, as did the US authorities’ intention to review their arms deals with the Arab monarchy. Besides, this spring, Washington announced the start of the withdrawal of Patriot and THAAD air defense/anti-missile defense systems from the Middle East, including the territory of Saudi Arabia, which is the US ally in confronting Iran. The move was very painfully received in Riyadh as it significantly undermines the Saudi kingdom’s security in the face of continuous missile attacks from the Houthis and Iran. The Pentagon attributed this withdrawal of US anti-aircraft systems to their alleged “limited numbers” and the need to use them in other regions, particularly against China and North Korea. However, Saudi experts do not exclude the possibility that one of the excellent reasons for such a step by Washington was the apparent inability of Patriot systems to combat drones. In these circumstances, the US is simply afraid of losing international credibility due to the evidence of the inability of their air defense system to protect from missiles and drones that fire on Saudi infrastructure. So the other day, Saudi Prince Turki Al Faisal explicitly pointed out to the United States that Washington simply needs to stop withdrawing Patriot air defense systems from the kingdom to prove its previous friendship with Saudi Arabia. It cannot be ruled out that, amid the compromise of the Americans in Afghanistan, the volume of arms purchases from the US will decrease. This could be one of the symptoms of the disintegration of the former Pax Americana, writes the Polish publication Defence 24. These circumstances, as well as several other difficulties in relations with Washington in the recent period, have prompted the Middle Eastern Kingdom to think about diversifying military cooperation and its military procurement. Therefore, it is not surprising that Saudi Arabia has turned its gaze to Russia, with its superior weaponry well known worldwide, which has already proven its worth in the fighting in Syria. Wanting to overcome its complete dependence on American weapons systems, as early as 2020, Riyadh began to negotiate with Moscow over the possible supply of S-400 air defense systems. After the attacks on Saudi targets, it became apparent in the Middle Eastern kingdom that American systems are flawed, and Americans are not prepared to defend their allies. Saudi Arabia has therefore taken a closer look at Russia’s defensive and strike systems: the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, TOS-1A Solntsepyok heavy flamethrower system, the SU-35 multipurpose fighter jet and the Iskander-E tactical missile system. Relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia have not previously been known for their warmth and mutual trust. Recently, however, the parties have managed to take a step towards each other and reassess mutual interests. Despite Saudis’ discontent with the developing cooperation between Moscow and Tehran, which the kingdom sees as the primary source of threat. However, deep regional problems with its neighbors, including Iran and Qatar, as well as growing criticism of actions against Saudi Arabia by traditional Western allies, have prompted the Middle Eastern Kingdom to cooperate with Russia. The rapprochement between Russia and Saudi Arabia was officially explained by Awwad Bin Saleh Al-Awwad, Minister of Culture and Information of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He stated that Riyadh seeks “to diversify its foreign policy and foreign economic relations, as necessary for the implementation of the strategic development program Kingdom of Saudi Arabias Vision 2030 2030.” Indeed, due to the recent visits of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Riyadh and the Saudi Princes and King of Saudi Arabia to Moscow, the participation of an impressive Saudi delegation at the Military-Technical Forum “Army-2021” in Kubinka near Moscow on August 23 have boosted business contacts and military cooperation between the two countries. Russia is also important for the kingdom to develop nuclear energy. The Saudi authorities have previously announced plans to build dozens of nuclear power plants in the country, and Moscow would also like to be involved in these projects. The views of the two countries coincide on many issues. For example, Russia and Saudi Arabia believe that the State of Palestine should be established within the 1967 borders as a result of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations with the participation of international mediators. In addition, Saudi Arabia and Russia share the same views on what is happening in Egypt: both sides support President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, viewing the Islamist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, as terrorists. Another reason for such a rapid rapprochement between the two countries is the sharp fall in oil prices in late 2014 and early 2015. Moscow and Riyadh face similar economic challenges: budget deficits, economic diversification, and reduced dependence on oil exports. However, Russia and Saudi Arabia are interested in maintaining high energy prices, given that they jointly provide 25% of global oil production. In 2016, countries reached agreements to reduce black gold production between OPEC and independent producing countries. American journalists were jealous of the fact that the Saudi authorities went into direct contact with Russia on military cooperation. Thus, reflecting the opinion of the current US authorities, Breaking Defense writes that the agreement between Russia and the Saudi monarchy clearly demonstrates the willingness of the latter to go beyond the established framework of military partnership with the United States and a long-standing focus on Washington. In these circumstances, and fearing such a Russian-Saudi rapprochement, the US has called on Riyadh and its other allies to avoid significant defense deals with Russia, commenting on the signing of a military cooperation agreement between Russia and Saudi Arabia. In addition, in a clear demonstration of Riyadh’s aversion to the kingdom’s show of rapprochement with Russia, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin postponed a planned August visit to Saudi Arabia under the blatantly contrived pretext of allegedly “having problems with its schedule.” On the whole, when Biden came to power, the main objectives of the United States in the Saudi track of Middle Eastern policy were outlined as follows: minimize direct involvement in the affairs of the region, preserving maximum influence, reduce dependence on Riyadh, keeping the kingdom in its orbit and not allowing it to get closer to Russia and China. Biden is strictly following his campaign promise to treat the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia like a “pariah.” The Democratic administration has downgraded contacts with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and also imposed sanctions on people and organizations in his inner circle. Meanwhile, Washington believes that such a policy, among other things, could strengthen opposition to Mohammed bin Salman. However, these moves by Washington are only further pushing Saudi Arabia to strengthen and expand ties with Russia. As for Biden’s promise to “turn Saudi Arabia into a pariah,” even the British publication The Economist questions this implementation by the American president, as the US remains dependent on Riyadh both on oil issues and in terms of its strategic interests in the region. Therefore, the White House will have to pursue a policy that prevents Washington’s unpleasant “impulses” by Saudi Arabia while allaying “its worst fears.” Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Middle East, Politics, Saudi Arabia]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/16/21 12:00am
The Talibans (a movement banned in the Russian Federation) first political steps are being watched with particular attention by the international community to determine the direction of further contacts and relations with the new Afghan authorities. Several previous claims against the Taliban have created a bad reputation of this movement that still dominates the determination of the future international position towards the Taliban. Since 2003, the UN and several countries, including Russia, have recognized the Taliban as a terrorist organization, given that the movement has carried out at least 14 acts of terrorism. Between 1996 and 2001, when the Taliban were already leading the government of Afghanistan, they became well known to the world public because of their harsh and discriminatory policies against the countrys population. Declaring a return to the roots of medieval Islam in their policies, they demonstrated the encouragement of the slave trade and total discrimination through the practice of trafficking in persons, especially women. In particular, of alien ethnicities: Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras. There was blatant oppression of religious minorities, with Christians, Sikhs, Shia Muslims, and Hindus being the most persecuted religious groups in Afghanistan. The Taliban forbade non-Muslims to build new religious facilities and criticize Muslims, forcing them to mark their homes with a yellow cloth, and forbade them to live together with Muslims, i.e. practiced openly racist and fascist policies. Performing blatant cultural vandalism and following one of the main principles, What is not in the Koran should be banned, in 1998 the Taliban destroyed the Puli Khumri Public Library, containing 55,000 books and ancient manuscripts. In 2001, they destroyed about 3,000 works of art and ancient artifacts in the National Museum of Afghanistan and the Buddhas of Bamiyan monumental statues. During the Taliban rule, all kinds of entertainment and cultural activities were banned: sports games, music, cinemas, TV shows, etc. Unfortunately, individual facts from the above aspects have already started to emerge today. For instance, National Resistance Front spokesman Ali Nazari wrote on his Twitter that the Taliban have expelled thousands of people from Panjsher province and are conducting ethnic cleansing. On September 8, dozens of women took to the streets in Kabul, as well as in the northeastern city of Faizabad, to rally against the composition of Afghanistans new all-male government, after which militants beat them with whips. Activists came out with an image of a pregnant police officer killed in the Ghōr Province a few days ago. In addition, it became known about the arrest of five journalists of the Etilaatroz newspaper who covered the protest action. They were detained hours before the new governments announcement, and Zaki Daryabi, said his staff had been severely beaten. Under the given conditions of uncertainty, even sympathetic countries are not yet in any hurry to recognize the Taliban rule. To make any decisions, external players must imagine what the new regime will be like and who they will have to deal with in government. The current political uncertainty caused severe deterioration of the social and economic situation in the country: about $9.5 billion of Afghanistans state reserves have been frozen in the U.S. bank accounts, the IMF has closed aid to the Taliban, the World Bank has suspended funding, and the European Union and Germany have also announced their intention to stop financial aid to Afghanistan. In this regard, there is discontent in Kabul and other major cities over the Talibans policies amid rising prices of essential commodities, food and fuel. Under these circumstances, to attract outside investors, the Taliban announced that they were starting to fight corruption under Sharia law, and that they reduced taxes, and the new mayor of Kabul ordered local traders not to pay tribute to anyone for allowing them to operate.  In parallel, the Taliban have stepped up discussions with individual countries on joint financial projects. For example, Abdul Salam Hanafi, the deputy head of the Taliban political office in Qatar, held consultations in Doha with the Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister. The Taliban expressed assurance to Beijing that they were ready to remain committed to developing friendly relations between Afghanistan and China and will never allow any force to use Afghan territory to threaten the interests of China. The Taliban declared they were also ready to cooperate in Chinas One Belt, One Road Project. Moreover, the Taliban have turned to New Delhi for help, given that India used to be among Afghanistans most prominent donors and trading partners, investing about $3 billion in development projects, and the trade between both countries was estimated at $1.4 billion. To this end, the first official meeting between India and the Taliban was held in early September in Qatar at the initiative of the Taliban. However, experts believe it is too early to count on Indian financial aid to the Taliban, as the risks are too great. There has been a lively discussion of the future policy towards the Taliban in the countries bordering Afghanistan: Pakistan, Iran, China, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. However, Tajikistan still does not agree to make contact with the Taliban. President Emomali Rahmon, who supported the Tajik resistance in Panjsher, has been more assertive than others: he openly asserts that the Taliban do not respect agreements, and Tajiks are entitled to decent representation in the government. A high-ranking foreign officials first visit to Afghanistan since the Taliban came to power, by Pakistans Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General, Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed has drawn attention. ISI is often described as the handler and almost the real leader of the Taliban Faiz Hamid held intensive talks in Kabul with the Taliban on the composition of the countrys new government on the eve of its announcement by the Taliban, as well as the fall of the Panjshir resistance. While the Taliban were busy expelling foreign troops, they proclaimed their non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, positioning themselves as a local religious, national liberation movement concerned only with Afghanistan and not proposing global ideas, such as a global caliphate. But in early September, Talibans spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid called Israel an occupier and compared the country to a tumor that must be destroyed” in an interview with an Iranian TV channel. Meanwhile, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told the BBC in an interview that the Taliban will defend Muslim rights around the world, particularly in Kashmir, India or any other country the way they visualize it. But don’t consider the current political leadership of the movement is made up of illiterate fanatics and extremists, as it was when the Taliban was founded a quarter of a century ago. Today, the Taliban are led by quite educated people who have graduated from Islamic Universities, and who clearly articulate their goals and suggest effective ways to achieve them. In that context, the Talibans congratulatory message on their victory from al-Qaeda (a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) drew attention. It called on Muslims to prepare for the next phase of jihad to establish Islamic rule from Arab North Africa to the Middle East. Also notable was the return to Afghanistan of the close aide to former al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, Amin-ul-Haq who previously headed bin Ladens security service and was al-Qaedas main weapons supplier. These facts and the emergence of new ones undoubtedly exacerbate the already highly complex situation around and within Afghanistan, lead to the growth of anti-Taliban resistance, and strengthen the internal conflict between the Taliban factions. Against this background, foreign powers have so far continued to monitor all Taliban activities with vigilance. Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Afghanistan, Central Asia, Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/15/21 2:08pm
There’s a blazing truth staring Russia in the face. It’s a truth 193 other countries have been forced to face too. Americans, by and large, do not give a damn what wars we are in, or if we win or lose. The plight of other nations, or even our next door neighbors’ catastrophes, are too far outside our empowered exceptionalism. I know, I know, it’s a shocking revelation for some. But I was once the cable guy, so I know. Looking outward, we find Russia’s state owned RT (Russia Today) does a good job of countering western propaganda most of the time, and for a fraction of what western corporate media spends to spin a narrative. Unfortunately, the Russian news outlet gets it all wrong on many subjects. Case in point, a recent story quoting WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson. In the piece, he discuses Afghanistan and how the media was complicit in hiding “the truth” about our failed from the “get-go” war. The problem, you see, is that western media only gave the American people what they wanted, a good reason to keep on being an empire. The directives from the elites who control the message, no longer include instructions to obscure the real message. This is because we don’t care. We don’t care. We don’t care about anybody. So, there is no imperative for subterfuge anymore. This is how bad we’ve become. The antithesis of this is the lie, not Afghanistan, Vietnam, Syria, Ukraine, or the Clintons taking advantage of Haiti. We just don’t care, get it? Hrafnsson, who is supposed to be a smart guy, told RT that the fact Washington was able to deceive the world for two decades is more shocking than the Saigon-ish images of America’s pullout. Really, now? No, Washington was not doing much to cover up anything. These days the mainstream media does little to hide the fact America runs on the blood, guts, and legacy resources of other people and places. What? Do I blaspheme here? I assure you, I do not. Americans are preprogrammed from birth. It started a long time ago, before I was born. And I am old. Were Kristinn Hrafnsson and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange naive enough to believe the release of the Afghan War Diary would make a difference? Had no one at WikiLeaks ever lived in or studied in America? Do these people not read history? The massive money flows, the military industrial complex bloodletting for profit, the big energy moves, private contractor bonanzas, all of it were not only predictable, but it was all in plain sight. It was in Vietnam too, but Americans were doing the twist, camping out at Woodstock, and watching their soap operas all day long. Business was good in 1965, but it was better in 2006, 2016, and even now. I know many Russians. And a lot more Americans. Remember, I said at the onset of this report, that I was once the “cable guy,” or basically a service professional who sees it all. My upbringing made me the perfect cable technician, actually. My family went from rags to riches, from affluence to despair, over and over in the last five or six decades. This is a common thing in my country. So, my chameleon-like socioeconomic character helped me slide in an out of any circle. In cable, you see, one has to communicate and work in the projects, trailer parks, at the penthouses above prestigious streets, and at gated communities on Florida yacht basins. I was, in effect, the fly on the wall, so to speak. And Americana is not what most Russians or Germans think it is. Not at all. We are, in effect, the “copper top” batteries (The Matrix) of wealth in the world. So yes, my fellow copper tops, I was there when you talked in the kitchen about those “rag heads” over in the deserts of the Middle East. I was hooking up your digital devices when you bragged about how we killed Hussein, Gadaffi, and how USAID fed the whole wide world. I hooked up your internet in the penthouse overlooking Vanderbilt University, when your rich daddy chastised me for suggesting the rich needed to be taxed more to help the poor. Your next door sex parties, the cruelty toward your animals, the drug dealing, the opinionated superiority you all exhibited at a point, I caught it in my mental mixtape. Speaking of the movie Matrix. Pretend the machines have already taken over, then reason in the fact that each day, US per capita energy consumption includes 2.6 gallons of oil, 9.7 pounds of coal, and 255 cubic feet of natural gas. Think of it, by 2018 there were 46.0 million more cars than licensed drivers in the United States. Astonishingly, for every American born, over 75,000 gallons of petroleum will be used in their lifetime. The figures for other natural resources are as staggering. The average household in the US consumes 240 gallons of water per day. And for comparison, remember that in some places in the world, people cannot get enough to drink to stay alive. We throw away enough food to feed every hungry man, woman, and child on Earth. No, really. Almost 25% of all the food we produce ends up in a landfill. And we Americans are the wealth generators for evil men so rich their names are hidden beneath 200 holding companies. Jeff Bezos is just their poster boy. More on this in a later story. Just come to terms with the reality of every policy discussion you ever read. Listen, I was scanning my Facebook timeline yesterday when I came across a post asking followers to “Pray for Afghanistan.” When I read it, I began laughing uncontrollably. Then a tear crept down my cheek as I realized, just how fucked up we have become. The propaganda, the ad nauseum droning of how ‘great’ we are, how fantastic we have been, and the brainwashing that all my countrymen have undergone these decades…… Well, it ends up being the greatest tragedy to ever befall humankind. And now, it all begins to unravel. Unravelling, by the way, not by some cyberwar Vladimir Putin runs from his office command post in the Kremlin. The world falling down around our heads is not Russia’s doing. It’s ours. Completely ours. We own it. I do not want to hurt the feelings of any Russian, Chinese, or even British friends, but these other nations have been supporting actors in a drama that has taken Earth to the brink of disaster. Part of the reason for this, is that only one American in one million can find Afghanistan on a map for a $1 million dollar prize. Not even if the map has labels. Read a recent Gallop collaborative study that reveals a lot about Americans and their world view, and especially how effective the propaganda has been. And even though almost every lower and middle-class American family had relatives who were servicepeople sent there, few have an inkling where or what Afghanistan is. We only need to pray for them because Trump was not able to rescue them when Biden became president. No, really. This is the America Russia does not get. Apathy and obtuseness is a gift, or part of our current DNA. I know this too because I was a geography teacher for a little while. My countrymen cannot find Afghanistan or Zambia on a labelled map because they don’t give a damn, not because they are stupid. All any of my countrmen need to find is Walmart, the gas station, or the clubhouse at the local country club. It is nice, however, that the Russians still hold out hope that the average American gives a damn. If you think about it, you can gauge how powerful the western propaganda machine has been, when even America’s most feared enemies believe we are capable of better. I only wish we were. But it will never happen. It did not happen when Nero fiddled Rome into history. And when Alexander the Great died, his best generals made sure his vision did not go on. This is what took place when JFK was gunned down in Dallas in 1963. All the Camelots we Americans could ever dream up, died with him. We became the selfish, empowered, rampant consumer druggies, who pirated the world and called it democracy. And no, there is no longer an excuse. It’s high time we come to grips. You cannot pretend we did not know. The cable guy listend to you. The service tech fixing your $1,000 dollar dishwasher or $10,000 big screen TV paid attention. Every time you bitched about gas, Trump, Biden, education, or anything at all, you betrayed the fact you not only understand the lie, you are integral to it. You see, Nigerians are not dirt poor because they are inferior. The kids in Venezuela are not hungry or in need of clothes because of socialism. The world is in trouble because we wanted the lie. End of story. And I am sorry to be one of the only Americans man enough to admit it. And by the way, I was my military’s poster boy, when my comrades called, so don’t go there either. Own up. Fix it. Or just be honest enough to admit Americans wanted to take over the world. Russia and 193 other countries are beginning to see us, it’s time America became number 195 in understanding our world policy, and moving to rectify an unsustainable future. That is, if there is to be any future at all. This is not about America bashing. I am a patriot, and I love my country. In fact, I would be remiss if I did not write the truth of these matters. If we do not rectify the hegemony we created, there is no hope for the world. As powerful as we have become, the influence America has will disappear, evaporate, or even reverse because of the coinciding effects. The sooner we acknowledge, the better chance we have to survive what will certainly be a day of environmental and ideological reckoning. We have to care again, it’s as simple as that. Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Society, USA in the World]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/15/21 2:08pm
There’s a blazing truth staring Russia in the face. It’s a truth 193 other countries does not want to face either. Americans, by and large, do not give a damn what wars we win or lose. The plight of other nations, or even our next door neighbors, is too far outside our empowered exceptionalism. I know, I know, it’s a shocking idea. But I was once the cable guy, so I know. Russia’s state owners RT (Russia Today) does a good job of countering western propaganda most of the time, and for a fraction of what western corporate media spends to spin a narrative. Unfortunately, the Russian news outlet gets it all wrong on many subjects. Case in point, a recent story quoting WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson discussing Afghanistan and how the media was complicit in hiding the truth about the failed from the start war. You see, western media only gave the American people what they wanted, a good reason to keep on being an empire. The directives from the elites who control the message, are not so difficult to conceal. This is because we don’t care. We don’t care. We don’t care about anybody. The antithesis of this is the lie, not Afghanistan, Vietnam, Syria, Ukraine, or the Clintons taking advantage of Haiti. We don’t care, get it? Hrafnsson, who is supposed to be a smart guy, told RT that the fact Washington was able to deceive the world for two decades is more shocking than the Saigon-ish images of America’s pullout. Really? Washington was not doing much to cover up anything, and the mainstream media was doing even less to hide the fact America runs on the blood, guts, and legacy resources of other people and places. What? Do I blaspheme here? I assure you, I do not. Americans are preprogrammed from birth. It started a long time ago, before I was born. And I am old. Were Kristinn Hrafnsson and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange naive enough to believe the release of the Afghan War Diary would make a difference? Had no one at WikiLeaks ever lived in or studied in America? Do these people not read history? The massive money flows, the military industrial complex bloodletting for profit, the big energy moves, private contractor bonanzas, all of it were not only predictable, but it was all in plain sight. It was in Vietnam too, but Americans were doing the twist, camping out at Woodstock, and watching their soap operas all day long. Business was good in 1965, but it was better in 2006, 2016, and even now. I know many Russians. And a lot more Americans. I said at the onset of this report, that I was once the “cable guy,” or basically a service professional who sees it all. My upbringing made me the perfect cable technician, actually. My family went from rags to riches, from affluence to despair, over and over in the last five or six decades. So, my chameleon-like socioeconomic character helped me slide in an out of any circle. In cable, you see, one has to communicate and work in the projects, trailer parks, at the penthouses above prestigious streets, and at gated communities on Florida yacht basins. I was, in effect, the fly on the wall, so to speak. And Americana is not what most Russians or Germans think it is. Not at all. We are, in effect, the “copper top” batteries of wealth in the world. Yes, copper tops, I was there when you talked in the kitchen about those “rag heads” over in the deserts of the Middle East. I was hooking up your digital devices when you bragged about how we killed Hussein, Gadaffi, and how USAID fed the whole wide world. I hooked up your internet in the penthouse overlooking Vanderbilt University, when your rich daddy chastised me for suggesting the rich needed to be taxed more to help the poor. Your next door sex parties, the cruelty toward your animals, the drug dealing, the opinionated superiority you all exhibited at a point, I caught it in my mental mixtape. Think of the movie Matrix. Pretend the machines have already taken over, then reason in the fact that each day, US per capita energy consumption includes 2.6 gallons of oil, 9.7 pounds of coal, and 255 cubic feet of natural gas. Also, by 2018 there were 46.0 million more than licensed drivers in the United States. Astonishingly, for every American born, over 75,000 gallons of petroleum will be used in their lifetime. The figures for other natural resources are as staggering. The average household in the US consumes 240 gallons of water per day. In some places in the world, people cannot get enough to drink to stay alive. We throw away enough food to feed every hungry man, woman, and child on Earth. Almost 25% of all the food we produce ends up in a landfill. Americans are the wealth generators for evil men so rich their names are hidden beneath 200 holding companies. More on this in a later story. Just come to terms with the reality of every policy discussion you ever read. Listen, I was scanning my Facebook timeline yesterday when I came across a post asking followers to “Pray for Afghanistan.” When I read it, I began laughing uncontrollably. Then a tead crept down my cheek as I realized, just how fucked up we have become. The propaganda, the ad nauseum droning of how ‘great’ we are, how fantastic we have been, and the brainwashing that all my countrymen have undergone these decades…… Well, it ends up being the greatest tragedy to ever befall humankind. And now, it all begins to unravel. Unravelling, by the way, not by some cyberwar Vladimir Putin runs from his office command post in the Kremlin. The world falling down around our heads is not Russia’s doing. It’s ours. Completely ours. We own it. I do not want to hurt the feelings of any Russian, Chinese, or even British friends, but these other nations have been supporting actors in a drama that has taken Earth to the brink of disaster. Part of the reason for this, is that one American in one million can find Afghanistan on a map for a $1 million dollar prize. Read a recent Gallop collaborative study that reveals a lot about Americans and their world view, and especially how effective the propaganda has been. Even though almost every lower- and middle-class American family had relatives who were servicepeople sent there, few have an inkling where or what Afghanistan is. We only need to pray for them because Trump was not able to rescue them when Biden became president. No, really. This is the American Russia does not get. Apathy and obtuseness is a gift, or part of our current DNA. I know this too because I was a geography teacher for a little while. My countrymen cannot find Afghanistan or Zambia on a labelled map because they don’t give a damn, not because they are stupid. It is nice, however, that the Russians still hold out hope that the average American gives a damn. If you think about it, you can gauge how powerful the western propaganda machine has been, even America’s most feared enemies believe we are capable of better. I only wish we were. But it will never happen. It did not happen when Nero fiddled Rome into history. When Alexander died, his best generals made sure his vision did not go on. And when JFK was gunned down in Dallas, all the Camelots we Americans could ever dream up, died with him. We became the selfish, empowered, rampant consumer druggies, who pirated the world and called it democracy. And no, there is no longer an excuse. We cannot pretend we did not know. The cable guy listend to you. The service tech fixing your $1,000 dollar dishwasher or $10,000 big screen paid attention. Every time you bitch about gas, Trump, Biden, education, or anything at all, you betray the fact you understand the lie. Nigerians are not dirt poor because they are inferior. The kids in Venezuela are not hungry or in need of clothes because of socialism. The world is in trouble because we wanted the lie. End of story. And I am sorry to be one of the only Americans man enough to admit it. And I was my military’s poster boy, when my comrades called, so don’t go there either. Own up. Fix it. Or just be honest enough to admit Americans wanted to take over the world. Russia and 193 other countries are beginning to see us, it’s time America became number 195 in understanding our world policy, and moving to rectify an unsustainable future. This is not about America bashing. I am a patriot, and I love my country. In fact, I would be remiss if I did not write the truth of these matters. If we do not rectify the hegemony we created, there is no hope for the world. As powerful as we have become, the influence America has impossible to make disappear, to evaporate, or even reverse without a coinciding effect. The sooner we acknowledge, the better chance we have to survive what will certainly a day of environmental and ideological reckoning. We have to care again. Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Society, USA in the World]

As of 9/21/21 1:36pm. Last new 9/21/21 1:11am.

Next feed in category: Dances with Bears