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[l] at 1/18/22 1:55pm
Is US President Joe Biden taking notes from the Trump administration on jockeying defense stocks? The question has to be asked in view of American military industrial stocks getting boosted by all the play on the tensions in Europe. What other reason could there be for lighting the fuse on World War III? Let’s take a short look at the stock and investment play of late. Let’s focus on Raytheon first. In January of 2021 the makers of the Javelin anti-tank weapons Washington gave Kyiv had a big problem. Stock hit a years long low of $65.02 as the year began. Then in October 2021 Russia warned NATO not to move on Ukraine membership. Boom! Raytheon shares hit $92.32. There was yet another interesting selloff of Lockheed Martin Corporation stock that took place between October 25th and 26th. The other company making Javelin missiles climbed to over $376 dollars per share from $336, and the next day dropped to $331. Analysts covered the defense contractor attributing the selloff to slumping sales revenue. Let’s look at other defense stocks for a better idea of what’s going on at the doorstep of Moscow. On October 27th of 2021, Boeing shares had slumped to $206.61. Then by November 15th, powered by a buy rating from Barrons and others, the stock hit $233.09. Then it tanked to $188.19 in two weeks after dropping by almost $8 bucks per share between November 15 and 16. Barrons reported the stock being worth $300 a share the same day it tanked. Then take a look at General Dynamics plans to sell tanks to NATO juggernaut Poland, as last October a report came describing Polish plans to buy 250 M1A2 Abrams SEPv3 tanks. Take note, 250 main battle tanks do not bolster a force, they create one. But for what? Early in 2021 there was no talk of Putin invading Ukraine? For those curious, General Dynamics stocks have fluctuated from a high of $210.21, to a low of $144.50 this past year. Finally, it’s widely known that President Biden’s son Hunter has investment deals that often seem to conflict with US policy, at least patriotically. This Financial Times report hits some up front high spots. News that Hunter helped the Chinese secure one of the biggest cobalt mines on Earth, right after his dad warned that China could use its dominance of mined cobalt to disrupt Americas development of electric vehicles… Well, you get the point. The extent of Russia’s worries over the Ukraine/NATO push of late stretch beyond what any major media outlet has outlined. Ukraine is not only being fed “lethal” weapons systems, American defense contractors have signed agreements to help Kyiv build its own weapons systems, some of which are offensive in nature. This report talks about Global Ordnance, Lockheed Martin and Harris Global Communications, a part of the L3Harris Technologies, inking deals to help build up the country’s defense industry. Meanwhile, Russia’s President Putin is trying to avert a shooting war that now seems imminent. Imminent, that is, unless the US military industrial complex bets on a new Cold War, instead of a “lethal” and hot one. I’ll leave you with a final advice from Motley Fool about investing in military stocks: “Military spending is a must for much of the developed world.” 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, Economics, Featured, Locations, USA in the World]

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[l] at 1/18/22 1:03pm
Armed with drones and active diplomacy, Turkey is slowly – but surely – charting a path for a major role for itself in Africa. While Russia has historically dominated African arms market with 49 percent of market share, Turkey’s ambitious foray includes geo-political interests, especially with regards to how it sees itself as a natural player in the region as a ‘neo-Ottoman’ state, and the ways it intends to consolidate itself in that capacity. By becoming a major supplier of weapons and military technology, Turkey hopes to transform itself into a guarantor of African states’ security. The role it played in Libya showcases broader Turkish ambitions in Africa. In this context, the recently held Turkey-Africa summit in Istanbul – which was attended by 39 African leaders, including Senegalese President Macky Sall, the incoming chair of the African Union; Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, currently the chair of the Economic Community of West African States reflects Ankara’s growing clout in Africa. In many ways, Turkey’s more recent ventures related to military technology builds on its existing economic ties. Annual trade between Turkey and Africa rose from US$4.5 billion in 2003 to US$26 billion in 2020, with Ankara further eying to raise it to US$ 50 billion. A major source of this increase is, as the African summit made cleart, will be Turkish arms and defense technology. As a post-summit statement from the Nigerian president’s media aide said “Turkish (military) technology, be they drones or even through the supply or manufacture of military ordinance in Nigeria will surely quicken the process and efforts to rid the country of pockets of terrorists and the menace of kidnappers and bandits. From their wide experience and advances in technology in fighting terrorism and banditry, they have a lot to give and they have assured us that they will give that support.” As it stands, Turkey recently secured arms deals worth 73 million USD. As details show, Kenya has bought 118 Hizir armoured vehicles from Katmerciler, an Izmir-based manufacturer, which it will use against al-Shabaab militants. The Turkish company beat bids from American and South African rivals. In December it sold the same model to Uganda and Ankara signed a $150 million deal with Tunisia. In other words, by making deals that address the relevant African countries’ immediate security needs, Turkey is not only making profits, but is also becoming a key partner of these African states’ efforts to stabilise the security situation. In other words, Turkish arms deals are much economics as geo-politics. For instance, countries like Togo have set-up plans to improve their army with the support of Turkey through training and armoured vehicles, weapons and other kinds of equipment. Since October 2021, Turkey’s sale of drone to the African states has expanded manifold, with Morocco and Ethiopia making deals and Angola following suit. The drone sales to Ethiopia will equip the Ethiopian military against the northern Tigray region – Africa’s bloodiest conflict that has killed thousands and displaced millions. Turkish sales are, therefore, on the rise. As the data shared by the Turkish Exporters Assembly in December 2021, Turkish arms sales to Africa rose by 39.7 per cent, with the first 11 months of 2021 seeing exports reaching a record figure of US$2.793 billion. New deals made via the summit has raised hopes for Turkey to end the year with sales/exports of more than US$3 billion. With Africa already ranking fifth in Turkey’s defense exports, the present trajectory shows that it may soon become the largest recipient of Turkish exports. Turkey’s geo-political inroads are not solely dependent upon arms deals. Besides the overall level of bi-lateral trade, Turkey has also a wide diplomatic presence in Africa. They are 40 Turkish embassies in Africa, and Turkish air-line flies to over 50 destinations across the continent. However, to consolidate its growing footprint, it has also established 39 military offices across the continent dedicated to offering military services to the African states. Besides it, Turkey is also actively involved in security operations in Sahel region, and has a large military base in Somalia. Everywhere I go in Africa, everyone asks about UAVs (Turkish drones)”, Erdogan boasted after a visit to Angola, Nigeria and Togo in October, 2021. While Erdogan’s statement highlights the demand, it also shows how Turkey is anchoring its defense industry as a key vehicle of its partnership with Africa. Over the past few years, Ankara has expanded its defense industry from an annual turnover of 1 billion to 11 billion USD in 2020, making it the 14th largest exporter of military equipment in the world. “In the last 19 years, Turkey has taken many steps in the field of the defense industry, which also struck Angola’s attention,” Erdogan told a joint news conference with Lourenco in the capital Luanda in October 2021. But how has Turkey managed to capture the African market? To a significant extent, the success of Turkish drones and military equipment in Libya proved to be a watershed. At the same time, however, the rhetoric that Turkey has constructed to boost its sale has played a key role. Ankara “sympathises” with Africa over how the world has treated Africa and that now it is time for Africa to strengthen itself via Turkish arms is playing a key role. “1.3 billion people live on the African continent and it is not represented at the Security Council,” Erdogan said in his speech during the last month summit, adding that “This is a huge, flagrant injustice.” Thus, armed with relatively cheaper – and effective – military technology and a powerful political narrative that capitalises on – and manipulates African position in the hierarchy of the world system, Turkey has been able to achieve in Africa something that was unthinkable until a few years ago, although the arms deals and anti-colonial discourse is only a means for Turkey to improve its own position in the same hierarchy. Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Africa, Columns, Economics, Featured, Locations]

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[l] at 1/18/22 7:10am
Southeast Asia (SEA) is a vast territory surrounded by warm oceans and located in the equatorial, subequatorial, and tropical climatic zones. This geographical position provides suitable conditions for beach holidays and the creation of resorts. In addition to the warm climate, beautiful landscapes, exotic nature, and sea beaches, the countries of Southeast Asia have an ancient culture, a unique folk flavor, and numerous historical monuments. All this makes Southeast Asia a desirable destination for tourists from all over the world. It is not surprising that tourism has developed actively and steadily in recent decades in the region. Southeast Asia is of interest to vacationers from all over the world, including Russia. The most popular destinations in Southeast Asia among Russians in 2019, before the start of the coronavirus crisis and the massive closure of borders, were Thailand and Vietnam. Thailand can be called the tourist capital of Southeast Asia. Foreign tourism began to develop in that country as early as the 1960s when civil wars raged in many other countries of the region and regimes succeeded each other that could not find a common language with wealthy states suppliers of tourists. For a long time, internal conflicts, economic crises, and sanctions pressure from abroad prevented many Southeast Asian countries from developing tourism. Now tourism for Thailand is one of the most important sources of income. In 2019, the tourism sector brought the country more than $62.2 billion, about 20% of Thailands GDP. Almost 40 million foreigners visited the country with a population of 70 million. It is noteworthy that among the states, whose citizens visited Thailand in 2019, Russia took fourth place: more than 1.4 million Russians came to Thailand. According to forecasts made by the Thai government in 2019, tourism revenues should amount to 30% of the countrys GDP by 2030. However, life made its own adjustments that cast these forecasts into doubt: at the end of 2019, an epidemic of the COVID-19 virus began, which soon turned into a pandemic, covering the entire globe. In January 2020, Thailand became the first country after China to report a case of the disease. Due to the quarantine measures that various states began to take from the beginning of 2020, the tourist flow to Thailand started to decline. The Thai government has also restricted citizens and visitors movement to slow down the spread of infection. In April 2020, all commercial flights to Thailand were canceled, and soon the level of revenues from the tourism business in the country was close to zero. Thailands tourism revenues remained at this zero level in the second and third quarters of 2020. It was not until October 2020 that the country received its first batch of foreign tourists In the fourth quarter of 2020, tourism brought about $30 million to Thailand, which, of course, cannot be compared with the revenues of previous years. This massive decline in foreign money inflows has clearly dealt a heavy blow to the Thai economy. In 2020 and 2021, the country was racked by peoples clashes who lost their earnings due to epidemic control restrictions. Realizing that it could not do without restoring the tourist flow, Thailand, however, accepted tourists with several conditions in 2021: even those vaccinated against COVID-19 were required to provide health certificates and serve in their hotels for a lengthy quarantine. Only at the end of June 2021 did the Thai leadership approve a list of countries whose citizens can visit Phuket without quarantine if they are fully vaccinated. Non-quarantine visits to other parts of Thailand by vaccinated citizens of several countries were allowed only in November 2021. So, there is still no reason to talk about restoring Thailands pre-coronavirus income. However, the tourist flow is gradually growing. It is known that only on January 1-4, 2022, more than 32,600 foreign tourists arrived in the country. It is noteworthy that most of them were Russian citizens, and as mentioned above, another Southeast Asian country popular among Russian tourists is Vietnam. That country does not have such a developed tourism infrastructure as Thailand. Still, it also has a warm climate, extensive sea beaches, natural and cultural attractions, and in recent decades, the tourism business in Vietnam has shown active and stable growth. In 2016, for the first time, more than 10 million foreign tourists visited Vietnam with nearly 100 million people. In 2018, more than 15.4 million tourists visited the country, and tourism business revenues amounted to 7.5% of Vietnamese GDP, more than $18.3 billion. It is worth noting that more than 600,000 foreign tourists who visited Vietnam in 2018 were Russian citizens. Thus, Russia ranked 6th in the list of the top countries supplying tourists to Vietnam, after China, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, located very close to Vietnam and after the United States. This prompts a conclusion that Russia is one of the leading partners for Vietnam in the tourism sector among countries located far from the region. Not surprising since the two states have decades of fruitful cooperation in many other areas. At the end of 2018, when a delegation of the State Duma of the Russian Federation visited Vietnam, the parties, among other things, agreed to make efforts so that in 2020, the year when Russia and Vietnam were celebrating the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations, at least 1 million Russian tourists should visit Vietnam. However, this plan was not destined to come true due to the pandemic. Saving the lives of its citizens, the Vietnamese leadership made a wise and challenging decision: to close their countrys borders to foreign tourists. This was done at the end of March 2020. Before the closure of the borders in 2020, only slightly over 244,000 Russian citizens managed to visit Vietnam (at the same time, Russia took 3rd place in terms of the number of tourists who visited Vietnam in the first months of 2020). The total number of foreign tourists visiting Vietnam in 2020 was less than 3.7 million, almost five times less than in 2019. Of course, due to the closure of the borders, the countrys tourism business has experienced a severe crisis. If Vietnams tourism income exceeded $32 billion in 2019, it amounted to just over $13.4 billion in 2020. Government programs to develop domestic tourism helped save at least some income and support Vietnamese small businesses. However, from the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, it was clear that it would be difficult for Vietnam to do without restoring the tourist flow from abroad. The primary purpose in this situation is to quickly find a cure for COVID-19. While remaining one of Vietnams closest partners, the Russian Federation resolved this issue. In 2021, Russia and Vietnam launched the production of the Russian anti-covid vaccine Sputnik V on Vietnamese territory. The Russian Federation also pledged to supply Vietnam with another 40 million doses of Sputnik V produced in Russia by June 2022. By the end of 2021, more than 50 million people out of more than 97.5 million Vietnamese citizens have been vaccinated with Sputnik V and other vaccines in Vietnam. On December 26, 2021, a passenger aircraft with Russian tourists landed at Cam Ranh Airport in Vietnam for the first time in two years. All Russians had a COVID-19 vaccination certificate. Only two tourist flights a week will be operated from Russia to Vietnam in the coming months. Still, even this rather modest volume of travel suggests that the victory over the pandemic and the tourist flow restoration to Vietnam are not far off. The tourism business has been and, apparently, will soon become one of the essential sources of income for Southeast Asia, and Russians are largely contributing to this. It can be expected that this factor will play its role in the further development of partnership between Southeast Asia and the Russian Federation. Dmitry Bokarev, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.  

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

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[l] at 1/18/22 12:30am
After the disgraceful flight of United States troops from Afghanistan, when the whole world watched with surprise and horror the nightmarish scenes at the airport, the rate at which the once-US-friendly government collapsed, giving way to the Taliban (banned in Russia), and experienced the tragic human stories of those Afghans who remained in the country, a question naturally came to everyones mind: Is Washington able to conduct a sane foreign policy? Another equally important question is: What does the US departure mean for the region, for American leadership in the world, and which countries will now fill the void created by the absence of the United States in the region? All these questions can be answered correctly and in detail if we consider the fact that Americas problems in the Middle East began not with the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, which only served to vividly illustrate the ineffectiveness of Washingtons policy. The decline began twenty years earlier with the reckless, costly and disastrous decisions of President Bushs administration to invade both Afghanistan and Iraq, followed by the decision to occupy them and try to create democracies that would support US interests first and foremost. These wars were reckless, for in both cases the Bush administration was informed by experts from the intelligence community, State Department officials, and the military that these were not wars that the United States could win, or permanently implant local governments to its liking. In both cases, President Bush ignored those who knew about Afghanistan and Iraq and instead listened to the influential neoconservatives who have become the dominant force in his cabinet. Since these ideologues had no grasp of either countrys culture, character, or history, they allowed cheap ideology to trump reality. As a result, these efforts were doomed to fail from the start. These prolonged wars have also cost the United States, Afghanistan, and Iraq many lives and a great deal of money needlessly wasted. The losses in Iraq and Afghanistan were devastating, and even now these nations cannot adequately recover from the many wounds inflicted on them by the US occupiers. In the case of the United States, they lost over 6,000 troops, and tens of thousands more were left physically or mentally crippled for life. It is also important to note that every year since the end of active combat operations, both in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has lost over 6,000 of its veterans to suicide, an average of over 20 a day! Moreover yet, there are tens of thousands more people who have joined the ranks of the homeless and drug addicts, all as a result of the trauma caused by these wars. This affected the morale of the military. These two wars and the treatment of veterans, mutilated and suffering from psychological trauma and drug addiction, have so far cost more than three trillion dollars. Evidently, this was one of the key reasons why the US military leadership was unwilling to commit significant ground forces to the occupation of Syria. And not to mention that these wars were disastrous, achieving none of their goals. Extremism has not been defeated. Instead, it has grown into more lethal forms and spread to many other countries, threatening the security and stability of the Middle East and North Africa, and has even taken root in some European countries. Another disastrous byproduct of these wars, according to political analysts, is the fact that Iran did not succumb to the destructive influence of the United States and decided to stand to the end. Although the unattainable goal of the neoconservatives was to decisively win these wars by demonstrating American power and resolve, thereby ensuring a century of US hegemony in a unipolar world, it ended in a crushing collapse. Instead, we can now see the emergence of a multipolar world in which regional and other global powers aspire to achieve their strategic ambitions. So, whether or not the US would have stayed in Afghanistan, a new reality has emerged in the Middle East. Other powers are either replacing the US or competing with it for influence, and some key regional allies, tired of the hegemons foolish blunders and miscalculations, are pursuing their own interests. As a result, American leverage is now more limited than it used to be. Nevertheless, we must not write off the United States as a former power just yet. It still has influence in the Middle East, economically, militarily and culturally. It still remains the most successful economy in the world, it still has significant deterrence capabilities that can protect its allies, and its all too often underestimated soft power remains an important asset as well. As disastrous as the US withdrawal was, practice shows, and the course of history testifies, that the former hegemon had no choice but to limit its losses, leave Afghanistan, and cease its active combat role in Iraq. But the adoption of these decisions in no way means that Washington is leaving the region altogether. It simply means that some American politicians have acknowledged realities that neoconservatives have tragically ignored. What is now required, Washington believes, is a clear analysis of the damage caused by both wars and a reconsideration of a regional position that realistically fits American needs and capabilities so that the United States can best protect its interests and those of its allies. But its hard to believe that claim. After the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, after 20 years of military occupation, many expected President Joe Biden to cut military spending. Instead, Washington has done the opposite, which will be a blow to average Americans who claim they have big problems to invest at home and need large sums to do so. After leaving Afghanistan, Biden himself said that the US was recklessly spending money on military activities, telling his nation: American people should hear this: $300 million a day for two decades And what have we lost as a consequence in terms of opportunities? And yet, the US president signed into law a massive $778 billion defense spending bill (a 5% increase over last year) after lawmakers welcomed the administrations initial funding request by adding a supplementary $25 billion to it.  The bill easily passed both houses of Congress (as it does every year) with rare bipartisan support. The only bill on which both sides agree almost unanimously is military spending. Americas military budget is by far the largest in the world. Despite receiving overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, American military spending has been decried by supporters and anti-war groups who continuously pose the question as to why is America spending $30 billion more (than President Donald Trumps last budget) on its armed forces, despite withdrawing from Afghanistan, the longest war in US history?  About two dozen lawmakers urged Biden to reassess priorities after up to $50 billion would be freed up by withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. The reality is that there are too many jobs, interests and lobby groups involved in the US military-industrial complex. Furthermore, while the US military presence in Afghanistan has indeed ended, taxpayers continue to pay for Americas massive military presence around the world. So there will likely never be a large reduction in the military budget that many Americans had hoped for. Thats money that could have been redirected instead to the 600,000 to 1.5 million Americans who have been sleeping outside this winter, or maybe 13% to 16% (depending on various studies) of the nations population living below the poverty line, or even to the uncounted majority – the half of American households struggling to pay essential bills. The list goes on. How does the US balance its military adventurism with the administrations responsibility to the majority of average Americans who cannot make ends meet? The $778 billion in spending suggests that the military is more important. But does the military protect national interests? The neo-conservatives are likely to win again. It is known that the Pentagon has more than 750 military bases in 80 countries around the world.  One of the largest American military presences is in West Asia. Other major base locations include East Asia, Europe and Latin America. This is despite the fact that no threat to America or its allies comes from these regions. So, in summary, the disgraceful flight from Afghanistan has taught nothing to the administration of Joe Biden, who is once again ready to repeat the same mistake of the neoconservatives. Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.  

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

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[l] at 1/17/22 1:15pm
The January events in Kazakhstan and the CSTO’s response proved to be a real litmus test of many countries’ attitudes towards Russia and the regional balance of power in modern times. Turkey was no exception here, as it showed what was behind its active assurances to Russia and the Central Asian countries of “bona fide development of friendly relations.” Since the start of the January events in Kazakhstan, they have been the focus of intense scrutiny in Turkey. The latter manifested itself in statements made by a number of Turkish politicians and in a wide-ranging political debate in Turkish media, including some important points regarding the interpretation of the events. After Turkey’s active involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it seemed to many in Ankara that a similar game could also be played in Central Asia, given the factor of Turkocentric integration and the corresponding positioning of Kazakhstan. But the situation changed with the CSTO’s swift decision to bring in its peacekeeping troops. In this context, the criticism of Russia by some Turkish politicians over the deployment of CSTO troops in Kazakhstan, and the unexpected statement by Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar that “Ankara is ready to provide any assistance and support to Kazakhstan if it makes any request” become understandable. The Türkiye newspaper published a piece titled “Putin has taken over” which, among other things, points that, “Moscow, which swallowed Crimea and inflamed tensions in Donbas, also intervened in Kazakhstan under the pretext of ‘helping to resolve internal disturbances’.” A number of other Turkish media published their articles voicing similar sentiments, clearly reflecting the Turkish authorities’ attempt to unofficially convey their attitude towards Russia and the events in Kazakhstan. At the same time, President Erdoğan’s chief adviser, İhsan Şener, at a conference of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS), bluntly accused Russia of occupying Kazakhstan. Claims by some senior Turkish officials that Russia was involved in the turmoil in Kazakhstan to “occupy the country” are a blow to Ankara’s relations with Moscow, Turkish Cumhuriyet wrote, outraged at the tone the “Erdoğan’s palace” is using towards Russia. The publication is convinced that the US is behind the provocative statements: “The view emanating from the presidential palace about the operation against the OTS and Russia’s alleged occupation of Kazakhstan serves to drive a wedge into Turkish-Russian relations, just as the US wants.” Former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said it was necessary for the OTS to be proactive in order to prevent the CSTO from sending troops, and Kazakhstan itself should not have turned to the CSTO. Nevertheless, official Ankara has chosen to take a cautious, wait-and-see attitude, limiting itself to as neutral rhetoric as possible, clearly aware that it could fall out of the Central Asian ensemble altogether if it is not considerate enough. And it is well known that Washington is actively trying to play the “Turkish card” in the post-Soviet space in its confrontation with Russia, particularly in Ukraine, the Transcaucasus and also in Central Asia. The spread of Turkish influence to the Turkic-speaking republics of the former Soviet Union, and to Kazakhstan in particular, is nothing new. Ankara officially proclaimed this as its strategy in 1992, with the approval of the US, which saw it as a counterweight to the spreading influence not only of Russia in the region, but also of China and Iran. For the first two decades, however, Turkish influence spread mainly through the spheres of economy and culture, and the opening of numerous Turkish schools and universities. Issues of Washington’s increased use of Ankara’s “capabilities”, despite the occasional friction between the US and Turkey, are the subject of various “consultations” between diplomats, the military and representatives of the intelligence services of the two countries. Thus, the discussion of the situation in Kazakhstan between US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Turkish Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın was mentioned in a State Department statement released on January 10. This, in fact, was followed by a statement from Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar about Turkey’s readiness to play a more active role in “resolving the situation in Kazakhstan.” As for Kazakhstan, keep in mind that it was at the initiative of Washington and Ankara that this very country was made one of the drivers of the so-called “union of Turkic forces.” Under former President Nazarbayev, the work of many bodies of this union has intensified, mosques have been built, various political, educational institutions and scientific projects in Kazakhstan have ramped up their work, with all of this fixated on Turkey in recent years. Ankara has invested huge amounts of energy and money to bring Kazakhstan into its ideological and political agenda, trying to occupy the “voids” created after the collapse of the USSR. Nazarbayev himself participated in the development of the Great Turan concept; in fact, Kazakhstan did everything it could to make this organization political. Therefore, Turkey was not too happy with the change of power in Kazakhstan and the arrival of Tokayev, who was associated in Ankara more with Moscow. In this regard, Ankara had a clear interest in changing the situation in Kazakhstan in its favor, and it is possible that in addition to the West, Turkish “capabilities” could have been actively involved in what was happening. As noted by The Economic Times (ET), Turkey is actively working on Kazakhstan together with two other states, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and in this regard the publication, citing its sources, stresses that “well-trained radicals” with Afghan experience were actively involved in the Kazakhstan unrest. So Ankara and Islamabad could be involved in preparing a “favorable environment” for their invasion, including through neighboring Kyrgyzstan. To reinforce this point, ET also stresses that members of the Pakistani branch of Tablighi Jamaat (a movement banned in Russia) played a serious role in the unrest. Lately, Ankara has been clearly outplaying Moscow on the Kazakhstan track, actively pursuing Turkocentric integration. As the Turkish publication Cumhuriyet reports, certain forces in Ankara believed that “Kazakhstan will end up like Ukraine” and they could then mediate between the two “centers” Nur-Sultan and Alma-Ata through the Organization of Turkic States. But Turkey lacked the resources, and indeed the time, to pursue its ambitious projects in the region. It should also be remembered that the idea of a “Turkic world” was not initially very close to the Kazakhs, as historically Central Asia was not part of the Ottoman Empire. And after Kazakhstan suppressed the turmoil with the help of CSTO members Russia and Kyrgyzstan, Turkey was left with little chance of implementing its idea at all.  Furthermore, despite Ankara’s demonstrated willingness to introduce troops into Kazakhstan, it had no legal authority to do so. In addition, the geographical remoteness and the lack of sufficient means of transport to move troops there quickly on their own must not be forgotten. Under these circumstances, Ankara’s emphasis, following the events in Kazakhstan, that the Turkic states should immediately establish a common army becomes understandable. This was stated by former Brigadier General and ex-Attaché of Turkey in Azerbaijan Yücel Karauz, who addressed the Organization of Turkic States, which includes Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan, as well as Hungary and Turkmenistan as observer countries. There is also an explanation for his emphasis that “at the first meeting of the organization the legal measures relating to the creation of a joint military force should be adopted and the real steps implemented. If we are too late, we could do irreparable damage. What is happening now in Kazakhstan could also happen in other fraternal republics.” However, the creation of a new regional military alliance under Ankara’s direct leadership in the near future is unlikely. Since for most of the “Turkic countries” that Ankara is counting on in this matter, it is not Turkey but the CSTO that has now shown its real strength and capability as a regional protector, both from internal and external threats. Therefore, Turkey can now only count on strengthening its influence by helping Kazakhstan recover from the crisis. However, Russia, learning from the experiences of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, is unlikely to repeat past mistakes and will try not to lose Kazakhstan. It is also likely that in the long term Russia will be the one to hold the military-strategic advantage in Kazakhstan and the region as a whole. And this is understandable: Kazakhstan borders thousands of kilometers with Russia, not with Turkey. As for trade and investment projects, Turkey can retain its niche as long as it does not intensify its anti-Russian vector in favor of its nationalist aims and instructions from Washington. Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.  

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

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[l] at 1/17/22 10:45am
On January 5, Reuters, citing Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, reported the signing of the so-called Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) with his Japanese counterpart Kishida. This event is certainly one of the most significant ones in the process of development of the political and strategic situation in the Indo-Pacific region. The November 2020 visit to Japan by the same Morrison was a milestone in the successful conclusion of years of bilateral negotiations to conclude the RAA. Then, during a meeting with Yoshihide Suga, the predecessor of Japan’s current Prime Minister Suga, the two sides came to an “agreement in principle” that it was time to finally agree on all the contentious points in the document that would establish the RAA. The latter should be an important addition to the format of bilateral relations in the field of defense and security, which since 2007 have been referred to as “semi-allied.” Note, however, that even after the RAA enters into force (discussed below), these relations will not necessarily become a full-fledged military-political alliance where its participants are bound by obligations (spelled out in a corresponding document) in the event of threats to any of them in the area of defense and security. Such commitments are present, for example, in the documents establishing NATO and the US-Japanese political and military alliance. At the same time, the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s brief announcement about the signing of this document draws attention to the passage, indicating that with its entry into force the sides intend to “further promote bilateral security and defense cooperation,” increasing their contribution to “the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region.” In other words, the RAA may actually be an important, albeit still intermediate, step on the road to establishing a full-fledged alliance between Japan and Australia. In this connection, recall the words Morrison said a year ago, stating that the very fact of the forthcoming signing of this document would be “a pivotal moment in the history of Japan-Australia ties.” He also drew a certain parallel with the US-Japanese “Security Treaty of 1960.” This, however, so far sounds rather like an exaggeration, because, as follows from the extensive (29 pages) document of the RAA, it solves the rather intermediate task of “creating a legal framework” for the presence of units (as well as accompanying civilians) of the armed forces of one of the parties “visiting” the territory of the other. And, as follows from Article 6 of this document, the format of the mentioned “framework” is rather strict for the “visiting forces,” designed to exclude the possibility of them stepping outside said framework during their stay in the territory of a partner. Provisions are made in particular for the hos partner to fully identify each of the members of the visiting group. Note the absence of the word “China” both in the text of the document under discussion and in the comments of the two prime ministers made immediately after the act of signing it. However, “independent experts” hardly hesitate to link the motivation for the emergence of the RAA with the fact of China’s transformation into a regional and global power. To comment on this event, it is appropriate once again to express bewilderment as to why this fact is viewed with apprehension by the current Australian government, whose anti-Chinese motives result in quite tangible economic losses. At the same time, for Japan’s leadership, the signing of the RAA fits into the overall process of the country’s return to the table of the Great Game as one of its leading participants. In particular, it corresponds to the trend towards the expansion of its comprehensive (including military) presence in Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean and the Middle East. It seems quite obvious that it is Japan who will get the most use out of this document. The fact of its signing also fits in with the creeping process of diluting the significance of the anti-war Article 9 of the Japanese constitution as it stands. It is remarkable that commentators link the RAA Agreement with the beginning of the so-called Quad, which, in addition to Japan and Australia, also includes the United States and India. Note, however, that the Quad is not a formalized military-political alliance and its practical activities have so far focused mainly on the “humanitarian” sphere, conditioned primarily by the task of combating COVID-19. But the motive of opposing the spread of the China’s political influence in the IPR can also be seen in the Quad. Whether it will become the core of the “Asian NATO” that Washington has been pursuing for nearly two decades seems to depend critically on India’s positioning in the game unfolding in the region. So far, despite the obvious shift towards Washington in New Delhi’s foreign policy in recent years, the country’s leadership has refrained from participating in the formation of a binding military-political alliance with an anti-Chinese orientation. Whether this positioning of Delhi will continue will depend entirely on the development of Sino-Indian relations in their “full format,” as well as in such important “details” as the continuing mutual territorial claims. Comments on the signing of the RAA mention the recent acronym AUKUS, made up of the initial letters of three countries (Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States) that formed this configuration for the purpose of coordinating military activities in the IPR. So far, the motives of its emergence are not very clear, considering that this “trinity” is already connected by paired military-political alliances. Even without AUKUS, the US has long felt at home in Australia (Darwin, Perth). Perhaps this configuration is also seen as a potential core of the same “Asian NATO.” But this prospect also depends entirely on India and Japan joining AUKUS. Again, with respect to India, this development looks unlikely. But it is equally unclear for Japan, whose leadership, on the way to increasing the importance of the military component in its foreign policy, is confronted with a generally anti-war attitude among its own population. Its people (much like the people of Germany) learned from experience that it is possible to achieve tangible political goals in the international arena without breaking the ribs of its neighbors, and without risking their own. Just wait and see how the ratification process of the RAA, rather limited in its scope and military and political significance, will go through Parliament. The said process is provided for by its Article 29, according to which the document enters into force five days after the exchange, through diplomatic channels, of communications on the completion of the relevant “internal procedures bringing this Agreement into force.” A year ago it was predicted that at least some kind of amendment might appear in it during the debate in the Japanese parliament. This would mean a subsequent (likely just as lengthy) discussion by the parties on a new version of the text of this document. If this process succeeds, the RAA will, once again, confirm the trend toward an increasing military component in the overall expansion (or, rather, “return”) of Japan’s all-round presence in the IPR. It is also worth noting that the signing of the Japan-Australia RAA coincided with another US-Japan 2+2 meeting, that is, with the participation of foreign and defense ministers of both countries. This, however, is another story for another time. 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]

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[l] at 1/17/22 12:25am
In early January, several media outlets ran a clickbait headline, “North Korea Claims Kim Jong-il Invented Shawarma.” This fast-food dish is popular in post-Soviet countries. The statement about its North Korean roots immediately broke into negative comments about how North Korea is duping the people and making them believe that its top leaders have invented a commonly known dish. Allegedly the source of this information was The Independent, a British online newspaper, with a text titled “North Koreans enjoy burritos after paper bizarrely claims Kim Jong-il “invented the dish in 2011.” It turns out that the dish in question recently appeared on television in a propaganda program where it was described as a wheat wrap. The major DPRK newspaper Nodong Sinmun reported that the dish was initially invented in 2011 by Kim Jong-il, the current leader’s father, and predecessor. In addition, the article claimed Kim Jong-un also takes a “meticulous interest” in the foodstuff, and its popularity is “booming.” The author would like to give a complete translation of this short piece: “At the stall for wheat tortillas stuffed with meat. At the counter, you can see people having wheat tortillas stuffed with meat and saleswomen kindly explaining their nutritional value to customers. Whenever we witness such scenes, we recall with deep excitement the image of Chairman Kim Jong-il, who was pleased during his field leadership with the newly built workshop at the Geumseong Food Factory. When the Chairman looked into the mobile kiosk, he instructed the people to be served warmed wheat tortillas with toppings. We still recall his words that our people would be happier if they were served mineral water in summer and hot tea with wheat tortillas in winter. Dear Secretary-General Kim Jong-un, who inherited the history of the Chairman’s noble love for people, has taken a keen interest in wheat tortillas, from production to service, and has taken steps to do so. Indeed, a small stall of stuffed wheat tortillas is associated with the motherly love of our party.” As you can see, Kim Jong-il is not positioned in the text as the inventor of this dish: instead, he is the author of the idea to establish this type of fast food, which, again, is neither shawarma nor burrito in the classical sense. In Korean, this dish is called milssam (밀쌈) and is similar to shawarma in a wheat pita but wrapped. It is not rolled on the spot but heated in the microwave. In 2016, such “fast food” was sold in Pyongyang, including Kaesong International Park (the main recreational area for students and schoolchildren), where the author tried it himself. The article was published in the context of the December Plenum of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, where Kim Jong-un talked a lot about the need to restructure the agricultural system, including paying more attention to wheat rather than rice. And since milssam is precisely wheat flatbread, it was, therefore, emphasized that the promotion of wheat products was not his personal initiative but a continuation of the great ancestors’ course. This is quite an essential point because North Korea is actively trying to solve industrial safety problems by introducing new crops, which do not always take root. For example, North Koreans consume potatoes, which often save the day given the climate and topography, only in processed form potato flour or noodles. Foreigners order fried potatoes in restaurants. Therefore, when promoting new products, it is worth recalling that their introduction was blessed as early as (in this case) the current leader’s father. By the way, there is no such counterpart to fast food in traditional Korean cuisine, although the idea of wrapping meat in a flatbread is common throughout the world. Armenian brtuch, Mexican burrito, and Middle Eastern shawarma appeared independently of each other.  And if it was Kim’s idea to have this type of fast food in Korea, he could be called the inventor of the milssam if the North Korean media had written a signle line about it being his idea. And then, The Independent published an article about this article. For simplicity, it renamed milssam burrito, apparently because the English version of the North Korean text translated the Korean word as “wheat cakes stuffed with meat.” In addition, an incorrect translation or a conscious desire to release a fake made Kim the “inventor of food.”   The media, which loves loud headlines, renamed burrito shawarma for even more simplicity, and Kim Jong-il was not credited with creating this type of food specifically for Korean realities but in general. After that, the “fake” took its final form: North Korea claims that Kim Jong-il invented shawarma. However, thanks to the efforts of experts who quickly got to the sources, this fake was knocked down fairly quickly, so two more fakes should be mentioned that caught the author’s attention these days. The first concern is the stylish leather trench coat that Kim Jong-un started wearing. Since journalists associate such leather coats exclusively with SS uniforms, it was concluded that Kim Jong-un sympathized with Nazi Germany. Moreover, according to Radio Free Asia, included in the registry of foreign media (citing anonymous informants as usual), such leather coat is now only allowed to be worn personally by Kim Jong-un, General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea. However, almost a month passed, and Prime Minister Kim Tok-hun appeared several times in a similar coat during his leadership on the ground. The second fake was the speculation that Kim Jong-un’s birthday on January 8, 2022, would be a starting point for a new round of the personality cult. Apparently, since according to the official version the leader turns 40, the round date will be the moment of appearance of new titles and mass portraits. But the date passed, and this didn’t happen.  The day remained a non-holiday, after which the most rapid experts were not embarrassed and postponed the forecast to the next round date. Stay tuned for more fake news busting, and remember that it often may not even be due to ill will. Rather, due to poor translation and the desire to come up with a fancy headline, as in modern journalism, the quality of an article is often determined by the number of views. All you need to do is open it, not necessarily read to the end. Therefore, even though the essence of the text may correct a clickbait headline, it is called clickbait for a reason. 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]

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[l] at 1/15/22 10:40pm
Amid the world’s forced turn toward nuclear power and energy crisis, Europe had given serious thought to nuclear power’s future on the continent. Currently, 31 countries operate nuclear power plants. The peak in nuclear power generation was recorded in 2006 (2,660 TWh), but overall, the share of nuclear power in global electrical power generation decreased from 17.6% in 1996 to 10.7% in 2021. Italy was the first European country to shut down all existing nuclear power plants and completely abandon atomic energy. On New Year’s Eve, three nuclear power plants were disconnected from the grid in Germany, instantly dropping the power generation by 5%. The decommissioning of Germany’s Brokdorf Nuclear Power Plant in Schleswig-Holstein is particularly symbolic, as anti-nuclear energy activists have actively opposed it since its construction. The decommissioned reactor’s residual heat is discharged into the Elbe via cooling systems. According to the management company, the Brokdorf NPP has generated more than 380 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity since it was connected to the grid in 1986. Today, there are only three active nuclear power plants in Germany. These plants will also be decommissioned in a year after the country phased out nuclear power. The German government made this decision after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. However, Germany’s concerted opposition to nuclear power began far earlier. One of the fundamental conditions for forming a unified Germany during the change of eras, during the unification of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR), was the quick deactivation of nuclear power reactors. The Rheinsberg and Greifswald nuclear power plants in East Germany, which generated billions of dollars in cheap electricity, were shut down for good, and the construction of the Stendal Nuclear Power Station, where Russia’s VVER-1000 reactors were to be installed, was halted. The nuclear power industry in Bulgaria also suffered after Rosatom’s (Russia’s state nuclear corporation) proposal to build the Belene Nuclear Power Plant had been refused amid the return of Crimea, subservience Western sanctions, and trendy environmental agenda by the Bulgarian leadership. At the same time, it wasn’t just the nuclear power industry in Bulgaria that suffered from the anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the USA, but in general, this country has faced a lot of energy security problems because it backed out of the South Stream project, following orders from the United States at the time, and now it sees how Turkey reaps all the benefits of being Europe’s southern gas hub. But then 2021 came, and it suddenly turned out that the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant, with its old Soviet VVER-440 reactors and a pair of more modern Russia’s VVER-1000 reactors, is the only reliable source of power generation in the country. Moreover, according to the past year’s results, the NPP Kozloduy tripled its profit, earning $414 million! Under these conditions, the French nuclear power industry has remained one of the most powerful in Europe. General Charles de Gaulle formed the French Atomic Energy Commission in the 1950s, headed by Frédéric Joliot-Curie, who was given the Nobel Prize for his work on the peaceful atom. Three years later, on December 15, 1948, the first French heavy water nuclear reactor was put into operation. After the 1973 oil crisis, the focus on nuclear energy became decisive in France. Today, 19 French nuclear power plants with 56 power generating units generate three-quarters of all electric power in the country and provide jobs for 40,000 people. France ranks first in the world in terms of the share of nuclear power in the country’s energy balance and second in terms of the absolute volume of electric power produced by nuclear power plants. For comparison, 99 power generating units operate in the USA, 58 in France, 42 in Japan, and 36 in Russia. Most of the French nuclear power plants in operation were built in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Not a single new nuclear reactor has been commissioned in France this century. The French parliament adopted a decision in 2015 under German pressure and local environmental organizations which was to reduce the share of nuclear power in the country’s energy balance from 70% to 50% by 2025. For this reason, France was forced to postpone the construction of six new generation nuclear reactors and consider alternative energy sources. However, more recently, these plans were adjusted by Paris after the French President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative to revive the country’s nuclear power industry. Lacking its own significant natural gas reserves and the ability to transform into a European gas hub thanks to a contract with the Russian Gazprom, like Germany, Macron visualizes nuclear power as a guarantee of French independence. He believes that France should continue to develop a nuclear power industry based on cutting-edge technology. On the other hand, by opting for the peaceful atom France basically challenged Germany on this point. Dr. Jens Althoff, Head of Office at the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung in Paris, said a year ago that the atomic issue created a deep crisis in relations between France and Germany and advised against France’s attempt to finance the nuclear-powered program at the expense of the European Union. Therefore, the recent decision of France to resume the construction of nuclear power plants came as a complete surprise to everyone. At the end of 2019, without notifying any of its European partners, the French government instructed the energy concern EDF (Électricité de France) to prepare a project to commission six new generation nuclear reactors starting in 2021. EDF is an 80% state-owned company and operates all 58 operating nuclear reactors in France, many of which are nearing the end of their service lives. It is impossible to compare Germany’s and France’s nuclear power industry issues because more than 70% of electricity generation comes from peaceful nuclear power in France, while it was only 25% in Germany before the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and now even less. In this context, Germany has a much easier time abandoning nuclear energy than France. Therefore, as expected, France sent a letter to the European Commission, having earned the support of Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Croatia, the Czech Republic, and Finland, demanding to recognize nuclear power as safe for the environment. Stepping into 2022, a united Europe took with it a maze of long-standing internal problems that have combined to test this geopolitical union for strength once again. And one of these litmus tests was the attitude towards the future of nuclear power industry on the continent. The UK media, citing their sources in Brussels, reported that the European Commission would shortly cooperate for investments in the nuclear and gas energy sectors. The inclusion of gas preferences in the package is intended to appease Germany and Austria, which import Russian gas. In other words, the European government is ready and urgently asks all its partners to recognize the atom and natural gas as environmentally friendly energy sources. And this will automatically lead the two indicated directions out of the global restrictions aimed at curtailing the traditional energy and transition to alternative sources. Nuclear power is an environmentally friendly and sustainable source of energy. Currently, the European Commission does not hide its intentions that electricity should be produced at nuclear power plants for decades. As expected, the Greens from the traffic light coalition of Germany are primarily against the initiative of Brussels. They are mainly concerned about the unclear issue of nuclear waste disposal. Also, the German initiative is understandable. While Berlin has been deliberately abandoning the atom in favor of far more expensive gas and volatile renewable energy sources for decades, its neighbors have been watching the German experiment with interest. And when it became clear to everyone that even prosperous Germany could not afford such transitions, other EU members just changed their minds. As a result, Germany is the only one who rigorously fulfilled all the requirements of nuclear power reduction, so now it’s the only loser. And Germany’s contract with Gazprom and cooperation with Russia is particularly meaningful for it in this context. According to European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton, the European Union needs to invest up to 500 billion euros in creating nuclear power plants of a new generation, and 50 billion euros are required to maintain the operation of existing nuclear power plants. At the same time, Breton is confident that the goal is achievable since investments will be facilitated by the European plan currently under discussion, which recognizes nuclear energy as “green.” Moreover, modern science does not stand still: today, Russia has developed and tested technology to utilize regenerated uranium and plutonium. In November, the Siberian Chemical Combine in Seversk produced the first commercial batch of REMIX fuel rods with uranium-plutonium pellets, which will be used in standard VVER-1000 reactors. Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.  

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

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[l] at 1/15/22 12:00am
With the rise of cell phones, the Internet, social media, and other forms of electronic communication, the ability to influence public opinions and the social and political life in a country has grown significantly. Furthermore, the speed with which information is made available through social media is unprecedented. Today’s social media spreads information in a few seconds, allowing the public to be well briefed in advance, whether it’s a news broadcast or a call to participate in “revolutionary activities.” Therefore, it is not surprising that the military, the US National Security Agency, and many other Western intelligence services subsidize the development of the Internet, mobile phones, and software platforms. The role and significance of social media in initiating “color revolutions” has received extensive media coverage. It turned out to be critical in the events in Kazakhstan as well. A query concerning the part the Internet and social media played in Kazakhstan events was answered by Dmitry Peskov, Russian Presidential Press Secretary, who noted that “the social networks bear just as much evil as good.” Many users noted that recent news had been mainly covered by the NEXTA Telegram Channel, which was previously actively used to coordinate protests in Belarus and is under the external supervision of Polish special services. It has become the primary Telegram channel covering large protests in Kazakhstan. Former NEXTA editor Roman Protasevich, apprehended by Belarusian authorities last year, does not dispute that intelligence services monitor the channel’s operations. The majority of the authors of this media resource are based in Poland, as is the Central Group of Psychological Actions (Centralna Grupa Dzialan Psychologicznych), which oversees this channel and reports to the Polish Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Directorate. This military force specializes in gathering intelligence and influencing the enemy’s psychology. It is based in Bydgoszcz and is nicknamed “Black Spiders” due to its emblem. The Polish Military Center for Public Education’s report on “Strategic Communication and Public Affairs” expressly mentions that the Polish Army uses social media when conducting psychological operations “to initiate systematic changes of a political nature.” This is how the official Polish sources describe the purpose of this military unit: “It is a separate military unit, which is directly subordinate to the command of the ground forces and is part of the special operations forces. Its goals are to indoctrinate the troops and residents of the enemy for achieving political, military, and propaganda gains. Institutionally, the Central Group contains, in addition to the headquarters, the Psychological Fighting Intelligence Center, which serves as the Central Group’s principal coordinating component and is comprised of four information collection and processing bureaus. (The first focuses on press analysis and other open information sources on Poland, the second targets English-speaking Western countries, the third focuses on Eastern Europe, and the fourth on states in “conflict situations”).” It is quite natural that this structure prefers to stay under the radar. However, there is reason to believe that the Polish Internet resources NEXTA and NEXTA Life were actively injecting fakes to sway the situation in Belarus. Their work is controlled and led directly by the leadership of the Central Group of Psychological Actions. As the situation in Kazakhstan raged on for several days, this information resource from outside the nation weakened the demonstrators’ original precise demands, focusing primarily on political requirements and their interpretation, involuntarily drawing similarities with the Arab Spring. It is worth emphasizing that the arsonists located on Polish territory did everything necessary to keep the battle going for as long as possible. So, on January 5, after the official announcement of the resignation of the Kazakh government, NEXTA Live continued to incite the rioters. In particular, an inscription appeared: “Rumors about the resignation of the government are spreading on the Internet. Most likely, this is a tactical move to deceive the protesters. The protest cannot be stopped until the resignation of the government and dictator Nazarbayev becomes a fact. Don’t be fooled!” A little later, NEXTA unambiguously began to point out a new enemy to the Kazakhs the Russian peacekeepers. In addition, NEXTA Telegram Channel called to ascertain the identity of the fighters of the CSTO peacekeeping contingent sent to Kazakhstan, obviously to carry out malicious actions against them. It becomes clear why, at the outset of the rebellion, the Kazakh authorities severely restricted Internet use in the country. Signs were beginning to surface that the protests were being conducted from abroad, including the assistance of the Polish NEXTA Telegram channel, which became well-known following the outcome of the Belarusian protests. Messages defaming Russia and its CSTO partners in Kazakhstan are also being circulated in the international sections of Twitter, and Reddit, with botnets being used. The accounts, connected presumably from Lithuania, to distribute biased publications were noted. At the same time, Twitter revealed publications by presumably pro-Turkish anonymous authors about the alleged Russian intent to split Kazakhstan, as it was with Ukraine, about the need for NATO to intervene in the situation and the “genocide by Tokayev and Russia against the Kazakhs.” Also, there is insider information that the political situation in Kazakhstan is being actively swayed using social media by representatives of Western intelligence services, primarily from the UK and the USA. Thus, a year earlier, the United States allocated more than $ 1.5 million to “protect the rights and freedoms” of citizens in Kazakhstan, most of which were received by some representatives of the blogosphere, who tendentiously covered the protest actions during the events in Kazakhstan. And recently, it became known that the US Department of State intends to launch a program to develop democratic institutions and civil society in Tajikistan in 2022. The document published by the Department of State notes in particular that the primary target audience of the project should be the Tajik youth between 15 to 35 years of age. “The goal of the project is to strengthen the capacity of independent bloggers and social media influencers to create content that can effectively counter disinformation, propaganda, and extremism,” the document clarifies. The Department of State also aims to involve a wide range of moderate-minded people in creating “positive content.” What exactly is considered “disinformation and extremism” in the eyes of the US Department of State is anyone’s guess. However, there are reasons to believe that the United States is preparing for Tajikistan a destiny similar to what happened in Kazakhstan. Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.  

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

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[l] at 1/14/22 1:49pm
Kazakhstan has suffered severe nationwide violence allegedly prompted by fuel price concerns. However, it quickly became clear that it was instead actually foreign-sponsored destabilization which was, at best, using legitimate public concerns as cover for attempted regime change. A Russian-led deployment of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) forces has helped stabilize the Central Asia nation, giving the international community time to dissect the violence and follow both money and motives. US Interest in “Overextending and Unbalancing” Russia in Central Asia Kazakhstan occupies a very strategic location geographically stretching nearly to Ukraine and Turkey to the west, sharing a very long border with southern Russia, and reaching the border with Xinjiang, China to the east. It is the perfect location for the US to “link” together its ongoing efforts to encircle and contain both Russia and China. Kazakhstan is located in Central Asia, a region US policymakers have openly declared interest in attempting to “overextend and unbalance” Russia in. A 2019 RAND Corporation paper titled, “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia: Assessing the Impact of Cost-Imposing Options,” would list several options ranging from attacking Russia’s energy exports by forcing Europe to buy more expensive hydrocarbons from the US, poaching Russia’s skilled labor force, and arming Ukraine as well as terrorists in Syria, to undermining neighboring Belarus and “reducing Russian influence in Central Asia.” The report notes the difficulties of outcompeting the benefits both Russia and China offer Central Asian countries including Kazakhstan. Opening transportation corridors as well as offering trade deals and technical assistance are all areas Russia and China can easily outcompete the US in. Thus, in order to “overextend and unbalance Russia” in Kazakhstan or any other Central Asian state, the only remaining options include political subversion and terrorism. Just as the US has forced Russia’s military to invest heavily in protecting Syria from armed militants sponsored by Washington and its allies in the Middle East, a similar campaign of political subversion and armed violence across Central Asia has already prompted Russia and the rest of CSTO to deploy troops to Kazakhstan. The deployment is temporary, according to Russian officials, however this depends on whether or not the root of unrest and violence is promptly dealt with including and perhaps especially US-sponsored networks engaged in political sedition. US Interference in Kazakhstan Evidence of US interference in Kazakhstan is as easy to find as visiting the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy’s (NED) own official website and browsing its 2020 list of programs and organizations it funds in Kazakhstan. They include US-funded media outlets like “Vlast,” the “North Kazakhstan Legal Media Center,” Uralskaya Nedelya, the “Youth Information Service of Kazakhstan,” and fronts posing as “rights” groups like Kazakhstan International Bureau of Human Rights. There are also US government-funded fronts which organize protests including Ar/Rukh/Khak and “Oyan Qazaqstan” (or “wake up, Kazakhstan). The latter was in part led by Dimash Alzhanov who also founded the so-called “Legal Policy Research Center” (LPRC) according to his biography on “Democracies and Parties.” The LPRC’s archived website lists the US State Department, NED, the British government, Open Society and the European Union as “partners.” These organizations are depicted across the Western media as “independent” media, human rights organizations, and activist groups when in reality they are all funded and directed by Washington DC. Their US government funding has been deliberately and consistently omitted from media reports for years as their collective opposition movement staged protests across Kazakhstan including the protests leading to this most recent episode of violence. Their “demands” have consistently aligned with US foreign policy objectives. Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a 2019 article published on their website titled, “Mass Arrests Cast Doubt on Rights Reform in Kazakhstan,” would note the anti-China nature of protests let by the outlawed Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan party. HRW would link to a Eurasianet article titled, “Kazakhstan: Sinophobic sentiments trigger fresh rallies,” further explaining: Footage of the rally in Zhanaozen filmed on September 2 showed demonstrators delivering fiery speeches objecting to the potential construction of Chinese factories. “We don’t want jobs. We don’t want factories. We just demand that you not let them in,” said one protester, as seen in footage uploaded to the internet by an opposition movement. Another speaker cited the ill-treatment of ethnic Kazakhs and Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region, where hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been rounded up and forced to undergo ideological reconditioning in reeducation camps. Anxieties about China, which shares a 1,783-kilometers border with Kazakhstan, stems from a number of sources, ranging from perceptions at Beijing’s overweening influence in the economy and the country’s sheer population superiority. Horror stories emerging from Xinjiang have only compounded such suspicions. HRW and Eurasianet are describing (and attempting to defend) xenophobic mobs pushing irrational demands that in no way benefit Kazakhstan and its people and solely serve Washington’s foreign policy objective of encircling, isolating, and containing China. It should be noted that Eurasianet is also funded by the US government through the NED as well as adjacent organizations like Open Society illustrating just how deeply Washington directly controls global perceptions about events unfolding in Central Asia. Washington’s Client Regime of Choice As with all US-sponsored regime change activity, a client regime of choice is usually on stand-by, encouraging protesters, often from abroad, and waiting to place into power a figurehead favored by Washington, Wall Street, London, and Brussels. In Kazakhstan’s case the client regime of choice consists of the “Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan” party whose leader Mukhtar Ablyazov currently resides in exile in Paris, France. AFP in its article, “Kazakhstan regime nearing end in revolution': dissident leader,” would claim: The regime that has ruled Kazakhstan since the fall of the Soviet Union is nearing its end in a popular revolution where people have for the first time unified to express their anger, a France-based opposition leader said on Thursday. Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former energy minister and bank chairman wanted in his home country on a range of charges, in an interview with AFP also described a Russian-led military intervention as an occupation and urged Kazakhs to stand up to the foreign forces. AFP would also note: Ablyazov, who also told AFP he wanted to meet with President Emmanuel Macron, is a hugely controversial figure whom Kazakhstan has tried and sentenced in absentia for murder and embezzlement. He is also wanted in Russia and spent time in French custody before Frances highest administrative authority in 2016 blocked his extradition to Russia ruling that the request was politically motivated. He now lives in Paris after winning refugee status in France. Criminals and fugitives living in protected exile across the West are not uncommon choices for US-sponsored client regimes attempting to seize power in targeted nations around the globe. Their questionable legal status and deep dependence on Washington’s support ensure their obedience before and after they take power -if they take power. Thailand’s Thaksin Shinawatra, Cambodia’s Khem Sokha and Sam Rainsy, as well as Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi have all faced criminal charges and convictions in their respective home countries and have at various points in time attempted to create governments in exile harbored by the United States and its European allies. A Window of Opportunity, But for Who? Washington’s condemnation of the CSTO’s deployment to Kazakhstan and the relatively prompt ending to violence that has spiraled out of control over months, sometimes years in other nations targeted by similar US-sponsored subversion may signify CSTO’s success in heading off an otherwise dangerous crisis. The question remains is this a long-term success for CSTO and Kazakhstan in particular? Or will the US light other fires forcing Russian forces and their allies to overstretch themselves across the region while continuing to destabilize Ukraine, Syria, and undermining Russia’s Chinese allies to the East? If it is a success for CSTO, perhaps it stands as a precedent for other regions around the world to adopt a similar policy of solidarity against US-sponsored subversion. The US involvement through supposed “nongovernmental organizations” (NGOs) funded by the NED in Kazakhstan may also help raise global awareness regarding the threat these networks pose and the necessity to uproot them everywhere they are found. Only time will be able to answer these questions and in the meantime the world must remain vigilant not only in regards to Kazakhstan itself, but other areas the US may seek to target next in a Central Asia version of its “Arab Spring” it organized in 2011 and more recently through ongoing conflict stemming from its “Milk Tea Alliance” beginning in 2019 and targeting Southeast Asia. Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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

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[l] at 1/14/22 1:35pm
More than a mere territorial and ethnic question, Tibet, for the US, is a geo-political opportunity to up the ante against China in Asia and the Indo-Pacific region. The US decision to appoint a ‘special envoy’ for Tibetan ‘issue’ comes at a time when the US’ anti-China rhetoric has persistently failed to drive a wave of countries weaning away from Beijing and rushing towards Washington for making new pacts for protection from an “aggressive” and “autocratic” Beijing. Perhaps, as policy makers seem to have calculated in Washington, these countries need a bit of shake up; hence, the decision to stir up trouble around Tibet as an addition to the trouble the US has already been stirring around Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang as a means to demonise and delegitimise China’s rise to a global power status, a status that directly – and profoundly – challenges the US hegemony in the post Second World War international order. The US special envoy for Tibet, Uzra Zeya, will accordingly be paying special attention to “advance the human rights of Tibetans; help preserve their distinct religious, linguistic, and cultural identity; address their humanitarian needs, including those of Tibetan diaspora communities …and promote dialogue, without preconditions, between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Dalai Lama.” The job description contains nothing but a prescription that many US policy makers and presidents have used previously to generate controversies against their rivals. What, however, is not included in this job description is how the convey will be using the Tibetan issue to specially prevent regional states, such as India, from cosying too much up to Beijing. While India-China relations have been tense following last year border clashes, the region has remained relatively calm as both Beijing and New Delhi have avoided establishing ‘new facts’ on the ground around Ladakh region. Many in Washington are sensing that a normalisation between Beijing and New Delhi could weaken various US geo-political projects, including the Biden administration’s persistent efforts at weaponizing the QUAD – an anti-China group that includes the US, Australia, Japan and India. The relative calm on the India-China border has also allowed some cross-regional diplomacy to go forward. As Russian Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov revealed recently, a Russia-China-India summit could take place in near future. The news comes against the backdrop of Russian president’s visit to New Delhi in December, 2021, where he did discuss with the Indian authorities prospects of reviving India-China dialogue through the Shanghai Coopertaion Organisation (SCO). On December 22, China’s foreign minister said that China and India have maintained dialogue through diplomatic and military channels, and effectively managed and controlled frictions in certain border areas, under a shared commitment to improving and developing the bilateral relations. This cosying up has had some effect on India-China ties. As a matter of fact, India was the only QUAD country to skip the recently held G7+Five Eyes+ EU meeting in England, which “condemned” recently held Legislative Council elections in Hong Kong. India, therefore, needed a message. And, the message given through the recent appointment is that the Indian authorities can rely on US support in their big strategic game against China. Besides the possibility of New Delhi not actually buying the US offer of support, it remains that the US problems vis-à-vis gaining enough support against China from within the region are not confined to India only. As it stands, the US push for inciting anti-China policies in Southeast Asia, too, have failed to gain any traction. For instance, despite Washington’s so-called “hyper diplomacy” in Southeast Asia, Thailand which has an alliance treaty with the US – is yet to host a single cabinet-level official from the Biden administration. Thailand was also noticeably absent among invitees to the anti-China “Summit for Democracy” in Washington. While some Southeast Asian states – Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore – have recieved US officials, including the US Vice President, the Biden administration has still not been able to develop any major trade and economic framework to counter China’s economic gains. So, while Washington has ambitions for Southeast Asia, it does not have the right tools. In this context, the difficulties the Biden administration is facing add to the necessity of flaring up new fires in the region to make these states in South and Southeast Asia cling to the US without requiring Washington to offer any concrete trade treaty to counter-balance China’s BRI. This strategy has been in the making for quite some time, which means the US turn to Tibet is not an all of a sudden event. In fact, the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy announced in 2019 pays special attention to Tibet alongside other issues – Hong Kong, Xinjiang/Uighur and Taiwan – the US has been deliberately raising. To quote the Indo-Pacific strategy, “We have called on the PRC publicly to halt its brutal repression of Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and members of other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang. We urge that the selection of religious leaders by the Tibetan community be free of interference by the Chinese Communist Party.” The publication of this report was followed by a bill the US Congress passed in December 2020 “to upgrade US support for Tibetans in key areas, including sanctioning Chinese officials if they try to appoint the next Dalai Lama.” The bill offers a package of US intervention in Tibet. To quote the bill, “The President shall provide funds to nongovernmental organizations to support sustainable development, cultural and historical preservation, health care, education, and environmental sustainability projects for Tibetan communities in Tibet.” The US focus on Tibet, therefore, is a wholesale package of intervention and trouble that it intends to create as a means to project China as an “autocrat” and, thus, generate enough anti-China hysteria in the world more generally and in Asia more specifically for the US to project itself as benign democrat focused on ‘helping’ suppressed communities and nations. 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]

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[l] at 1/14/22 7:25am
According to South Korean media reports of January 6, the Chinese Hunan TV and Mango TV streaming platforms began airing a South Korean drama Saimdang, Memoir of Colors, on January 4, 2022. The National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) approved the series six years ago. On the other hand, Beijing was displeased with South Korea’s deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), an American anti-ballistic missile defense system. As a result, the South Korean series has not been broadcast on Chinese television or video platforms since the second half of 2016. For the first time in six years, a South Korean film, Oh! Moonhee (Oh! My Gran in English), was released in China last month. As a result, experts were cautious in discussing the possible removal of covert restrictions on South Korean content. And the author would like to recall how it was in 2021 when the South Korean media focused heavily on the crackdown in this area. Let’s begin with a brief description of China’s youth policy in general, which has two objectives.  The first is a fight against corruption and foreign influence. The second is a way to try to make the country better for all of its people, as, on the one hand, the new generation of young people is spoiled and selfish because of the one-child policy, while on the other hand, they are tired of being pushed and coerced. A so-called “double reduction” policy was put into place in July 2021, and it was meant to make it less stressful for kids outside of school, especially for private tutoring businesses. In addition, according to the decision of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), minors under the age of sixteen are prohibited from participating in live broadcasts. It is forbidden to encourage minors to receive remuneration, demonstrate wealth and worshipping money, extravagant pleasures, and exploiting misery and abnormities. The authorities imposed a blackout on producing stars out of children under 16. Internet services are liable to remove inappropriate content promptly and clean up user comments containing insults and obscene suggestions. Particular attention should be paid to cleaning videos with nude characters and vulgar storylines, horror, as well as risky behavior that children may imitate, including an inclination to suicide. As regards the misadventures of the Korean cultural industry in China, in the early 2010s, China was considered an untapped market for the K-pop industry. Many singers have made staggering profits from their fanbases, with stars like EXO. Initially composed of four Chinese members, they performed concerts in many cities and appeared on popular TV shows alongside famous local celebrities. However, all of this quickly faded into history in 2016, after Seoul deployed an American anti-ballistic missile defense system (THAAD) on its soil, despite Beijing’s objections. Since then, Korean singers have been virtually banned from performing, and major K-pop labels have lost a market that accounted for up to 20% of total sales in 2016. However, a blanket ban has never been applied.   On March 24, 2021, JYP Entertainment Corporation, a K-pop agency, announced a strategic partnership with Tencent, a Chinese multinational entertainment conglomerate. According to the company, as part of a deal, JYP will provide music for TME platforms such as QQ Music, Kugou Music, Kuwo Music, and WeSing. The two companies will also collaborate on joint marketing and promotional activities. On April 12, 2021, The Global Times, the Communist Party’s English-language newspaper, published an advertisement for tourist trips to South Korea. The promotional photo shows the South Korean popular band EXO in front of the Gyeonghui Palace in Seoul. Such advertisements have not been published in the Chinese press since 2017. The case of Kris Wu, who was arrested in August 2021, played an essential role in the events that followed.  The 30-year-old Chinese-Canadian singer, who rose to fame as a member of the popular South Korean-Chinese boy band EXO, was detained by the Beijing police for suspicion of rape. In addition, several local stars have also been caught for tax evasion. Earlier that year, in May, some Chinese K-pop fans came under public condemnation for throwing away 270,000 bottles of milk after using QR codes on the bottles to vote for their favorite contenders on the audition program. On August 27, the CAC issued a notice calling to fix the chaos in fan clubs to prevent irrational idol worship.  Drastic measures have been announced to curb celebrity worship and fan club culture. Such efforts include regulating the fan base, banning minors from spending money to support their idols, strictly controlling relevant disputes and fan community wars, and countering the practice of giving out VIP fan titles for donations. Weibo, Tencent and other Chinese social media platforms have joined this campaign. On September 6, 2021, the social media platform Weibo suspended 21 accounts of K-pop fan clubs for 30 days to combat irrational star-chasing behavior.  Also, K-pop sensation BTS, a fan account of the famous BTS member Jimin, was suspended for 60 days after his fans raised about 490 million won ($350,000) to celebrate his upcoming birthday on October 13 by paying for a plane to be covered with his images.  After the photos of the plane went viral, Weibo accused the account of illegal fundraising and irrational star-chasing behavior.  Moreover, by this time, K-pop band BTS had already suffered attacks from Chinese netizens for their remarks about the Korean War of 1950-53, when China fought against South Korea and its allies. Subsequently, South Korea’s media frequently stated that the ban on posting fan club accounts can be seen as another step against the K-pop industry and is clearly aimed at South Korean K-pop bands and artists. This move “appears to be part of President Xi Jinping’s efforts to national rejuvenation, as the Communist Party consolidates its control over culture, religion, education, and business. Critics point out that such a campaign is related mainly to Xi’s attempt to tighten control over the government to prolong his rule.” Lim Dae-geun, a professor of Chinese Cinema Studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) in South Korea, told The Korea Times that such restrictions are likely part of the CPC’s efforts to strengthen its political system: “Beijing, which seeks to redeem its forfeited fame, considers K-pop an unwelcome guest.” Professor Gyu Tag Lee from George Mason University in Incheon, South Korea, went even further: K-pop is essentially a product of capitalism and values ideas such as freedom of thought and expression that counter the CPC’s socialist values, forcing the country to impose restrictions on the genre. Some even talked themselves into the idea that banning minors from spending money on stars was reminiscent of the ghost of the Cultural Revolution: “China, which aspires to become a cultural power, should not try to limit the right of its people to enjoy diverse cultures and participate in fan clubs. Chinese politicians should remember that guaranteeing individuals’ freedom of choice is a fundamental human right.” On September 9, the Chinese Embassy in Seoul denied speculation that Beijing’s campaign targeted South Korean artists, saying it would not disrupt normal cultural exchanges. “The campaign is aimed at words and deeds that are contrary to public policy and good manners, as well as violate laws and regulations,” a Chinese Embassy spokesperson said in a statement. On September 15, the 2021-22 year of cultural exchange between South Korea and China started marking the upcoming 30th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries in August 2022. The event’s opening, which was supposed to give a chance to expand bilateral cultural cooperation, took place eight months after South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, entered into a respective agreement. On October 7, 2021, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Korea sent an official letter to China expressing concern about the illegal distribution of Korean cultural content. According to Choi Young-sam, the ministry’s spokesman, Squid Game, a South Korean television series for Netflix, has been targeted by online piracy. Many Chinese have reportedly watched the popular nine-episode thriller through illegal streaming and download sites as Netflix is not available in China. So, on the one hand, there is no real persecution of K-Pop. On the other hand, the persecution that is there hits the wallet of the owners of the cultural industry. The statements about the political background do not seem to be made up. Fighters against Pyongyang were quite open that pop culture should crush socialism in North Korea, which Beijing clearly took notice of.  The semi-official struggle against Chinese culture in South Korea is also taken into account there. 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: China, Columns, Eastern Asia, Featured, Locations, Society]

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[l] at 1/13/22 11:50pm
The recent developments in Kazakhstan and the role of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in assisting that country’s authorities in establishing order and security have particularly brought into sharp focus the importance of this regional interstate organization. The CSTO was established in 2002 on the basis of the Collective Security Treaty of May 15, 1992. It currently includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. The total population of the countries that make up the CSTO totals almost 200 million people. The treaty was the first attempt to create a system of collective security in the post-Soviet space. It was not meant to establish a military bloc, but rather to provide a mechanism for coordinated action to ensure the collective security and territorial integrity of participating countries. Since 2004, the organization has had observer status at the UN General Assembly. The stated objectives of the CSTO include “strengthening peace, international and regional security and stability, protection on a collective basis of independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of member states, the priority in achieving which is assigned by the member states to political means.” The treaty has nothing directed against third-party countries. It does not affect the rights and obligations of the CSTO members under bilateral agreements, nor does it affect the right of the member states to individual and collective defense against aggression under the UN Charter. Military and political relations between the states of the association have priority over military ties and contacts with third-party countries. Military bases of states that are not members of the organization can only be deployed on the territories of CSTO members with the consent of all partners in the bloc. CSTO members cannot enter into military alliances with third-party countries, nor can they participate in actions against other countries of the organization. Aggression against one of the CSTO members (an armed attack that threatens security, stability, territorial integrity and sovereignty) is considered aggression against all members of the Treaty. The organization also has a mechanism of military and technical cooperation, which provides for the supply of military products to member countries at reduced prices, the training of personnel for the armed forces and security forces of the CSTO member states on a free and preferential basis. The CSTO collective security system includes the Collective Rapid Reaction Force (about 18,000 people), peacekeeping forces (3,600), the Collective Air Force (CAS), as well as regional groups: Collective Rapid Deployment Forces in Central Asia (Central Asian Rapid Deployment Force – about 5,000), as well as Eastern European (Russia and Belarus) and Caucasian (Russia and Armenia) groupings. These structures are all included in the unified forces of the organization, known as the Collective Forces, the decision to create which was made on December 19, 2012. In 1996 and 1998-2000, the Treaty member states provided military and technical aid (supplies of military equipment, weapons, ammunition, uniforms) and political assistance through the Foreign Ministries to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in connection with developments in Afghanistan in the immediate vicinity of the borders of the Central Asian states. In June 2010, Kyrgyz President Roza Otumbayeva appealed to the CSTO following aggravation of the internal political situation caused by the interethnic conflict between the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the south of the republic. On May 14, 2021, acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan formally appealed to the CSTO with a request to begin consultations in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty, after the Armenian Defense Ministry reported on May 12 that the Azerbaijani armed forces crossed the state border of the republic, going as far as 3.5 km deep. After the territory of Afghanistan was almost completely taken over by the Taliban (banned in Russia), on July 7, 2021, Tajikistan asked the CSTO to help strengthen security on the border with that state. On January 5, 2022, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev appealed to the heads of CSTO countries for help to the republic, where mass riots broke out on January 2. Tokayev considered the events in Kazakhstan an “act of external aggression” and blamed the events on “terrorist gangs” trained abroad. On January 6-8, the Peacekeeping Forces of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were assigned to Kazakhstan, and on January 9, the peacekeepers completed their deployment in the republic and commenced operations to carry out their assigned tasks. According to the CSTO, the peacekeeping unit strength amounted to about 2,500 people and 250 vehicles. The main tasks of the CSTO Peacekeeping Forces in Kazakhstan were to protect critical state and military facilities, assist the country’s law enforcement forces in stabilizing the situation and returning it to the rule of law. Over the course of this peacekeeping mission, the CSTO was in constant communication with the defense ministries of the countries that had sent troops to Kazakhstan, and the CSTO Crisis Response Center organized a 24-hour exchange of information on the unfolding situation with the command of the collective peacekeeping forces and the defense ministries of the member states of the Organization. At present, the crucial phase of the first-ever CSTO peacekeeping operation involving military personnel from all six CSTO member countries is coming to an end, and the transfer of facilities protected by peacekeepers to the law enforcement agencies of Kazakhstan is being prepared. The phase of the anti-terrorist operation in the republic has passed, and the situation in all regions is now considered stable. As Russian President Vladimir Putin announced at the summit of CSTO heads on January 10, the entire contingent of CSTO peacekeepers will definitely be withdrawn from Kazakhstan after the fulfillment of their functions. With the key mission of the CSTO peacekeeping forces successfully completed, the withdrawal of peacekeepers from Kazakhstan will begin in the next few days. It was emphasized that the CSTO was able to make quick and coordinated decisions in order to prevent the situation from deteriorating and bring it under control. At the same time, the highly critical reaction of a number of NATO countries to the quickly implemented CSTO operation in Kazakhstan draws particular attention, which further confirms the explicit involvement of such states in the aggravation of the situation around Kazakhstan and therefore the frank dissatisfaction with the disruption by the CSTO of these malicious plans. This irritation and anger in the West at the professional and legitimate mission of the CSTO forces in Kazakhstan was pointed out by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova. In particular, she noted the incompetence of those who accuse the CSTO of illegitimate actions, noting that the possibility of military assistance to participants of the organization was initially provided for in the Treaty. “The West has not read the Collective Security Treaty, which stipulates precisely what they are most concerned about. Except that it was stipulated as of 1992, which means that those relations of support for each other, including those involving the armed forces, were established immediately after the countries gained their independence,” Zakharova stressed. In spite of this, however, CNN correspondent Fred Pleitgen published a reluctantly positive reaction to the CSTO operation on January 9, emphasizing that Putin came out of the Kazakhstan case stronger than he had been before, and that Russia had also demonstrated in this incident that it can mobilize a large number of forces efficiently and quickly. Although the CSTO operation in Kazakhstan is not yet fully completed, certain conclusions can already be drawn today. The first is that the CSTO has officially confirmed its actual function of protecting the interests of the countries of the region and its readiness to mobilize the necessary forces in the shortest possible time to repel an external enemy, no matter how numerous and insidious he may be. The operation itself has raised the status of the Organization in the region, especially given past criticism of the CSTO for not adequately addressing the escalating conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan or the change of power in Kyrgyzstan. Considering that there have never been any operations involving the actual deployment of large troops in such a delicate situation before, it is safe to say that the status of the CSTO has been consolidated. Indeed, the Organization has shown itself to be a well-functioning system that is able to stand up for itself, and is worthwhile to cooperate with and take advantage of its opportunities and perspectives. In these circumstances, this author cannot rule out the possibility of an expansion of the list of CSTO members, in particular by the return of past members of the association, such as Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. In particular, Tashkent may be prompted to do so by the deteriorating situation in the region and in the Afghan direction, and Baku by its growing tiredness of dealing with Turkey. A very important factor that favored the CSTO mission was the position taken by the Chinese side, as well as the SCO as an organization that includes both Kazakhstan, China, and Russia. This is clear evidence of the link between the CSTO and the SCO, and, given the Russian-Chinese leadership of the latter, of the close coordination between Moscow and Beijing that has taken place on the issue of Kazakhstan. So in the situation of the events in Kazakhstan, not only the CSTO, but also the SCO was tested, and a new, truly strategic level of Russian-Chinese partnership was achieved. It should also be noted that the provocation unleashed by the West in Kazakhstan in early January, in the apparent hope of weakening Russia’s position on the eve of its complicated security negotiations with the United States and NATO, actually played into the hands of Moscow. After all, the CSTO operation was a sobering experience, not only in the confrontation with the West, but also in strengthening the positions of Russia and the CSTO in Central Asia as a whole, and in influencing the further geopolitical situation in Asia. In the near future, it could encourage not only the post-Soviet republics, but also countries such as China, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and others to join this organization, leading to the emergence of a new global power bloc. Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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

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[l] at 1/13/22 1:50pm
During the Christmas and New Year holiday periods, it is generally non-Christian countries which make the news. Everyday life carries on without interruption, so stories which build over a long period can mature without interruption. It was only a few weeks ago that everybody was talking about Afghanistan. The Taliban (a radical movement banned in Russia) takeover was a foreign policy and public relations disaster for the West, and not a good thing for most Afghans either. Even though most Afghans understand Sharia Law, and it makes sense to them as a moral code on which to found a state, the Taliban attracts those who use moralism to disguise criminality, as they did last time they were in power. Trump Evangelicals, as it were. So we should logically be hearing a range of stories about what is happening now under the Taliban. With a global public hungry for anything which validates Islamophobia, news organisations should be undercutting themselves to produce ever more lurid stories, from a range of perspectives, and through these creating a connected narrative which produces a framework through which subsequent stories can be read. But what stories are we seeing? Women protesting against their Taliban-imposed status, the scrapping of the electoral commission, alcohol being destroyed, revenge attacks on those who worked for the previous government. Exactly what we would have expected to see, in any classroom model, should the Taliban ever take power again. That is precisely what is wrong with these stories. They may refer to current events, but they are not about current realities. They rely for their impact on existing perceptions of the Taliban, and Afghanistan itself – they don’t make any attempt to tell us anything we don’t already know, even when it will confirm this narrative. These stories could easily have been recycled from last time the Taliban were in power. It will not be surprising to find that some of them have been – firstly it will be old photos, then facts presented as contemporary, with only passing mention of their actual provenance “for twenty years they have been doing this”, with only things that happened twenty years ago offered as evidence of this assertion. Maybe the Taliban are the same bunch of bloodthirsty psychopaths hiding behind religion that they always were. But the world around doesn’t stand still – so even if they are, the context in which they are doing it is different, and the same actions won’t have the same effect. Saying how bad the Taliban are, and how much Afghanistan and Afghans will suffer, should be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. Instead journalists are lining up to point at the fish in the barrel, instead of shooting them. We are hearing the same things because everyone is scared of saying anything new. If they did, the narratives they created would come back and bite them. Mainstream journalists would end up as the fish in the barrel, and having shot themselves, nobody would miss them. Same Story, Opposite Ending Many readers will remember, or know about, the day in 1989 when Nicolae Ceausescu gave his final speech in Bucharest to the usual band of paid, cheering acolytes. It was his final speech because the coup which overthrew him was practically at his door, and he ended by fleeing the rebellious crowds who were storming his palace. Ceausescu thought that he could head off the revolt by appealing directly to the people and demonstrating his continuing power. But he failed utterly, because his words demonstrated exactly the opposite. Ceausescu was far from stupid. He knew what he had to do to control people. But he used this grand speech, which he was advised against making, to repeat the same old stories he had been telling all his life – how every Romanian was a committed revolutionary and socialist because they knew it was good for them, how he had created freedom and paradise and would raise the minimum wage and pensions to show his continuing socialist credentials. Romanians had stopped listening to these lies long ago. Now they were prepared to risk everything to get rid of the system which had ruined them, the old leader needed to offer the majority a vision they could at least tolerate, to make the fight not worth that risk. Instead he told everyone he belonged to the past, and was incapable of moving beyond that. So his people made sure he didn’t, and even though Romania didn’t change much, no one wants to identify themselves as a “Nikolist” anymore. Why did he do it? Because if he had offered something the people could accept, he would have to implement it. Socialism would have to actually raise living standards, not keep everyone in poverty. It would have to give Romania a genuinely independent future, not the fantasy freedom of mild dissidence within the Eastern Bloc. It would also have be progressive, creating a new future, whatever that consisted of, instead of what everyone had been told since 1945, when it really was a new beginning. The same old stories were supposed to remind people of the certainties they knew, not the uncertainty they had never experienced, but was soon to engulf them. Exactly as repeating the same old stories about the Taliban, without addressing new horrors, is supposed to evoke the same certainties, so we don’t want to think about the alternative. As in Ceausescu’s case, if we want to say anything new about the Taliban, we have to deliver on it. What can be delivered? Is the world going to forgive and forget, and treat Taliban government members as legitimate statesmen rather than terrorist thugs with an unacceptable ideology? The implication of the old stories is that the Taliban, and all they stand for, are not only dangerous to Afghans but everybody else. We are being told to believe, probably correctly, that the Taliban are going to wreak havoc by sponsoring terrorism and the narcotics trade, because that is where their ideology will inevitably lead. But the moment you say that these things are happening now, you have to do something about it now. When these things were said before – when we were all given the impression we have of the Taliban – they were the reason for the US conquest and long occupation and state-building exercise. If you say them again, you will be taken at your word – and be expected to go back in, apologise for pulling out, and this time wipe the Taliban off the face of the earth. Everything Except the Subject Repeating the same old stories makes people feel good about the past. They feel they were justified in previous actions, no matter what their consequences, if they can be reminded of how right they were then by what is happening now. But now is now, and reportage of the current facts cannot be the same because the world isn’t the same. Repeating these stories is designed to keep them in the past, frozen, so no one addresses the actual crimes of the present day. The rights of Afghan women, or lack of them, were a big international issue last time the Taliban were in power. The latest reports convey a genuine fear that not only will those days return, but they are already being imposed, even though Taliban claims otherwise. All Westerners are well aware of woman’s rights issues – words and actions once considered acceptable are entirely unacceptable today, and rightly so. Supporting gender equality is public policy in the Western world, and this policy is worn as a badge of pride – such progressive ideas are believed by the West to distinguish it from other political blocs, in particular Third World and Muslim countries. If the Taliban won’t treat women as equals, as the West understands this, it means they are backward and dangerous. But shouldn’t it also mean you should help those women who want to escape this regime, if the alternatives they seek are superior? If the West believes its own rhetoric about gender equality it should evacuate every Afghan girl or woman who wants it, and resettle them in Western countries to preserve this fundamental human right. That will never happen, because the West wants to keep those same women in subjection to show the world how bad the Taliban are, to justify previous actions, rather than give them the rights they are striving for because it is the right thing to do. The scrapping of the electoral commission is another action which would naturally cause concern. In every country, elections are monitored both internally and by outside agencies, such as the EU and UN, to ensure basic standards are met. So if Afghanistan wants to abolish its electoral commission, what does it have to hide? Every Third World country has well documented evidence that “observing elections” means nothing more than ensuring the result foreign sponsors want, and turning a blind eye to abuses of the democratic process if committed by their chosen friends. Amongst many examples which can be cited is the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia election of 1978, declared “reasonably free and fair” by international observers, despite the fact there was no voter registration and the official turnout in some districts was over 100%. The Taliban maintains that each Afghan election under the US-sponsored regime was rigged, and this view is widely accepted. So much for electoral commissions. But what does protesting against the Taliban disbandment of it actually mean? If the Taliban are denying Afghans democratic rights they are also denying them human rights, in Western thinking. Wasn’t that why the Western occupation took the course it did? Wasn’t introducing pseudo-democracy supposed to make the country less likely to sponsor terrorism, the ostensible reason for invading it? If you went in once to protect Western ideals of humanity, which most Afghans also share, surely you now have to do it again? But that won’t happen, because questions will be asked about why it doesn’t happen elsewhere not least by former Soviet Bloc nationals, who are sick and tired of hearing Westerners pontificate on how bad Communism was, and how much better freedom is, when they did nothing then to rescue them from Communism and do everything now to prevent them enjoying freedom. Put Up or Shut Up? Afghanistan repels every invader in time. It does things the Afghan way, always has, always will. The Taliban may not represent that Afghan way, but they are closer to it than the West is capable of being. This is why the latest Western intervention has gone so horribly wrong. It never delivered for most Afghans because it was nothing to do with them. But the West can’t face the fact that it doesn’t have all the answers, and that some people, somewhere, might not want the Western alternative, or think it superior. We are told the Taliban is the same demonic monstrosity of old, and that is probably true. Few Afghans who fled the country before – they formed for many years the world’s largest refugee population – want to return now. But if you went in the first time because their ideology and actions led them to sponsor and commit terrorism, shouldn’t you do it again if they haven’t changed? Everything which happens under the Taliban this time round will be referred to its previous period of rule. A story will only be interesting if it reminds people of the past. If Taliban commits some new atrocity, no one will be interested in reporting it, or helping the victims, because they don’t want the responsibility which goes with that. The Western attitude towards the Taliban now is that of a doctor who only knows six diseases. In order to keep practising, he has to pretend that every ailment his patients suffer from is one of the six diseases he knows, even if it patently isn’t. If he has to admit he doesn’t know what to do in most cases, he will lose his authority, and the power that comes with it. Maintaining that is more important than learning enough to treat the patients, and more important still than caring about their welfare. Afghans are only allowed to suffer the way the West wants them to – and then for as long as it salves Western consciences. They will never be free of the Taliban if no one will engage with the reality of it, rather than the convenient cartoon. But those who do will be condemned as dangerous radicals with no voice, until the military-industrial complex needs different fantasies to keep its gravy train running. Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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

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[l] at 1/13/22 1:35pm
The global Sino-American confrontation that has unfolded in recent years affects all spheres of the world economy and all regions. China stubbornly squeezes the United States in every area, including its traditional sphere of influence in Latin America. At the moment, the United States is the leading trading partner of Latin American countries as a whole and continues to seek to dictate its will to many of them. Even the Organization of American States, which includes 33 of the 35 independent states of the Americas (Cuba and Nicaragua retired from membership in 2009 and 2021, respectively), is headquartered in Washington. The dominant position of the United States did not suit before and does not suit many States of Latin America now. However, it is challenging to overcome dependence on a powerful international player as the United States. This challenge would require establishing ties with some other player of comparable influence, who will be able to provide new partners with support and protect them from the sanctions of the former patron. Nowadays, small and poor states, to which most of the countries of Latin America belong, that dont want to deal with the United States are moving into the sphere of influence of China. China has long been developing relations with the states of Latin America. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, which supported socialist regimes worldwide, China, as the new leader of the socialist world, began to build up relations with Cuba, gradually filling the empty niche without the USSR. The first decade of the 21st century was marked by the rapid development of trade and economic relations between China and Latin America. In 2004-2005, Beijing made significant investments in the Cuban nickel industry. In 2006 signed a free trade agreement with Chile and took several steps, thanks to which Chinas total trade with Latin American countries grew from $ 10 billion to $ 130 billion from 2000 to 2009. In 2010, the countries of Latin America founded The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), including all the Americas independent countries except the USA and Canada. The goal of creating the organization was explicitly declared to be the integration of the states of Latin America and the reduction of influence from the United States. Interestingly, three states received the interim collective leadership of CELAC: Venezuela, whose leader, Hugo Chávez, calls himself a communist pursuing a policy with a socialist bias, Chile is one of the most economically developed countries in South America, and Cuba is a socialist state and a longtime adversary of the United States. All three states are Chinas reliable partners. It is not surprising that the China-CELAC Forum was established on July 17, 2014, thanks to which Beijing was able to work with all Latin American countries at once, not just with each of them bilaterally. The first summit, held in Brazil, was attended by the Peoples Republic of China leader, Xi Jinping. A week later, Xi Jinping arrived in Havana, the capital of Cuba, and met with the Cuban leader Raul Castro. Then Raul Castro said that Sino-Cuban relations are going through the best historical period. Soon, there were reasons to believe that China was so entrenched in Latin America, especially Cuba, that it could already afford something more than trade and economic activities. So, in 2018, satellite images of a particular object in the area of ​​Bejucal, Cuba, were published. According to experts, this is an electronic intelligence station that allows you to monitor the activities of the US military. It is believed that Cuba cannot independently build such facilities, and the most likely builder is China. On December 4, 2021, the third ministerial meeting of the China CELAC Forum took place. President of the Peoples Republic of China Xi Jinping took part in the event via video link. The Chinese leader noted that over the years of the Forums existence, its participants diligently strengthened the unity and cooperation between China and the CELAC countries. The China-CELAC Forum has become an essential platform for international interaction. Relations between China and the CELAC countries have entered a new era of equality and mutual benefit for all nations. According to Xi Jinping, when the world is going through a period of instability and transformation, China and the CELAC states must overcome the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure the well-being of their people. The head of China welcomed the participation of the CELAC countries in the Global Development Initiative. He put it forward in September 2021 at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly and their joint work with China to overcome the current global crisis and create “a community of common destiny, a shared home for humanity.” According to Xi Jinping, China and the CELAC country are comprehensive partners for cooperation based on equality, mutual benefit and joint development. The Chinese leader called for developing a new plan for developing relations between China and the states of Latin America and the Caribbean. And give this cooperation an impetus for the well-being of their peoples and the progress of mankind. Likely, Xi Jinpings uplifting speech and a reminder of past and future achievements of Sino-Latin American cooperation greatly impacted the CELAC leaders attending the event. On December 10, it became known that one of the CELAC countries, Nicaragua, is severing diplomatic relations with Taiwan and terminating any contacts or official connections with it, recognizing the Peoples Republic of China as the only legal representative of all China, and Taiwan as an integral part of its territory. As is well known, it was severing relations with the partially recognized Republic of China Taiwan, recognizing it as part of the PRC and recognizing the PRC as the only real China is one of the main conditions that Beijing demands from its partners. Such a move opens up access to the huge Chinese market and equally impressive loans and investments for states worldwide. The PRC is already the second trade partner for the Latin American countries after the United States. Relations continue to develop steadily, and the PRC may soon become the leading player in this region. If the presence of a Chinese radio intelligence station in Cuba is confirmed, it means that this time has almost come. The revolutions in Cuba and Nicaragua back in the day were called geopolitical defeats of the United States, which lost control over territories in its own strategic security zone. It remains to be seen what the complete loss of control over the Latin American regions could mean for the United States. Petr Konovalov, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.  

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

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[l] at 1/13/22 6:40am
Ethiopian troops under the command of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won a military victory last December when they stopped a group of Tigray rebels from advancing on the countrys capital, which could have led to the overthrow of his government. The Prime Minister wholly appreciated the bravery of his troops. Ethiopia is proud of your incredible heroism. You made us feel certain when we said Ethiopia would never lose, the triumphant leader told the troops at the front of a battle for control of Kombolcha. In fact, the improvement in the seemingly wobbly and near-collapse leaders fortune has been determined by the results of widespread use of combat drones recently acquired from allies in the Gulf region and elsewhere who are determined to help Abiy Ahmed stay in power. Over the past four months, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Iran have quietly supplied the Ethiopian army with the latest drones. It is apparent to any unbiased observer that the supply of modern drones on a large scale will not facilitate negotiations but are aimed at their use in combat. Simultaneously, the USA, which demagogically call wherever possible for a ceasefire and peace negotiations, has pretended that it didn’t notice anything and did not interfere with the supply of modern weapons to Addis Ababa. Concurrently, Washington has perfectly armed the rebels using third countries, giving them a new incentive to unleash a civil war in Ethiopia for the Tigray Region to be separated into an independent region of the country. The motives of the suppliers varied: to make money, gain an advantage in a strategic region, and back the winner in the escalating conflict afflicting the second-largest African country by population. But the impact of the drones was astounding, repeatedly beating against the Tigray rebels and their supply convoys as they moved along the main road towards Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Since then, the rebels have retreated some 270 miles on their way north, ingloriously losing month-long achievements on the battlefield. In this new situation, Debretsion Gebremichael, the leader of Ethiopias Tigray region, told the United Nations that he had ordered all forces to be withdrawn immediately to the provincial borders, invoking amongst others unmanned combat aerial vehicles provided by foreign powers. In a letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Debretsion called for a ceasefire and subsequent peace negotiations. We believe that our courageous withdrawal will be a decisive step towards peace, he wrote, and his spokesman said that 18 civilians were killed and 11 injured as a result of a wave of Ethiopian airstrikes in Tigray.  An Ethiopian government spokesperson did not respond to questions about using drones during the brutal assault on peaceful cities in the Tigray Province. The demonstration of the power of drones shows that the long-running conflict in Ethiopia, which used to be primarily local, is now global. This adds the country to a growing list of conflicts, such as the fighting in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, where drones have become an essential factor in the fight or even the dominant weapon. Unmanned combat aerial vehicles are increasingly changing the game, says Peter Warren Singer, a strategist and senior fellow at New America, Washington DC. He is a specialist in 21st-century warfare. The drones for Abiy arrived just in time. He launched a military campaign in Tigray in November 2020, a year after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, along with the leader of neighboring Eritrea. But his forces suffered a humiliating defeat last summer when the rebels not only ousted them from the province but started to advance south swiftly. By the end of November, the Tigray rebels went near Debre Birhan, about 85 miles north of Addis Ababa, and it seemed like the capital would be captured in a matter of days. But the drones changed everything, inflicting heavy losses in manpower and supply convoys. General Tsadkan Gebretensae, the commander of the Tigrayan rebel forces, said in an interview with The New York Times: At one time, there were 10 drones in the sky. You can imagine the effect. We were an easy target. Abiy built his large drone arsenal, drawing on the backing from foreign allies and the rapidly growing segment of the global arms trade. Even when he talked about negotiations, the Prime Minister turned to other countries to strengthen his armed forces and combat capability. Cargo flights arrived from a military base in the United Arab Emirates, one of its closest allies, almost every day. UAE specialists trained the Republican Guard and provided critical military backup at the beginning of the war, using drone strikes that destroyed artillery and weapons depots in Tigray, reported Arab News, a well-informed Saudi-based newspaper. Abiys relations with Turkey have proven to be highly beneficial to him.  In August, he signed a military pact with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose Bayraktar TB2 UCAV played a decisive role in Azerbaijans victory over Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkish unmanned combat aerial vehicles are attractive to many African countries looking for battle-tested, relatively cheap equipment with few requirements. “Everywhere I go in Africa, everyone asks about UAVs,” Erdoğan boasted after a visit to Angola, Nigeria and Togo in October. After the Bayraktar UAVs appeared in Ethiopia, Turkish officials insisted the sale to be allegedly a commercial activity, defense and aviation product export to Ethiopia rose to $95 million in 2021, compared to only $235,000 in 2020. In response to reports that civilians were killed, detained, or expelled, the United Nations Human Rights Council agreed only to set up a commission to investigate abuses and find out who did them. This is just the latest in a long line of international efforts that havent worked in any country. UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada al-Nashif told an emergency meeting of this Council that Ethiopias 13-month long conflict in the northern Tigray region could turn into widespread violence, which could have “serious consequences not only for millions of people in Ethiopia but for the whole region.” Many diplomats expressed dismay at reports of atrocities during the conflict, which, according to the UN, killed thousands, displaced more than two million people, and left hundreds of thousands on the brink of starvation. Al-Nashif said that since then, the Human Rights Office has continued to “receive credible reports of grave human rights violations and abuses by all parties.” She expressed particular concern about the increased human rights violations following the declaration of a state of emergency in the country, accompanied by mass arrests of ethnic Tigray citizens first of all. While some of those arrested have been released in the last six weeks, an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people have been held, including nine UN staff members, she said. The draft resolution calls on the Council to establish an international commission of human rights experts on Ethiopia to investigate a wide range of alleged violations and abuses by all sides. Ethiopia rejected the idea, indicating that it had collaborated with a joint investigation and began its own investigation. Ambassador Zenebe Kebede accused the Council of being used as an instrument of political pressure and aimed at undermining a democratically elected government. Several countries stood up for Ethiopia, and Cameroons Ambassador Salomon Eheth, on behalf of African countries, insisted that the requested investigation would be counterproductive and could exacerbate tensions. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian prime minister focuses on his military campaign and its foreign sponsors. In late December, he flew to Istanbul for the Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit, a two-day meeting of leaders from 39 African countries, which is also a forum for Turkish arms sales, identified by analysts. But his latest infatuation with Iranian drones, albeit far less powerful than Chinese or Turkish-made models, has somewhat strained relations with Washington, which seeks to impose sanctions on Tehran and its trading partners wherever possible. Since August, several cargo flights of Iranian airlines have arrived in Ethiopia. The United States accused them of covering the Quds force, an elite clandestine wing of Irans Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Its worth noting that the current temporary victory of the Ethiopian government in no way means the end of this war. The Tigray rebels have a well-staffed army equipped by the United States, and the terrain makes it difficult for government forces to penetrate their province. Therefore, they could continue their operations, re-enter the war, and repeat their march to Addis Ababa. In this case, the goal of the USA, demonstrating unprecedented activity in the recent events in the Horn of Africa, is not the change of government in Ethiopia, but the destruction of the Ethiopian state, its dismemberment. At the moment, Washington supports the Tigray rebels. Still, the USA is reluctant for their victory, willing only for the continuation of hostilities and the deterioration of the condition of the Ethiopian people. Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.  

[Category: Africa, Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics]

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[l] at 1/13/22 12:05am
There has been global confrontation between the US and China for many years. Against this background, the regional confrontation between China and India continues. The two mighty neighboring Asian powers have long been competitors, having territorial issues and vying for influence in neighboring states. Fortunately, the struggle is mainly in the economic sphere, but to be sure that it will remain there, the countries are building up their defense. Pakistan is another long-standing and strong adversary of India, which shares a common  border with it. Pakistan has worked closely with China in recent years. Considering Chinese activity in other neighboring countries of India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka, it could be said that India is gradually finding itself in a hostile ring. It should also be borne in mind that, in addition to those countries that are unfriendly to India or pro-Chinese regimes, theres agents of international terrorism operate in neighboring countries that are not averse to using those conflicts between Muslims and representatives of other religions that reignite in India for their own purpose. Tterrorists are particularly strong in Pakistan, which, as you know, shares a border with Afghanistan. Their activity has been observed in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Bangladesh for some time now. In recent years, the terrorist threat in the region has multiplied in connection with the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. In such conditions, India needs outside support. Therefore, New Delhi is developing cooperation with its long-standing strategic partner, the US. And the US is now trying to unite its main allies, such as Great Britain, Australia and Japan, and regional competitors of China, such as India and South Korea, to build a joint anti-Chinese front. To this end, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) was created in 2007, formed with the USA, Australia, India and Japan. In 2021, the AUKUS defense alliance was established, included with the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom. India actively purchases American weapons and regularly participates in the Malabar joint naval exercise with the United States and Japan, and Australia has also participated in them since 2020. However, excessive rapprochement with America and full participation in American military blocs is hardly a factor in the Indian plans, which is a long-term and consistent participant in the Non-Aligned Movement. Participation in military alliances implies an obligation to other members to act on their side in the event of an armed conflict. It is unlikely that such a powerful and, at the same time, peace-loving player like India would like to participate in any war not related to the defense of Indian territory, which is not in line with Indian interests and initiated by third countries. Even though New Delhi and Washington are pursuing a common goal to weaken Chinas influence, or at least prevent its further growth, the Indian leadership cannot but understand that the United States and India are in different conditions: India lies next to China and has a common border about 4,000 km long, and America is located across the ocean. In addition, the United States is known to have a propensity to fight by someone’s hands. Considering the worst-case scenario, a military conflict between China and its anti-Chinese forces, in the event of India being forced to participate, India will take on the most difficult blows of the Chinese Armed Forces. Therefore, in its cooperation with Washington, New Delhi prefers not to go too far and maintain a reasonable distance. One may say that India is in a bit of a pickle: it is too vulnerable to China without collaborating with Washington. India can be drawn into a destructive conflict with China even when it does not correspond to Indian interests. To maintain a balance in relations with the United States, India needs to cooperate with a third force comparable in power to the United States or China and, at the same time, not take an active part in their confrontation. Russia is such a force. India and the Russian Federation are long-standing and reliable partners who have cooperated for many decades in various fields, including military and technical. Back in Soviet times, during the Cold War, the Indian strategy took shape: following the Non-Aligned Movement rules, maintaining good relations with both the USSR and the United States, and, if possible, using their support in its confrontation with China and Pakistan. This strategy is as relevant for India today as it used to be. In 2018, an agreement was signed on the supply of five sets of S-400 air defense systems by Russia to India, which caused great discontent and threats of sanctions from Washington. The American threats were ignored.  In the same year, during a visit to India, Russian President Vladimir Putin recalled that Russian-Indian relations have a particularly privileged strategic partnership nature. 2021 was not an easy year for all states, especially for India: it was among the countries most affected by the COVID-19 virus at the beginning of the year. The deaths of many people and the closure of production due to quarantine measures have dealt severe blows to Indian society and the economy. However, Indias military-technical cooperation with Russia continued to develop. At the beginning of 2021, the amount of Indian military and technical orders from the Russian Federation exceeded $ 14 billion. In February 2021, in the Indian city of Bengaluru, Aero India 2021 took place, which is an international event dedicated to the achievements of the aviation, space and defense industries. As usual, one of the largest expositions was presented by Russia. India has decided to buy 12 Russian Su-30MKI aircraft worth more than $ 1.4 billion and 21 Russian MiG-29 fighters. In August 2021, India-Russia joint training exercise INDRA 2021 took place. The event, held in the Volgograd region of the Russian Federation, was attended by 250 Indian and Russian military personnel, armored vehicles, multiple launch rocket systems and aviation were involved. At the end of August 2021, the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan was complete, and now this country is officially under the rule of the Taliban terrorist group (banned in the Russian Federation). This is a common challenge for India, which may now face a manifold increase in the terrorist threat from Pakistan and Russia, whose security sphere includes the Central Asian states bordering Afghanistan. Lets recall that even if the Taliban have not yet demonstrated hostile intentions towards neighboring states, there are many other terrorist groups in Afghanistan whose interests go far beyond the borders of this country. In connection with this situation, on August 24, 2021, a telephone conversation took place between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin. After that, a Russian delegation headed by Nikolai Patrushev, Director of Russias Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, was sent to New Delhi to discuss cooperation issues in security and combatting terrorism. On September 9, 2021, Patrushev met with Narendra Modi. They discussed further development of Russian-Indian relations and interaction on regional security issues, including Afghanistan. In the opinion of both sides, Russia and India must coordinate their actions to prevent an escalation of violence. On December 6, 2021, Vladimir Putin arrived in New Deli. During his discussions with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, all aspects of Russian-Indian cooperation were touched upon, including security issues and the situation in Afghanistan. It was decided to provide humanitarian assistance in the near future. On the same day, a Russian-Indian intergovernmental agreement was signed on a program of military-technical cooperation until 2030. The signing of the document was attended by the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and  Defense Minister of India, Rajnath Singh. All details of the agreement have not yet been disclosed. Still, it is already known that, among other things, licensed production of 600,000 new Russian AK-203 assault rifles is planned in Indian territory. According to Sergei Shoigu, India is one of the key partners of Russia in the defense sphere. Military and technical, and defense cooperation between Russia and India is still developing firmly and steadily. Continuing to maintain contacts with Washington for the sake of their national interests, New Delhi understands that the Russian Federation is a country with which India has neither ideological contradictions nor territorial issues. At the same time, it is on the same continent and, accordingly, is much more interested in common Eurasian security than the United States. In addition, considering Moscows friendly relations with Beijing, Russia can assume the role of mediator in some disagreements between India and China and contribute to their mutually beneficial outcome to a greater extent than Washington, which prefers the language of threats and sanctions. In conclusion, relations with Russia are of particular value to India and will be strengthened in future. Dmitry Bokarev, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.  

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

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[l] at 1/12/22 1:59pm
There is a great paradox in the increasingly aggressive US and NATO military stance towards Russia, and China, when measured against the clearly suicidal national Green Agenda economic policies of the USA as well as the EU NATO states. An astonishing transformation of the economies of the world’s most advanced industrial economies is underway and gaining momentum. The heart of the transformation is energy, and the absurd demand for “zero carbon” energy by 2050 or before. To eliminate carbon from the energy industry is not at this time, or perhaps ever, possible. But the push for it will mean tearing apart the world’s most productive economies. Without a viable industrial energy base, NATO countries become a military joke. We cannot speak of “renewable” energy for solar, wind and battery storage. We must speak of Unreliable Energy. It is one of the most colossal scientific delusions in history. On December 31 the new German coalition government shut down three of the remaining six nuclear power plants permanently. They did so at a point where natural gas in reserves were extremely low entering hard winter, and when any severe cold front could lead to power blackouts. Because of the German refusal to allow import of a second Russian gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2, Germany is facing a 500% increase in the spot price of electricity compared with January 2021. EU Energy Crisis Preplanned In 2011 when Chancellor Merkel declared an early end to nuclear power, her infamous Energiewende, to phase out nuclear and go to renewable sources, 17 nuclear plants reliably supplied 25% of all electric power to the country. Now the remaining 3 plants must close by end 2022. At the same time the Green Energy agenda of the government since 2016 has closed 15.8 GigaWatts of coal generation as of January 2022. To make up for the fact that solar and wind, despite glowing propaganda, do not fill the gap, Germany’s electric grid must import significant electricity from EU neighbors France and Czech Republic, ironically much of it from their nuclear plants. Germany today has the highest electricity cost of any industrial nation as a result of the Energiewende. There is now a problem with the supply of nuclear electricity from France. In December EDF the French state nuclear agency announced a total of four reactors would shut for inspection and repairs following discovery of corrosion damage. President Macron facing April elections is trying to play the nuclear champ in the EU opposing Germany’s strong anti-nuclear position. But the nuclear bridge is vulnerable and France is unlikely to make any major new investment in nuclear, despite recent claims, with plans to shut down twelve reactors in the next few years, along with coal, leaving both France and Germany vulnerable to future energy shortages. Macron’s France 2030 program calls for investing a pitiful $1.2 billion in small plant nuclear technology. But the nuclear issue is not the only fly in the EU energy soup. Every aspect of the current EU energy plan is designed to wreck a modern industrial economy, and the architects who generously fund green think tanks like the Potsdam Institute in Germany know it. To bring wind and solar, the only two serious options being implemented, to replace coal, gas and nuclear, is simply said, not possible. Wind Mills and Madness of Crowds For Germany, a country with less than optimal sunshine, wind is the leading alternative. One problem with wind as the winter of 2021 dramatically showed, is that it does not always blow, and unpredictably so. That means blackouts or reliable backup, which means coal or natural gas as nuclear is being forced out. Wind mills are misleadingly rated in terms of gross theoretical capacity when states like Germany want to boast of renewable progress. In reality what counts is actual electricity produced over time or what is called capacity factor or load factor. For solar, capacity factor is typically only about 25%. The sun in northern Europe or North America doesn’t shine 24 hours a day. Nor are skies always cloudless. Similarly wind doesn’t always blow and is hardly reliable. Germany boasts of 45% gross renewable energy but that hides the reality. Frauenhofer Institute in a 2021 study estimated Germany must install at least six to eight times present solar to reach 2045 100% carbon free goals, something the government refuses to estimate costs for, but private estimates are in the trillions. The report says from the present gross 54 GW solar capacity as much as 544 GW by 2045 is needed. That would mean a land space of 3,568,000 acres or 1.4 million hectares, more than 16,000 square kilometers of solid solar panels across the country. Add major wind stations to that. It is a suicide recipe. The fraud of wind and solar as a sensible carbon free option is beginning to be realized. This January 5, Alberta Canada where the government is furiously building wind and solar sites, a severe cold day with temperatures near 45 F minus, Alberta’s 13 grid-connected solar facilities, rated at 736 megawatts, were contributing 58 megawatts to the grid. The 26 wind farms, with a combined rated capacity of 2,269 megawatts, was feeding the grid 18 megawatts. The total from renewables was a piddly 76 megawatts out of a theoretical 3,005 megawatts of supposedly green, renewable energy. Texas during the severe snow of February 2021 had similar problems with solar and wind as did Germany. Also when it snows solar farms are worthless. As well to reach zero carbon from renewable sources huge acreages of land must be paved with solar reflectors or dedicated to wind farms. By one estimate, the amount of land needed to accommodate the 46,480 solar PV plants envisioned for the US is 650,720 square miles, almost 20% of the US lower 48 territories. This is the areas of Texas, California, Arizona and Nevada combined. Alone in the US state of Virginia a new green law, the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) has created an enormous rise in solar project applications to date for 780 square miles of solar slabs so far. As David Wojick points out, that is about 500,000 acres of countryside, farmland or forests destroyed and paved over with some 500 separate projects blanketing much of rural Virginia that will need a staggering 160 million solar panels, mostly from China and all destined to become hundreds of tons of toxic waste. Millions of Jobs? The Biden administration and Renewables czar John Kerry have falsely claimed their Green Agenda or Build Back Better will mean millions of new jobs. They omit to say the jobs will be in China which produces far the most solar panels, a near monopoly after they destroyed the USA and EU competition a decade ago with cheap subsidized panels Made in China. Similarly most of wind power is made in China by Chinese companies. Meanwhile China uses record volumes of coal and postpones its pledge for zero carbon a full decade after the EU and USA to 2060. They are not willing to jeopardize their industrial dominance to a climate theory based on fake data and lies that CO2 is about to destroy the planet. The German trade union federation DGB recently estimated that since 2011 that country had lost some 150,000 jobs in the renewable sector alone, mainly as China-made solar panels destroyed leading German solar companies. And Germany is the most green-crazy EU country. Because by definition the less energy-dense renewables of wind or solar drive basic electricity costs far higher, they kill more jobs in the overall economy than they ever add. NATO Industrial Collapse Because solar and wind are in reality far more costly than conventional hydrocarbon or nuclear electricity, they drive up overall cost of electric power to industry forcing many companies to close or move elsewhere. Only official statistical fraud hides this. Europe and North America will need huge volumes of steel and concrete to build the expected millions of solar panels or wind parks. That needs huge amounts of conventional coal or nuclear energy. How many E-car electric charging stations will be needed to home-charge 47 million German E-cars? How much more electric demand? A significant Green Energy think tank in the US, RethinkX ,issued a propaganda study for renewables in 2021 titled Rethinking Energy 2020-2030: 100% Solar, Wind, and Batteries is Just the Beginning. Their answer to the problems of low capacity for wind and solar is to build 500% or even 1000% more than envisioned to make up for the low 25% capacity factor. They make the absurd claim, with no concrete proof that, “Our analysis shows that 100% clean electricity from the combination of solar, wind, and batteries (SWB) is both physically possible and economically affordable across the entire continental United States as well as the overwhelming majority of other populated regions of the world by 2030 this superabundance of clean energy output – which we call super power – will be available at near-zero marginal cost throughout much of the year .” That statement is presented without an iota of data or concrete scientific feasibility analysis, merely dogmatic assertion. The late Canadian architect of the UN Agenda 21, Maurice Strong, a billionaire oil chum of David Rockefeller was Undersecretary of the United Nations and Secretary General of the June 1972 Stockholm Earth Day conference. He was also a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation. He more than perhaps anyone else, is responsible for the de-industrialization agenda of the zero carbon “sustainable economy.” At the UN Rio Earth Summit in 1992 he openly stated the blunt agenda of the radical eugenics advocates such as Gates and Schwab: “Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?” That agenda is very much the Great Reset today. War Now? If the once-advanced, energy-intensive economies of NATO member countries in Europe and the USA continue on this suicidal journey, their ability to mount a convincing military defense or offense will become a mirage. Recently the corrupt German EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, declared that the high-tech German defense industry and its suppliers should not receive bank credit because they were not “green” or “sustainable” enough. Reportedly banks have already gotten the message. Along with oil and gas now defense production is targeted. Von der Leyen as German Defense Minister was widely blamed for allowing German defense to collapse to a catastrophic state. In their now one-sided pursuit of their insane Agenda 2030 and Zero Carbon agenda, the Biden Administration and the EU are putting their industry on a deliberate road to destruction well before the end of this decade. Is this in turn driving the current NATO agenda towards Russia in Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia and now Kazakhstan? If the NATO Powers that Be know they will lack the basic in depth military industrial infrastructure in the near future, do they think it better to provoke a possible war with Russia now, to eliminate a potential resistor to their de-industrial agenda? Other than China, Russia holds the only potential to deal a devastating blow to NATO if provoked. Mass Formation Psychosis or Madness of Crowds In 1852 English historian Charles Mackay wrote a classic titled Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, giving a little-known insight to the mass hysteria behind the religious Great Crusades of the 12th Century, the Witch Mania or the Dutch Tulip Mania and numerous other popular delusions. It is relevant to understand the global irrational rush to economic and political suicide. The same key actors behind the mass COVID vaccine mandates for an unproven experimental genetic-altering vaccine and the ensuing lockdowns globally, including Bill Gates and Pope Francis, are behind the Klaus Schwab World Economic Forum Great Reset and its UN Agenda 2030 green zero carbon madness, to get the world to accept unprecedented draconian economic measures. This will require a docile and physically weak population to be railroaded, what Belgian psychology professor Dr. Mattias Desmet and Dr Robert Malone call Mass Formation Psychosis, a crowd psychosis, a kind of mass hypnosis that ignores reason. It is clear that both the myth of Global Warming and the corona pandemic agenda require such a mass hypnosis—an “extraordinary popular delusion.” Without the COVID fear hysteria we would never allow the Green Agenda to get so far that our very electric grids are on the verge of blackouts and our economies on verge of breakdown. The ultimate goal of both the COVID WHO pandemic and the Green Agenda is a march to Schwab’s dystopian Great Reset of the entire world economy to the benefit of a corporate dictatorship by a handful of global corporations like BlackRock or Google-Alphabet. 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: Columns, Economics, Europe, Featured, Locations]

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[l] at 1/12/22 1:55pm
These days Russia sits down with the United States, and NATO, to discuss Moscows demands (they go beyond proposals) for in effect a new world order in Eastern Europe. The Russian plan envisages a greatly reduced role for NATO on and around its borders. The United States has not yet made any specific proposals in advance of the meeting, although a number of voices have been raised against the Russian proposals. Rather than a direct response, the Americans have allowed the British assets to in effect make their answer for them. In what is manifestly a timed attempt to disrupt the talks and put Russia on the back foot, the British (with the obvious knowledge and consent of the Americans) have attempted a coup against the government of Kazakhstan. The Russian response, pointing clearly to foreknowledge of the planned assault, has been rapid, dispatching troops to Kazakhstan to act on behalf of its embattled president and restore a measure of order to the country. At the time of writing the Russian intervention (and that of his allies) appears to be successful. It is not only the forthcoming talks between the Russians and the United States and its allies that the aim of disruption is directed. There are simultaneous talks going on between the Russians and the Chinese president. Both men agreed to create an “independent structure for trade operations that could not be influenced by other countries”, a clear reference to the United States. Giving impetus to the agreement by the two presidents was yet another thinly veiled attack on Russia’s membership of the SWIFT system of international banking. This is an American controlled system and they have never hesitated to use their control to achieve other geopolitical goals, as with the suspension of Iran’s membership by the Trump administration, part of the United States refusal to lift its sanctions on Iran following the nuclear deal arranged during the Obama administration. Biden was vice president at the time, and hence a party to the deal. He has refused to lift Trumps sanctions despite vague promises to do so. The importance of the Russia – China agreement to create an independent financial structure cannot be overstated. Russia and China are but two of literally scores of nations that have suffered under United States hegemony of the world financial system and they do not have to be asked twice to abandon that system and join the new Russia – China alternative. Bypassing the dollar’s role in trade and indeed the entire financial system is a major goal of both Chinese and Russian planners. Removing the dollar as the principal means of exchange is a vital stage in the Russian – Chinese version of a new global order. China takes over the role of chairing the BRICS system of international trade and the year in charge is expected to see an acceleration of a series of related economic arrangements. These include the closer association between the Belt and Road Initiative and the EAEU whose geopolitical and geo-economic importance is expected to expand through 2022. The other major change occurring in the region is the coming into force of the RCEP deal, a truly game changing arrangement that links China with 10 ASEAN nations, plus Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The inclusion of Japan, South Korea and Australia may be seen in some ways as a game changer. All three countries have close ties to the United States, and it is certain that the United States did not approve of their becoming members of the RCEP. In Australia’s case, it has recently signed a deal with the United States and the United Kingdom that is manifestly anti-China in its orientation. It involves Australia buying a number of submarines, the clear intention of which is to threaten China’s freedom of navigation. The signing of the RCEP deal may therefore be interpreted as a minor victory by those in Canberra who recognised geographical, trade and Geo-political reality, reflecting Australia’s position as a landmass on the southern end of Asia. Persuading the politicians of both major parties to recognise that reality and adjust their adherence to the rapidly fading United States remains a major policy challenge. The signing of the RCEP deal recognises that there are at least some people in Canberra who have a clearer view of Australia’s interests in the region than is true of others. It would be an unwise to expect the Americans to accept these developments unchallenged. As a partial response to the rise of the Asian powers the United States is still demanding that it is the centre point of the Asian region and that it be acknowledged as such. The United States especially fears the rise of China which it sees as the fundamental challenger to its hegemony. The United States continues to see itself as the major power in the Asian region, but this is no longer true. Beijing certainly does not see the United States as any longer being the dominant power in the region, and Japan and South Korea joining the RCEP may be interpreted as their coming to the same conclusion. The difference in opinion between China and United States is exemplified by the attitude to trade. The United States has progressively become less of a free trade nation, imposing more and more restrictions upon Chinese imports. China on the other hand is moving in the opposite direction. In recent years China has progressively opened its markets to foreign trade, and the RCEP is a personification of that trend. The United States response to the Chinese moves is to propose what it calls the Indian Pacific Economic Framework. It is not actually a framework for anything but continued United States dominance of the region. It is a fundamental principle of trading relationships that if one sets out the rules, then one is expected to abide by those rules. The United States does not and has expressed no willingness to ever do so. By attempting to remotely set rules reveals the hubris with which the United States structures its relationships with its “partners”. The United States fails to recognise what may be called the tyranny of distance. In attempting to set the rules for other countries from 10,000 km away just highlights the degree of imperial overreach that characterises United States foreign policy. China is the driving force of the Asia Pacific region. As the old saying goes, if you don’t play the game, you don’t make the rules. The United States has long lost the ability to dictate the rules, let alone define how others should play a game. It is a lesson the Americans have been slow to learn. In Asia, and indeed throughout much of the rest of the world, China is showing that it does not accept the United States version of the rules. The quicker the Americans learn that lesson, the safer the world is likely to be. James O’Neill, an Australian-based former Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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

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[l] at 1/12/22 1:50pm
The state of affairs in the direction of China-India of the “Greater Asian Triangle” (China-India-Japan) has no less influence on the development of the situation in the Indo-Pacific region than everything that happens in the China-Japan duo. Moreover, there has been hardly less negativity in the political component of the Sino-Indian relations of the last two or three years than in the Sino-Japanese ones. If we restrict ourselves to a generalized indicator of the volume of trade between India and China, then it would seem that the “Asian paradox” is present here. It is related with the opposite situation in economic relations among some of the leading Asian countries and the state of political relations between them. But in this case and the aforementioned generalized indicator of protection, a very noticeable characteristic, negative for India, is sewn up, associated with the fact that China sells various kinds of products to India 3-4 times more than it spends on purchasing the products in India it needs. That more or less adequately reflects the ratio of the economic development of the two Asian giants. This characteristic results in India’s annual losses of approximately $ 40 billion.  It was until recently a third of the total deficit of its foreign trade. It seems that in mid-2021, there was a tendency to correct this long-standing trend, but, again, in general, not in trading with China. Note that the situation of its trade with the main geopolitical opponent of China, that is, with the United States, looks much more favorable for India. With the same approximately total volume (about $ 90 billion), 60% is in India and only 40% in the United States. Curiously, the same pattern is found in Vietnam’s trade with China and the US. It is difficult to say whether this general situation is the result of Washington’s focused strategy in trade with both of these regional opponents of the PRC, or whether it is being designed “by itself,” that is, without any political intent. Apparently, considerations related to the prospect of receiving even more significant losses in the event of the lifting of customs restrictions on trade with China played a decisive role in the decision of the Indian government to refuse from participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The Agreement establishing RCEP was signed in November 2020 by 15 parties, of which two-thirds had ratified it by the end of 2021. This ensured RCEP coming into power at the beginning of 2022. Potentially, RCEP could become the world’s largest free trade zone over time. Again, so far without India. There can be little doubt that the same factor in India’s complicated political relations with China was present in Narendra Modi’s decision. The definition of the term “politics” is somewhat rubbery, but it includes rather specific elements. For example, mutual territorial claims are quite distinctly noted in Sino-Indian relations. Along with the relative “trifle” present throughout the entire length of the Sino-Indian border (the size of which again depends on who and how evaluates it), two disputed territories are pretty noticeable in terms of area. India claims the part of the former principality of Ladakh, which the PRC now controls. At the same time, the current Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which is twice as large in area, is called Southern Tibet (or Zangnan) in China and is considered illegally torn away at the beginning of the last century by the administration of the then “British India”. Attempts undertaken for decades to draw a border, finally acceptable for both countries, have so far proven unsuccessful. Meanwhile, the lack of resolution of this problem only in recent years has already twice (in 2017 and 2020) brought relations between the Asian giants to the brink of a large-scale military conflict. The very existence of a territorial problem prompts opponents to follow with particular attention what each of them is undertaking in its administrative, legislative and practical aspects. So, in India, China’s approval of the new land border law was received with caution at the end of October last year. The law entered into force on January 1, 2022. Indicated in pretty general terms, it raised questions in Delhi regarding the geography of its application. India also reacted to the second case (the first took place in 2017) of the “standardization” in Chinese characters, Tibetan and Roman alphabet of the names of several zones in Arunachal Pradesh, a state in India. The Global Times reported it at the end of December last year, referring to the “sovereignty and history” factors. This time, eight residential areas, four mountains, two rivers and a mountain pass were subjected to “standardization.” The official reaction of the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quite expected to this action. In turn, China is watching with no less caution the continuing functioning of the 14th Dalai Lama and the so-called “Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile.” There were reports that representatives of the local 100,000-strong Tibetan diaspora serve in the Indian border troops and even take part in clashes with Chinese border guards. So far, there are also some Indian-Taiwanese contacts at the unofficial level, which, among other things, testify to the expansion of the geography of India’s political presence in the international arena. However, there is much greater evidence. Like, for instance, India’s participation in two “Fours”. Of these, the first one includes the US, Japan and Australia, the second one is the US, Israel and the United Arab Emirates. These configurations jointly cover almost the entire ITD, and there are signs of mutually competitive positioning of India and China throughout the region. In particular, it is becoming more visible in Afghanistan and the Central Asian sub-region, in general. In this regard, the meeting of the foreign ministers of India and five Central Asian countries (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) held in Delhi on December 18-19, 2021, attracted attention. The commentary of this meeting in Indian Express appeared under the notable heading “India is keeping an eye on Central Asia.” The main initial thesis of this commentary was the statement of “the bailout of the Central Asian region by the Taliban who seized Afghanistan” into the space of increasing competition between the leading world powers. And among them, the PRC is undoubtedly taking a leading position in terms of influence on Afghanistan. This is cautiously perceived both by India (whether it is valid or not is a separate issue) and, at least, by some Central Asian countries. Equally noticeable was the invitation of the leaders of the countries that took part in the said Dialogue in Delhi to become guests of honor at the upcoming main national holiday, Republic Day, which is annually celebrated on January 26. Note that such invitations are exceptional and are intended to demonstrate the special attention of the Indian leadership to a particular country. The President of Russia and the US President were once guests of honor (Vladimir Putin in 2007 and Barack Obama in 2015). Finally, it seems evident that Russia needs to use all the available (not very large) potential to positively impact the development of relations between the two Asian giants. The “price paid” is too high due to various vectors of transformation of these relations. Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.  

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

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[l] at 1/12/22 6:55am
During the last thirty years after the collapse of the USSR, the world, renamed by the West into a Euro-Atlantic one, began to change drastically, giving itself a completely different substance than Washington and the renewed Europe organized by America wanted it to be. It began to swell with a completely different meaning, the balance of forces in it began to change, and the East, together with Russia and China, announced that a new future was coming. Even India, Iran, Brazil, and South Africa have grown economically and militarily and politically aware of their place in modern history, demonstrating to the West that their time is running out. Completely different countries, previously classified by the West as the so-called third world, are determined to define a new world order. Realizing its collapse, the US and NATO countries dependent on the USA now see the unleashing of world military hysteria as the only chance they have to retain at least some influence on the minds of the international community by actively engaging in an information war and unsuccessfully trying to present Russia and China as the main adversaries and axis of all evil in the world. Hence the recently intensified attacks by the West on Beijing and Moscow, the active sabre rattling by the United States and NATO on the borders of China and Russia, and the involvement of various countries in new military alliances, the latest of which was AUKUS. Although Washington is aware of its inability to win any direct military action against Russia or China, and even more so against these two countries simultaneously with their advanced weapons) it is nevertheless carries on the strategy of unleashing wars far away from its borders. Against the background of the devastating loss of the leading position in the world economy and high-tech technologies for the country of the Stars and Stripes, the militant sentiment is fueled by the deepening significant economic crisis in the United States. The turbulent transition from a unipolar world to a multipolar one and the large-scale spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unleashing another war, Washington primarily thinks not about victory but the profits of the military-industrial complex. Whenever there is a war in the name of national security of the United States, the Pentagon, waving its stars and stripes, throws away taxpayer money on weapons and development. After all, the war gives lucrative contracts for the supply of weapons, which can be promoted by Congresss corrupt henchmen. Military conflicts automatically postpone difficult decisions about cutting defence spending and closing excessive military bases. Nor should it be forgotten that, as shown by historical experience, launching a military machine has always been a way to gain popularity for leaders of states and to present the outbreak of foreign wars as a concern for the peace and safety at home. American presidents often used this factor to improve their public image. Over the past 120 years, 21 presidents have been elected in the United States, 12 Republicans and 9 Democrats. Of the 55 wars, armed conflicts and military operations unleashed by the United States or with American participation, 33 began under Republican presidents, 23 under Democrats. On average, there are 2.75 2.88 wars for any American president. Of the 12 leaders of State elected from the Republican Party, only three have not unleashed a single war or conducted a single military operation: Warren Harding (held office from 1921 to 1923), Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) and Gerald Ford (1974 -1977). Eight Democratic presidents used military force one way or another against other countries. It was often under the Democrats that Washington entered into the longest and bloodiest armed conflicts. So, under the democrat Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969), the United States entered the Vietnam War in 1964, while under him, the Americans invaded Laos (where they remained until 1973). By bombing the border territories, they dragged Cambodia into the Vietnam War and once again occupied the Dominican Republic. Under Democrat President John F. Kennedy (1961-1963), perhaps one of the most dangerous and large-scale military and political crises after World War II occurred. The Cuban Missile Crisis, preceded by the Bay of Pigs Invasion, was a disastrous operation in 1961, which John F. Kennedy gave an order to initiate. Under Democrat Bill Clinton, the United States bombed Yugoslavia. Under Barack Obama (who even became a Nobel Prize winner, being awarded by the politically spineless Nobel Committee), the war began in Libya. As for the rating of the current US President, Democrat Joe Biden, only 44% of Americans declared their support for his policies in December, according to a poll conducted by NBC. His rating fell back to 46% in the fall against the backdrop of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. In December, it fell by another two percentage points. Moreover, as the German  Der Spiegel  emphasizes, according to a survey conducted by Axios and the Momentive center, more than 40% of Americans do not believe that Joe Biden came to power legally. Therefore, Biden also has a special interest in unleashing another war.  However, only time will tell whether he is going to take advantage of this opportunity. But we must not forget that besides the US President, there is a lot of lesser men surrounding him interested in unleashing armed conflicts. First of all, this is the so-called community in Washington, particularly intellectuals speaking on television or giving lectures.  Congressmen and those who consider themselves politicians follow the news about enemies, and those who do not join this paranoia may be condemned for aiding the enemy. Television and the media are basking in profits on such news. Significant funds are allocated from the national budget for travel with significant retinues to the theater of war. Recall, particularly, the recent trips of Antony Blinken, or Josep Borrel from Europe to Ukraine, while demonstrating their alleged peacekeeping intentions. They were openly scared to meet with residents of the DPR or LPR who were subjected to armed aggression by Kyiv to condemn the recent outright fascist torchlight march in the Ukrainian capital. The main thing is that such trips can be used for advertising: more viewers, more income. And on the hype and such advertising, you can play with the prices of oil and gas resources on the stock exchanges or other securities of gullible shareholders. Against this background, private contractors profit from the ongoing military crises, the military make a career: some soldiers and officers are killed, others take their place. At the same time, it is noteworthy that people who did not serve in the army have become US presidents over the past decades.  So, when his draft-age approached, Clinton was afraid to go to Vietnam and at first joined the officers school, but soon his high-ranking uncle promised him an excuse from the army in general. The son of a World War II hero, George W. Bush, chose the same path of evading service in Vietnam as Clinton: he entered military school, and while he was studying, the war ended. Although he was obliged to do so, Barack Obama did not bother to register. Donald Trump became the most hyped mower from the army with his alleged heel spur (this diagnosis was made to a young graduate of the University of Pennsylvania by a doctor who, by strange coincidence, rented an office in a building owned by Trumps dad). Joe Biden also avoided military service because he was in law school and was diagnosed with asthma. But all this did not prevent the highest representatives of American society, who did not have their own army experience, pouring rivers of blood over the whole world, blessing the US Army to participate in wars around the world: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia, Syria, Yemen. Hundreds of thousands of people perished everywhere, and countries were destroyed. By and large, all of them are puppets in the hands of moneybags who earn their capital in wars. Hence their carefree attitude to new military conflicts. Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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

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