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Moscow ‘preparing inevitable response’ as US hits Russians with new sanctions over N. Korea

RT | August 23, 2017

Moscow has fired back at the latest round of US sanctions targeting Russian interests, as Washington blacklisted one Russian company and four individuals for their alleged dealings with North Korea.

On Tuesday, the US Treasury revealed it had imposed sanctions on 16 Russian and Chinese nationals and companies for their alleged dealings with North Korea. The Treasury claims the sanctions are in line with the internationally agreed measures against North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs. The companies are accused of working with blacklisted individuals, helping develop the North Korean energy sector, help it place workers abroad or move money from abroad. As a result, their US assets are frozen and Americans are forbidden from doing business with them.

“It is unacceptable for individuals and companies in China, Russia, and elsewhere to enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction and destabilize the region,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“We are taking actions consistent with UN sanctions to show that there are consequences for defying sanctions and providing support to North Korea, and to deter this activity in the future.”

Reacting to the sanctions, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov issued a statement expressing disappointment, and warning Washington that Russia was working on a response.

“Against such a depressing backdrop, the lip service from American representatives about the desire to stabilize bilateral relations is extremely unconvincing,” Ryabkov said. “We have always and will always support resolving our existing differences through dialogue. In recent years, Washington in theory should have learned that for us the language of sanctions is unacceptable, and the solutions to real problems are only hindered by such actions. So far, however, there doesn’t seem to be an understanding of such obvious truths.”

“Nevertheless, we do not lose our hope that the voice of reason will sooner or later prevail, and that our American colleagues will be aware of the futility and detrimental nature of further sliding down the spiral of sanctions.”

In the meantime, we are beginning to work out the inevitable response to this situation.”

The companies under sanction include Gefest-M, a Moscow-based firm accused of acquiring metals for a North Korean company, and Mingzheng International Trading, a Chinese and Hong Kong-based bank that supposedly conducted transactions on behalf of North Korea.

Andrey Klimov, a senior Russian senator, said that the US sanctions against Gefest-M and the others lack legitimacy.

“These sanctions are illegal in themselves, because the only thing recognized by international law is the sanctions of the UN Security Council,” Klimov told Interfax. “We must react in principle to this insane and confrontational policy. The toolbox is rich, let’s hope that we will act consistently, reasonably, professionally and effectively.”

Klimov’s words were echoed by the Chinese government, with a spokesperson saying Beijing “opposes unilateral sanctions out[side] of the UN Security Council framework.”

“We strongly urge the US to immediately correct its mistake, so as not to impact bilateral cooperation on relevant issues,” the spokesperson said, as quoted by the Financial Times.

At the same time, the US Department of Justice also filed two complaints to forfeit over $11 million from two Asian companies for allegedly laundering funds for North Korea.

The DoJ alleges that the two companies violated the international sanctions against North Korea and indirectly supporting its missile and nuclear weapons programs.

“The United States filed two complaints today seeking imposition of a civil money laundering penalty and to civilly forfeit more than $11 million from companies that allegedly acted as financial facilitators for North Korea,” read the statement.

Proceedings have been launched against Velmur Management Pte Ltd., based in Singapore, as well as the Chinese company Dandong Chengtai Trading Co. Ltd.

READ MORE:

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August 22, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

A ‘new normal’ in South China Sea

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | August 16, 2017

India’s ‘Look East’ policy, which shifted to ‘Act East’ under the Modi government circa 2015, may now have to quickly shift again – to, say, ‘Watch East’. It will be on the one hand a judicious shift in tune with the rapid stabilization of the ASEAN’s relations with China and on the other hand a cathartic experience insofar as the rapid flow of events in the south-east Asian region holds some useful lessons for Indian diplomacy.

Looking back, the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s award of 12 July 2016 on the South China Sea (SCS) has turned out to be a turning point, opening a new page of cooperation between the ASEAN and China. A fair amount of ground has been covered in the past year with the hotline at foreign ministry level to manage maritime emergencies, the operationalization of the observance of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, and the framework of the Code of Conduct in the SCS. Sourabh Gupta at the Institute for China-America Studies in Washington sums up:

  • In fact, every member of Asean, with the exception perhaps of Singapore, yearns for the success of Asean-China political relations – but not at the inadmissible cost of having to capitulate to Beijing’s unilateral and non-conforming sovereign rights claim to oil and gas resources in their respective exclusive economic zones in the South China Sea.
  • The current easing cycle, rather, will lend itself to a period of strategic calm in this critically important waterway. Without an agitated local claimant on whose behalf it can claim to be intervening to uphold the stability of the South China Sea, the US has few other tools at its disposal to assert its relevance and authority in this body of water other than to endlessly navigate its length and breadth.

No doubt, the announcement in Manila on Wednesday of a new “modus vivendi” or a new “way to get along” is in sync with the trend outlined above by Gupta. It appears that there has been a diplomatic breakthrough between the Philippines and China. “The Chinese will not occupy new features in the South China Sea nor are they are going to build structures in Scarborough Shoal,” Philippine Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana told lawmakers in Manila on Tuesday. Cayetano also said the Philippines was working on a “commercial deal” with China to explore and exploit oil and gas resources in disputed areas of the SCS with an aim to begin drilling within a year. (Reuters )

To be sure, when the “frontline state” that is Philippines leaves behind standoffs and brinkmanship with China, something has fundamentally changed in the SCS. There are lessons here for other countries having territorial disputes with China. The Philippine approach under President Rodrigo Duterte is strikingly similar to India’s under the leadership of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh – “compartmentalizing” different templates of the relationship with China whereby hugely beneficial economic engagement is possible without forfeiting the prerogative to uphold national security interests.

The East Asia Forum has featured a riveting analysis of Duterte’s policy by Prof. Aileen S P Baviera at the University of the Philippines, who writes,

  • By de-linking economic relations from management of the disputes, Manila can benefit from Beijing at a time when sustained high growth and investor confidence in the Philippines coincides with a massive investment drive by China as part of BRI… Duterte’s China policy shift also reduces disagreement within ASEAN over the handling of the disputes.

Of course, the success of the policy also depends on China. To quote Baviera, “China would have to downplay nationalist emotions and restrain military adventurism. This could give Duterte breathing space both for repairing relations with China and reorienting the US alliance towards more convergent objectives.”

Ironically, Duterte’s new thinking bears striking similarity with the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s policies toward China. Yet, Duterte’s political personality happens to have more in common with Prime Minister Modi than with Manmohan Singh. Like Modi, Duterte is also a strongman populist. Both thrive on polarizing domestic politics and both pursue controversial approaches to social problems. Neither can claim to have a sophisticated understanding of international affairs. But where Duterte leaves Modi miles behind is in his pragmatism to eschew confrontation and megaphone diplomacy to leave the territorial disputes as a stalemate and instead maximise the economic benefits of the China relationship .

These are early days, but according to reports from Hanoi, the Spanish drilling ship, which has been prospecting in the disputed waters in in Vietnam’s Block 136/3 last month, has left the area after pressure from China. Interestingly, according to reports citing a “diplomatic source with direct knowledge of the situation”, Hanoi’s decision to suspend the drilling followed the visit of a Vietnamese delegation to Beijing.

The big question is whether the tidings from Manila and Hanoi presage a “new normal”. Though the Code of Conduct between China and the aggrieved members of the ASEAN is not yet a done deal, a future order of the SCS based on international rules and norms seems a near-term possibility. The Global Times newspaper carried on Tuesday a “preview” of what a future SCS order might look like – based on principles of “equality”, “balance” and “openness”. Read it here.

August 16, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Africans will be biggest losers after letting foreign military into their continent’

RT | August 9, 2017

Africa has become a staging ground where foreign countries can show off their military capabilities against one another away from their country of origin at the expense of Africans, says African affairs expert Ayo Johnson.

Turkey is gearing to open its largest overseas military base in Somalia.

The United Arab Emirates are building a military base at the port of Berbera, in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland.

Africa is an attraction to foreign militaries: China opened its first overseas military base on August,1 in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. Djibouti is also currently housing Americans, Japanese and French troops.

RT discussed why Africa has become so popular with the foreign military with Africa affairs expert Ayo Johnson who believes the world powers are turning the continent into the latest theater of military confrontation.

“Back in colonial days, we saw Africa being cut up and carved up by the Western nations. Now we are seeing Africa again being the center ground for the new verge of a proxy war because all these different countries which are founding military bases on the African continent. It is a huge worry,” Ayo Johnson told RT.

In Johnson’s opinion, “it is showing that Africans can’t protect themselves and it is also showing that Africans can’t control their own affairs and ultimately it is finders keepers.”

“We have China who already has a military base of its own, the excuse is that it ultimately wants to protect its own investment which we know it has on the African continent. Also, it says it wants to prevent piracy and to be able to launch against such events,” Johnson said.

“The Americans have similar bases, not to mention the Europeans. So, on the ground itself, ultimately the African continent is becoming the staging ground for the next possibly violent confrontation between the superpowers of the world in their so-called proxy battles,” he continued.

According to Johnson, such interest in the continent might be explained by its strategic location.

“The Horn of Africa is the gateway for many shipping lanes, the protection of that area because of long term standing piracy issues. But others would say it is about land grab, control; it is about influence.”

“The Americans, the British and other Europeans, not to mention the Chinese most recently, all seem to have a huge stake and might show their muscles and their military capabilities against one another. Africa has now become a staging ground from which they can exploit those opportunities away from their own individual countries, a place where they can prowess their military might at the expense of Africans,” Johnson noted.

Despite the increased foreign military presence, the problem of piracy in the region remains unsettled.

“One thing for sure is that piracy still exists and it will continue and is unlikely to stop or to be slowed down.”

“Again in terms of terrorism, Al-Qaeda and ISIS still have strongholds and control, influence in that part of the world and the military bases that are physically positioned there. If they are there to prevent such attacks, I think in the short term or more long term it could create antagonism, create a problem for locals who may want to join those organizations to attack the military powers that are there. So the protection of Africa becomes the reverse, becomes an area where everyone wants to show each other what they are capable of doing and that is the worry, be it terrorist or be it an American, European or even most recently the Turks are also considering having bases there,” he told RT.

Johnson claimed “that comes at the expense of every single African nation – ultimately the biggest losers will be every single individual on the African continent.”

August 10, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Siding with Washington on Korea May Be Dangerous

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 10.08.2017

In backing the latest US-led sanctions against North Korea at the United Nations Security Council, both China and Russia seem to have made a tenuous bet to resolve the crisis on the Asian peninsula. By deferring to Washington’s punitive sanctions, Beijing and Moscow are calculating that the US will relent on their proposals for comprehensive talks and a freeze on American military exercises with its South Korean ally.

China and Russia may regret their course of action. Since the imposition of new sanctions on North Korea last weekend, the tensions in the region have ratcheted up to alarming levels. US President Trump has even been accused of using «unhinged» language by members of Congress after he threatened to unleash «fire and fury» on North Korea «with a power the world has never seen before». Some American lawmakers were comparing Trump’s rhetoric with that of North Korea’s fiery leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea, predictably, responded to Trump’s outburst by declaring that its leadership was considering a pre-emptive military strike on the US air base on the Pacific island of Guam.

The region is being put on a hair-trigger for war – a war that would certainly involve the use of nuclear weapons. The American side has come to the conclusion that North Korea has finally mastered the technology to fit a nuclear warhead on its already proven intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability, reported the Washington Post this week. That means that if a military confrontation breaks out, the US will be tempted to use overwhelming force.

Trump’s words about deploying «power the likes of which the world has never seen before» are especially icy given the 72nd anniversary this week of the US dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

When the UN Security Council convened last weekend it passed Resolution 2371 unanimously with 15 votes to 0. It was a surprise turnaround by China and Russia. Last month, following North Korea’s ICBM test on July 4, both Beijing and Moscow rejected the US call for more sanctions on Pyongyang. They said then that sanctions policy doesn’t work and instead called for all-party dialogue to resolve the long-running Korean crisis. China and Russia also made the eminently reasonable call for the US and its South Korean ally to desist from their frequent joint war maneuvers, which the Communist North perceives as a threat of invasion.

Over the past few weeks, the US and China reportedly engaged in intense negotiations over the Korean issue. Trump accused his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping of not doing enough to rein in allied North Korea. The US also threatened to take punitive action against China over wider issues of trade and intellectual property rights. Before the weekend vote at the UNSC, Trump inexplicably cancelled a speech in which he was expected to lay out tough American actions against China over commercial disputes. That suggests some kind of bargain was done between Washington and Beijing – and that China voting for further sanctions on North Korea was part of it.

Following the unanimous vote at the UNSC, Trump and his ambassador Nikki Haley reportedly could hardly contain their glee over «the united response» against «rogue state North Korea».

What Russia gets out of it is not clear. Perhaps Russia felt that to veto the sanctions against North Korea would have incurred international wrath. But it seems curious that Moscow should go along with sanctions at the very same time that Washington is provocatively imposing similar measures against it too.

What appears to be in the calculus by China and Russia is that by giving a sop to the American desire to get tough on North Korea, they are anticipating that the US will agree to calls for multi-party talks and a freeze on military activities on the Korean Peninsula.

Both the Chinese and Russian ambassadors to the UN coupled the latest resolution for sanctions against North Korea with the reboot of the six-party negotiations involving the two Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and the US. Those talks were abandoned in 2009 when the US and North Korea broke off in recriminations.

Last week, before the UN vote, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a significant speech in which he said that the US was not seeking regime change in Pyongyang, nor had any intention of going to war on North Korea.

Following the UN sanctions, Tillerson sounded a conciliatory note while attending the summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations in Manila. The summit was also attended by Chinese and Russian counterparts Wang Yi and Sergei Lavrov. Tillerson said the US was open to dialogue with North Korea if the latter stopped its missile tests. That appeared to be a significant concession from the US side towards resolving the Korean problem.

However, this is where the calculation comes unstuck. The backing of more sanctions against North Korea by China and Russia may have softened the stance of the US somewhat, but at what price?

From the North Korean side, the increased sanctions are tantamount to an act of war. The new measures are aimed at banning the country’s top export earning commodities, including coal, minerals and seafood. The new sanctions will reportedly slash North Korea’s annual export revenue by one-third, down to $2 billion a year. Not surprisingly, Pyongyang responded furiously, saying the sanctions were an attack on its sovereignty.

Given Trump’s propensity for Twitter diplomacy, the spiral of rhetoric could lead to disastrous misunderstanding, as this week is tending to show.

In retrospect, it seems astonishing that Beijing and Moscow made the bet they did over new sanctions. The damage cannot be undone. But what China and Russia must do immediately is to insist that all sides proceed to multilateral talks and the standing down of military forces. The onus is primarily on the US to stand down its military power in the region. It needs to cancel its provocative maneuvers with its ally in Seoul – due again later this month – and it needs to halt the ongoing installation of the THAAD missile system on South Korean territory.

It is misplaced for China and Russia to pander to the US over sanctions and to expect something by way of concessions in return. The arrogant Americans don’t know the meaning of concessions, they only perceive weakness and will move to capitalize on weakness.

By indulging American demands for more sanctions on North Korea, the danger comes from emboldening Washington’s hubris and its own sense of impunity. One would think that Russia, above all, should understand that dynamic given its own experience over the US confiscating diplomatic properties and slapping on ever-more sanctions.

What Moscow and Beijing should do as a matter of urgency is to never mind new sanctions on North Korea; they should demand that Washington removes its military threat against North Korea – a threat that has been looming since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Then all sides must open talks without preconditions for a comprehensive peace settlement on the peninsula.

Pandering to a bully is never a good idea.

August 10, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Russia, China call for freeze on both N. Korea launches & South’s drills with US – Lavrov

RT | August 6, 2017

Moscow and Beijing are against any missile launches carried out by North Korea and are at the same time calling on the US to halt military drills in the region, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says.

The statement comes following Lavrov’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in the Philippines capital, Manila on Sunday. The ministers discussed the situation in the Korean Peninsula following the adoption of new sanctions on North Korea by the UN Security Council.

Lavrov said Russia and China have already suggested a roadmap to resolve the Korean crisis.

“Our joint initiative includes support of Russia’s proposal to create a roadmap for gradual restoration of trust and provide conditions for the resumption of the Six-Party talks. We have agreed to promote this concept in practice, including in the UN,” Lavrov said after the meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Manila.

Previously, Wang called the new restrictive measures against Pyongyang “a necessary response” aimed at “blocking North Korea’s nuclear missile development,” as cited by the South China Morning Post. He added that sanctions are not the “ultimate goal” and called for the resumption the so-called six party talks, as the situation on the Korean Peninsula “has come to a very critical juncture.”

“Sanctions are needed but are not the ultimate goal. The purpose is to pull the peninsula nuclear issue back to the negotiating table, and seek a final solution to realize the peninsula’s denuclearization and long-term stability,” Wang said.

Lavrov reiterated the joint Russian-Chinese initiative for “double freezing” which had previously been rejected by the US. The initiative, put forward by the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers on July 4, would freeze “any missile launches and any nuclear tests in North Korea,” as well as “large-scale military exercises by the United States and South Korea,” Lavrov said.

The Russian foreign minister also said that the new resolution seeks to bring the North Korean leadership to the negotiating table – the six-party talks – while the restrictive measures are designed to make Pyongyang curb its missile and nuclear programs in accordance with UN resolutions.

On Saturday night, the UN Security Council unanimously agreed to impose more restrictive measures on Pyongyang, banning exports of coal, iron, lead, and seafood. The move came in response to North Korea’s latest missile launches in July, which it, as well as South Korea and the US, claimed were intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests.

August 6, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Sabotaging Russia-US Relations for Good

By Federico PIERACCINI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 31.07.2017

The strategy that the American deep state intends to employ to sabotage once and for all the possibilities of a rapprochement between the United States and Russia has been revealed.

After months of debate over the bad state of relations between the United States and Russia, the G20 offered the stage for the two leaders to meet and start discussing the various problems facing the two countries. In the days following the summit in Hamburg, the Kremlin and the White House revealed that Putin and Trump met three times in bilateral talks to discuss how to improve relations between the two nations. The ceasefire reached in southern Syria is therefore intended as the first step in a new direction set for Washington and Moscow.

As was easy to foresee, the deep state did not like this prospect of cooperation, immediately unleashing the mainstream media on Trump, because repeated meetings with Putin at the G20 were apparently suggestive of some sort of collusion, as if the leaders of two nuclear powers cannot even speak with each other. Obviously uncomfortable with these meetings, the sabotaging of relations between Russia and the US has taken a new turn. The previous ceasefire in Syria, reached by Kerry and Lavrov during the previous administration a year ago, was sabotaged by the US Air Force’s bombing of Syrian troops at Deir ez-Zor, which killed and injured more than a hundred Syrian soldiers. This served to favor Daesh’s assault on government positions, hinting at some sort of cooperation between Washington and the terrorists. Moscow immediately interrupted any military-to-military communication with Washington, which included the ceasefire reached between Lavrov and Kerry.

This time the strategy seems more refined and certainly does not lend itself to military action. Following the incident in Deir ez-Zor, the bombing of the Syrian base, and the downing of the Syrian Su-22, any further US military provocation would be met with a harsh response from the Russian side, risking an escalation that even the US military does not seem willing to to risk. For this reason, it seems that an approach that relies more on legislative means than military power has been chosen.

The Senate has overwhelmingly voted to impose new sanctions, the primary purpose of which is to deny the US President the ability to end sanctions on Russia without Moscow first demonstrating good will to resolve points of friction between the two countries. The areas of disagreement include the situation in Ukraine and Syria, nuclear weapons, an end to the alleged hacking of US elections, and the supposed intention of Moscow to invade the Baltic states. Obfuscation, lies and misinformation seem to be the driving force behind the Senate vote. The bill will end up on Trump’s desk, and at that point he will have to decide whether to sign it or not. If he signs it, it will obvioulsy limit his autonomy.

With Trump’s latest move, it is difficult to know whether he directly ordered the CIA to stop funding jihadists fighting Assad in Syria, or whether it was an independent choice of the CIA connected with other plans of which we are not aware. In any case, it seems to have particularly agitated the deep state, which now sees its destabilization plans for Syria hampered, with Moscow left in full control of the Syrian state and its fate.

The role of the deep state, in addition to enriching its components through the military-industrial complex, is based on the continued need for the United States to have enemies (read my complete series in parts 123 and 4), which requires major investments in armaments and intelligence agencies, two of the fundamental components of the deep state.

The 4+1 theory, in military terms, refers to the four major challenges facing the United States, plus a fifth, namely: Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, plus terrorism. Having four powerful enemies – regional if not global powers – such as China and Russia, creates the necessary conditions for the United States to continue to justify its presence in volatile regions like the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. In all these areas, US attention is directed at one of these four challenges. The fifth danger, terrorism, acts as a corrosive that slowly erodes individual freedoms within the United States and its allies, justifying their continued presence in historically hostile territories like the Middle East under the guise of fighting terrorism, when in actual fact advancing their own geopolitical objectives. The bottom line remains the need for Washington to expand its own war machine over the whole planet, hoping to be able to influence every single issue with political, economic and military power or pressure. The end game is to prolong as long as possible the agony of a unipolar, American-dominated world order that is rapidly fading in the place of a fairer and more just multipolar world order.

American allies push for sabotage

With this latest Senate proposal, the deep state wants to eliminate the danger that Trump can exercise his own initiative to remove sanctions against Moscow and pursue the path of peace with Russia. A reconciliation with Moscow is viewed with particular suspicion by two main allies of the US in the region, that is to say, Israel and Saudi Arabia. There are no two other capitals that have more influential lobbies in Washington then Riyad and Tel Aviv. It is not surprising, then, that the American deep state, made up of many who are sympathetic to the Saudis and Israelis, views positively the sabotage of relations between Washington and Moscow. It is very likely that the Israeli and Saudi lobbies have spent considerable sums of money to push senators and congressmen to support this proposal.

Saudi Arabia and Israel have invested enormous amounts of money and political weight to the overthrow Assad, and the direction that the war in Syria is taking is likely to turn violently against them. Israel finds a Syrian state strengthened by alliances with Hezbollah, Russia, Iran, Lebanon and Iraq likely to render the Israeli hopes of controlled chaos in the region vain. Saudi Arabia, like Israel, is afraid of seeing the rebuilding of the Shiite axis extending from Iran to the Mediterranean through Iraq and Syria. It is a nightmare for those who hoped to oust Assad, control Iraq and ultimately subdue under their own power all of the Middle East region. With Moscow’s intervention almost two years ago, Syria’s Assad resumed a triumphant march against Daesh and jihadist terrorism, cleaning up much of the nation and reversing the negative trend that threatened to break down the Baathist republic.

A rapprochement between Moscow and Washington is seen as a danger by Tel Aviv and Riyadh, which is why hostile relations between Russia and the US has become a rallying point for an alliance between liberals and neoconservatives in the United States, along with takfiris in Saudi Arabia and Zionists in Israel.

Conclusions

This axis opposed to any kind of rapprochement between Moscow and Washington has found many sponsors in the European political system; that is until the consequences of these new sanctions were made clear. Trump reiterated that the US objective is to sell LNG to European partners by becoming an energy-exporting nation. One of the direct effects of sanctions on Russia is the prevention of Europeans from collaborating with Russian energy companies, thereby sabotaging the plan for the North Stream 2 link and probably even the Turkish Stream integrating into the European pipeline network. Political reactions in Europe have not been missed, and understandably irritation has reached boiling point (including Moscow’s). It would also seem that schizophrenia seems to be a distinctive feature of the politicians of the old continent. The Baltic states fear a non-existent threat of a Russian invasion, while Germany and Austria complain of American interference in their strategic energy plans, considering it unacceptable.

A divided and inconsistent West drowns in its own discordant decisions. Trump, stupidly, initially tried to placate the deep state by offering Flynn’s head to the highest bidder. This only served to worsen the situation, bringing Trump to admit an unwavering attempt to hack US elections on the Russian side. To complete this disaster, missiles were launched against the Shayrat Airbase in Syria on the basis of fictitious evidence of a chemical attack on Syrian civilians by the Syrian Arab Air Force.

All of these choices have worsened the initial situation of the presidency, which now finds no more cartridges to fire in order to withstand the pressure of its senators to approve new sanctions. Trump decided to bend the knee and obey in hope of obtaining some kind of concessions from the deep state. This did not work, and now Trump is struggling for political survival.

It seems clear now that the Republican senators are in some way blackmailing Trump: so long as he does not fully give up on Russian rapprochement, the huge electoral promise of eliminating and replacing Obamacare will remain just a dream, causing him major damage. In this context, Trump seemed less prepared for the Washington hawks, and seems to have lost this important political battle.

It remains to be seen how effective the deep state will be in sabotaging these attempts of rapprochement between Washington and Moscow. The effects may be exactly the opposite, as already seen in the many failures of Washington’s strategic plans. The neocons/liberals and their regional allies in the Middle East continue to weaken American security by renouncing a partnership against terrorism, which would certainly benefit American citizens in the first place as well as calm the situation in the region. But then again, chaos is always the first choice of the American deep state for the purpose influencing events by fomenting violence and thereby advancing strategic goals and objectives. We can only hope that this time they have overplayed their hand and that European allies, or the Trump administration, will try to survive this new sabotage attempt.

July 31, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Multi-polar World Arrives: Russia, China Face Down US Bully

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 07.07.2017

The United States’ hegemonic dominance in the world is heading to the exits. The decline in US uni-polar power has been underway for several years, in line with the emergence of a multi-polar world. This week, Russia and China showed important resolve to face down American bully tactics over North Korea. The confrontation suggests a turning point in the transition from American world dominance to a multi-polar one.

US President Donald Trump reiterated the possibility of military attack on North Korea while in Poland this week. This was also while Washington was hectoring China and Russia to join in a tougher response to North Korea over its ballistic missile launch days before – the former two nations themselves having recently been sanctioned anew by the US. Talk about American audacity and double think.

However, the crass arrogance shown by the US seems to have hit a new limit of tolerance in Moscow and Beijing. Both are beginning to demonstrate a loss of patience with the bumptious, insufferable Americans.

Reacting to North Korea’s breakthrough ballistic missile launch, Washington deployed its typical conceit, casually threatening to carry out a «retaliatory» military strike. Trump said he was considering «severe» options over Pyongyang’s «very, very dangerous behavior».

But Russia and China’s stance this time to the Americans had significantly stiffened. Both explicitly warned the US against taking military action against North Korea.

Moreover, Russia and China said that they would oppose Washington imposing further sanctions on the government of Kim Jong-un. The latter has already been subjected to six rounds of US-led sanctions.

In short, the American bully is finding that it is no longer able to dictate its unilateral way.

Addressing an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council, the Russian and Chinese ambassadors rejected the shrill American call for «global action to a global threat». Russian envoy Vladimir Safronkov stood firmly with his Chinese counterpart, saying that threatened American military action was simply not an option, and that a different policy was needed from the failed American one of slapping ever-more sanctions on North Korea.

One can imagine the exasperation felt within Washington of being bluntly told «no» to its invariable, self-anointed belligerence.

The alternative route being proposed by Russia and China was the «radical» one – radical from the American point of view – of diplomacy. It has perhaps taken the Russians and Chinese overdue time to reach this point. But what is remarkably apparent now is that they are asserting themselves against the US with increased confidence. And what they are asserting in this case is an eminently reasonable solution to the Korean crisis. They are calling for a freeze on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program in conjunction with the US freezing its constant military exercises on the peninsula, as well as withdrawing its anti-missile THAAD system. The next step is to then hold multilateral negotiations for a comprehensive peaceful settlement, without preconditions.

Such an eminently reasonable approach is anathema to the Americans. Because it negates their unilateral arrogance and self-righteousness to dictate terms.

This is a significant development, one that portends a new determination by Russia and China to confront the American bully head-on. For too long, Washington has gotten away with outrageous aggression, lawlessness, hypocrisy and absurd hubris, not just over Korea but on countless other international issues. On the world stage it behaves like a schoolyard bully, or perhaps more accurately that should be a street thug. Going around beating up other people, usually the weak, as it likes. Then when Washington feels particularly affronted about some perceived slight, it invokes international law and righteousness.

This week, what we saw over the North Korea missile launch and the typical American over-reaction was Russia and China saying to Washington: your days of self-licensing aggression and abusing international law are over; your American uni-polar hegemony is redundant.

Welcome to the multi-polar world forged largely by Russia and China where all nations must abide by international norms and law, principally the paramount pursuit of diplomacy.

Oh the shock to American arrogance to receive such a rude awakening.

The lawlessness of American «exceptionalism» is a theme that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been constantly hammering over the past decade. But it seems now that Russia and China are strong enough politically, economically and militarily to begin asserting and acting on the conviction that the days of American arrogance and lawlessness are indeed over. It is no coincidence that the firm Russian-Chinese opposition to American aggression over North Korea came at the same time that Putin was hosting his counterpart President Xi Jinping in Moscow, where both leaders hailed an even deeper Sino-Russian strategic alliance.

Moscow and Beijing censured North Korea over its 11th missile launch so far this year. They said it violated UN sanctions imposed on Pyongyang since it first exploded a nuclear warhead in 2006. Still, they sought to put a proper perspective on the event, rather than reflexively demonizing North Korea as the Americans never cease to do.

The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launched this week by North Korea was not armed with a warhead but Pyongyang said it now has the capability to do so and to strike anywhere on the globe. The trajectory of the ICBM indicates that North Korea could now hit the US state of Alaska. That heralds a major breakthrough in North Korea’s military capability. Earlier this year, President Trump claimed that North Korea would never be allowed to reach that point. Well, it just did this week.

Nevertheless, Russia and China realize that the Korean crisis is a complex issue, not the simplistic narrative put out by Washington about a «rogue regime» threatening world peace. Moscow and Beijing are well aware that Washington is very much part of the problem, with its relentless military exercises and provocative threats to North Korea’s sovereignty.

Russia and China understand that the only reasonable solution is not reckless escalation, but a negotiated engagement by all sides, including North Korea, South Korea, the US, Japan, China and Russia. Past multilateral negotiations have come unstuck largely because of Washington’s high-handed imperious attitude. Winding down conflict on the Korean Peninsula necessitates the winding down of military forces by all sides, and a primary responsibility for that lies with the US, the external protagonist in the region.

As the Russia-China strategic alliance grows ever stronger heralding a «post-West» world order, as Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov put it, one which was dominated by American capitalism, the US petrodollar and its military machine, it seems unmistakable that both Russia and China have reached a practical limit of tolerance to Washington’s lawless arrogance.

In recent weeks, Washington has slapped more sanctions on both Russia and China, conducted provocative military incursions into their territorial domains, and continued to disparage them with media distortions. Washington possesses thousands of ICBMs, test-fires them all the time, and installs missile systems around Russian and Chinese territory. Washington has waged or covertly sponsored criminal wars across the Middle East over the past two decades, resulting in millions of innocent deaths and spawning of terror groups.

North Korea has attacked no-one, has an arsenal of perhaps 10 nuclear weapons and conducts its missile tests far from any of its neighbor’s territory.

Yet the lawless, mass-murdering Americans – the only nation to have actually dropped nuclear weapons on civilian populations – have the audacity to declare North Korea a threat to world peace and insist on the «right» to preemptively attack Pyongyang. And if Russia and China do not acquiesce to this American demand then Washington threatens to increase more sanctions on them.

The American bully is patently beyond itself from its own megalomanic despotism. But the big, crucial difference now is that Russia and China are moving to finally put this bully in its place. The multi-polar world has arrived. And the only «radical» thing that Russia and China are insisting on is that the US behaves like everyone else and abides by international law. That basic requirement is an indication of how lawless the Americans are.

Addressing bused-in supporters in Poland’s Warsaw Square this week, Trump declared with bravado that «the West [that is, the US] will never back down».

Well, we’ll see about that. As noted, the multi-polar world has arrived and America is being compelled to back down by an ascendant Russia and China who also happen to have world opinion on their side.

July 7, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

US rejects Russo-Chinese proposal to suspend drills in South Korea

RT | July 6, 2017

The US rejects a proposal by Russia and China to suspend joint drills with South Korea in exchange for North Korea freezing its nuclear weapons programs, the State Department said, adding that Washington does not see the activities as equivalent.

US drills with South Korea are not the same as North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Thursday.

“These are all things that have taken place since the 1950s. So that wouldn’t change,” Nauert said, describing the drills as lawful and longstanding.

“We do these kinds of exercises and have relationships like this all over the globe. If China and Russia decide to come out against that, that is not going to change our position,” she added.

Moscow and Beijing have called on Washington and Seoul to freeze large-scale military exercises in an attempt to calm tensions on the Korean peninsula after Pyongyang test-fired a missile it said could reach the US mainland.

The US diplomatic offensive to pressure and isolate North Korea is still in its early stages, according to the State Department spokeswoman.

“We continue to believe that China can do a whole lot more to try to bring additional pressure to North Korea,” Nauert said, adding that China has “unique leverage” with Pyongyang because of the “strong trade relationship” between two countries.

One of the measures the US has proposed to other countries is to drastically scale back the number of North Korean guest-workers, Nauert said.

She also referenced last week’s decision by the US Treasury Department to sanction a Chinese bank that did business with Pyongyang, although she declined to say whether more such sanctions were in the works.

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

US ‘Can’t Get Facts Straight’ in Threats to Sanction China, Russia Over N. Korea

Sputnik – 06.07.2017

US officials say China has betrayed Washington in efforts to contain North Korea, citing a nearly 40% growth in trade between the two Asian countries. Chinese and Russian observers say the US doesn’t have its facts straight, and that Washington must work with, rather than ignore, Russian and Chinese initiatives on ensuring peace in the peninsula.

US UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has warned that Washington might use its “considerable military forces” against North Korea if necessary, and called on Russia and China to cut trade ties with the Asian country.

Speaking at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday, a day after North Korea carried out its first test of its new intercontinental ballistic missile, the US ambassador accused Russia and China of failing to fully implement UN-mandated sanctions, and warned that the countries wouldn’t be able to maintain their trade arrangements with the US if the trade with Pyongyang didn’t stop.

Russia and China used the emergency meeting to present their own joint initiative aimed at reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and urged Washington and Seoul to immediately suspend and abolish the deployment of THAAD missile defense on South Korean soil. The two countries also stressed that the US’s apparent willingness to consider the use of military force to stop North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs was “unacceptable.”

At the meeting, Haley proposed tightening the sanctions regime against Pyongyang, adding that the US would “go our own path” if the Security Council didn’t approve the proposal. Russian officials responded by saying that a tightening of sanctions would only “lead to a dead end” in attempts to arrange a diplomatic and political settlement to the crisis. Chinese UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi called on all parties to “exercise restraint, avoid provocative actions and belligerent rhetoric, demonstrate the will for unconditional dialogue and work actively together to defuse the tension.

In addition to threats of unilateral action, including more sanctions, US officials have also warned that Washington might sanction Chinese companies, including banks, which continue to do business with North Korea.

At Wednesday’s Security Council meeting, Haley accused China of failing to enforce sanctions, noting that the country accounted for 90% of North Korea’s total trade volume, and that trade has gone up. The ambassador stressed that the Trump administration would continue to work with China and other countries on the North Korean problem but would not repeat the “inadequate approaches of the past.”

Also Wednesday, President Donald Trump tweeted that trade between China and North Korea had grown “by almost 40%” in the first quarter of 2017. “So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!” he wrote.

Guo Yanjun, deputy director of Center for Asian Studies at the Chinese Diplomatic Academy, said that the US was deliberately distorting the facts on Chinese-North Korean trade statistics, and their relation to UN sanctions resolutions.

“Such so-called warnings are not based on objective data,” the expert told Sputnik.

“It is common knowledge that for the sake of implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2321 on sanctions against North Korea, China approved and strictly enforces the list of items prohibited under the resolution from start to finish,” Guo added.

“I suppose that such warnings against Beijing could be based on the fact that Washington has paid attention only to the 37.4 overall increase in trade between China and the DPRK in the first quarter of this year. At the same time, Washington should have seen that during this same period, China’s imports of coal amounted to 267.8 million tons, a drop of 51.6% compare to the same period last year,” the expert noted.

China, Guo stressed, “strictly and unfailingly implements the trade embargo against Pyongyang, but it is necessary to take into account the economic situation in the country and the living conditions of North Korea’s population. China’s trade embargo does not affect bilateral trade which serves the spheres of vital activity of the population. Doing otherwise would lead North Korea to face a humanitarian crisis. This is a threat to China as well, and one that would be difficult to avoid.”

Accordingly, the analyst noted, “on the one hand, we strictly implement the resolutions of the UN Security Council; on the other, we see the warnings and accusations from the US to be unreasonable. In this regard, I would like to stress once again that we should not confuse facts with speculation.”

Commenting on the fact that the US and its allies have ignored the Chinese and Russian proposals – including regarding North Korea’s economic strangulation and the THAAD deployment, Russian military observer Vladimir Evseev told Sputnik that Washington was doing so because these ideas do not fit its own scenario on how to respond to the North Korean nuclear and missile threat.

It’s “perfectly clear,” the expert noted, that what the US was doing now was “only an imitation” of defense against North Korean missiles via the THAAD missile defense system. THAAD, he stressed, is ineffective, and cannot realistically defend against the group launch of North Korean missiles. Furthermore, he noted, Tuesday’s test brings Pyongyang closer to being able to strike Hawaii.

“In these conditions, the US might decide on carrying out a strike to disarm North Korea. Pyongyang’s response to such a decision would not be a nuclear strike against South Korea, but the deployment of special forces troops on South Korean territory. The strength of this well-trained force is at least 50,000 troops, and according to some sources 80,000. They will pass through the demilitarized zone; special tunnels have already been created for this purpose. Passing through the DMZ will not present a serious problem for them. After that, they will carry out sabotage activities in South Korean territory, destroying chemical and nuclear industries, as a result of which the possibility of life on the Korean peninsula will be put under question.”

This, Evseev warned, would also “create serious environmental consequences for Russia, Japan and all other nearby states, including China. Such a scenario, unfortunately, is becoming more and more possible. It is absolutely clear that the policy of the Trump administration is not only completely hopeless, but also reckless, because it is factually leading to a war being unleashed on the Korean peninsula.”

“And the fact that the US does not notice the efforts by Russia and China to deescalate the situation in the region factually pushes Moscow and Beijing to joint efforts to prevent the implementation of the US military scenario,” the analyst added.

Following this week’s events, Russia and China have called for an end to the belligerent rhetoric, and for practical steps to implement the join Russian-Chinese plan to address the North Korean missile and nuclear programs. At the same time, both countries have urged Pyongyang to strictly comply with the demands of UN Security Council resolutions.

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

China warns against escalation of tensions over North Korea

Press TV – July 6, 2017

China has warned against any rhetoric and action that could further escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula, two days after Pyongyang test-fired its first ever intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

“We also call on relevant parties to stay calm, exercise restraint, refrain from words and deeds that may heighten tensions, and jointly make effort for the easing of tensions,” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang in a press conference on Thursday.

North Korea announced on Tuesday that it had successfully tested the ICBM, with the North’s leader Kim Jong-un calling it a gift to the United States on July 4, America’s Independence Day.

Shuang’s comments came after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson strongly condemned the launch and described it as a new escalation of the “threat” to Washington, its allies, the region, and the whole world.

On Wednesday, US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Nikki Haley also told the UN Security Council that her country was prepared to exert force if needed to deal with the perceived threat posed by North Korea and singled out China as key to any diplomatic solution.

Meanwhile, Russia accused the US of attempting to negatively affect Moscow’s relations with Pyongyang by leveling false allegations about the purported abuse of North Korean migrant workers in the Russian Federation.

“These allegations are unfounded. They fabricate and publish this nonsense… and then we stand and feel like justifying ourselves after this fake news,” said Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, in a press conference in the Russian capital.

She added that North Korean migrant laborers work in Russia according to an entirely legal 2007 intergovernmental agreement. She also said that the agreement was not in violation of any UN Security Council resolutions regarding Pyongyang.

Unsettled by North Korean missile and nuclear programs, the US has adopted a war-like posture against Pyongyang. The US recently deployed an advanced missile system on South Korean soil to counter potential threats from the North, angering Pyongyang.

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

A warrior prince rises in Arabia as the monarch of all he surveys

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | June 22, 2017

The royal decree of June 21 by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman appointing his son Mohammed bin Salman as the Crown Prince and next in line to the throne is a watershed event in Middle East politics. Such a development has been expected for some time, but when it actually happened, it still looks momentous and somewhat awesome.

For a start, 31-year old MbS, whom many tend to deride as the “warrior prince”, has earned a reputation for being rash in the use of force. The extremely brutal war in Yemen is his signature foreign-policy project. Saudi Arabia, famous for its caution and its glacial pace of decision-making, has changed remarkably since MbS trooped in alongside King Salman to the centre stage of the Saudi regime in January 2015.

Considering King Salman’s age and health condition, MbS is being positioned in advance so that there will be no succession struggle. MbS has been steadily tightening his grip on the key instruments of power through the past 2-year period – national security apparatus and intelligence, armed forces and oil industry – in a grim power struggle with the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who has now lost the game and is retiring from the arena.

With the vast powers of patronage vested in MbS as the Crown Prince, make no mistake, the winner takes it all. In short, the Persian Gulf’s – nay, Middle East’s – power house is about to get a new ruler who is only 31 and he may lead Saudi Arabia for decades.

The timing of the shift in the power fulcrum cannot but be noted. It is exactly one month since US President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia. Trump’s visit revived the Saudi-American alliance, which was adrift during the second term of President Barack Obama. MbS has emerged as the Trump administration’s number one interlocutor in the Saudi regime, superseding Nayef who used to be the favorite of the Obama administration.

MbS has forged links at personal level with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. In a rare gesture, the Prince invited Kushner and wife Ivanka Trump to his residence for a private meal during father-in-law Trump’s visit to Riyadh. So, Saudi-US relations from now onward will be a cozy, exclusive, secretive family affair imbued with a “win-win” spirit – as it used to be in the halcyon days when the Bush family was holding power in the US.

Trump’s visit to Riyadh signalled that Saudi Arabia has regained its stature as the US’ number one partner in the Muslim Middle East. Trump has publicly endorsed the Saudi stance in their standoff with Qatar, which, incidentally, is widely attributed to MbS.

MbS is widely regarded as the mastermind of the tough policy policy to isolate Qatar to make it submissive and has personally identified with the virulently anti-Iran thrust in the Saudi regional strategies. Therefore, MbS’ ascendancy impacts Middle East politics along the following fault lines:

·         The war in Yemen;

·         The standoff with Qatar;

·         The Saudi-Iranian tensions;

·         The nascent Saudi-Israeli regional axis;

·         Situation in Syria and Gaza and/or Lebanon; and,

·         The crackdown in Bahrain.

It remains to be seen whether the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) can be preserved. MbS enjoys personal rapport with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. But other GCC states — Kuwait, Oman and Qatar — will have a profound sense of unease about the “warrior prince” and this may lead to some major realignments in the Persian Gulf.

On the one hand, MbS may advance a normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. If that happens, Israel breaks out of isolation and the Arab-Israeli conflict can never be the same again. Again, it is conceivable that MbS may throw the Palestinians under the bus. On the other hand, Iran too may finally succeed in breaching the GCC cordon that Saudi Arabia had erected, which in turn, may somewhat blur the sectarian divide in the Muslim Middle East and bring about a convergence of interests with Qatar and Turkey as regards perceived Saudi hegemony.

MbS is a man in  a hurry. He has radical ideas to transform Saudi society and its economy under the rubric of Vision 2030. He has brought in western-educated technocrats into the governmental apparatus, replacing the Old Guard. How the conservative religious establishment views these winds of change remains the big ‘unknown unknown’ — especially MbS’ management style such as his openness to out-of-the-box thinking, his uniquely public profile in a deeply conservative country, his risk-taking character and his willingness to break conventions.

There is indeed a lot of pent-up disaffection within Saudi Arabia, which makes the period of reform and transition very tricky. The example of Shah’s Iran readily comes to mind. In the ultimate analysis, therefore, the big question is Who is the real MbS?

Clearly, his conduct so far cannot be the yardstick to fathom his personality, since it was primarily a swift, decisive action plan to elbow out the incumbent Crown Prince and take his job. Now that MbS’ actual hold over the levers of power is going to be unchallenged, his priorities can also change. Indeed, there are intriguing sides to his personality – his personal role in forging Saudi Arabia’s working relationships with Moscow, his determination to reduce the economy’s dependence on oil, his appeal to the Saudi youth as the harbinger of “change” and so on. The bottom line is that social and political stability in the country is vital for the success of Vision 2030, in which MbS has staked his prestige, envisaging wide-ranging structural reforms, geo-economic restructuring and the infusion of massive investments.

King Salman’s recent visit to China underscored that MbS understands the potential linkage between his Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Of course, China is highly receptive to the idea, too. Deals worth $65 billion were signed in Beijing during King Salman’s visit. Similarly, MbS has been a frequent visitor to the Kremlin and enjoys some degree of personal rapport with President Vladimir Putin. The OPEC decision on cut in oil production has been a joint enterprise in which Putin had a “hands-on” role. Rosneft has signalled interest in acquiring shares in Aramco when its “privatisation” begins next year, and at the recent meet of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, the two countries agreed to set up a joint energy investment fund.

MbS, who is Saudi Defence Minister, has also intensified his country’s military cooperation with Russia and China. A notable project will be the Chinese drone factory to be set up in Saudi Arabia. Again, Russia is in talks currently for the sale of T-80 battle tanks to Saudi Arabia, among other weaponry.

Suffice to say, MbS is quite aware of the seamless possibilities that the multipolar world setting offers. It is useful to remember that MbS is a unique Saudi prince who never attended a western university. He is far from a greenhorn in the world of politics either, having begun as fulltime advisor to the council of ministers in 2007.

Indeed, his trademark is his assertiveness in foreign policies that stands in sharp contrast with the traditional Saudi style, and, which, therefore, looks aggressive. But then, it needs to be factored in that the war in Yemen and the strident anti-Iran outlook are immensely popular in the domestic opinion in terms of the surge of Saudi nationalism. The big question, therefore, will be how he deploys the surge of nationalism — amongst the youth, in particular — in his hugely ambitious plan to reform and modernise the country. Traditionally, Saudi rulers used to derive legitimacy from the approval of the Wahhabist religious establishment. (Read an Al Jazeera write-up on MbS’s profile here.)

June 22, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Staircase History and the Subprime Morality of the Nanking Massacre

The Great Nanjing Massacre, by Zi Jian Li, 1992
By Colin Liddell | Occidental Observer | June 2, 2017

The French have a term for it, L’esprit de l’escalier, or “staircase wit.” It means bright and witty sayings thought of too late as one is exiting a party. But history has its own “staircase” element as well, namely events that receive historical attention much later than they should if, as we are supposed to believe, they were so important to begin with.

A perfect example of this is the “Nanking Massacre” of 1937, now a much-contested historical event in the Sino-Japanese War (1937—45). The Chinese claim that the Japanese went on a brutal rampage resulting in 300,000 deaths. The Japanese claim they were responding to irregular troops in civilian clothing using guerrilla tactics, with a much lower death toll.

Even though this is now presented as a pivotal historical event and something that we are all supposed to know, the surprising thing is that, like the Jewish Holocaust from the same era (which began to be used to advance Jewish ethnic interests after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and really only gained traction in the 1970s [here, p. 42ff]), it got off to a rather late start, becoming suddenly very, very important decades after it actually happened.

Not only had Clio the Muse of History descended the staircase before anything of importance had been written about this supposedly groundbreaking event, but she had climbed into her carriage, arrived home, and kicked off her shoes as well. If Nanking was so important surely it should have been broached at the first practical opportunity, say in the immediate post-war period. Of course it wasn’t, not by the Chinese nor by anyone else. As it was, the event had to wait until the publication of Iris Chang’s best seller The Rape of Nanking in 1997 to really get its historical marching boots on — a full 60 years after the event! Some staircase!

James Dao, writing in the New York Times in 1998, called attention to the sudden spurt of interest:

As recently as five years ago, the 1937 Rape of Nanking, in which up to 300,000 Chinese were massacred in six weeks by Japanese troops, was barely a footnote in American popular culture. Since then the event has inspired two novels, a documentary film, a book of photographs, several Internet Web sites and a dozen academic conferences. Another documentary on the Rape of Nanking for the History Channel and one on the Sino-Japanese War for public television are also in production.

As remarkable as this sudden interest was, it was perhaps even more remarkable that Chang’s book became the vehicle for this, as it had serious flaws as a work of history, the main ones being its lack of credible causation for what was supposed to be a particularly violent incident by Japanese troops. Essentially Chang ascribed it to the inherently violent nature of the Japanese, something I have yet to notice in decades spent living here. More importantly for a book that was presented as a serious academic work, she did zero research in Japan, laying her work open to the charge of being extremely one-sided.

Despite this, the book was lionized, with the author getting the full “instant celebrity” treatment of newspaper profiles, talk show appearances, honorary degrees, and invitations to the Clinton White House. No doubt, the racy title in conjunction with a young Chinese female author — she was 29 at the time — played some part in stimulating interest.

This saga reveals once again that history is never just about what happened in such-and-such a place at such-and-such at time. It’s much more about what certain groups choose to focus on and why. Personally, I’m not overly interested in the minutiae of the Nanking Massacre. Trainspotterly hairsplitting about numbers of victims or whether the victims were blameworthy can get boring extremely fast. People died, how many, how, and why, take your pick. What is more interesting is why “Nanking 1937” suddenly jumped to life as “history” in the late 1990s.

To answer this, you first need to understand why it wasn’t considered historically important much nearer to the time in which it happened, in the same way that, say, Dunkirk, Stalingrad, or Hiroshima were.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, Nanking 1937 wasn’t particularly unique or special. Secondly, it was an event that had no effect on the actual outcome of events at the time. Ironically, the only unique thing about it was how particularly ineffectual it was on outcomes. This is because the whole point of the Japanese advance on the city of Nanking was to force Chang Kai-Chek’s Nationalist government to come to terms, something that the fall of the city signally failed to do.

Beaten at Nanking, the Nationalists just moved their capital to Hankow, and when that city also fell, they moved it again. Like Napoleon in 1812, the Japanese seemed to naively think that they just had to show up at the opposition’s capital to win, possibly because that is exactly what would have forced them to surrender if the boot had been on the other foot.

Also, terrible as it was, the Nanking Massacre was just one of many incidents of a similar nature. I believe this makes it what is sometimes called, a “mere detail” of history. The Sino-Japanese War lasted 8 years and covered most of the heavily populated parts of China. It was so vast and violent, with millions dying, that there are many other examples of horrific butchery/ tragic violence besides Nanking to develop historical narratives with.

Indeed, just a few months before Nanking, the Chinese themselves committed an act demonstrably much worse than the Nanking Massacre — even if we accept the highest estimate of 300,000 deaths — when they deliberately destroyed the Huayuankou Dyke on the south bank of the Yangtze River in a ruthless attempt to halt the Japanese advance. This act of demolition unleashed flood waters across a wide area of Henan, Anhui, and Jiangsu provinces. In order to avoid Japanese counter-measures, the civilian population was not warned, so the flooding resulted in a massive death toll from drowning, estimated at 800,000, with many millions more displaced and made homeless.

In the context of the wider war, we can say that Nanking 1937 was not unique and not decisive, and furthermore that it was dwarfed by the Chinese government’s atrocities against its own people. From this, you can see there was no immediate reason for Nanking to become a significant part of history. Why then was it subsequently presented as such?

The most obvious answer to this is that it proved useful to the Chinese government and to a lesser extent Western elites. Internally Nanking serves as a useful unifying device for the Chinese state, giving the Chinese people an external hate figure — Japan — while also reminding them that they need a strong centralized government to avoid similar outrages. Externally the Chinese use it as a stick to beat Japan with, and keep them on the defensive regarding their historical pride and identity. This serves to weaken their Asian rival, although, overusing the tactic can backfire. It could be argued that this is one factor that has pushed Japan in a more assertively nationalist direction in recent years.

But why did the Chinese wait so long before resorting to this tactic? Iris Chang’s book put it down to the economic weakness and isolation of Communist China, which sought economic benefits from trading with Japan. By the 1960s “Red China” was opposed not just by the West but also by the Soviet Union, with which it had fallen out. It was only with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the success of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms that the country felt strong enough to use this stick to beat Japan. Interestingly, by that time, those same economic reforms were creating big inequalities within China that challenged social cohesion. China’s version of Japan bashing arrived at an opportune moment.

But what about Western elites? The benefit of the Nanking Massacre for these people is less obvious, especially as it is occasionally used to undermine Japan, a key Western ally. But maybe this is exactly what is wanted, namely a Japan that is regarded as somehow historically flawed and morally tainted, because this is a Japan that can operate less on its own terms and has an obvious need for a geopolitical intermediary. As Dutch journalist Ian Buruma, writing in the Guardian in 2010 said:

Most Japanese were happy to be pacifists and concentrate on making money. Japanese governments could devote their energy to building up the country’s industrial wealth, while the US took care of security, and by extension much of Japan’s foreign policy. It was an arrangement that suited everyone: the Japanese became rich, the Americans had a compliant anti-communist vassal state, and other Asians, even Communist China, preferred Pax Americana to a revival of Japanese military clout.

But, there could well be less obvious reasons, connected to the strangely moralizing purpose to which history is put these days. Victim narratives are an important part of the “power eco-system” in Western societies, where they are typically used to “de-privilege” the core populations of Western states through White guilt. This is done for a variety of reasons: (1) to facilitate the importation of cheap labor, (2) to create “diversity” as an end in itself, and (3) to justifying the “affirmative action” necessary to maintain social cohesion in societies characterized by very substantial racial differences and divisions. In the case of the Holocaust, Jewish activists have used it as a rationalization for Israel and its policies, to silence critics of immigration and multiculturalism, to portray the relatively wealthy and successful Jewish community as victims, and pad the coffers of Jewish organizations (here, p. lvi ff).

Western elites get benefits from victim narratives that feature Jews, Blacks, and other non-Whites as “victims” of Whites. But, what about a narrative presenting the Chinese as victims of the Japanese? Aside from the geopolitical benefits outlined above, there are two possible additional benefits. The first one emphasizes the Japanese side of the equation and the other the Chinese side.

The first possible benefit is that narratives of Japanese guilt play into the wider narrative of White guilt. Japan has often been viewed as “honorary White” nation in the past, and was described by President Theodore Roosevelt as “the only nation in Asia that understands the principles and methods of Western civilization.”

The second possible benefit is that persuading the Chinese to participate in a victim narrative helps to strengthen the institution of victimology itself. In the decades leading up to Chang’s book, victim narratives in general had already been overextended and overused to the extent that they were in danger of losing their value. The obvious analogy here is with currency notes or government bonds, which quickly depreciate if too many are issued.

By 1997, when Chang’s book came out, the global guilt industry had enjoyed its first big spurt and needed a fresh infusion of energy. Getting China to buy into its own victim narrative, not only served specific Chinese and Western elite goals, but it also helped to keep the global guilt market afloat. As with America’s overproduction of fiat currency in the Chimerica years, here too China picked up the slack.

June 3, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | | 1 Comment