Donald Trump is erratic. We all know that. It is insulting to assert, in the words of Britain’s new Foreign Secretary, the erratic Boris Johnson, that he is «frankly unfit to hold the office of President of the United States», but he’s certainly unpredictable and says some things that are, to put it mildly, intriguing. The fact remains that he could be next president of the United States, which makes it important to look at what he might do if that comes about, especially in the light of America’s military catastrophes so far this century.
Obama followed his predecessors in expanding America’s iron fist as self-appointed global policeman. He vastly increased the US military presence around the world and intensified the Pentagon’s aggressive confrontations with China and Russia.
In China’s case this was effected by sending US Naval E-P3 electronic surveillance aircraft on missions close to the mainland, deploying EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, ordering B-52 nuclear bombers to overfly the South China Sea where the US Navy also carried out extended manoeuvres by massive strike groups of nuclear-armed aircraft carriers and guided missile cruisers. All this in a region where the US has not the slightest territorial interest or claim. China’s Sea is 12,000 kilometres, 7,000 miles, from the American mainland, yet Washington considers it the sacred right and duty of the United States to act as a global gendarme and give orders to China about its posture in its own back yard, where there has not been one instance of interference with commercial shipping passing through that region.
As to confrontation with Russia, the US has ensured that its Brussels sub-office, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, will go on playing its toy-soldier games right up to Russia’s borders. The official statement after NATO’s war drum-thumping conclave in Warsaw on July 8-9 is indicative of its determination to continue its attempts to menace Russia, which has not made the slightest move to threaten a single NATO member. It is absurd to claim that «the security situation has deteriorated» in the Black Sea and the Baltic because of Russian action.
These regions would be perfectly calm if it were not for constant provocations by US-NATO warships and combat and electronic warfare aircraft which deliberately trail their coasts in attempts to incite reaction by Russian forces. NATO’s Warsaw Declaration is a farrago of contrived accusations compiled to justify the existence of the farcical grouping that destroyed Libya and proved incapable of overcoming a few thousand raggy baggy insurgents in Afghanistan. So the military alliance is spending vast sums to deploy soldiers, aircraft, ships and missiles right up to Russia’s borders in deliberate confrontation. As Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained «Russia is not looking [for an enemy] but it actually sees it happening. When NATO soldiers march along our border and NATO jets fly by, it’s not us who are moving closer to NATO’s borders».
There’s no answer to that, but the Obama-Pentagon administration is not going to relax its anti-China and anti-Russia attitude, and if Hillary Clinton becomes president – she of the infamous «We came; We saw; He died» giggling interview in which she rejoiced in the savage murder of President Gaddafi of Libya – there will be more of the same. In fact, probably a lot more of the same, only harder, faster and of more financial benefit to US manufacturers of weapons systems. She described President Putin as «someone that you have to continuously stand up to because, like many bullies, he is somebody who will take as much as he possibly can unless you do. And we need to get the Europeans to be more willing to stand up».
So might The Donald be different?
He’s arrogant and impulsive, but although the official Republican stance on China is predictably belligerent, it isn’t likely that The Donald will support confrontation by the nuclear-armed armadas that at the moment plough so aggressively around China’s shores. And he isn’t likely to endorse the Pentagon’s happy fandangos concerning Russia, either.
His comments about the US-contrived shambles in Ukraine are illuminating, in that he says «we’re the ones always fighting [figuratively] on the Ukraine. I never hear any other countries even mentioned and we’re fighting constantly. We’re talking about Ukraine, get out, do this, do that. And I mean Ukraine is very far away from us. How come the countries near the Ukraine, surrounding the Ukraine, how come they’re not opening up and they’re not at least protesting? I never hear anything from anybody except the United States».
They’re not protesting because they have to bow the knee to the Pentagon and its palatial branch office in Brussels (recently built at a cost of over a billion euros) – but The Donald made a good point: Why on earth does the US meddle in Ukraine? Has it benefited economically, politically, socially or culturally from its blatant interference?
Not only that, but The Donald says that the United States has to «fix our own mess» before «lecturing» other nations on how to behave.
No matter how extreme he may be in some of his statements, that one strikes a truly sensible note. Why does America consider that it has the right to hector and lecture China and Russia and so many other countries? It is, of course, because, as Obama announced, America considers itself the «one indispensable nation in world affairs».
What crass conceit. And Obama laboured the point in declaring that «I see an American century because no other nation seeks the role that we play in global affairs, and no other nation can play the role that we play in global affairs». This comes from the president of the country that destroyed Iraq and Libya, and is now itself in chaos caused by deliberate killing of black people by police and a surge in black protests against such slaughter.
Certainly The Donald shouts that he wants to «Make America Great Again» and such xenophobic nonsense – but that’s for the sake of vote-catching. As he rightly said, «When the world sees how bad the United States is and we start talking about civil liberties, I don’t think we are a very good messenger».
Then The Donald went further in common sense and suggested that as president he might close some of the hundreds of US military bases abroad because «if we decide we have to defend the United States, we can always deploy» from American soil, which would be «a lot less expensive». How very sensible.
Hillary came back with the predictable rejoinder that the president of the United States «is supposed to be the leader of the Free World. Donald Trump apparently doesn’t even believe in the Free World». This is straight out of the Cold War vocabulary of divisive confrontation – and if she becomes president, there will be even more pugnacious patronising baloney about «leadership of the Free World» and «the one indispensable nation». As The Donald said, «How are we going to lecture when you see the riots and the horror going on in our own country».
So there might be hope for the future if The Donald drops his more outlandish ideas about Muslims and Mexicans and institutes a policy of rapprochement and live-and-let-live with China and Russia. He’s a better bet on that score than confrontational Hillary.
It just might be that The Donald would be good for rapprochement and peace.
The scathing attack on Russian foreign policies in the Global Times newspaper on Sunday has no precedents. It goes way beyond the occasional sparring in a spirit of ‘glasnost’. Indeed, China-Russia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination (as it is officially described) is not at all like what it appears. (Read my article in Asia Times Russia-China entente – Lofty rhetoric, shifty discourse.)
The GT article marks a big departure from past Chinese criticism. A note of outright condemnation is appearing. The fundamentals of Russian foreign policies and diplomacy have been called into question.
There are pointed allegations that Russia undermine China’s core interests and seeks to extract “strategic room” out of China’s tensions with the US and Japan.
Russia is presented here as a mirror image of the US – harbouring hegemonic ambitions and imposing its own version of ‘colour revolutions’ in a drive to dominate Eurasia, Eurasian Economic Union and the SCO.
The article makes a hard-hitting reference to the tortuous history of the relations between the two countries to hark back to the vast Chinese territories that are still in Russian possession.
Of course, from the Indian perspective, the article makes a stunning allegation that Russia eyes India as a counterweight to China in terms of a containment strategy:
- Russia is also aiming at its own containment of China by using India, a key force in Russia’s eyes. Fostering another regional power to offset China’s growing influence is what both Russia and the US desire. India’s ambition to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which was foiled by some countries including China, was backed by both Russia and the US.
Evidently, at a time when tensions are rising in China-India relations, Russia’s pro-Indian leaning rankles in the Chinese mind. What explains this level of rancorous indignation?
To my mind, the principal reason could be that Beijing is displeased with Moscow’s unhelpful stance apropos the Permanent Arbitration Tribunal’s recent award on the South China Sea.
We know that just hours before the award was announced at The Hague on July 12, Minister Plenipotentiary (holding ambassadorial rank) of the Chinese Embassy in Moscow Zhang Ziao had called on Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov. The Russian readout merely said the two diplomats discussed “current bilateral and global issues”.
But it stands to reason that the Chinese diplomat conveyed Beijing’s expectations of Russian support apropos the forthcoming South China Sea award. However, for two full days, Moscow kept mum. Probably, the Chinese demarche went up all the way to the Kremlin for instructions.
At any rate, when the Russian reaction came, finally, it was not as a formal statement but instead in the Q&A following a press briefing on July 14 by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakhavrova. The following excerpts are important:
- Question: On July 12, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague rendered a judgment on the jurisdiction of certain islands in China’s economic zone. What do you think about the decision, and what is Russia’s attitude towards China’s policy in the South China Sea?
- Maria Zakharova: We would like to note the following in connection with the July 12 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague concerning the well-known lawsuit filed by the Philippines. It is our position that the states involved in territorial disputes in these seas should honour the principle of the non-use of force, and that they should continue to search for a diplomatic settlement based on international law, mainly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. They should act in accordance with the spirit of ASEAN and PRC documents, specifically, the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the guidelines for following the declaration that were coordinated in 2011.
- We support ASEAN and PRC efforts to draft a code of conduct in the South China Sea. I will remind you that Russia is not involved in territorial disputes in that region, and that it has no intention of getting involved. We consider it a matter of principle not to side with any party. We believe that the concerned parties should conduct negotiations in a format they define. We also believe attempts to interfere in a resolution of territorial issues in the South China Sea by external parties to be counter-productive. We support the role of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in ensuring the rule of law during activities in the world’s oceans. Moreover, it is important that the provisions of this universal international treaty be applied consistently and in a way that will not jeopardise the integrity of the legal system stipulated by the convention.
Clearly, the remarks not only fell far short of an articulation of support for China, but rather clinically distanced Moscow from identifying with Beijing’s position. Furthermore, it underscored thrice the centrality of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The China-Russia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination failed to pass the litmus test here. If the “forever” partnership expected the two big powers to be supportive of each other’s core interests, when the time came for Moscow to stand up and be counted as China’s friend, it scooted. The Chinese bitterness shows.
Beijing understands the Russian game plan to ingratiate itself into favour with the West. A possible rapprochement between the US and Russia, which the Kremlin is desperately seeking before President Barack Obama leaves office, creates uneasiness in the Chinese mind.
Meanwhile, Beijing’s comfort level on the South China Sea situation as such has significantly risen. The Chinese diplomacy has rather successfully weathered a potentially ugly situation stemming from the July 12 award. The summit meetings of the ASEM and ASEAN in successive weeks refrained from criticising China.
Most important, the US is tamping down tensions. National Security Advisor Susan Rice is currently in Beijing. Obama hopes for some substantial takeaway from his meeting with President Xi Jinping in September during the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, which will be his last encounter with the Chinese leader.
Moscow may have miscalculated the geopolitical fallout of the July 12 award. The GT article is a stark reminder to the Russian side that its need of China is greater than the other way around. The article is here.
German Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s recent criticism of NATO behavior is that of a man watching a tidal wave of destruction gathering force, similar to ones that have engulfed his country twice before in the 20th century.
What we shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation further through saber-rattling and warmongering… Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken… We are well-advised to not create pretexts to renew an old confrontation… [It would be] fatal to search only for military solutions and a policy of deterrence. – German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, commenting on NATO’s recent military exercises in Poland and the Baltics.
His dread is not to be dismissed since it comes from a man who is in a position to know what the US is up to. His words reflect the fears of ever more people across all of Eurasia, from France in the West to Japan in the East.
Under the euphemism of “containment,” the US is relentlessly advancing its new Cold War on Russia and China. Its instrument in the West is NATO, and in the East, Japan, and whatever other worthies can be sharked up.
It is a Cold War that grows increasingly hotter, with proxy wars now raging in Eastern Ukraine and Syria and with confrontations in the South China Sea. There is an ever-growing likelihood that these points of tension will flare up into an all-out military conflict.
In the West, this conflict will begin in Eastern Europe and Russia, but it will not stop there. All the European NATO countries would be on the front lines. In the East, the conflict will take place in the Western Pacific in the region of China’s coast and in the peninsulas and island countries in the region, including Japan, the Philippines, and Indochina.
In each case the US will be an ocean away, “leading from behind,” as Barack Obama would put it, or engaged in “offshore balancing” as some foreign policy “experts” might term it.
No matter the “victors” – all of Eurasia, from France in the West to Japan in the East – would be devastated. No matter the outcome, the US could escape unscathed and “win” in this sense. And all Eurasian nations would lose. It would be World War II redux.
One can get a sense of what this means in the case of economic conflict by looking at the minimal economic warfare now being waged on Russia in the form of sanctions. Those sanctions are hurting both Russia and the rest of Europe. The US is untouched.
The same is also true for military conflict. Want to know what it would look like? Look at Eastern Ukraine. All of Eurasia could come to resemble that sorry nation in the event of a military conflict pitting the US and its allies against Russia and China. Eurasia, be forewarned!
The goal of the US foreign policy elite would clearly be for Russia and China to “lose,” but even if they “won,” they would be brought low, leaving the US as the world’s greatest economic and military power as it was in 1945.
Europe is beginning to awaken to this. We have Steinmeier’s plea above. But it is not only Germany that is worried. The French Senate wants an end to the sanctions imposed on Russia. Business people in many Western European countries, most notably in Germany and Italy, European farmers who export to Russia and tourist entrepreneurs like those in Turkey and Bulgaria, also want an end to sanctions and military exercises. Parties of the Right want an end to domination by NATO and Brussels, both controlled by the US. The Brexit is just one rumbling of such discontent.
All these nations are growing increasingly aware of the fate that awaits them if overt conflict erupts with Russia. The people of Germany want none of it. Likewise, the people of Japan are stirring against the US effort to goad Japan into fighting China. All remember the devastation of WWII.
Let’s recall the casualty figures, i.e., deaths, among the principal combatants of WWII:
Soviet Union – 27,000,000 (14 percent of the population);
China – 17,000,000 (3.5 percent);
Germany –7,000,000 (8.5 percent);
Japan – 2,800,000 (4 percent).
By comparison, for the US, safely far offshore, the number was 419,000 (0.32 percent)!
And for a few other countries that “got in the way” of the major adversaries:
Yugoslavia – 1,500,000 (9 percent)
Poland – 6,000,000 (17 percent)
French Indochina – 1,600,000 (6.11 percent)
Philippines – 527,000 (3.29 percent)
One wonders what the leaders of Poland or the Philippines or some elements in Vietnam are thinking when they take a belligerent attitude to Russia or China in order to please the US.
The problem with this US strategy is that it could easily spill over into a nuclear conflict. Then the US too would be reduced to radioactive rubble. The Western policy elite must be betting that Russia and China would not respond to a conventional war with a nuclear response.
However, Vladimir Putin has made it clear that in any war with the West, the US will feel the impact at once. The neocons and the rest of the US foreign policy elite must be betting that Putin is bluffing and that he would never use nuclear weapons. So, the US is safe and the suffering will be confined to Europe and Asia.
But that assumption is a dangerous one. Russia and China might respond with a conventional weapons attack on US cities. In WWII, Germany was able to wreak considerable devastation using conventional bombs on England delivered by airplanes and V-2 rockets. Similarly, the US was able to do enormous damage to Germany and to Japan with conventional weapons, especially firebombing as in Tokyo and Dresden.
Today, technology has advanced greatly, and US cities have nuclear power plants nearby. What is the likely outcome of a conventional war waged against US cities? Do we wish to find out? And once it begins, where is the firewall against an all-out nuclear exchange? Where are the neocons and the rest of the US foreign policy elite taking us? Certainly, the damage will begin with Eurasia, but Americans would do well to worry that great swarms of chickens might come home to roost in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. This is not the 20th Century.
For some, the scenario above might seem unduly alarmist. They might doubt that the US elite would be capable of consciously unleashing such a vast bloodletting. For those, it is useful to recall the words of President Harry S. Truman, who said in 1941, when he was still a Senator and before the US had entered WWII: “If we see that Germany is winning the war, we ought to help Russia; and if that Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and in that way let them kill as many as possible…”
Is that not what happened?
People of Eurasia, beware.
Australia has now completed more than six weeks of an eight-week election campaign. There have been the usual claims and counterclaims from the major parties, dubious statistics, hyperbole, and a relentless focus on peripheral issues at the expense of clarity and insight.
Expenditure promises totaling billions of dollars have been made, with the principal beneficiaries being electorates with very small majorities, and therefore most susceptible to changing allegiance with the vagaries of shifting sentiment for or against the governing party or the main opposition party.
What is completely missing from the election campaign rhetoric or promises however, is any discussion of foreign affairs, defence or refugee policy.
This coyness is not unique to this election. The past several decades have seen major decisions taken without discussion as to their strategic context, the objectives of the policy, any exit strategy when the decision involves foreign wars (invariably at the behest of the Americans). This is currently the case with the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Neither is there any discussion by the major parties as to whether the decisions taken about going to war, or taking steps that may lead to war, are advantageous or prejudicial to the national interest.
Also completely absent from debate is any attempt to understand and respond to a rapidly changing geopolitical context. The Asia-Pacific region is in a major state of realignment, but one would not know that from listening to the political leaders or reading the mainstream media.
The dilemma Australia’s foreign policy faces and which urgently needs addressing was set out by the former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser when he said that Australia’s relationship with the United States had “become a paradox. Our leaders argue we need to keep our alliance with the US strong in order to ensure our defence in the event of an aggressive foe. Yet the most likely reason Australia would need to confront an aggressive foe is our strong alliance with the US It is not a sustainable policy.”
It has become impossible in the Australian context to even contemplate, let alone discuss, a possible foreign policy stance independent of that alliance with the US. This is notwithstanding a series of foreign policy disasters and quagmires that are a direct result of that alliance, including but not limited to Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria.
That another potential disaster was only narrowly avoided has come to light in a lengthy essay by James Brown (Quarterly Essay #62, 2016).
Brown, a former Army Captain who happens to be the son-in-law of the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, recounts how former Prime Minister Tony Abbott sought planning contingencies from the Australian military about the possible deployment of a brigade (about 3000 troops) to Eastern Ukraine in the aftermath of the shooting down of MH17 on 17 July 2014.
The initiative by Abbott was apparently taken without reference to the Cabinet, without debate in Parliament, and certainly without reference to the Australian public.
Abbott was dissuaded from this hare-brained scheme on the advice of the Dutch Prime Minister Rutte and his own military advisers alarmed at the prospect that it could potentially lead to a direct conflict with Russia.
Although rightly critical of the lack of strategic planning in Australian foreign and defence policy, Brown is himself equally a victim of the Anglo-American mindset that bedevils Australian strategic thinking.
He refers for example, to what he says are the “brutal geopolitics” of Russian actions in Ukraine, and a “war for conquest remains a threat.” (at pp39-40).
That such a proposition could be seriously advanced is of deep concern. Brown completely ignores for example, the February 2014 American financed and organized coup d’état that violently overthrew the legitimate Yanukovich government of Ukraine.
Further, he ignores the fascist nature of the present regime in Kiev, its systematic discrimination against the Russian-speaking citizens of Eastern Ukraine, and the Kiev regime’s persistent violation of the Minsk accords. He also fails to note what is an extraordinary lack of judgment by Abbott in joining Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s Council of Advisers.
Brown is on stronger ground when he criticizes the procurement of 12 submarines and 72 F35 fighter aircraft. The submarines, which will not be delivered before 2030, are said to cost $50 billion, not including the additional $5-6 billion for their armaments.
The cost of the F35 fighters has been variously quoted at between $17 and $25 billion dollars.
The wisdom of these purchases, their strategic value if any, and the implications of their potential use in an actual war, is not open for discussion in the present election campaign. Nor are they likely to be properly analysed by whoever wins the 2 July election. Perhaps needless to add, public discussion and media coverage are conspicuous by their absence.
The 2016 Defence White Paper identified China as the most likely potential threat to Australia. Quite how this threat would manifest itself is unclear. China has no history of imperialism or military aggression in the Pacific region. Nothing in its present policy stances or conduct would suggest that is likely to change.
Australia actually fighting a war with China on its own is unthinkable. Any such conflict could only be as part of an American war, which takes one straight back to Fraser’s paradox quoted above.
When one looks at actual US behaviour in relation to China, then there is significant cause for concern that Australia could become embroiled in an American provoked war. The basis for such concern would include, for example, the American’s provocative behaviour in the South China Sea that Australia has publicly supported. Australian navy vessels take part in an annual exercise, Operation Talisman Sabre that practices blocking the vital Malacca Straits essential to Chinese trade.
Other developments, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, specifically exclude China, and are designed to assert American commercial interests at the expense of the national sovereignty of the non-American participants to the TPP.
America’s strategic policy, as set out in the 2002 Defence Department document Vision 2020 is based upon the assumption that America should exercise “full spectrum dominance” over the entire world, including for present purposes the Asia-Pacific region.
To this should be added the progressive increase in American military bases in the Asia-Pacific region, with nuclear weapon capability, and an American provoked war with China is far from unthinkable. There is of course historical precedent for current US policy, and that was the encirclement and economic warfare waged on Japan in the late 1930s early 1940s specifically designed to provoke a Japanese attack upon the US. That is exactly what happened.
American policy in the Asia-Pacific region is replicated in Europe, where it is pursuing equally provocative and dangerous policies on the Russian borders.
If Australia did become involved in a shooting war with China, as its current military and strategic posture would almost certainly guarantee, it is very difficult to see what role the hugely expensive submarines and F35 fighters would play.
That they would play any role at all would seem to depend on a number of assumptions. The war would have to start after 2030, as that is the earliest possible date for the delivery of the submarines.
It further assumes that the F35 fighter might actually fly in a combat effective manner. Neither assumption seems to have an evidential foundation.
Any Australian involvement in a war with China also appears to seriously underestimate the effectiveness of modern Chinese weaponry. Their supersonic cruise missile for example, would quickly eliminate the aircraft carrier based system the US Navy is built around.
Similarly, a single Dong Feng 41 supersonic ICBM missile would destroy the two crucial American military installations at Pine Gap and North West Cape that are a vital component of military communications and targeting. The Dong Feng 41 has 8-10 independently targetable nuclear warheads that would eliminate Australia’s major cities in addition to the specifically military targets noted.
Australia’s involvement in such a war would therefore last at most about 30 minutes, with huge casualties and its major cities smoking ruins. That is the very real risk Australia runs with its present alliance with the US. It is something that deserves proper debate, and this election, with both major parties complicit, is not providing such a debate.
The refusal to contemplate and discuss these military and geopolitical realities has a number of possible bases. An unspoken but potent spectre over Australian politics is the fate of the 1975 Whitlam Labor government. Whitlam had made clear his intention to close the Pine Gap spy installation, which while located in Australian territory was and is completely American controlled.
The evidence is now overwhelming that Whitlam was removed in a CIA orchestrated coup (Rundle 2015). After Whitlam was re-elected in 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra as the US ambassador. Green was known in American circles as the “coupmaster.” He had been instrumental in the coup against the Sukarno government in Indonesia in 1965 and Allende in Chile in 1973. His presence in Canberra in 1975 was not a coincidence.
It is doubtful if such an extreme step would be necessary in the foreseeable future. Both main political parties go to extraordinary lengths to remain on side with whoever occupies the White House.
This goes well beyond participating in the aforementioned wars of choice. It includes Australia’s voting record in the United Nations where it is a regular supporter of the Israeli regime, contrary to the overwhelming weight of opinion expressed in that body. Israel’s constant breaches of international law are never criticized by either the Australian government or the Opposition.
None of this is the subject of informed discussion and debate. It is not an overstatement to suggest a conspiracy of silence by the major parties to avoid asking what should be the obvious questions.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to point to any actual material benefit to Australia that flows from this ritual obeisance to American wishes. The illusion of security that it fosters, is as Fraser pointed out, a paradox and unsustainable as a policy.
The likelihood of a disastrous outcome for Australia from the American alliance is many times greater than any assumed benefit. The inconsistency of present foreign and defence policy with Australia’s national interests should be a matter of debate. It is not.
The geopolitical centre of the world is re-establishing itself in Eurasia, just as Halford Mackinder predicted more than a century ago. Russia and China, and other members of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are forging a new military, economic, financial and political framework. These changes are undermining the unipolar American centred world that has dominated for the past 70 years.
The question for Australia is whether it recognises the geopolitical realities dictated by its geography, its trade, and the wishes of its people for peace and stability ahead of the destruction being wrought by its traditional ally.
These are questions that need to be addressed. The major political parties and the media are failing in their obligations by refusing to discuss these issues. Their resolution is vital to the peace and prosperity of this nation.
Wilful blindness, strategic incoherence, and a misalignment of national interests are not a sound policy basis.
Washington may be forced to renege on its huge debt to Beijing under catastrophic circumstances, says the former head of the Bank of England Mervyn King. He suggests governments could mitigate risk by diversifying their assets.
“Who knows what the future holds, but China and other countries do not want to be in a situation where all their international assets are in effect dependent on the US,” said King, who was the Governor of the Bank of England from 2003 to 2013, in an article for Gold Investor magazine.
“Of course the US would not want to renege on its debts, but if some awful conflagration occurred, then all China’s assets in the US might be annulled,” said the former BoE chief, adding that China and other countries should diversify their portfolios, making them less dependent “on the goodwill of other countries.”
China is the biggest holder of US debt with $1.245 trillion, according to US Treasury data. Over the past 12 months Beijing has cut its Treasury securities 1.3 percent from $1.261 trillion seen last year.
According to the most recent data from March, global central banks sold off $17 billion in US Treasuries. Since the beginning of the year the sell-off has reached $123 billion, which is the quickest pace since 1978.
Russia has steadily shed US assets since the 2008 financial crisis, with holdings dropping from more than $200 billion in 2008 to $86 billion as of March this year.
In May, billionaire George Soros cut investment in US stocks by a third and acquired a $264 million stake in the world’s biggest bullion producer, Barrick Gold.
The British government is providing military training to the majority of nations it has blacklisted for human rights violations, a new report reveals.
In a report published on Sunday, the Independent revealed that 16 of the 30 countries on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)’s “human rights priority” watchlist are receiving military support from the UK despite being accused by London itself of issues ranging from internal repression to the use of sexual violence in armed conflicts.
According to the UK Ministry of Defense, since 2014, British armed forces have provided “either security or armed forces personnel” to the military forces of Saudi Arabia , Bahrain, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Burundi, China, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
Britain is a major provider of weapons and equipment such as cluster bombs and fighter jets to Saudi Arabia in its year-long military aggression against Yemen that has killed nearly 9,400 people, among them over 2,230 children.
Since the conflict began in March 2015, the British government has licensed the sale of nearly $4 billion worth of weaponry to the Saudi kingdom.
British commandos also train Bahraini soldiers in using sniper rifles, despite allegations that the Persian Gulf monarchy uses such specialist forces to suppress a years-long pro-democracy uprising in the country.
Bahraini forces visited the Infantry Battle School in Wales last week, accompanied by troops from Nigeria, the Defense Ministry said.
Nigeria’s top military generals are accused by Amnesty International of committing war crimes by causing the deaths of 8,000 people through murder, starvation, suffocation and torture during security operations against the Boko Haram Takfiri terrorists, according to the report.
Andrew Smith, with the Campaign Against Arms Trade, said Britain should not be “colluding” with countries known for being “some of the most authoritarian states in the world.”
Moscow does not take seriously US concerns regarding Russia’s and China’s activities in space, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control said Wednesday.
The Washington Post reported earlier in the week that Frank Rose, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, had expressed concern over “the continued development by Russia and China of anti-satellite weapons.”
“Indeed, such statements have been made recently by official representatives of the US administration, fairly regularly. Taking them literally and seriously is impossible. After all, any country, including the United States, has the opportunity to address real concerns, if they arise, through established political and diplomatic means,” Mikhail Ulyanov told RIA Novosti.
“Not only will Washington not use [diplomatic channels], but it actively tries to avoid them,” he added.
Ulyanov noted that the United States itself has been blocking a 2008 proposal by Russia and China on preventing the deployment of weapons in outer space, which would “effectively solve the problem of anti-satellite weapons.”
“The Russian-Chinese proposal has gained broad support on the international arena, but its practical implementation is categorically blocked by the United States,” he said.
While China is pushing ahead with its impressive hypersonic weapons program, in its current forms the Chinese sophisticated weaponry cannot threaten the security of the United States and its allies, according to US scholars Erika Solem and Karen Montague.
While the Pentagon officials call China “provocative and expansionist,” it turns out that Beijing is much more concerned about its own defense than alleged “expansionist” plans.
Following in US Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s footsteps, Adm. Harry Harris Jr., the American commander in charge of military operations in the Asia-Pacific region, named China one of the US’ major challenges, dubbing Beijing “provocative and expansionist” at the April Putrajaya Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
But does China pose a real threat to the US and its regional allies?
According to Erika Solem and Karen Montague of the Potomac Foundation, China’s People’s Liberation Army is “reorganizing itself to be a more modern, effective force.”
“As China streamlines its military and works to improve the quality of its personnel, several cutting edge projects are in the works to provide the People’s Liberation Army with advanced weapons. One of these is the PRC’s hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), called the DF-ZF in China and designated by US defense officials as the Wu-14,” the US scholars write in their analysis for China Brief Volume supported by the Jamestown Foundation and republished by The National Interest.
The scholars draw attention to the fact that development and testing of this new class of hypersonic weaponry is shrouded in secrecy.
“Its eventual operational deployment will represent a significant improvement in the PLARF’s [the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force] conventional and nuclear arsenals, as it has the potential to penetrate even the strongest layered anti-missile defenses of the United States and its allies,” Solem and Montague underscore.
However, upon closer examination, it seems that the threat is exaggerated.
Solem and Montague refer to the fact most of Beijing’s HGV tests have attempted to fly distances of up to 1,750 kilometers (1,087 miles).
“The intended distance of these tests is a strong indicator that China is either less advanced in its HGV development than the United States or is focused on addressing regional threats,” the scholars suggest.
Interestingly enough, the so-called “defensive realism” has long been the cornerstone of China’s foreign policy, Stratfor’s February analytical report read. China has never projected its power far beyond its borders, in contrast to major Western realms. There are no signs that the country is seeking global hegemony. Instead it is seemingly far more concerned about its defense and regional leadership.
“Given China’s strategic focus on regional security issues… shorter-range HGV addresses China’s more immediate needs,” Solem and Montague continue, adding however, that the country has the potential to acquire long-range HVGs by using scramjet engine like Boeing’s X-51A.
As of yet, Beijing’s HVGs are still unable to pose a serious challenge to the security of the US and its allies, the scholars conclude.
“There are clear symbolic and military benefits for the nation that successfully develops a hypersonic weapon. The DF-ZF, though impressive, still has a long way to go before it can truly threaten the security of the United States and its allies… Although in its current form the applications of the DF-ZF are constrained to East Asia, it is likely that China will continue to expand the range and capabilities of this weapon,” they note.
Why is China developing HGVs? The answer is to meet the needs of its regional security.
Apparently, the problem is that the US and NATO are spreading their anti-missile defense system in the Asian Pacific, encircling China. Despite China’s opposition, the US is going to deploy its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in the Korean Peninsula and implementing the elements of its missile defense in Japan.
The question then arises: who is acting “provocative” in the region?
© Sputnik/ Ramil Sitdikov
The Kremlin could one day regret any US detachment from the South China Sea, American geopolitical analyst Tim Daiss insists. Are Washington’s efforts truly aimed at maintaining the freedom of navigation in the region or is it part of Obama’s plan to write the rules and call the shots in the Asia Pacific region?
Russia’s opposition to internationalizing the South China Sea dispute and the US deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea has promted deep concerns among American geopolitical analysts.
Moscow’s support for Beijing has put the US plan to pressure China into making concessions on the maritime dispute in the South China Sea at risk. On the other hand, India’s decision to side with China on the issue has caught Western observers by surprise.
“China and Russia have agreed on the need to limit US influence in the Asia Pacific Region. On Friday, following bilateral talks in Beijing Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi expressed opposition to the US deployment of an anti-missile system in South Korea and also said that non-claimants should not take sides in the dispute over maritime territorial claims in the South China Sea,” American geopolitical analyst Tim Daiss wrote in his Op-Ed for Forbes.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has repeatedly stated that the South China Sea dispute should be resolved by the parties directly concerned, while outside powers should refrain from interfering.
A joint communiqué of the 14th Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation, the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China singed on April 18, 2016, reads:
“Russia, India and China are committed to maintaining a legal order for the seas and oceans based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS). All related disputes should be addressed through negotiations and agreements between the parties concerned. In this regard the Ministers called for full respect of all provisions of UNCLOS, as well as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the Guidelines for the implementation of the DOC.”
South China Sea claims map (© Photo: Wikipedia/Voice of America)
The statement coincided with reports that Beijing is seeking Moscow’s support over the South China Sea court battle with the Philippines in the Hague.
Nearly three years ago, the Philippines, backed by America, filed a lawsuit against China in the Hague International Tribunal Court. In October 2015 the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague confirmed that it would hold a hearing on the matter. The hearing is expected to take place in May or June 2016.
“China is lobbying Russia for support in opposing international court proceedings launched by the Philippines over the disputed South China Sea,” South China Morning Post reported April 20.
Beijing has reason to believe that Moscow can provide it with juridical assistance to solve the problem, Alexander Shpunt of Russia’s Regnum media outlet suggested.
Shpunt called attention to the fact that on April 20 Moscow won the Yukos case in the District Court in the Hague; a Dutch court overturned an award of $50 billion to former shareholders of the now defunct Yukos oil company that Russia had been ordered to pay by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2014.
The journalist continued that Lavrov’s notion about “outside parties” in the South China Sea dispute is a direct reference to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague that will soon hold hearing on the Philippines’ complaint against China.
This is the issue of utmost importance for Beijing that Moscow has outplayed the Permanent Court of Arbitration, Shpunt emphasized.
However, according to Daiss, Beijing is the major troublemaker in the region that plans to outwit its “much smaller Asian neighbors.”
“Who knows what the future holds geopoliticaly?” he wrote, adding that “the Kremlin could one day regret any US detachment from the South China Sea.”
Like many other Western observers Daiss remained silent about the fact that China’s Asian neighbors are also involved in controversial building activities in the South China Sea region, while, for example, Taiwan’s constructions in the Spratlys are located outside any claimed Taiwanese exclusive economic zone.”Of the six countries claiming an interest in the Spratlys, only Brunei has failed to construct structures, mostly on stilts, on more than 40 of these islets and reefs. Yet the western media again focuses exclusively on [China’s] ‘aggressive’ reclamation and building activities,” Australian lawyer James O’Neill wrote in his article for New Eastern Outlook.
What lies at the root of this double-standard approach? And is Washington really “trying to keep the sea lanes open in the name of freedom of navigation for any and all countries” as Daiss claims?
Apparently, US President Barack Obama’s latest Op-Ed in the Washington Post could shed some light on the matter.
“Today, some of our greatest economic opportunities abroad are in the Asia-Pacific region, which is on its way to becoming the most populous and lucrative market on the planet,” Obama wrote.
“Of course, China’s greatest economic opportunities also lie in its own neighborhood, which is why China is not wasting any time,” he noted referring to Beijing’s New Silk Road initiative.
“Instead, America should write the rules. America should call the shots. Other countries should play by the rules that America and our partners set, and not the other way around,” Obama stressed.
Given this, it becomes clear that what Washington is truly interested in is not the freedom of navigation “for any and all countries,” but its dominance in the region.
President Obama never ceases to amaze me.
He has actually cried on stage and grabbed people’s hearts by appealing to emotions, to our yearning to be just, humane and democratic and so on. In recent mainstream media articles, he is seen playing the role of an agonized leader who weighs the delicate balance of humanity and an act of “humanitarian intervention”. Even with his credential as one of the greatest presidents (according to some), his action against Libya caused tremendous suffering to the people of Libya. He has confessed that while it was “the right thing to do”, he regrets the intervention.
That’s that. Right? He is sorry. It was a mistake. He is suffering. He is forgiven and we must move forward.
Well, actually, his act of contrition must be counted as disingenuous by any measure.
The destruction of Libya was a premeditated crime against humanity. It was orchestrated by the Western nations that were about to be squeezed out of colonial business on the African continent. Libyan leader Gaddafi planned to unite Africa and to establish it as an economically independent region cooperating with the rest of the nations of the Global South (1). The intervention was literally an armed robbery to steal the funding and destroy the plan. Tens of thousands were killed as a result of the Western intervention. Libya was literally destroyed. If you are not familiar with the magnitude of the merciless inhumanity of the Western action against Libya, look up a story about the great man-made river of Libya for instance. Or, look up stories about Libyan social programs under Gaddafi, which the US can’t even come close to. It is truly heartbreaking, and the true crime of the Western nations is hidden from the people. The administration and the colluding media have twisted the narrative in the most egregious way to hide the crime, and turned it into a courageous story of an American President with “honesty” and “integrity”. For the good people of the West, the agony of the President appears most tragic.
However, in reality, by destroying Libya, the Obama administration has achieved profound success in preventing the emergence of the United States of Africa and its central banking system, which would utilize rich African resources for the people of Africa.
Now, there is someone else who plays a major supporting role in this theater of deception: Mr. Bernie Sanders. This seasoned politician has cultivated an unprecedented skill in mobilizing popular support. The accuracy of his act is utterly superb. In order to gain political support for himself, and in turn for the Democratic Party, while preserving the imperial nature of US foreign policy, he has expressed a few calculated thoughts:
Forget about Hilary’s emails
In one of the presidential debates, he strongly characterized the issue of Hilary Clinton’s emails as a political tool to distract people from focusing on “real issues”(2). Her emails, however, include valuable facts regarding the Western war crimes, human rights abuses and other nefarious deeds, including valuable facts confirming Western motives in destroying Libya (3). Ms. Clinton is deeply involved in all of these matters and more(4)
Gaddafi was a terrible dictator
Mr. Sanders recently called Gaddafi “a terrible dictator” in one of the presidential debates. In an interview with Fox News, he remarked, “Look, everybody understands Gaddafi is a thug and murderer”(5). But more decisively, Mr. Sanders was one of 10 co-sponsors of the Senate resolution calling for the resignation of Gaddafi. The resolution also asked for UN resolutions demanding such drastic measures as establishing a no-fly zone and asset freeze against Libya (5). The demonization of the Libyan leader had been a part of the systematic campaign to justify military action for a while, leading to the actual operation in 2011. Libya’s standard of living, human rights record, varieties of social programs for the people and so on had been recognized as the best among the African nations by the UN before the Western intervention. Many of the demeaning allegations against the Libyan government and its leader were found to be false as well (6). Mr. Sanders’s disparaging remarks against Gaddafi, as well as the co-sponsorship of the Senate resolution and subsequent UN resolutions, comprise a decisive state propaganda campaign which led to the military intervention.
Regime change created a political vacuum for ISIS
Mr. Sanders is extremely skilled in colonizing ideas that closely approach the edge of the imperial boundary. He is so good at attracting people by pointing out the fence surrounding the empire only to prove, however, that the gate is tightly shut.
In one of the presidential debates, he accused Hilary Clinton of engaging in many “regime change” operations. However, this remark is skillfully rendered harmless by containing the whole argument in official imperial narratives. First, it does not involve a discussion of the deaths and destruction endured by the Libyan people. Somehow the empire is immune from international humanitarian laws and the moral imperative of humanity. Second, it does not deal with the fact that ISIS and other extremist groups are funded by the US and its allies, as proven by the governments’ own documents(7). Therefore, it leaves a solid path to continue the war on terror as business as usual. It is very likely that Mr. Sanders will follow Mr. Obama’s footsteps in fighting the war on terror, according to his praise for the President’s handling of it(8), and his own remarks(9) if he is elected as the President. Third, by refusing to talk about the real reasons for “regime change” he allows himself, as well as anyone else, including Ms. Clinton, to “regretfully” engage in “humanitarian interventions” as soon as there is a targeted nation picked by a team of foreign policy experts who have served various administrations. It is of concern that he has been uttering tough remarks against Russia, China, North Korea and so on. All these nations are surrounded by US military bases while being subjected to systematic state propaganda campaigns.
“War is a racket” (10). Every US military intervention accompanies subsequent restructuring of the society and economy according to the interests of the ruling elites. Military intervention also serves the military strategic goals and financial motives of the military industrial complex. Violence, whether it’s inflicted militarily or economically, has been a primary tool in building the hierarchical structure where a powerful few control the vast majority. People’s communities are built by cooperation of the communities and their people, as well as the efforts of bringing “power to the people”, not by exploitation and subjugation of other communities led by the powerful few with their draconian measures. I believe the essence of socialism lies in this very basic notion of democracy. Unless one is willing to work according to the genuine spirit of socialism, use of such a slogan as “political revolution” while calling himself a socialist is highly misleading and dishonest. Again, this reflects Mr. Sanders’ tendency to colonize ideas in mobilizing people only to bring them into the existing framework of the powerful few.
Here is the Catch 22: In order to truly refute the fascist and racist position taken by, for example, Donald Trump, the Bernie supporters must confront Bernie’s imperialism. How can a nation implement socialist policies in the framework of imperialism? How can that be a “political revolution”? Imperial Socialism? There used to be a country that tried something called National Socialism (11). It turned out to be a disaster.
The US already has an invisible racial and economic caste system to mask it’s own crimes domestically. It’s based on the many inhumane, unjust and undemocratic schemes inherited from slavery. It’s grown tremendously to flourish into mass incarceration, gentrification, police killings and the rest of the symptoms of institutionalized racism. The force of slaves who built the nation has been converted into the lives of today’s Blacks and poor, which are squeezed to create profits for the few by the devastating force of the social restructuring process for the profits of private corporations. Imperialism has extended this mechanism globally. As a result, unfortunately, tens of millions of lives have already perished by the US violence across the globe(12). It has turned out to be a disaster, already.
You see what I am saying here? If we do not confront such a notion as imperial socialism now, the best scenario Bernie Sanders can bring to us will be a normalization of imperialism under an imperial socialism. That is basically a feudal world order with an invisible caste system. Over 1,000 military bases across the globe are encircling Russia, China and other potential obstacles ensuring the economic power of the ruling elites. Extremists and dictators are nurtured while potential enemies are demonized. International treaties, TPP, TTIP, TISA and so on, to codify the colonial rule of transnational corporations are waiting to be implemented.
Or, let me put it this way, if I were a super rich imperialist in the US, I would be a diehard Bernie supporter. Leaders like him would be my last hope in prolonging the life of the crumbling hierarchy of money and violence. I would be willing to pay for a slight compromise if I can hang onto the status quo. He would be the one to protect my business and assets with the dignity and righteousness that I deserve. He sounds scary but check out what he’s done so far. He talks about universal healthcare but he was one of the guys who worked on Obamacare. He opposes TPP, but his objections are nationalistic and based on a good old protectionism. He went along with the crime bill for the prison industry, drug war, “urban renewal” and so on and on. And of course we have no worry about him dismantling the war industry. Actually, he might manage to start a big one or two. Did you hear that his hero is Winston Churchill? You get the idea.
The term Mr. Sanders uses, democratic socialism, is Imperial Socialism. “Democratic” refers to “democracy” which has been brought to those untamed nations with bombs.
If you agree with what I am saying here, please do not despair. You are not alone. There are countless people across the globe who oppose imperialism and its crimes. They are aiming to build a truly democratic world of sharing and mutual respect. There will be more of them. We live in the most exciting time of awakening for our species.
I would like to end this piece with a poem by Eric Draitser.
Libya: African Jewel
by ERIC DRAITSER
Snatched away –
blood and sand
alloyed to lifeless aridity:
add water. A man-made
river stolen, siphoned
assets in frozen accounts,
by the electric gaze
of a once buzzing grid,
The Greeks knew this:
tragedies have heroes
and death, covalent bond –
a binary truth
to build myths upon.
Here the wind dries tears,
breaks skin like stone
and stone like steel.
Still, man and martyr stand,
faces to an unforgiving sun.
And with hands that once
they hoist the Green Flag
We are here.
Flag of Socialist Libya (1977–2011)
Hiroyuki Hamada is an artist. He has exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe and is represented by Lori Bookstein Fine Art. He has been awarded various residencies including those at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Edward F. Albee Foundation/William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person’s Center, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the MacDowell Colony.
A report by researchers from Rhodium Group as well as the National Committee on US-China Relations showed that investments by China in the US for 2015 stood at $15 billion. However, this could see a major rise as more Chinese companies are expected to bring in their capital to the US.
By the end of 2015 more than 1,900 Chinese-affiliated companies were operating in the US across more than 80 percent of its congressional districts and employing some 90,000 people, said the report.
The study showed that only an eighth of China’s $120 billion in outward investment last year went to the US.
Nevertheless, the amount invested in American businesses is growing rapidly as Beijing wants to shift the economy toward technology, services and greater consumer spending.
More than $5 billion in US deals have been completed in the first three months of this year alone, reported Russia Today on its website.
The study found that last year New York saw the most Chinese investment at $4.1 billion topping California’s $1.8 billion. New York has benefited from deals related to tourism and financial services.
Over the past 15 years, Chinese firms invested $70 million in Californian food and agriculture companies while total investment in the sector across the US reached $7.4 billion, RT added.
The report further added that California will be a top destination in coming years for a variety of Chinese investment in the US, which could reach $200 billion by 2020.
On Sunday, Vice President and CEO of Fosun Group, Liang Xinjun, signed an agreement to purchase Ahava with Executive Director of Gaon Holdings Guy Regev. The deal amounted to $77 million.
The ceremony took place in the presence of high-ranking Israeli officials at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem and was witnessed by Israeli government officials and representatives of both companies.
Under the terms of the agreement, Fosun will acquire the holdings from all Ahava’s shareholders including Gaon Holdings, Shamrock Israel Growth Fund Advisors, Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem, and Kibbutz Kalia.
Vice-President of Fosun, Liang Xinjun, said he was pleased with the results of agreement and hopes to bring Ahava into the Chinese market.
Chinese companies and corporations have been active in the Israeli market over the last few years. In 2011, China National Chemical Corporation acquired Adama, which produces pesticides, for a price of $2.4 billion and in 2015 the Chinese company Bright Food acquired a controlling stake in Israel’s largest producer Tnuva, which is heavily involved in dairy goods.
In addition, China is already the world’s largest importer of cosmetics and health products based on minerals from the Dead Sea.
Experts believe that China’s geopolitical presence in Israel will only continue to grow. In particular, due to the construction of the state-owned China Harbor seaport of Ashdod on the Mediterranean Sea.
The country’s first private port will not appear before 2021. The project cost is estimated at over one billion dollars. The purpose of the project is to connect Ashdod with the southern Israeli city of Eilat and transport goods to Europe, bypassing the Suez Canal.