Fifty countries on Monday signed the articles of agreement for the new China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the first major global financial instrument independent from the Bretton Woods system.
Seven remaining countries out of the 57 that have applied to be founding members, Denmark, Kuwait, Malaysia, Philippines, Holland, South Africa and Thailand, are awaiting domestic approval.
“This will be a significant event. The constitution will lay a solid foundation for the establishment and operation of the AIIB,” said Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei.
The AIIB will have an authorized capital of $100 billion, divided into shares that have a value of $100,000.
BRICS members China, India and Russia are the three largest shareholders, with a voting share of 26.06 per cent, 7.5 per cent and 5.92 per cent, respectively.
Following the signing of the bank’s charter, the agreement on the $100 billion AIIB will now have to be ratified by the parliaments of the founding members.
Asian countries will contribute up to 75 per cent of the total capital and be allocated a share of the quota based on their economic size.
Chinese Vice Finance Minister Shi Yaobin said China’s initial stake and voting share are “natural results” of current rules, and may be diluted as more members join.
Australia was first to sign the agreement in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday, state media reports said.
The Bank will base its headquarters in Beijing.
The Chinese Finance Ministry said the new lender will start operations by the end of 2015 under two preconditions: At least 10 prospective members ratify the agreement, and the initial subscribed capital is no less than 50 per cent of the authorized capital.
The AIIB will extend China’s financial reach and compete not only with the World Bank, but also with the Asian Development Bank, which is heavily dominated by Japan.
China and other emerging economies, including BRICS, have long protested against their limited voice at other multilateral development banks, including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank (ADB).
China is grouped in the ‘Category II’ voting bloc at the World Bank while at the Asian Development Bank, China with a 5.5 per cent share is far outdone by America’s 15.7 per cent and Japan’s 15.6 per cent share.
The ADB has estimated that in the next decade Asian countries will need $8 trillion in infrastructure investments to maintain the current economic growth rate.
China scholar Asit Biswas at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore, says Washington’s criticism of the China-led Bank is “childish”.
“Some critics argue that the AIIB will reduce the environmental, social and procurement standards in a race to the bottom. This is a childish criticism, especially because China has invited other governments to help with funding and governance,” he writes.
The US and Japan have not applied for the membership in the AIIB.
However, despite US pressures on its allies not to join the bank, Britain, France, Germany, Italy among others have signed on as founding members of the China-led Bank.
Meanwhile, New Zealand and Australia have already announced that they will invest $87.27 million and $718 million respectively as paid-in capital to the AIIB.
The new lender will finance infrastructure projects like the construction of roads, railways, and airports in the Asia-Pacific Region.
Iran, 49 states sign Asia bank charter
Iran on Monday joined 49 countries in signing up to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), bringing Asia’s largest financial lender a step closer to existence.
Finance and Economy Minister Ali Tayebnia put Iran’s signature to the bank’s articles of association at a ceremony in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, which capped six months of intense negotiations.
In April, China accepted Iran as a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank being seen as a rival to the US-led World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Asian Development Bank.
With the signing which amounted to the creation of AIIB’s legal framework, China’s Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said he was confident the bank could start functioning before the end of the year.
Seven more founding members would ink the articles after approval by their respective governments.
The bank will have a capital of $100 billion in the form of shares, each worth $100,000, distributed among the members. Beijing will be by far the largest shareholder at about 30%, followed by India at 8.4% and Russia at 6.5%.
China will also have 26% of the votes which are not enough to give it a veto on decision-making, while smaller members will have larger voice.
Singapore’s Senior Minister for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo said the bank will provide new opportunities for its members’ businesses and promote sustainable growth in Asia.
Seventy-five percent of AIIB’s shares are distributed within the Asian region while the rest is assigned among countries beyond it.
Germany, France and Brazil are among the non-Asian members of the bank despite US efforts to dissuade allies from joining it. Another US ally joining AIIB is Australia but Japan has stayed away from it.
Countries beyond the region can expand their share but the portion cannot be bigger than 30%. Public procurement of the AIIB will be open to all countries around the world.
But the president of the bank will have to be chosen from the Asian region for a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms.
The bank will be headquartered in Beijing and its lean structure will be overseen by an unpaid, non-resident board of directors which, architects say, would save it money and friction in decision-making.
Earlier this month, former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke rebuked US lawmakers for allowing China to found the new bank, which threatens to upend Washington’s domination over the world economic order.
He said lawmakers were to blame because they refused to agree 2010 reforms that would have given greater clout to China and other emerging powers in the International Monetary Fund.
It’s scarcely a day passes that there isn’t some fascinating new development bringing Russia and China closer in peaceful economic cooperation. The most recent such development involves what must be described as a win-win development in which Russia has agreed to lease prime Siberian agriculture lands to a Chinese company for the coming fifty years. It fits beautifully to plans for the development of the world’s largest infrastructure project, the planned New Silk Road Economic Belt, a network of new high-speed railway lines criss-crossing Eurasia from China to Mongolia to Russia and beyond ultimately to the EU.
The Chinese government officials in recent years are very fond of talking about “win-win” developments in business and politics. Now a genuine win-win development is emerging for both China and Russia in Siberia near the borders of Mongolia and China in the region known since 2008 as Zabaikalsky krai or region.
The region has a very sparse population of just over 1 million Russians on a land area of some 432,000 square kilometers. It also holds some of the richest, most fertile farmland in the world. China for its part is hurt by increasing desertification, water problems and other pressures on its food production security. China also has population and money to invest in worthwhile projects, something the more remote regions of the Russian Federation have had serious deficits of during the Cold War and especially since the destructive Yeltsin years.
Now the government of Zabaikalsky krai has signed a 49-year lease agreement with China’s Zoje Resources Investment together with its daughter company Huae Sinban to lease 115,000 hectares or just under 300,000 acres of Russian farmland to China. The Chinese company will invest more than 24 billion rubles for development of agricultural sector in the region, to produce agricultural products for Russian and Chinese markets. Plans are to grow fodder, grain and oilseeds as well as to develop poultry, meat and dairy products production in Russia’s Baikal region.
The project will be divided into two stages. If the first stage is successfully completed by 2018, the Chinese company will be given a lease on a second parcel of land bringing the total to 200,000 hectares. For Russia and the region it will be a win. The lands where the project will start have not been farmed for almost 30 years and to make the land suitable again for farming will require the labor of as many as 3,000 hands. Also significant is that the Chinese company had to compete for the land deal with several other Chinese companies as well as companies from South Korea, New Zealand and even from the United States.
Wang Haiyun, senior advisor at the Chinese Institute for International Strategic Studies, called the deal an example of the developing trust between the two countries, according to an article from the Chinese newspaper Huanqiu Shibao. He noted that the fact that Russian authorities agreed to lease such an immense territory for 49 years to a Chinese company proves Moscow has no ideological prejudice towards Beijing.
China-Russia Agriculture Fund
The latest land lease deal in Zabaikalsky krai follows other positive developments in agriculture cooperation between Russia and China. This past May Russia’s state Direct Investment Fund head, Kirill Dmitriev, announced that RDIF, the Russia-China Investment Fund and the government of China’s Heilongjiang province have agreed on the creation of a special investment fund for agriculture projects. The fund will total some $2 billion and be funded by primarily money of institutional Chinese investors, including those with significant experience in investment in the agricultural sector, Dmitriev added. He said that the agreement on the creation of a joint investment bank will help attract Chinese capital to Russia and make it easier for Russian companies to enter China’s markets. China’s Heilongjiang Province is to the east of Zabaikalsky krai.
Silk roads to golden goals
The China-Zabaikalsky krai agriculture agreement is merely the initial step of what will become a major infrastructure and industrial development of the now-remote underdeveloped Siberian region. Zabaikalsky krai is one of the richest regions in all Russia. Russia’s largest known deposit of copper at Udokanskoye in the region has resources of 20 million tons. On June 3 at the Sochi SP1520 annual international railways forum, Russian Railways president Vladimir Yakunin announced that the Russian Copper Company, a joint venture by Russian Railways Public Company, UMMC, and Vnesheconombank, had applied for development of the Udokanskoye copper deposit, confirming that Russia is thinking very strategically about its development in the region.
In addition the region is rich in gold, molybdenum, tin, lead, zinc and coal. Its crops are today wheat, barley and oats. The region is amply blessed with fresh water and flowing rivers.
At the same time Beijing has announced it is creating a huge $16 billion fund to develop gold mines along the rail route linking Russia and China and Central Asia. One major obstacle to date to exploitation of Russia’s vast agriculture and mineral riches has been availability of modern infrastructure to bring the products to market. Contrary to Harvard University or George Soros “shock therapy” free market theories, markets are not “free.”
At the September, 2014 meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Dushanbe, at the request of the Mongolian president, China’s Xi, Russia’s Putin and Mongolia’s Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj agreed to integrate Beijing’s Silk Road Economic Belt initiative with Russia’s transcontinental rail plan and Mongolia’s Prairie Road program, to jointly build a China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor.
That could turn Mongolia into a “transit corridor” linking the Chinese and Russian economies. Mongolia is larger than Japan, France and Spain together. The three are discussing issues of traffic interconnectivity, how to facilitate cargo clearance and transportation, and the feasibility of building a transnational power grid.
Eurasian Economic Birth
The potential of the recent economic cooperation agreements between the two great Eurasian nations, Russia and China, is without question the most promising economic development in the world today. As US sanctions forced Russia to turn increasingly to its eastern neighbor, China, US military provocations against China in the East China Sea and elsewhere forced China to completely rethink its own strategic orientation. Developing their land connections in a vast economic space is emerging as the result. As the ancient Chinese saying goes, every crisis contains new opportunities if viewed so.
Beijing has discussed building various Eurasian rail ties for several years but in the past eighteen months since the beginning of the Presidency of Xi Jinping it has assumed highest priority, especially the construction of the New Silk Road Economic Belt. President XI has made that Silk Road project the cornerstone of his presidential term. In the meeting of Xi on May 8 in Moscow with Russian President Putin, the two presidents signed a joint declaration “on cooperation in coordinating development of EEU and the Silk Road Economic Belt,” with both declaring their goal to coordinate the two projects in order to build a “common economic space” in Eurasia, including a Free Trade Agreement between the EEU and China. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently stated that the trade turnover between China and Russia is likely to reach $100 billion in 2015. The future prospects, with construction of the network of high-speed railways, is staggering.
Markets, all markets, are man-made, products of deliberate or not so deliberate decisions of individuals and usually of governments. The creation of what could become a multi-trillion dollar economic space spanning the vast Eurasian land is moving forward in a beautiful way. The China-Russia agriculture land leasing is a sign that Russia is opening a new qualitative phase in these developments.
In the world of mathematics win-win is referred to as a “non-zero sum game” in which there is typically a matrix of multiple payouts for all participants. That seems to be emerging across the vast Eurasian expanse far faster than anyone could have imagined even two years ago.
June 28, 2015
As NATO and Russia revive the old nuclear Cold War, the public is being prepared to accept the first-strike use of tactical nuclear weapons on targets in the Middle East and elsewhere. And as the world inches closer to a World War III scenario, we find the old MAD doctrine being revived in a new round of madness.
The EU has drafted a plan to counter what it sees as “Russian disinformation activities” calling for the promotion of EU policies in the post-Soviet space and the implementation of measures against Russian media, including RT.
The nine-page paper drafted by the EU Foreign Service and obtained by EUobserver was prepared ahead of the June 25-26 summit and is set to be voted on by EU leaders on Thursday.
The plan is aimed at tackling Russia’s “use and misuse of communication tools” and the “promotion of EU policies” in former Soviet states as well as support for “independent media” and “increased public awareness of disinformation activities by external actors,” the report says.
It specifically mentions RT, which according to the report broadcasts “fabrications and hate speech from their bureaus in EU cities.”
“The EU … will work to improve co-operation between national regulators, including through meetings of the European Regulators Group”, it adds.
The European Commission also plans to “table a new legislative proposal to improve the regulatory environment and take account of current challenges,” according to the draft.
The plan says that the EU Foreign Service will create a special cell to spearhead the activities called East StratComTeam by September. It will distribute information in Russian and in local languages in the EU’s eastern neighborhood, in countries such as Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry lashed out at the EU over the report, saying that the proposed plan is violating the right to freedom of expression and creating conditions of total discrimination against Russian media.
The draft plan presented on Tuesday is “clearly aimed at pushing out Russia’s presence in the international media field,” the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. “Following the introduction of restrictive measures against Russian journalists the EU is trying to create conditions for the total discrimination of Russian media.”
While the Western media is speaking in one voice, the EU is trying to push out one of the few alternative sources of information, said RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan.
“The EU is actively trying to shut out RT, to stifle a rare alternative voice in international news media,” she said.
“It’s not enough that there are hundreds of Western newspapers, TV channels, websites and radio stations, all beaming the same take on what is going on in the world. The UK has created a 1,500-strong army unit to, among other things, fight Russia in the social media space. NATO has a special taskforce dedicated to countering Russia’s influence. Deutsche Welle just launched a 24-hour English-language news channel that’s supposed to compete directly with RT – despite the global presence of Euronews, BBC World News and CNN International.”
“If despite all these efforts the EU is still concerned with “losing the information war” to Russia, perhaps the time has come for it to realize that people around the world simply no longer believe their same tired, one-sided narratives of current events,” said Simonyan.
The EU project was previously discussed in March, however no details were revealed at the time. The EU announced its plans following US Secretary of State John Kerry’s plea to lawmakers for more money to tackle the so-called Russian propaganda in February.
Speaking before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on February 26, he urged for the setting up of “democracy promotion” programs around the world.
“Russia Today (sic) can be heard in English, do we have an equivalent that can be heard in Russian? It’s a pretty expensive proposition. They are spending huge amounts of money,” Kerry said apparently forgetting that Voice of America has been broadcasting in Russian since 1947.
Though the US government media receives $721 million a year, in the budget proposal submitted by Kerry, the Department of State asked for “$639 million to help our friends in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova as they seek to strengthen their democracies, withstand pressure from Russia, and to integrate more closely into Europe.”
By contrast RT’s budget for 2015 is about $225 million. The BBC World Service, which complained about RT “winning the information war” in January, is funded to the tune of $375 million a year.
In George Orwell’s 1984, the leaders of Oceania presented “Two Minutes Hate” in which the image of an enemy was put on display and loyal Oceanianians expressed their rage, all the better to prepare them for the country’s endless wars and their own surrender of freedom. And, now, in America, you have The New York Times.
Surely the Times is a bit more subtle than the powers-that-be in Orwell’s Oceania, but the point is the same. The “paper of record” decides who our rotating foreign enemy is and depicts its leader as a demon corrupting whatever he touches. The rest of us aren’t supposed to think for ourselves. We’re just supposed to hate.
As the Times has degenerated from a relatively decent newspaper into a fount of neocon propaganda, its editors also have descended into the practice of simply inventing a narrative of events that serves an ideological purpose, its own version of “Two Minutes Hate.” Like the leaders of Orwell’s Oceania, the Times has become increasingly heavy-handed in its propaganda.
Excluding alternate explanations of events, even if supported by solid evidence, the Times arrogantly creates its own reality and tells us who to hate.
In assessing the Times’s downward spiral into this unethical journalism, one could look back on its false reporting regarding Iraq, Iran, Syria or other Middle East hotspots. But now the Times is putting the lives of ourselves, our children and our grandchildren at risk with its reckless reporting on the Ukraine crisis – by setting up an unnecessary confrontation between nuclear-armed powers, the United States and Russia.
At the center of the Times’ propaganda on Ukraine has been its uncritical – indeed its anti-journalistic – embrace of the Ukrainians coup-makers in late 2013 and early 2014 as they collaborated with neo-Nazi militias to violently overthrow elected President Viktor Yanukovych and hurl Ukraine into a bloody civil war.
Rather than display journalistic professionalism, the Times’ propagandists ignored the evidence of a coup – including an intercepted phone call in which U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussed how to “mid-wife” the regime change and handpick the new leaders.
The Times even ignored a national security expert, Statfor founder George Friedman, when he termed the ouster of Ukraine’s elected president “the most blatant coup in history.” The Times just waved a magic wand and pronounced that there was no coup – and anyone who thought so must reside inside “the Russian propaganda bubble.”[See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine.”]
Perhaps even more egregiously, the Times has pretended that there were no neo-Nazi militias spearheading the Feb. 22, 2014 coup and then leading the bloody “anti-terrorist operation” against ethnic Russians in the south and east who resisted the coup. The Times explained all this bloodshed as simply “Russian aggression.”
It didn’t even matter when the U.S. House of Representatives – of all groups – unanimously acknowledged the neo-Nazi problem when it prohibited U.S. collaboration in military training of Ukrainian Nazis. The Times simply expunged the vote from its “official history” of the crisis. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “US House Admits Nazi Role in Ukraine.”]
Yet, for an Orwellian “Two Minute Hate” to work properly, you need to have a villain whose face you can put on display. And, in the case of Ukraine – at least after Yanukovych was driven from the scene – that villain has been Russian President Vladimir Putin, who embodies all evil in the intense hatred sold to the American public.
So, when Putin presents a narrative of the Ukraine crisis, which notes the history of the U.S.-driven expansion of NATO up to Russia’s borders and the evidence of the U.S.-directed Ukrainian coup, the Times editors must dismiss it all as “mythology,” as they did in Monday’s editorial regarding Putin’s remarks to an international economic conference in St. Petersburg.
“President Vladimir Putin of Russia is not veering from the mythology he created to explain away the crisis over Ukraine,” the Times’ editors wrote. “It is one that wholly blames the West for provoking a new Cold War and insists that international sanctions have not grievously wounded his country’s flagging economy.”
Without acknowledging any Western guilt in the coup that overthrew the elected Ukrainian government in 2014, the Times’ editors simply reveled in the harm that the Obama administration and the European Union have inflicted on Russia’s economy for its support of the previously elected government and its continued backers in eastern and southern Ukraine.
For nearly a year and a half, the New York Times and other major U.S. news organizations have simply refused to acknowledge the reality of what happened in Ukraine. In the Western fantasy, the elected Yanukovych government simply disappeared and was replaced by a U.S.-backed regime that then treated any resistance to its rule as “terrorism.” The new regime even dispatched neo-Nazi militias to kill ethnic Russians and other Ukrainians who resisted and thus were deemed “terrorists.”
The upside-down narrative of what happened in Ukraine has become the conventional wisdom in Official Washington and has been imposed on America’s European allies as well. According to The New York Times’ Orwellian storyline, anyone who notes the reality of a U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine is engaging in “fantasy” and must be some kind of Putin pawn.
To the Times’ editors, all the justice is on their side, even as Ukraine’s new regime has deployed neo-Nazi militias to kill eastern Ukrainians who resisted the anti-Yanukovych coup. To the Times’ editors, the only possible reason to object to Ukraine’s new order is that the Russians must be bribing European dissidents to resist the U.S. version of events. The Times wrote:
The Europeans are indeed divided over the extent to which Russia, with its huge oil and gas resources, should be isolated, but Mr. Putin’s aggression so far has ensured their unity when it counts. In addition to extending existing sanctions, the allies have prepared a new round of sanctions that could be imposed if Russian-backed separatists seized more territory in Ukraine. …
Although Mr. Putin insisted on Friday that Russia had found the ‘inner strength’ to weather sanctions and a drop in oil prices, investment has slowed, capital has fled the country and the economy has been sliding into recession. Even the business forum was not all that it seemed: The heads of many Western companies stayed away for a second year.
An Orwellian World
In the up-is-down world that has become the New York Times’ editorial page, the Western coup-making on Russia’s border with the implicit threat of U.S. and NATO nuclear weapons within easy range of Moscow is transformed into a case of Russian aggression. The Times’ editors wrote: “One of the most alarming aspects of the crisis has been Mr. Putin’s willingness to brandish nuclear weapons.”
Though it would appear objectively that the United States was engaged in serious mischief-making on Russia’s border, the Times editors flip it around to make Russian military maneuvers – inside Russia – a sign of aggression against the West.
Given Mr. Putin’s aggressive behavior, including pouring troops and weapons into Kaliningrad, a Russian city located between NATO members Lithuania and Poland, the allies have begun taking their own military steps. In recent months, NATO approved a rapid-reaction force in case an ally needs to be defended. It also pre-positioned some weapons in front-line countries, is rotating troops there and is conducting many more exercises. There are also plans to store battle tanks and other heavy weapons in several Baltic and Eastern European countries.
If he is not careful, Mr. Putin may end up facing exactly what he has railed against — a NATO more firmly parked on Russia’s borders — not because the alliance wanted to go in that direction, but because Russian behavior left it little choice. That is neither in Russia’s interest, nor the West’s.
There is something truly 1984-ish about reading that kind of propagandistic writing in The New York Times and other Western publications. But it has become the pattern, not the exception.
The Words of the ‘Demon’
Though the Times and the rest of the Western media insist on demonizing Putin, we still should hear the Russian president’s version of events, as simply a matter of journalistic fairness. Here is how Putin explained the situation to American TV talk show host Charlie Rose on June 19:
Why did we arrive at the crisis in Ukraine? I am convinced that after the so-called bipolar system ceased to exist, after the Soviet Union was gone from the political map of the world, some of our partners in the West, including and primarily the United States, of course, were in a state of euphoria of sorts. Instead of developing good neighborly relations and partnerships, they began to develop the new geopolitical space that they thought was unoccupied. This, for instance, is what caused the North Atlantic bloc, NATO, to go east, along with many other developments.
I have been thinking a lot about why this is happening and eventually came to the conclusion that some of our partners [Putin’s way of describing Americans] seem to have gotten the illusion that the world order that was created after World War II, with such a global center as the Soviet Union, does not exist anymore, that a vacuum of sorts has developed that needs to be filled quickly.
I think such an approach is a mistake. This is how we got Iraq, and we know that even today there are people in the United States who think that mistakes were made in Iraq. Many admit that there were mistakes in Iraq, and nevertheless they repeat it all in Libya. Now they got to Ukraine. We did not bring about the crisis in Ukraine. There was no need to support, as I have said many times, the anti-state, anti-constitutional takeover that eventually led to a sharp resistance on the territory of Ukraine, to a civil war in fact.
Where do we go from here?” Putin asked. “Today we primarily need to comply with all the agreements reached in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. … At the same time, I would like to draw your attention and the attention of all our partners to the fact that we cannot do it unilaterally. We keep hearing the same thing, repeated like a mantra – that Russia should influence the southeast of Ukraine. We are. However, it is impossible to resolve the problem through our influence on the southeast alone.
There has to be influence on the current official authorities in Kiev, which is something we cannot do. This is a road our Western partners have to take – those in Europe and America. Let us work together. … We believe that to resolve the situation we need to implement the Minsk agreements, as I said. The elements of a political settlement are key here. There are several. […]
The first one is constitutional reform, and the Minsk agreements say clearly: to provide autonomy or, as they say decentralization of power, let it be decentralization. This is quite clear, our European partners, France and Germany have spelled it out and we are quite satisfied with it, just as the representatives of Donbass [eastern Ukraine where ethnic Russians who had supported Yanukovych have declared independence] are. This is one component.
The second thing that has to be done – the law passed earlier on the special status of these territories – Luhansk and Donetsk, the unrecognized republics, should be enacted. It was passed, but still not acted upon. This requires a resolution of the Supreme Rada – the Ukrainian Parliament – which is also covered in the Minsk agreements. Our friends in Kiev have formally complied with this decision, but simultaneously with the passing by the Rada of the resolution to enact the law they amended the law itself … which practically renders the action null and void. This is a mere manipulation, and they have to move from manipulations to real action.
The third thing is a law on amnesty. It is impossible to have a political dialogue with people who are threatened with criminal persecution. And finally, they need to pass a law on municipal elections on these territories and to have the elections themselves. All this is spelled out in the Minsk agreements, this is something I would like to draw your attention to, and all this should be done with the agreement of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Unfortunately, we still see no direct dialogue, only some signs of it, but too much time has passed after the Minsk agreements were signed. I repeat, it is important now to have a direct dialogue between Luhansk, Donetsk and Kiev – this is missing.
Also missing is any objective and professional explanation of this crisis in the mainstream American press. Instead, The New York Times and other major U.S. news organizations have continued with their pattern of 1984-ish propaganda.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
NATO’s rapid response Spearhead Force in Europe might reach 40,000 troops, a tenfold growth from the initial 4,000-strong force deployed last year, the military alliance’s chief said. Most of these troops will be stationed near Russian borders.
“NATO defense ministers … [will] make a decision to further increase the strength and capacity of the 13,000-strong NATO Response Force (NRF) to 30,000 or 40,000 troops,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday.
The decision is to be officially announced during NATO’s defense ministers meeting on June 24-25 in Brussels.
The troops will be under the command of 6 HQs to be stationed in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. The Spearhead Force will include Special Forces and rapid response teams, enforced with marine and air components.
A new rapid reaction force ready to be deployed within 48 hours was initially intended to consist of 4,000 troops.
The Spearhead Force has already held its first military drills codenamed Noble Jump in Poland. The war games became “the biggest reinforcement” of defense since Cold War times, said Stoltenberg, adding that the alliance is facing challenges from “the behavior of a more assertive” Russia.
Last week, Stoltenberg criticized Russia for announced plans to add to its nuclear arsenal 40 newly made intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2015.
“This nuclear saber-rattling of Russia is unjustified. It’s destabilizing and it’s dangerous. This is something which we are addressing, and it’s also one of the reasons we are now increasing the readiness and preparedness of our forces,” Stoltenberg said during a news briefing in Brussels last Tuesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin made the announcement about further development of the strategic nuclear armed forces in response to a report that the US is seriously considering deployment of heavy weapons to new NATO member states on permanent basis.
The chill in Russia-US relations already resemble the worst years of the Cold War, yet experts warn that further escalation of the Ukrainian crisis could lead to an open standoff between Moscow and Washington.
If Washington opts to send armaments to Kiev authorities, as some Republicans congressmen want, Moscow would react immediately, experts quoted in US media believe.
Washington should pursue a diplomatic solution for its conflict with Russia, former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul told The New York Times.
“The US-Russia conflict is not going to be resolved in weeks or months,” McFaul said. “This challenge will take years, even decades.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Western countries against making “unfulfillable” demands during nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF 2015) on Friday, Putin said that Iran and the P5+1 group of counties are able to reach an agreement over Tehran’s nuclear program in the near future, cautioning the West against putting excessive, unfeasible demands on the Middle Eastern country.
The Russian leader also anticipated that it would take almost six months to implement a possible nuclear accord between Tehran and the six world powers.
“I think the signing should take place in the near future… the process of implementing these agreements will begin afterwards. It will require about six months,” the Sputnik news agency quoted him as saying.
The Russian president further stressed that the only counterproductive issue that jeopardizes Iran’s prospective nuclear deal is a deliberate effort on the part of Washington to undermine any such agreement.
“It is no less important [than signing the agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program] that the United States treat this positively, [that they] support it, [that] the Congress support it,” Putin noted, adding that it is Washington’s responsibility to settle the internal disputes over Tehran’s nuclear deal.
“This is not our problem… We cannot solve Washington’s problems,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also said that it is possible for Iran and the P5+1 group to secure a final deal before the deadline.
“There are less problems in [this] round [of talks], and reaching the agreement before June 30 is possible,” he stated.
Representatives from Iran and the P5+1 – the United States, the UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany – are currently holding talks in the Austrian capital city of Vienna to finalize the text of a possible deal over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Meanwhile, reports also said that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is set to head to Luxemburg on Monday to hold talks with his European counterparts and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
The two sides seek to reach a comprehensive final deal based on a mutual understanding on the key parameters agreed upon in the Swiss city of Lausanne on April 2.
Not content to merely blockade and shell its citizens in Donbass post-Maidan Ukraine is now also looking to squeeze ethnic Ukrainians in Transnistria
Transnistria president Yevgeny Shevchuk is one of Transnistria’s 160,000 ethnic Ukrainians
Transnistria (or Pridnestrovie – “land along the Dniester”) is the spiritual predecessor of Novorossiya. It is a small, de facto independent, state taking up a strip of land along the left bank of the mighty Dniester river. The territory in question is internationally recognized as being part of Moldova but has a Slavic majority.
Transnistrian independence is a result of a joint Russian-Ukrainian uprising in the 1990s.
As Soviet Union dissolved the Slavic left-bank of the former Moldavian SSR sought independence, especially since Moldova was being shaken by a movement that sought the unification of this Romanian-speaking country with Romania.
For Slavs on Dniester’s left-bank this would have meant leading the existence of a tiny minority among 25 million Romanian speakers, and furthermore would have meant returning under the rule of their former occupiers – during WWII Romania occupied a chunk of southern Ukraine and was not well-remembered among the Slav populace. As one would expect they were not too thrilled about the prospect.
Indeed, Pridnestrovie’s inclusion into Moldovan SSR was highly artificial in the first place.
In the interwar period the Soviet Union lay claim on the historic region of Bessarabia on the right bank of the Dniester which had been part of Russian Empire but was inhabited by a Romanin majority and was at this time part or Romania. To enhance its claim the Soviets dreamt up a “Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic” out of southern Ukraine along the border with Romania on the Dniester and maintained that this “Moldavia” properly extends to cover the entire Romanian region of Bessarabia.
In 1940 under Stalin the Soviets fulfilled their ambition and after seizing Bessarabia formed a highly dubious “Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic” out of this majority ethnic Romanian territory and the Ukrainian left-bank Dniester. Essentially, exactly in the same way that inclusion of Romanina-majority Bessarabia into the (Slav-majority) Soviet Union was artificial and forced, so was the inclusion of Slav-majority left-bank Dniester into the Moldavian SSSR.
In 1992 when Slavs of Transnistria who are an equal mix of ethnic Ukrainians and Russians rebelled, Ukrainians and Russians recognized the validity of their cause. Volunteers from both Russia and Ukraine flocked to help in their fight.
What is particularly interesting is that volunteers included both Russian and Ukrainian nationalists. Among the Ukrainian volunteers one could find members of the ultra nationalist UNA-UNSO – which is the oldest and the largest of the groups which today forms the Ukrainian Right Sector coalition.
In other words, back in 1992 Ukrainians, including extreme anti-Russian nationalists, were convinced Transnistria deserved to be helped and that it was wrong to demand of ethnic Ukrainians there to submit to rule from the other side of the Dniester (or even from Bucharest in Romania) that they experienced as alien.
(However, the decisive role in the conflict was not played by such volunteers but by the remnants of the Soviet Army in the region which put itself between the warring sides and deterred attempts of the stronger Moldavian/Romanian side to resolve the matter by force. Russian peacekeepers in the region today are a continuation of this force.)
In the mean time much has changed. Today Transnistrians complain (1,2,3) that Ukraine is working with Moldovans to exert pressure against them and get them to submit to Moldova. This pressure consists of a military build up along the Ukrainian-Transnistrian border, a blockade against Russian peacekeepers in Transnistria, making it hard for Transnistrians with Russian passports to travel, and making it difficult for Transnistria to export goods except through Moldovan customs.
Kiev has justified these moves by essentially painting Transnistria as Putin’s military colony. This is highly dubious since Transnistria is very much a geostrategic liability. It is tiny (population of 0.5 million), landlocked, borders only Moldova and Ukraine and covers a thin strip of land – which is therefore highly vulnerable. It may have some value as leverage in relation to Moldova, but it is the case that Moldova itself is a small (population of 3 million), impoverished and landlocked country of little to no strategic significance itself. The reality is that Moscow sees its presence in Transnistria as a moral and possibly political, but not military, asset.
The real reason why Kiev feels the need to denounce Transnistria is because the enclave is in so many ways the antithesis of post-Maidan Ukraine. Culturally and politically it is far closer to Crimea and Donbass than what Ukraine is moving towards. … Full article
I’m not sure if there’s been a better written book published yet this year than Ukraine: Zbig’s Grand Chessboard and How the West Was Checkmated, but I’m confident there’s not been a more important one. With some 17,000 nuclear bombs in the world, the United States and Russia have about 16,000 of them. The United States is aggressively flirting with World War III, the people of the United States have not the foggiest notion of how or why, and authors Natylie Baldwin and Kermit Heartsong explain it all quite clearly. Go ahead and tell me there’s nothing you’re now spending your time on that’s less important than this.
This book may very well be the best written one I’ve read this year. It puts all the relevant facts — those I knew and many I didn’t — together concisely and with perfect organization. It does it with an informed worldview. It leaves me nothing to complain about at all, which is almost unheard of in my book reviews. I find it refreshing to encounter writers so well-informed who also grasp the significance of their information.
Nearly half the book is used to set the context for recent events in Ukraine. It’s useful to understand the end of the cold war, the irrational hatred of Russia that pervades elite U.S. thinking, and the patterns of behavior that are replaying themselves now at higher volume. Stirring up fanatical fighters in Afghanistan and Chechnya and Georgia, and targeting Ukraine for similar use: this is a context CNN won’t provide. The partnership of the neocons (in arming and provoking violence in Libya) with the humanitarian warriors (in riding to the rescue for regime change): this is a precedent and a model that NPR won’t mention. The U.S. promise not to expand NATO, the U.S. expansion of NATO to 12 new countries right up to the border of Russia, the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty and pursuit of “missile defense” — this is background that Fox News would never deem significant. U.S. support for the rule of criminal oligarchs willing to sell off Russian resources, and Russian resistance to those schemes — such accounts are almost incomprehensible if you’ve consumed too much U.S. “news,” but are explained and documented well by Baldwin and Heartsong.
This book includes excellent background on the use and abuse of Gene Sharp and the color revolutions instigated by the U.S. government. A silver lining may be found, I think, in the value of nonviolent action recognized by all involved — whether for good or ill. The same lesson can be found (for good this time) in the civilian resistance to Ukrainian troops in the spring of 2014, and the refusal of (some) troops to attack civilians.
The Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004, the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003, and Ukraine II in 2013-2014 are recounted well, including detailed chronology. It’s truly remarkable how much has been publicly reported that remains buried. Western leaders met repeatedly in 2012 and 2013 to plot the fate of Ukraine. Neo-Nazis from Ukraine were sent to Poland to train for a coup. NGOs operating out of the U.S. Embassy in Kiev organized trainings for coup participants. On November 24, 2013, three days after Ukraine refused an IMF deal, including refusing to sever ties to Russia, protesters in Kiev began to clash with police. The protesters used violence, destroying buildings and monuments, and tossing Molotov cocktails, but President Obama warned the Ukrainian government not to respond with force. (Contrast that with the treatment of the Occupy movement, or the shooting on Capitol Hill of the woman who made an unacceptable U-turn in her car with her baby.)
U.S.-funded groups organized a Ukrainian opposition, funded a new TV channel, and promoted regime change. The U.S. State Department spent some $5 billion. The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State who handpicked the new leaders, openly brought cookies to protesters. When those protesters violently overthrew the government in February 2014, the United States immediately declared the coup government legitimate. That new government banned major political parties, and attacked, tortured, and murdered their members. The new government included neo-Nazis and would soon include officials imported from the United States. The new government banned the Russian language — the first language of many Ukrainian citizens. Russian war memorials were destroyed. Russian-speaking populations were attacked and murdered.
Crimea, an autonomous region of Ukraine, had its own parliament, had been part of Russia from 1783 until 1954, had publicly voted for close ties to Russia in 1991, 1994, and 2008, and its parliament had voted to rejoin Russia in 2008. On March 16, 2014, 82% of Crimeans took part in a referendum, and 96% of them voted to rejoin Russia. This nonviolent, bloodless, democratic, and legal action, in no violation of a Ukrainian constitution that had been shredded by a violent coup, was immediately denounced in the West as a Russian “invasion” of Crimea.
Novorossiyans, too, sought independence and were attacked by the new Ukrainian military the day after John Brennan visited Kiev and ordered that crime. I know that the Fairfax County Police who have kept me and my friends away from John Brennan’s house in Virginia have had no clue what hell he was unleashing on helpless people thousands of miles away. But that ignorance is at least as disturbing as informed malice would be. Civilians were attacked by jets and helicopters for months in the worst killing in Europe since World War II. Russian President Putin repeatedly pressed for peace, a ceasefire, negotiations. A ceasefire finally came on September 5, 2014.
Remarkably, contrary to what we’ve all been told, Russia didn’t invade Ukraine any of the numerous times we were told that it had just done so. We’ve graduated from mythical weapons of mass destruction, through mythical threats to Libyan civilians, and false accusation of chemical weapons use in Syria, to false accusations of launching invasions that were never launched. The “evidence” of the invasion(s) was carefully left devoid of location or any verifiable detail, but has all been decidedly debunked anyway.
The downing of the MH17 airplane was blamed on Russia with no evidence. The U.S. has information on what happened but won’t release it. Russia released what it had, and the evidence, in agreement with eye-witnesses on the ground, and in agreement with an air-traffic controller at the time, is that the plane was shot down by one or more other planes. “Evidence” that Russia shot the plane down with a missile has been exposed as sloppy forgeries. The vapor trail that a missile would have left was reported by not a single witness.
Baldwin and Heartsong close with the case that U.S. actions have backfired, that in fact whether the people of the United States have any idea what is going on or not, the power brokers in Washington have shot themselves in the foot. Sanctions against Russia have made Putin as popular at home as George W. Bush was after he’d managed to exist as president while planes were flown into the World Trade Center. The same sanctions have strengthened Russia by turning it toward its own production and toward alliances with non-Western nations. Ukraine has suffered, and Europe suffers from a cut-off of Russian gas, while Russia makes deals with Turkey, Iran, and China. Evicting a Russian base from Crimea seems more hopeless now than before this madness began. Russia is leading the way as more nations abandon the U.S. dollar. Retaliatory sanctions from Russia are hurting the West. Far from isolated, Russia is working with the BRICS nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and other alliances. Far from impoverished, Russia is buying up gold while the U.S. sinks into debt and is increasingly viewed by the world as a rogue player, and resented by Europe for depriving Europe of Russian trade.
This story begins in the irrationality of collective trauma coming out of the holocaust of World War II and of blind hatred for Russia. It must end with the same irrationality. If U.S. desperation leads to war with Russia in Ukraine or elsewhere along the Russian border where NATO is engaging in various war games and exercises, there may be no more human stories ever told or heard.
By Finian Cunningham – Strategic Culture Foundation – June 15, 2015
In a sane world, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond should be forced to quit his post in disgrace as the country’s top diplomat, following reckless remarks that Britain may henceforth site American nuclear weapons to counter the “threat from Russia.” So here we have an alarming escalation of international tensions and militarism by both Washington and London – and all on the back of unproven, prejudicial words from the close Anglo-American allies, who are clearly working in tandem.
Hammond’s overt reversal to Cold War mentality comes as Washington is also reportedly considering the deployment of “first-strike” nuclear missiles in various European Union countries. The Americans are claiming that move is “in response” to Russia violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Moscow is accused of testing land-based cruise missiles banned under the INF. Russia has flatly denied this American claim, which – as is becoming the norm in other contentious matters – has not been supported with any evidence from Washington.
This slanderous attitude toward Russia is doubly contemptible, because not only is it calumnious, the deception also serves as a political and moral cover that allows the Anglo-American rulers to take outrageous steps toward jeopardising international peace, with the unprecedented deployment of nuclear weapons.
On the issue of Britain siting American nuclear weapons, Hammond told the rightwing Daily Telegraph :
I think it is right to be concerned about the way the Russians are developing what they call asymmetric warfare doctrine… We have got to send a clear signal to Russia that we will not allow them to transgress our red lines. We would look at the case [of installing American nuclear weapons on British soil]. We work extremely closely with the Americans. That would be a decision that we would make together if that proposition was on the table. We would look at all the pros and the cons and come to a conclusion.
For self-serving good measure, the British foreign minister linked the nuclear issue with alleged Russian aggression in east Ukraine, adding:
There have been some worrying signs of stepping up levels of activity both by Russian forces and by Russian-controlled separatist forces.
Hammond tried to sound ambivalent about the deployment of US nuclear weapons from British territory – in addition to Britain’s own nuclear arsenal – but the mere fact that his government is weighing the possibility is in itself a reckless, inflammatory move. If Britain were to do so, it reverses the prohibition on such American forces that followed the end of the Cold War more than 20 years ago.
Ironically, while Hammond was this week leading the Westminster parliament’s push for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, it may be noted that the British public is not given a say on whether their country once again becomes part of the United States’ nuclear strike force.
But perhaps the real sacking offence for Hammond is that he is dangerously militarising foreign policy based on absolutely no reasonable evidence; indeed, based on outright disinformation. Just like his American allies in Washington, the Conservative Party minister is making all sorts of hysterical claims against Russia, ranging from posing a threat to Europe, to using “asymmetric war doctrine,” to invading east Ukraine and undermining the Minsk ceasefire. (A ceasefire that Moscow worked hard to broker with Germany and France back in February, in the significant absence of both Washington and London.)
Without any credible information, the American and British governments appear to be moving incrementally toward a pre-emptive nuclear strike capability against Russia. As the Associated Press reported last week, albeit using euphemistic language:
The options go so far as one implied – but not stated explicitly – that would improve the ability of US nuclear weapons to destroy military targets on Russian territory.
The Americans, Britain or NATO have not produced a shred of verifiable evidence that Russia has violated the INF treaty, or is subverting Ukraine, or is threatening any other European country.
On the east Ukraine conflict, it is in fact reliably reported by the Minsk ceasefire monitoring group of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well by local media sources and pro-separatist officials, that the latest surge in violence is coming from the Western-backed Kiev regime. That violence includes the shelling of residential centres in Donetsk City and surrounding towns and villages, which has resulted in dozens of civilian deaths over the past week.
How the British and American governments can make out that Russia is the aggressor and is subverting the Minsk ceasefire is simply a prejudicial assertion that is based on no facts. Moreover, such a view is a distortion of the facts to the point of telling barefaced lies.
That the British foreign secretary can make such misleading and apparently misinformed comments about the Ukraine conflict and Russia in general, and then seek to overhaul Britain’s military policy to install American nuclear weapons on British territory is worthy of a ministerial sacking due to gross incompetence.
Hammond’s embrace of nuclear militarism in the midst of a tense East-West political standoff has not gone unnoticed in Britain. His bellicose remarks have caused controversy, with several anti-war campaign groups reviling the reckless reversal to Cold War mentality. Nevertheless, it is a worrying sign of the mainstream malaise that Hammond’s incompetence has not incurred even greater public condemnation.
Underlying the American and British governments’ foreign policy is just this: a Cold War ideology, which views the entire world in terms of “external threats.” Russia and China are once again foremost as the perceived and portrayed enemies.
In an interview last week with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted:
As for some countries’ concerns about Russia’s possible aggressive actions, I think that only an insane person and only in a dream can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack NATO.
By deduction, this kind of reasoning categorises people like Britain’s Hammond as “insane.” The same goes for US President Barack Obama and his administration. Addressing the recent G7 summit in Germany, Obama exhorted: “We must face down Russian aggression.”
It might be asked: why do Washington and London in particular always interpret the world in terms of enemies, threats and aggression?
Part of the answer may be that these powers are themselves the biggest practitioners of illegal aggression to pursue foreign policy goals. Imperialism – the use of military force to underpin political and economic objectives – is part and parcel of how America and Britain operate in the world. Aggression and militarism are fundamental instruments of Anglo-American capitalism, as much as banking, trade and investment deals.
There is thus a very real sense of “devil’s conscience” at play in the international relations of Washington and London. They both fear retribution and revenge because of their own criminal conduct toward the rest of the world. In a word, the Anglo-American world view boils down to paranoia.
The militarisation of foreign relations is also an effective, vicarious way to exert control over nominal allies. If external threats can be sufficiently talked up, then that creates a contrived sense of “defence” among “allies” who then look to dominant leaders for “protection.” Such mind games are typical of the way Washington and London have promoted NATO as the protector of “European allies” from “Russian aggression.”
The same mind game is at play over Washington’s interference in Asia-Pacific, where the Americans are trying to cast China as the “evil aggressor” toward smaller nations, who then turn to Washington for “protection” – and large amounts of money to buy American weapons, courtesy of the Fed’s dollar-printing press.
On the matter of alleged Russian aggression, Putin, in the interview cited above, went on to aptly comment:
I think some countries are simply taking advantage of people’s fears with regard to Russia… Let’s suppose that the United States would like to maintain its leadership in the Atlantic [EU] community. It needs an external threat, an external enemy to ensure this leadership. Iran is clearly not enough – this threat is not very scary or big enough. Who can be frightening? And then suddenly this crisis unfolds in Ukraine. Russia is forced to respond. Perhaps, it was engineered on purpose, I don’t know. But it was not our doing.
Speaking to the editor of Corriere della Sera, Putin added:
Let me tell you something – there is no need to fear Russia. The world has changed so drastically that people with some common sense cannot even imagine such a large-scale military conflict today. We have other things to think about, I assure you.
That is why politicians like British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond are compelled to vilify Russia and conjure up nightmares of invasions, large-scale military conflicts, and nuclear weapons. Without scaremongering, there cannot be warmongering; and without warmongering Anglo-American capitalism cannot exert the hegemonic relations that it requires in order to operate.
This Anglo-American world view remains regressively stuck in a bygone era of managing international relations through violence and aggression and even, if needs be, through instigating all-out war.
Such people as Britain’s Philip Hammond, his Prime Minister David Cameron and on the American side, Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, John Kerry, do not of course deserve to be in a position of government, if we lived in a sane world.
But that’s the kind of politician that the Anglo-American capitalist system selects, because they promote the essentials of the system through their draconian mentality of aggression and war. The diabolical shame is that these insane people are capable of bringing cataclysm upon millions of innocent human beings.
Kicking out such politicians would be a start to averting war. Better still would be kicking out the entire insane system that anyway only ever enriches a small minority at the painful expense of the majority. That “expense” includes enduring the perennial risk of war and, dare we say, annihilation.
© Strategic Culture Foundation
Russian oil major Rosneft and BP are close to signing a $700 million deal for BP to acquire a 20 percent stake in the Taas-Yuriakh Siberian oilfield, reports the FT. The deal could be announced this week at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
The introduction of EU sanctions against Russia hasn’t scared off the largest European companies, working in the fuel and energy sector, according to the Financial Times.
Besides BP, Italy’s Eni and Norway’s Statoil have already received governmental approval to continue working on joint projects with Rosneft. Shell continues to work with Gazprom Neft over the Salym project in the Siberian Khanty-Mansiysk area and is seeking Dutch government approval for other joint ventures.
The news comes as the G7 claimed they are ready to extend sanctions last week. The announcement was also made just days prior to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, dubbed the ‘Russian Davos’.
The heads of BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total will visit the event which starts on Thursday. America’s Boston Consulting and Ernst & Young are also expected to attend, which could be a sign Washington and Brussels want dialogue with Moscow.
As EU sanctions are not so diehard as American, European companies with pre-existing contracts have a possibility to even expand their activities in Russia and don’t want to miss the opportunity, says James Henderson, senior fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.
“European companies are finding ways and are certainly freer to do business than their US counterparts… US companies are going to be hugely disadvantaged as we go forward because EU sanctions are not retroactive and US ones are,” Henderson told the FT.
“We stay out of the politics… We have a lot of experience in Russia … our commitment is to remain,” BP CEO Bob Dudley told CNBC this month.
Statoil is planning to drill two wells with Rosneft at the onshore Siberian North Komsomolskoye field this summer, and two wells in the Okhotsk Sea on the edge of the Pacific in summer 2016.
Eni has not disclosed any plans, but the FT, referring to sources familiar with the situation, assume the Italians may continue work on a Black Sea license with Rosneft.
Recent news has shown China quickly gaining ground against a West which has for centuries maintained hegemony over Asia Pacific. Beyond Asia, China has been steadily expanding its influence throughout Africa and the Middle East. Together with Russia, Iran and other nations of the “East,” they are constructing what is commonly referred to as a “multi-polar” world order.
This multi-polar world order stands in contrast to the unipolar order the West has sought to impose for decades after the end of the World Wars and is a continuation of Western imperialism carried out by the British and other European empires during the decline of the Ottoman Empire.
But is what the East doing truly building an alternative to the West’s brand of hegemonic imperialism? Or is it simply more of the same under a different label? Moreover, is the West’s behavior coaxing other nations to unify under a singular, consolidated banner, only to be rolled under the West’s vision of an international order ruled from Washington, Wall Street, London and Brussels?
These are questions that must be asked and explored particularly by the people who gravitate toward the East the most. They understand the threat of Western hegemony and the very real damage it has and still is inflicting upon humanity. From the devastation of Iraq and Afghanistan, to the wars raging in Yemen, Syria and Libya, Western designs have taken unstable tinderboxes around the globe and turned them into raging infernos.
Naturally, people look for a force to counter such inhumane violence, bloodshed and shameless exploitation and manipulation. They see that counter in Russia, China and those in their spheres of influence. And while in the past these nations have indeed served as counterweights to the forces of fascism or imperialism, one must always be careful not to simply back one hegemon over another.
For Moscow, Beijing and across the other BRICS nations, they must understand that the support and success they enjoy is specifically because they offer what many believe is an alternative to, not a replacement for Western hegemony. The world sees BRICS as a viable alternative specifically because they are not setting up military bases in foreign lands, intervening militarily thousands of miles from their borders and working with nations instead of coercing them. As soon as they cease to uphold these principles, they will cease to serve as a relevant alternative to the West.
China in particular has been long criticized by the West for doing business with any nation regardless of their so-called human rights record. The West however, makes these criticisms because it disrupts their ability to exploit human rights as a pretense to meddle diplomatically, militarily and economically in any targeted country. Meanwhile, the West gladly has conducted long-term business with the most egregious human rights offenders on Earth, the Saudi regime chief among them.
China has repeatedly, sometimes even painfully reasserted the primacy of national sovereignty in ruling over all international relations. It must not only continue to reassert this message diplomatically, but also pragmatically throughout its foreign policy. Not only is it a matter of self-interest, preventing foreign interests from dictating to Beijing what it should do within its own borders, but it helps set a solid precedent in establishing a new multi-polar global order.
Supranational Institutions Old and New
Russia, China and the rest of BRICS are themselves creating a variety of supranational institutions and military alliances to compete against those of the West, particularly the IMF, World Bank, NATO, and even the UN itself. However, while doing this, they must ensure the preservation, even the encouragement of national sovereignty as the primary organizing principle among these new institutions. And not just on paper, but especially in practice, whether it suits BRICS at the moment or not.
This is because whether those special interests behind BRICS and standing in apparent opposition to the West realize it or not, the very reason they have been given an opportunity by the global public is specifically because they are perceived as being different from the West and the Western way of using their global wealth and influence. And whether it serves their interests immediately or fully, they must fulfill these expectations or suffer the same backlash the West is now facing, both at home and abroad.
The world is changing economically, technologically and culturally. These shifts have not boded well for the concept of “globalization” or even supranational institutions. To seek to create doppelgangers of existing and failing Western supranational and international institutions seems folly at best.
Understanding this, and balancing competition with the West’s existing and still potent institutions, against the changing dynamics of the coming future is essential for the survival and eventual success of BRICS and the multi-polar world they claim to want to create.
A world where technology now empowers one individual to do what once required many people and tremendous resources, constitutes a shift in the balance of power between local communities, nations and global alliances and power brokers. Even if the people have yet to realize this, they will soon. The future of BRICS depends on a collective understanding that fighting this coming shift will lead BRICS to the same cliff the West is currently dangling over.
For the people themselves, they must understand that they have always been in the driver’s seat, even if insidious hands have reached past them to take the wheel for the majority of this trip. Realizing that the people, not special interests have the ability to steer the world toward a path we would all like to see it on is our greatest bet. We need not obsessively support one bloc over another, subscribing almost religiously to political parties, personalities and brands, but should instead agree on a set of principles and only back those as long as they uphold those principles.
By attaching ourselves to political parties, personalities and brands, we stand only to be inevitably disappointed. On the other hand, principles are inextinguishable, indomitable and everlasting. In the ongoing game of geopolitics, if ever we want to finally break the continuous turning of the wheel of history, we must stop following those whose hands are turning that wheel, and follow the principles that always and forever lead forward.
When Russia, China and the rest of BRICS stand up for national sovereignty, non-interventionism and non-military expansionism, we should applaud them not because they are simply BRICS, but because of the principles they are upholding. When they fail to do so, we must also, and as equally as vocal, condemn them.