Posts Tagged ‘Pipelineistan’

Emerging Eurasian alliance: a new power balance

October 6, 2014

Silk-Road-Map1

While the attention of the USA is focused on the ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria, the most important thing going on in international affairs is the rising power of China, its ties with Russia and the future of the heartland of the Eurasia continent.

Pepe Escobar, the roving correspondent for Asia Times, sums up the situation in a new article for TomDispatch.  If things keep going the way they are now, China will be the world’s strongest industrial power, with Russia as its supplier of oil and gas and maybe Germany as its machinery supplier and India as its back office.

Vladimir Putin has the ambition of restoring Russia as one of the world’s great powers.  To do that, it is to his interest to have good relations both with China and with the nations of the European Union.   But United States and NATO policy are driving him into the arms of China.

New cold wars between NATO and Russia, and between the USA and China, give both Russia and China all the more reason to join forces across the interior of Eurasia.

The framework of a Russian-Chinese alliance is the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement, which includes Russia, China and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.   This is not yet a tight military alliance such as NATO or a formal economic union such as the European Union. but it could become either or both.  India, Pakistan and Iran have expressed interest in joining.

One of the ways the Obama administration seeks to offset a Eurasian alliance is through the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (aka the Transatlantic Free Trade Area).

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Why China and Russia draw closer together

May 29, 2014
One possible pipeline route

A possible gas route

If a problem cannot be solved, it may not be a problem, but a fact.
    ==Donald Rumsfeld

In April President Obama visited nations on the rim of eastern Asia to reassure them of U.S. support against China, whose government has aggressively laid claim to islands in the East China Sea that these nations regard as their territory.

China’s response has been to strengthen its ties with its inland neighbors, especially Russia and Russia’s client states in central Asia.   Last week China announced a $400 billion deal to buy natural gas from Russia.

At the same time President Xi Jinping called for greater military co-operation among China, Russia and Iran.

Another possible route

Another possible route

Guests at the Russian-Chinese conference included Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Nasr al-Maliki of Iraq and Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.  Ironically, their presence together was made possible by the U.S.-backed regime change in Iraq and Afghanistan.  If Saddam Hussein were still in power in Iraq, he would not be found in the same room with a leader of Iran.  And the Taliban in Afghanistan, before the invasion, were much more anti-Russian than anti-USA.

Pepe Escobar, who has long reported on these developments for Asia Times, says that the most important event of the 21st century will be the economic integration of the Eurasian continent.

Many things could go wrong with this.  Just because something is announced doesn’t necessarily mean that it will happen.  But I don’t have any specific reason for doubting this will come true.

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China, Russia and the future of Eurasia

May 19, 2014

centralasian_pipelines

When the Bolshevik Revolution occurred, European and American Marxists were surprised.  Marxist theory said Communism would come first to the most economically advanced countries.

But Bertrand Russell, in The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism, wrote that Russia was the only country in which a Communist revolution could have taken place, aside from the USA.  A Communist revolution in Germany, France, Britain or some other country would be soon been destroyed by invasion or economic blockade of the capitalist countries.

The same was true of China, another country where a Communist revolution was not supposed to occur, but which has become, or is well on its way to become, the world’s leading economic power.  Russia and China are members of the BRICS bloc, a loose association which also includes Brazil, India and South Africa.  These rising nations see themselves as an alternative to the old G-7 group, consisting of  the USA, Canada, Britain, France, German, Italy and Japan.

Pepe Escobar, a roving foreign correspondent for Asia Times, interprets U.S. foreign policy as a doomed attempt to prevent Russia and China from dominating the heart of Eurasia, which he calls “Pipelineistan”.

While the USA has sacrificed its industrial base to financialization and militarization, China and Russia have been building up their energy infrastructure in the part of the world that is least vulnerable to American air and sea power or to blockade.  China is working on roads, railroads, pipelines and fiber optic networks that will reach across central Asia and Russia all the way to Europe, and negate U.S. control of the sea lanes.

Escobar wrote:

Embedded in the mad dash toward Cold War 2.0 are some ludicrous facts-on-the-ground: the US government, with $17.5 trillion in national debt and counting, is contemplating a financial showdown with Russia, the largest global energy producer and a major nuclear power, just as it’s also promoting an economically unsustainable military encirclement of its largest creditor, China.

Russia runs a sizeable trade surplus. Humongous Chinese banks will have no trouble helping Russian banks out if Western funds dry up.  In terms of inter-BRICS cooperation, few projects beat a $30 billion oil pipeline in the planning stages that will stretch from Russia to India via Northwest China.

Chinese companies are already eagerly discussing the possibility of taking part in the creation of a transport corridor from Russia into Crimea, as well as an airport, shipyard, and liquid natural gas terminal there.   And there’s another “thermonuclear” gambit in the making: the birth of a natural gas equivalent to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that would include Russia, Iran, and reportedly disgruntled US ally Qatar.

The (unstated) BRICS long-term plan involves the creation of an alternative economic system featuring a basket of gold-backed currencies that would bypass the present America-centric global financial system.

via TomDispatch.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey for the link)

Unless either China or Russia changes course, the future of Russia is to be an energy and raw materials hinterland to China, the world’s leading industrial power.  It should be needless to say that this is not a development I welcome.  I would not wish anyone I care about to live under China’s or Russia’s authoritarian governments.

What should the United States do about this?  We should be building up our own country’s industrial strength rather than trying to prevent the rise of other nations.

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Russia’s stake in Ukraine

February 22, 2014

3 Gas pipelines west

gaspipelines.russia.europe

I try to resist the American tendency to choose sides in foreign conflicts I don’t understand.   But I can’t help but sympathize with Ukrainians who want their country to be free of Russian influence.

I know the history of how Joseph Stalin killed millions of Ukrainians, including targeted killings and deportations of prosperous farmers (kulaks) and an intentional famine to force Ukrainians into government-controlled collective farms.  I remember the happiness of my Ukrainian-American acquaintances in Rochester, NY, when the Soviet Union broke up and Ukraine became a sovereign nation.

But the maps above show why the Russian government would not tolerate a hostile Ukraine.   Russia cannot compete as an industrial nation with the advanced economies of Europe, North America and the Far East.   Its economy is dependent on exports of oil and gas from Siberia and Central Asia.  The maps show how many of Russia’s vital gas pipelines to Russia go through Ukraine.

I believe that, as a general rule with very few exceptions, the United States government should not interfere in the internal conflicts of foreign nations.  I think interference in the Ukrainian conflict would be especially unwise because it would be a challenge to the vital interests of the only country in the world that, because of its nuclear arsenal, has the capability of destroying the United States.

My father always used to say that you should never start a fight you weren’t prepared to finish.  There’s something worse than that, which is to encourage others to start fights they can’t finish in the false expectation that you will help them.  I remember how in 1956 the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe encouraged the Hungarians to rise up against their Soviet occupiers (I was in basic training in the U.S. Army at the time) when the U.S. government had no intention of coming to their aid and risking a nuclear confrontation with the USSR.

I thought then that it was shameful to give the Hungarian Freedom Fighters the false hope that Americans would come to their aid.  I think it would be equally shameful to give the same false hope to any of the Ukrainian factions.

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I think blog posts by Rod Dreher and Daniel Larison of The American Conservative (both of them Eastern Orthodox Christians, by the way) show good sense.  Dreher is noteworthy, too, for the excellent comment threads on his posts.

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/ukraine-dying-in-vain-freedom/

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/the-dangerous-desire-to-take-sides-in-other-nations-conflicts/

Links for weekend browsing 5/31/13

May 31, 2013

Here are links to articles I found interesting, and you might find interesting, too.

Our American Pravda by Ron Unz.

The publisher of the American Conservative writes that many important news stories are ignored by the major U.S. newspapers and broadcasters, including the mystery of the 2001 anthrax attacks, evidence that American POWs were left behind in Vietnam and charges by an FBI whistleblower of a high-level espionage ring.  Ron Unz says you need to use the Internet to find the real news.

Postal service is on its last legs, with little help in sight in the Los Angeles Times.

OC&LpostofficeAs a government corporation, the U.S. Postal Service has the worst of both worlds—a requirement to make a profit, but no freedom of action to do the things necessary to make a profit.  Even so, the USPS might be able to survive if not for the requirement that it fund retirement benefits 50 years in advance—far longer than the USPS is likely to be in existence, unless things change.

At Universities, Too, the Rich Grow Richer by Lawrence Wittner.

Graham Spanier, the president of Pennsylvania State University, received $2.9 million in salary for the 2011-2012 academic year, the year he was forced to resign in disgrace over the Penn State pedophile scandal.   He is an example of how state universities reflect the U.S. trend to huge compensation packages for top executives, wage stagnation for middle-level workers and a growing number of low-paid temporary workers (adjuncts) at the bottom.

Why is the FBI helping a monstrous dictator? by Ted Rall.

A cartoonist and syndicated columnist asks why the FBI has arrested an opponent of Uzbekistan’s corrupt and hated dictator, Islam Karimov, who has massacred his own people and literally boiled opponents alive.  Karimov was so odious that the Bush administration severed relations, but the Obama administration restored the connection, because of Uzbekistan’s strategic location and Karimov’s help in prosecuting the war in Afghanistan.

The geography of pipelineistan

March 28, 2013

Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times in Hong Kong writes about what he calls “Pipelineistan”—the region in the heartland of the Eurasian continent where China, Russia, the USA and other powers are jockeying for control of oil and gas resources and pipeline routes.   I like maps, and spent a couple of hours yesterday doing Google Image searches of maps of the region, and here is what I found.

The first map shows the recently-opened 5,400-mile natural gas pipeline, connecting China’s resource-rich, majority-Muslim Xinjiang western region with its manufacturing centers in the east.  It is the longest natural gas pipeline in the world.

1. china-east-west-gas-pipeline

Next is a map of China’s oil and gas pipelines reaching into Central Asia.   The longest is 1,100 miles, and their combined reach is 2,000 miles.  Notice the extension to the border of Iran.

2. china-central-asia-gas-pipelines

While China’s economic expansion in the post-Mao era has been mostly peaceful, the Chinese in Central Asia work with some of the most vicious tyrannies on the planet, as do the governments of Russia and the USA.  Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, for example, is a killer and torturer on a scale exceeding Saddam Hussein.

Next is a map showing China’s land and sea access to energy resources, which shows why the Chinese government prefers pipelines to vulnerable sea routes.

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The changing world economic balance of power

March 27, 2013

The BRICS nations—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—are in the process of organizing a new economic bloc that could rival the European Union and the North American free trade area.   They are holding a summit meeting which began yesterday in Durban, South Africa.

Financial Times 2010.  Double click to enlarge.

Financial Times 2010. Double click to enlarge.

Pepe Escobar, the intrepid foreign correspondent of Asia Times in Hong KongSingapore, explained the significance of the BRICS summit meeting.

The BRICS push is part of an irresistible global trend. Most of it is decoded here, in a new United Nations Development Programme report. The bottom line; the North is being overtaken in the economic race by the global South at a dizzying speed.

According to the report, “for the first time in 150 years, the combined output of the developing world’s three leading economies – Brazil, China and India – is about equal to the combined GDP of the long-standing industrial powers of the North”.

The obvious conclusion is that, “the rise of the South is radically reshaping the world of the 21st century, with developing nations driving economic growth, lifting hundreds of millions of people from poverty, and propelling billions more into a new global middle class.”

via Asia Times Online.

The Economist.  Click to enlarge.

The Economist. Click to enlarge.

The BRICS economies are diverse but complementary.  China and India are important and growing manufacturing nations.  Brazil, Russia and South Africa are important producers of raw materials.

If present trends continue (which may not happen) they could dominate the world economy in a few decades.   RT News reported that the governments of Egypt, Mexico and Indonesia have expressed interest in joining the BRICS bloc.

BRICS representatives at the South African summit discussed creating a new Bank of the South that would give Third World nations an alternative to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, and pledged $10 billion to the new BRICS bank.   They also discussed creating their own credit rating agency, so that their finances won’t be subject to the opinions of Moody’s or Standard & Poor’s.

China and Brazil signed an $80 billion trade agreement in which they’ll trade in their own currencies rather than dollars.  China recently replaced the United States as Brazil’s largest trading partner.

President Obama’s secret negotiations to create a Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which would lock governments in to current rules concerning corporations and finance, can be seen as an attempt to head off the emergence of a new bloc in which the United States would play no part.

I don’t see that I, as a middle-class American, am threatened in any way by the emergence of BRICS.   I don’t think that the International Monetary Fund or the World Trade Organization operate in my interest or the interests of American working people.  We Americans can thrive if we as a nation turn away from military dominance and devote ourselves to creating a productive economy.

The key BRICS relationship is the one between China and Russia.  It brings to mind my reading about geopolitics years ago—whether world power came from dominating the Eurasian Heartland or from dominating the world’s sea lanes.  The nuclear-powered U.S. Navy commands the seas, but doesn’t affect the present-day equivalents of China’s overland Silk Road.

China is turning to Russia for the oil and natural gas it needs to fuel its economic growth.  Since Russia’s own reserves of oil and gas are dwindling, this means Russia must develop new supplies in the warming Arctic in the long run and control the oil and gas of Central Asia—what Pepe Escobar calls Pipelineistan—in the short run.

Last week Chinese President Xi Jinpin met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.  Escobar reported that the result is an agreement by China to pay in advance for Russian oil, in return for a share in Russian oil development projects in Siberia and offshore.  Pipelines across Central Asia will give China access to Iranian oil by land, which would negate any U.S. naval blockade of Iran.  Pepe Escobar explained the significance.

The geopolitical ramifications are immense; importing more gas from Russia helps Beijing to gradually escape its Malacca and Hormuz dilemma – not to mention industrialize the immense, highly populated and heavily dependent on agriculture interior provinces left behind in the economic boom.

That’s how Russian gas fits into the Chinese Communist Party’s master plan; configuring the internal provinces as a supply base for the increasingly wealthy, urban, based in the east coast, 400 million-strong Chinese middle class.

When Putin stressed that he does not see the BRICS as a “geopolitical competitor” to the West, it was the clincher; the official denial that confirms it’s true.

via Asia Times Online.

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