Posts Tagged ‘Pipelinestan’

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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China, Russia and the future of Eurasia

May 19, 2014

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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

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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/

Pepe Escobar on Obama and Iran

April 18, 2012

Pepe Escobar, an enterprising and outspoken reporter for the Asia Times of Hong KongSingapore, thanks that President Obama’s demands on Iran are like President George W. Bush’s demands on Iraq—something meant to provide a justification for war.  Click on Surrender now or we’ll bomb you later for his analysis.  I added Escobar’s columns to my ResourcesLinks menu.  He presents facts and ideas which you won’t get from most U.S. newspapers.  He is especially good on power politics in Central Asia, which he calls Pipelineistan.