Lame duck out of the Silk Road caravan

World leaders during the APEC Summit family photo in Beijing November 10, 2014. Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott standing behind Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd L) (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

World leaders during the APEC Summit family photo in Beijing November 10, 2014. Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott standing behind Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd L) (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

By Pepe Escobar

There’s hardly a more graphic illustration of where the multipolar world is going than what just happened at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing.

Take a very good look at the official photos. This is all about positioning – and this being China, pregnant with symbolic meaning. Guess who’s in the place of honor, side by side with President Xi Jinping. And guess where the lame duck leader of the “indispensable nation” has been relegated. The Chinese can also be masters at sending a global message.

When President Xi urged APEC to “add firewood to the fire of the Asia-Pacific and world economy,” this is what he meant, irrespective of inconclusive decisions out of the summit.

1) Beijing will go no holds barred for the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) – the Chinese vision of an “all inclusive, all-win” trade deal that really promotes Asia-Pacific cooperation, instead of the US-driven, corporate-redacted, and quite divisive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

2) The blueprint is on for “all-round connectivity,” in Xi’s words – which implies Beijing setting up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank; Beijing and Moscow committing to a second mega gas deal – this one through the Altai pipeline in Western Siberia; and China already funneling no less than $40 billion to start building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

World leaders take their seats as China's President Xi Jinping (C) prepares to deliver opening remarks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' meeting at the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing, November 11, 2014 (Reuters / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

World leaders take their seats as China’s President Xi Jinping (C) prepares to deliver opening remarks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ meeting at the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing, November 11, 2014 (Reuters / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Once again, everything converges towards the most spectacular, ambitious and wide-ranging pluri-national infrastructure offensive ever attempted: the multiple New Silk Roads – a complex network of high-speed rail, pipelines, ports, fiber optic cables and state of the art telecom that China is already building through the Central Asian -stans, linked to Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Indian Ocean, and branching out to Europe all the way to Venice and Berlin.

That’s Beijing interlinking Xi’s “Asia-Pacific Dream” way beyond East Asia, with eyes set on pan-Eurasia trade – with the center being, what else, the Middle Kingdom.

The “Go West” campaign was officially launched in China in the late 1990s. The New Silk Roads are a turbocharged “Go West” – and “Go South” – expanding markets, markets, markets. Think of near future Eurasia as a massive Chinese Silk Belt – in some latitudes in a condominium with Russia.
You want your war hot or cold?

As Beijing dreams, Noam Chomsky has been very vocal about a 1914-style chain reaction of catastrophic blunders – by the West – that could fast spin out of control; and the stakes, once again, are nuclear. Moscow absolutely abhors this gruesome possibility – and that explains why Russia, under relentless US provocation, as well as sanctions, has exercised titanic restraint. Not only can Russia not be “isolated” as the US attempted with Iran; Moscow also called the US neo-cons’ bluff in Ukraine.

At the Valdai Club meeting in Sochi, President Putin, in a crucial speech (text plus Q&A) obviously ignored by Western corporate media, drew the necessary conclusions. The Washington/Wall Street elites have absolutely no intention of allowing a minimum of multipolarity in international relations. What’s left is chaos. That’s what I’ve been arguing, over different strands, during the Obama administration years, and is at the center of my new book “Empire of Chaos”.

Moscow knows all about the complex interlinks with Europe – especially Germany – and with the still fading, but still influential, Washington Consensus. And yet Russia holds the trump card of being a Eurasian power; when in trouble, there could always be a pivoting to Asia.

Gorbachev was spot on in Berlin when he stressed how, breaking the promise personally made to him by Bush the father, NATO embarked on an eternal eastward expansion; and how the West – essentially the US plus a few European vassals – now seems obsessed in launching a new cold war, with the new Berlin Wall – metaphorically – transplanted to Kiev.

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders pose for a family photo at the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing, November 11, 2014 (Reuters / Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders pose for a family photo at the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing, November 11, 2014 (Reuters / Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Moscow pivoting away from the West and towards East Asia is a process developing on many levels – and for months now, for all to see. Acres of forest can be further devastated to print how the outcome has been directly influenced by Barack Obama’s self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” foreign policy doctrine, which he christened aboard Air Force One when coming from a trip to – once again – Asia last April.

On energy, the spin by the Financial Times of yet another Russia-China mega gas deal as “Putin’s revenge” is proverbial rubbish. Russia is turning east because that’s where the top demand is. On finance, Moscow has just ended the pegging of the ruble to the US dollar and euro; the US dollar instantly dropped against the ruble. VTB for its part announced it may leave the London Stock Exchange for Shanghai’s – which is about to become directly linked to Hong Kong. And Hong Kong, for its part, is already attracting Russian energy giants.

Now mix these key developments with the massive yuan-ruble energy double deal, and the picture is of Russia actively protecting itself from speculative/politically motivated Western attacks against its currency.

The Russia-China symbiosis/strategic partnership visibly expands on energy, finance and, also inevitably, on the military technology front. That includes, crucially, Moscow selling Beijing the S-400 air defense system and, in the future, the S-500.

The S-500 system can intercept any American ICBMs or cruise missiles, while the Russian ICBMs deployed at Mach 17, equipped with MIRVs, are simply unbeatable. Beijing, for its part, is already developing its own surface-to-ship missiles that can take out everything the US Navy can muster – from aircraft carriers to submarines and mobile air defense systems.
Join the caravan

Strategically, Beijing and Washington could not but be polar opposites in what I called the birth of the Eurasian century.

Beijing has clearly identified Washington/Wall Street fighting to the death to preserve the short unipolar moment. China – and the BRICS – is working towards what Xi defined as a “new model of great power relations.” The Washington/Wall Street mindset is “either/or” instead of “win-win”; the self-appointed Masters of the Universe believe they can always monopolize the loot because Russia – and then China – eventually will back down to avoid confrontation. This is the key aspect of Asia-Pacific today somewhat resembling 1914 Europe.

China's President Xi Jinping delivers opening remarks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' meeting at the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing, November 11, 2014 (Reuters / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

China’s President Xi Jinping delivers opening remarks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ meeting at the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing, November 11, 2014 (Reuters / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

With this kind of stuff passing for “analysis” in US academic circles, and with the Washington/Wall Street elites through their myopic Think Tank land still clinging to mythical platitudes such as the “historical” American role as arbiter of modern Asia and key balancer of power, no wonder public opinion in the West cannot even imagine the impact of the New Silk Roads in the geopolitics of the young 21st century.

A quarter of a century after the fall of the Berlin Wall the US, for all practical purposes, is run by an oligarchy. Europe is geopolitically irrelevant. “Democracy” has been degraded to self-parody in most of the West. “Humanitarian” – as well as neo-con – imperialism in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and beyond has led to disaster after disaster. Financial turbo-capitalism is a time bomb.

Russia and China may not be proposing an alternative system – yet. Still, as the dogs of war, of hate, of inequality – bark, the China-Russia caravan passes. The caravan is selling Eurasia economic integration – not bombs. Real Asia-Pacific integration may still be a long dream away. Yet what APEC has shown – graphically – once again is the spectacular implosion, in slow motion, of the former indispensable nation’s geopolitical dominance.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
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How Russia and Germany may save Europe from war – By Pepe Escobar

 

Are the US, NATO and Russia on a mad spiral leading to war in Europe? Is it inevitable? Far from it. The US-propelled vassal Petro Poroshenko, currently starring in the oligarch dance in Ukraine this week advanced the proposition that Ukrainians in the near future, after his “reforms”, will be asked to vote on whether to join NATO. Let’s be serious here. Some of you may be familiar with the concept of “shatter belt” - territories and peoples that historically have been squeezed between the Germanic Eagle and the Russian Bear. As we stand, the whole shatter belt – apart from Ukraine and Belarus – has become NATO members. Were Ukraine to become a NATO member in – albeit remote – future, the shatter belt buffer zone would disappear. This means NATO – essentially the US – planted right on Russia’s western border. Washington has just announced that it will be pre-positioning more military vehicles in Europe, to be used in exercises or “potential military operations.” This is perfectly in tune with the relentless US “think tank-land” spin that NATO and the US will be “forced” to balance their commitment to security in Eastern Europe against potential Russian “aggression.” As Ukraine, the Baltic States and Poland persist in compounded hysteria about such “aggression,” the option of a post-MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) US-Russia nuclear war is now – casually - back on the discussion table. At least there’s a countercurrent; strands of informed Americans are wondering why the US should be paying for Europe’s defense when European GDP is larger than the US’s.

The air defense missile system “Patriot” (AFP Photo/Bernd Wustneck/Germany Out)

 

November 28, 2014

Are the US, NATO and Russia on a mad spiral leading to war in Europe? Is it inevitable? Far from it.

The US-propelled vassal Petro Poroshenko, currently starring in the oligarch dance in Ukraine this week advanced the proposition that Ukrainians in the near future, after his “reforms”, will be asked to vote on whether to join NATO.
Let’s be serious here. Some of you may be familiar with the concept of “shatter belt” – territories and peoples that historically have been squeezed between the Germanic Eagle and the Russian Bear.
As we stand, the whole shatter belt – apart from Ukraine and Belarus – has become NATO members. Were Ukraine to become a NATO member in – albeit remote – future, the shatter belt buffer zone would disappear. This means NATO – essentially the US – planted right on Russia’s western border.
Washington has just announced that it will be pre-positioning more military vehicles in Europe, to be used in exercises or “potential military operations.” This is perfectly in tune with the relentless US “think tank-land” spin that NATO and the US will be “forced” to balance their commitment to security in Eastern Europe against potential Russian “aggression.”
As Ukraine, the Baltic States and Poland persist in compounded hysteria about such “aggression,” the option of a post-MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) US-Russia nuclear war is now – casually – back on the discussion table. At least there’s a countercurrent; strands of informed Americans are wondering why the US should be paying for Europe’s defense when European GDP is larger than the US’s.

Iskander high-precision missile system in place during military exercises. (RIA Novosti/Alexei Danichev)

Iskander high-precision missile system in place during military exercises. (RIA Novosti/Alexei Danichev)

 Wanna play war, boy?

Now for the “threat” of nuclear war in Europe – bogus or otherwise. It’s pointless to compare the US and Russia strategic nuclear capabilities based on numbers, but not on quality.

Take the compounded GDP of US, Germany, France and England and compare it to Russia; it’s a victory by a landslide. Then examine the strategic nuclear scenario, and it’s a totally different story. GDP alone does not “win” anything.

Washington/Wall Street elites are now deep into nuclear war paranoia. A few studiesat least hint at the obvious; glaring US strategic weakness.

Consider some of the basics:

– Russian ICBMs armed with MIRVs travel at about 18 Mach; that is way faster than anything in the US arsenal. And basically they are unbeatable.

– The S-400 and S-500 double trouble; Moscow has agreed to sell the S-400 surface-to-air missile system to China; the bottom line is this will make Beijing impermeable to US air power, ICBMs and cruise missiles. Russia, for its part, is already focusing on the state of the art S-500 – which essentially makes the Patriot anti-missile system look like a V-2 from WWII.

– The Russian Iskander missile travels at Mach 7 – with a range of 400km, carrying a 700kg warhead of several varieties, and with a circular error probability of around five meters. Translation: an ultimate lethal weapon against airfields or logistic infrastructure. The Iskander can reach targets deep inside Europe.

– And then there’s the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA.

NATO clowns dreaming of a war on Russia would have to come up with an ironclad system to knock out these Iskanders. They don’t have any. Additionally, they would have to face the S-400s, which the Russians can deploy all over the spectrum.

Think of a hefty batch of S-400s positioned at the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad; that would turn NATO air operations deep inside Europe into an absolutely horrendous nightmare. On top of it, good ol’ NATO fighter jets cost a fortune. Imagine the effect of hundreds of destroyed fighter jets on an EU already financially devastated and austerity-plagued to death.

As if this was not enough, no one knows the exact extent of NATO’s strategic capabilities. Brussels is not talking. Extra-officially, these capabilities are not exactly a marvel. And Russian intelligence knows it.

Still assuming those NATO clowns would insist on playing war, Moscow has already made it very clear Russia would use their awesome arsenal of 5,000-plus tactical nuclear weapons – and whatever else it takes – to defend the nation against a NATO conventional attack. Moreover, a few thousand S-400 and S-500 systems are enough to block a US nuclear attack.

None of this hair-raising Apocalypse Now scenario is even taking into account the Russia-China alliance – the major, game-changing Eurasian story of the 2010s.

 

S 400 "Triumf" air defense missile systems (RIA Novosti/Alexey Kudenko)

S 400 “Triumf” air defense missile systems (RIA Novosti/Alexey Kudenko)

 

Just in case the “pivoting to Asia” gang starts harboring funny ideas about the Middle Kingdom as well, China is massively investing in bouncing lasers off satellites; satellite-hitting missiles; silent submarines that surface beside US aircraft carriers without detection; and a made in China anti-missile missile that can hit a reentering satellite moving faster than any ICBM.

In a nutshell; Beijing knows the US surface fleet is obsolete – and undefendable. And needless to add, all of these Chinese modernizing developments are proceeding way faster than anything in the US.

A modest proposal

The spin in the US has been relentless; Russia is expanding towards a 21st century empire.

Here, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explains in detail how this is undiluted rubbish. What has actually happened is that Moscow deftly called the Brzezinski-inspired bluff in Ukraine – with all its overtones. No wonder the Empire of Chaos is furious.

And yet there is a solution to defuse the current, hysterical rush to war logic. Here I have examined in some detail how Washington is playing Russian roulette. Now it’s time to advance a modest proposal – as it has been discussed by a few concerned analysts from the US, Europe and Asia.

Essentially, it’s very simple. It’s up to Germany. And it’s all about undoing Stalin.

Stalin, at the outset of WWII, took East Prussia from Germany and moved the eastern part of Poland into Ukraine. Eastern Ukraine was originally from Russia; it is part of Russia and was given by Lenin to Ukraine.

So let’s have East Prussia returned to Germany; the eastern part of Poland returned to Poland; and eastern Ukraine as well as Crimea – which Khrushchev gave to Ukraine – returned to Russia.

Everyone get its share. No more Stalin. No more arbitrary borders. That’s what the Chinese would define as a “triple win” situation. Of course the Empire of Chaos would fight it to death; there would be no more chaos manipulated to justify a crusade against bogus Russian “aggression”.

The ball is in Germany’s court. Now it’s up to East Prussians to present the facts to Angela Merkel. Let’s see if she’s able to get the message.

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