Irresponsibly Freezing Russian Assets

 

Irresponsibly Freezing Russian Assets

 

French and Belgian Russian asset freezes along with extending EU sanctions through January came (not coincidentally) on day one of the 19th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).

It’s an impressive annual three-day event attracting thousands of participants – including world political and business leaders, journalists and others from dozens of countries worldwide.

The Forum’s web site states:

“SPIEF gathers the leading decision-makers of the emerging economic powers to identify and deliberate the key challenges facing Russia, emerging markets, and the world at large, while engaging communities to find common purpose and establish frameworks to forge solutions which will drive the growth and stability agenda.”

Vladimir Putin welcomed participants calling SPIEF “a platform for candid discussions to be held on a wide range of economic, financial and social issues, with long-term contracts and agreements being concluded on the sidelines.”

“The slogan for this year’s event, ‘Time to Act: Shared Paths to Stability and Growth’, reflects our strategy in the new realities of today’s global economy.”

“I firmly believe that the ideas and proposals formulated at this year’s Forum will go a long way towards improving economic cooperation and strengthening mutual trust.”

In response to EU nations extending sanctions, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia will respond based on the “principle of reciprocity” – indicating Moscow’s counter-sanctions will remain in force.

Neither side benefits. Russian Railways head Vladimir Yakunin called sanctions “economic masochism.” EU nations continue acting against their own interests by playing Washington’s dirty game – a futile attempt to marginalize, weaken, contain and isolate Russia.

In response, Moscow established closer ties with China and other nations unwilling to harm their own interests by supporting Washington’s.

France and Belgium acted irresponsibly by freezing Russian assets. French authorities targeted VTB, Russia’s second largest bank.

Diplomatic accounts were frozen, then unlocked. Rossiya Segodnya international news agency’s bank accounts were seized. The operation includes Sputnik News.

At the same time, Belgian authorities seized Russian assets – including its Embassy’s and Permanent UN Mission accounts.

The action relates to contested Russian debt former Yukos Oil owners claim they’re owed. The company declared bankruptcy after Moscow demanded it pay back taxes evaded for years.

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky spent more than a decade in prison (2003 – 2013) for embezzlement and tax evasion. In the 1990s, he was Russia’s richest oligarch with close ties to Kremlin bureaucrats.

In 1995, he bought Yukos assets for $300 million – a tiny fraction of their worth. In 2003, their market value was $30 billion – a 100-fold ill-gotten gain.

In July 2014, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ordered $50 billion paid to former Yukos shareholders. It called the company “the object of a series of politically motivated attacks.”

Russia’s Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov said freezing Russian assets is “a blatant violation of international law.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry called Belgium’s actions “an unfriendly act…a blatant (international law) violation.” It indicated retaliatory measures may follow if what happened isn’t reversed.

Putin aide Andrey Belousov called actions by France and Belgium politicized. “Moscow hopes to avoid a new escalation in relations,” he said. At the same time, it’s “considering a number of measures to deal with” what happened if things aren’t resolved responsibly.

Last November, Moscow appealed PCA’s $50 billion Yukos decision – on grounds of lacking jurisdiction over internal Russian affairs. Without justification, the Court claimed Russia’s “primary objective…was not to collect taxes but rather to bankrupt Yukos and appropriate its valuable assets.”

Russian oligarch Khodorkovsky amassed great wealth the old-fashioned way. During an October 2008 Council to Combat Corruption session, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said:

Corruption in our nation has not simply become wide-scale. It has become a common, everyday phenomenon which characterizes the very life of our society.

We are not simply talking about commonplace bribery. We are talking about a severe illness which is corroding the economy and corrupting all society.”

According to an earlier Russian Internal Affairs Ministry estimate, annual corruption ranges from $20 – $40 billion. Other assessments indicate much greater amounts of stolen wealth – involving business, government officials and bureaucrats.

French and Belgian moves had nothing to do with alleged Moscow law violations. They were entirely politically motivated – connected to Washington’s Russia bashing agenda pressuring EU nations to do much of its dirty work against their own self-interest.

The latest moves are tied to SPIEF’s opening, nonexistent “Russian aggression” in Ukraine, its successful English and other foreign language media effectively countering Western propaganda, and America’s longstanding regime change objective.

What can’t go on forever, won’t. At least eight EU countries support lifting Russian sanctions – Austria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, even France.

Heavy US pressure keeps them from acting in their own self-interest – for how long remains to be seen.

Posted by Stephen Lendman

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

The Andrei Stenin International Press Photo Contest

The Andrei Stenin International Press Photo Contest will be held in Moscow at Rossiya Segodnya’s initiative. The contest was named after a Rossiya Segodnya photojournalist, Andrei Stenin, who died in eastern Ukraine in August 2014. Andrei was awarded the Order of Courage (posthumously) for bravery and heroism in the performance of his professional duties. The contest is a way to remember Andrei Stenin as a wonderful professional and human being. From December 22, 2014, to June 3, 2015, experts of the photography community around the world will have a chance to bring to light new names, support and promote high standards in photojournalism and enhance quality standards in documentary photography.

THE ANDREI STENIN
INTERNATIONAL PRESS PHOTO CONTEST
The entry deadline is
11:59 pm Moscow Time on April 15, 2015.

VISIT PAGE

Nemtsov murder: Putin warned about exactly this type of “false flag” two years ago

Already in February 2012 (two years ago!) Putin was warning Russians about exactly the kind of false flag which we just saw happening with the murder of Nemtsov.  See for yourself:

Putin in 2012 – Opposition is looking to turn someone into “involuntary martyr”. Re: Nemtsov

 

 

Note: the Russian word “provocatsiia” is often translated as “provocation” which is not incorrect as long as you are aware that in Russian “provocation” can mean “false flag”, as it does in this context.  Putin is clearly warning about a false flag “sacrifice”.

This video was emergency-translated by one of our “brother in arms”, Tatzhit, to whom I am most grateful for this ultra-rapid translation.

As for the “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system” opposition it has already announced that it will convert the planned protest into a memorial rally.

Published on Feb 27, 2015

One thing needs to be kept in mind concerning the recent Nemtsov murder: he was a politician way past his prime. According to a recent Levada Center poll, most Russians didn’t even know he existed.

Moreover, as can be seen in the poll (link below), opposition leaders like Mironov, Yavlinski, Kudrin, Navalny, Ryzhnkov, Dmitrieva all scored LOWER on name recognition but HIGHER on support. Nemtsov was unpopular even among the opposition; this comes from being a Yeltsin-era politician, and hence(perhaps blamelessly) being associated with images of societal collapse and corruption.

Many even argue that Nemtsov was a “decorative” asset for Putin as a stable, familiar, relatively honest but powerless opposition figure.

In short, this is assassination makes no sense: Nemtsov as a martyr is a far, far bigger problem for Putin than he ever was alive – If not within Russia itself, where most people seem to be baffled (this is sort of like if someone assassinated Ross Perot), then on the international diplomatic and mass media stage, where people can be easily convinced Nemtsov was killed because he “was a threat to Putin”.

Three years ago, Putin warned about this exact scenario.
Who benefits? May be internal Russian opposition, Ukrainian government, American government, heck even islamic extremists – but Putin doesn’t benefit, that’s for sure.

Make your own conclusions.

Source video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-njh…

Evidence from an independent polling agency:
http://www.levada.ru/07-02-2014/uznav… (anyone still wanna parrot mainstream media claims that he was a “rising star” of Russian politics and a real threat to Putin?)

Posted by The Saker

Madame Merkel – Between Munich, Moscow, Washington and Minsk — Jet-setting for Peace or Propaganda?

Region:
In-depth Report:

 

Angela-MerkelMadame Merkel attended on 6 February the 6-7 February NATO security Conference in Munich. Then, not listening to what Mr. Lavrov had to say to the conference on 7 February, she jetted with ‘General’ (as in Napoleon) Hollande of France to Moscow to meet ‘urgently’ with Mr. Putin on 7 February to initiate new peace / truce talks on Ukraine. Keeping the results largely under wraps, not to divulge to her own people or the rest of Europe, she stopped briefly over in Germany where she finally talked to Sergei Lavrov, before jetting on to emperor Obama for reporting and consulting.

What does the master say? We don’t know yet – eagerly awaiting the mainstream media spin. It should be hitting us shortly. – Next stop Minsk. Merkel with Holland in tow, for talks with Putin and Poroshenko. What else is new? Poroshenko can’t budge without a nod from Washington – which he will not get, of course. Peace is not part of Obama’s and his henchmen’s game plan. He needs war, and he wants Ukraine.

Does this look like a serious attempt by Europe to reach peace in Ukraine or sheer propaganda? – Taking hapless Hollande along to Moscow and Minsk, makes it look graver, more serious, but is likely just another propaganda stunt, replaying the odd, old German- French tandem; of course, as a new lie campaign, eventually serving to vilify Vladimir Putin. If it all fails. And fail it will, since Washington has no intention to reach an agreement.

The Kremlin will not give in handing over Ukraine on a silver platter to the emperor and his European vassals, nor on any platter for that matter. And rightly so. Everybody knows that, except for the msm-enslaved populace; a vast majority. Unfortunately.

Almost certainly, Mr. Putin stressed again, what he said since the beginning of the conflict, that there are no Russian troops fighting in Ukraine, humanitarian aid is all that Russia delivers to the cruelly bombed and massacred people of Neorussia, the Donbass area. This was recently confirmed by Chief of Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, General Viktor Muzhenkohttp://www.globalresearch.ca/ukrainian-government-no-russian-troops-are-fighting-against-us-sanctions-against-russia-based-on-falshoods/5428523.

Of course, no msm has picked up this little detail. How could they? It would throw out all justification for western sanctions – and it would lay bare the western, Washington-driven lies about Russian military intervention in Ukraine. People may start wondering, who if not Russia, is responsible for the bloody civil war in Ukraine, that has already left more than 5,400 people dead, hundreds of thousands without shelter and heating in the midst of winter – and millions of refugees? – And for downing the Malaysian airliner MH17? – Could we have been hoodwinked by the Empire of Chaos and its European vassals?

Mr. Putin may also have laid out to the odd couple, Merkel-Hollande, what he did since the beginning of the conflict as a condition of peace, or at least a truce – a relative large autonomy for eastern Ukraine, with Russian as an official language – and NO NATO base in Ukraine.

That sounds very reasonable, given the fact that the war was entirely instigated and the Nazi putsch government (sic) put in place by Washington. Madame Nuland, Kerry’s sidekick, testified to this in a telephone conversation on January 28, 2014, about three weeks before the coup, with US ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt. The conversation was published on YouTube. She knew whom she wanted to replace the democratically elected Victor Yanukovitsch with, namely with “Yats”, as she calls him endearingly, the ultra-right wing, fascist Arseniy Yatsenuik, today’s PM of the Kiev junta of thugs and murderers. She later bragged about it at the Washington Press Club.

Again, the msm-lie and deceit machine is as of this day silent about it, lest Mr. Putin could no longer be demonized and his country ‘sanctioned’ – sanctions, which badly backfire especially on Europe – who has built up close and friendly business and trade relationships with Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This was a logical step, not only from a geographic point of view; but also seen from an economic development ‘growth’ perspective.

Now – is Ms. Merkel seriously brokering for peace, because the German economy and the Euro may be at stake if Germany is shut out of Russia and the rest of the Eastern markets – all of Central Asia and China?

Keep in mind, there is already the Eurasian Customs Union, to become the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) as of 2015, with the member states including Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. In addition, there is the overlapping Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, with potentially new members of Afghanistan, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan.

Turkey and India are also SCO contenders, but with India betraying the BRICS and seemingly rapidly defecting into the lush neoliberal Obama camp, and Turkey being torn apart, on the one hand as Europe’s key NATO base, and on the other, disgusted by Europe and increasingly leaning towards Russia and China – their SCO membership remains in suspense for now.

The SCO, created in 2001, is a politico-economic and military association. Together the EEC and the SCO account for about 25% of the world population and close to 30% of the world’s economic output. The eastern alliance under Russian-Chinese leadership is well on course of establishing its own monetary system, detached from the fraudulent dollar scheme.

Then there are the remaining BRICS, plus Argentina, Venezuela and possibly others that would gladly be migrating out of Washington’s oppressive fangs into a friendly economic environment, where national sovereignty still counts and is respected.

Given all these facts, is it too farfetched to assume that Madame Merkel may have seen the light after all, racing to Obama, telling him the obvious? That without a change of Washington’s policy towards Russia not only the European economy may collapse, but that the US economy may not survive either? – That with WWIII or even a new Cold War over Ukraine, the world as we know it may eclipse? – That he, Mr. Obama, the emperor of the exceptional nation, should put his bets on other horses than conflict and eternal war, and instead start thinking of peace and cooperation?

It would be fair to assume that Washington knows all that. There has been a pattern for the last 35 years, the hegemonic implementation of a neoliberal dogma; controlling energy, food, money and people under a one world order, be it as it may, through financial and economic subjugation as with Greece and other southern European states, or with endless outright military aggression directly or by proxy (as in bought (mis)leaders and mercenaries), à la Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, Sudan, Thailand, Yemen, and-so-on – and Ukraine. They, the master and his cronies, will not let go, no matter what concessions Putin would be willing to make. Pursuit of the PNAC’s (Plan for a New American Century) objective, Full Spectrum Dominance, knows no mercy. Obama himself is a mere marionette of corporate empire, led by the military industrial complex and the Zionist-Anglo-Saxon banking system.

Madame Merkel, regardless of the tenor and contents of your discussion in Washington, it is up to you, whether you want to lead Europe out of her conundrum – of her wavering between prosperity and submission – between war and peace.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, Sputnik News, the Voice of Russia / Ria Novosti, TeleSur, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe.

Will NATO annex Ukraine?

Anti-government protesters carry an injured man on a stretcher in Independence Square in Kiev February 20, 2014 (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)

Anti-government protesters carry an injured man on a stretcher in Independence Square in Kiev February 20, 2014 (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)

 

By Pepe Escobar

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.

Will NATO annex Ukraine?

Anyone who believes Washington is deeply enamored of ‘democracy’ in Ukraine must hit eBay, where Saddam Hussein’s WMDs have been found, and are on sale to the highest bidder.

Or pay attention to the non-denial denials of the Obama administration, which swears on a daily basis there’s no ‘proxy war’ or Cold War redux in Ukraine.

In a nutshell; Washington’s bipartisan Ukraine policy has always been anti-Moscow. That implies regime change whenever necessary.

As the European Union (EU), geopolitically, is nothing but an annex to NATO, what matters is NATO extending its borders to the Ukraine. Or at least Western Ukraine – which would be a valuable consolation prize.

This is a purely military-centric game – the logic of the whole mechanism ultimately decided in Washington, not in Brussels. It’s about NATO expansion, not ‘democracy’. When neo-con State Department functionary Victoria Nuland had her 15 seconds of fame recently, what she actually meant was “We’re NATO, F**k the EU.” No wonder there will be an urgent NATO Defense Ministers meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, centered on Ukraine.

No one will ever read that in US corporate media – or in academia for that matter. Harvard Professor Francis Boyle talking to Voice of Russia, or Princeton’s Stephen Cohen in a recent article for the Nation, are glaring exceptions.

Every informed analyst knows the mastermind of this ‘policy’, since the 1970s, is Zbigniew ‘The Grand Chessboard’ Brzezinski. Dr. Zbig was US President Barack Obama’s mentor at Columbia and is the Talleyrand of the Obama administration’s foreign policy machine.

He may have softened up a notch recently, arguing that although the US must remain the supreme power across Eurasia, Russia and Turkey must be seduced by the West. Yet his historic Russophobia was never diluted.

‘Saint’ Yulia is back

As we’re now on the road (again) of regime change in Ukraine, that seems not such a lousy deal for only $5 billion – the amount volunteered by neo-con Nuland herself. Compare it to other lavish Bush-Obama continuum foreign adventures, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Syria. Yet expect major bumps ahead.

Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko addresses anti-government protesters gathered at Independence Square in Kiev February 22, 2014 (Reuters / Yannis Behrakis)

Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko addresses anti-government protesters gathered at Independence Square in Kiev February 22, 2014 (Reuters / Yannis Behrakis)

Most arguably progressive, as well as some rabidly right wing, Google generation denizens in Western Ukraine and in Kiev seem to entertain the notion that the country, under regime change, will be accepted as an EU member, they will get an EU passport, and will find a good job in Europe, just as Polish plumbers and Romanian restaurant managers did.

Well, not really. If only they could board an EasyJet and see with their own eyes what’s going on, job market-wise, in southern Europe or in London for that matter, now terrified of a horde of Eastern Europeans seizing English jobs.

As for the ultra-nationalists and frankly neo-fascists – totally anti-EU – the only thing they care about is to get rid of the Russian Bear’s embrace. And then what?

In the West’s ardor for ‘democracy’ it’s so easy to forget that Western Ukrainian fascists were aligned with Hitler against the USSR. It’s their descendants that have been in the forefront of the hardcore violence last week. And Right Sector still insists they will continue to ‘protest’. In this sense they may not be Washington’s preferred puppets; they are just momentarily useful patsies.

As for former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko – now elevated in the West to the status of a blonde Mother Teresa – she has called the Maidan (Independence) Square protesters “liberators.” They may soon liberate themselves from her – after highly corrupt ‘Saint’ Yulia runs for president next May.

The Ukraine that works – in the east and south – is made up of historic Russian provinces, think Kharkov, the Black Sea, Crimea. The country’s GDP is roughly $157 billion. That’s one fifth of Turkey (which may become the new Pakistan). As it is, Ukraine holds no economic value whatsoever to the West (even less if it becomes the new Syria). The only ‘positive’ would be NATO’s warped strategic advance.

Anyone who believes a mired-in-crisis EU will buy Ukraine out of is economic mess could once again bid for Saddam’s WMDs on eBay.

Or imagine the US Congress handing out $15 billion for Ukraine to smooth out its foreign debt, not to mention reducing the price of imported gas – just like Moscow did last December.

Say hello to my Iskander

The multi-billion dollar question now is what Russian President Vladimir Putin will do. One must feel tempted to detect roars of laughter in the Kremlin corridors.

For starters, Putin will decide whether or not Moscow will buy $2 billion in Ukrainian eurobonds after there’s a new government in Kiev, as Gazeta.ru reported. Kiev will get absolutely nothing from Moscow until it’s clear the new regime will play ball, in the interests of holding the country together.

‘Saint’ Yulia, by the way, was originally thrown in jail because of a gas deal that was negotiated on Moscow’s high price terms. Back to hard facts: Ukraine cannot survive without Russian gas, and the Ukrainian industry cannot survive without the Russian market. One can mix all shades of Orange, Tangerine, Campari or Tequila Sunrise revolution, and throw in the requisite IMF ‘structural adjustment’ correction – these facts are not going to change. And forget about the EU ‘buying Ukrainian’.

The Western Orangeade gang – from masters to servants – may still bet on civil war, Syria-style. Anarchy looms – provoked by the neo-fascists. It’s up to Ukrainians to reject it. A sound solution would be a referendum. Get the people to choose a confederation, a partition (there will be blood) or keeping the status quo.

Here’s a very possible scenario. Eastern and southern Ukraine become part of Russia again; Moscow would arguably accept it.

Western Ukraine is plundered, disaster capitalism-style, by the Western corporate-financial mafia – while nobody gets a single EU passport. As for NATO, they get their bases, ‘annexing’ Ukraine, but also get myriads of hyper-accurate Russian Iskander missiles locked in their new abode. So much for Washington’s ‘strategic advance’.

Can China and Russia Squeeze Washington Out of Eurasia? By Pepe Escobar

 

The Future of a Beijing-Moscow-Berlin Alliance
By Pepe Escobar

PepeEscobar_AT

 

 

A specter haunts the fast-aging “New American Century”: the possibility of a future Beijing-Moscow-Berlin strategic trade and commercial alliance. Let’s call it the BMB.

Its likelihood is being seriously discussed at the highest levels in Beijing and Moscow, and viewed with interest in Berlin, New Delhi, and Tehran. But don’t mention it inside Washington’s Beltway or at NATO headquarters in Brussels. There, the star of the show today and tomorrow is the new Osama bin Laden: Caliph Ibrahim, aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the elusive, self-appointed beheading prophet of a new mini-state and movement that has provided an acronym feast — ISIS/ISIL/IS — for hysterics in Washington and elsewhere.

No matter how often Washington remixes its Global War on Terror, however, the tectonic plates of Eurasian geopolitics continue to shift, and they’re not going to stop just because American elites refuse to accept that their historically brief “unipolar moment” is on the wane. For them, the closing of the era of “full spectrum dominance,” as the Pentagon likes to call it, is inconceivable. After all, the necessity for the indispensable nation to control all space — military, economic, cultural, cyber, and outer — is little short of a religious doctrine. Exceptionalist missionaries don’t do equality. At best, they do “coalitions of the willing” like the one crammed with “over 40 countries” assembled to fight ISIS/ISIL/IS and either applauding (and plotting) from the sidelines or sending the odd plane or two toward Iraq or Syria.

NATO, which unlike some of its members won’t officially fight Jihadistan, remains a top-down outfit controlled by Washington. It’s never fully bothered to take in the European Union (EU) or considered allowing Russia to “feel” European. As for the Caliph, he’s just a minor diversion. A postmodern cynic might even contend that he was an emissary sent onto the global playing field by China and Russia to take the eye of the planet’s hyperpower off the ball.

Divide and Isolate

So how does full spectrum dominance apply when two actual competitor powers, Russia and China, begin to make their presences felt? Washington’s approach to each — in Ukraine and in Asian waters — might be thought of as divide and isolate.

In order to keep the Pacific Ocean as a classic “American lake,” the Obama administration has been “pivoting” back to Asia for several years now. This has involved only modest military moves, but an immodest attempt to pit Chinese nationalism against the Japanese variety, while strengthening alliances and relations across Southeast Asia with a focus on South China Sea energy disputes. At the same time, it has moved to lock a future trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), in place.

In Russia’s western borderlands, the Obama administration has stoked the embers of regime change in Kiev into flames (fanned by local cheerleaders Poland and the Baltic nations) and into what clearly looked, to Vladimir Putin and Russia’s leadership, like an existential threat to Moscow. Unlike the U.S., whose sphere of influence (and military bases) are global, Russia was not to retain any significant influence in its former near abroad, which, when it comes to Kiev, is not for most Russians, “abroad” at all.

For Moscow, it seemed as if Washington and its NATO allies were increasingly interested in imposing a new Iron Curtain on their country from the Baltic to the Black Sea, with Ukraine simply as the tip of the spear. In BMB terms, think of it as an attempt to isolate Russia and impose a new barrier to relations with Germany. The ultimate aim would be to split Eurasia, preventing future moves toward trade and commercial integration via a process not controlled through Washington.

From Beijing’s point of view, the Ukraine crisis was a case of Washington crossing every imaginable red line to harass and isolate Russia. To its leaders, this looks like a concerted attempt to destabilize the region in ways favorable to American interests, supported by a full range of Washington’s elite from neocons and Cold War “liberals” to humanitarian interventionists in the Susan Rice and Samantha Power mold. Of course, if you’ve been following the Ukraine crisis from Washington, such perspectives seem as alien as any those of any Martian. But the world looks different from the heart of Eurasia than it does from Washington — especially from a rising China with its newly minted “Chinese dream” (Zhongguo meng).

As laid out by President Xi Jinping, that dream would include a future network of Chinese-organized new Silk Roads that would create the equivalent of a Trans-Asian Express for Eurasian commerce. So if Beijing, for instance, feels pressure from Washington and Tokyo on the naval front, part of its response is a two-pronged, trade-based advance across the Eurasian landmass, one prong via Siberia and the other through the Central Asian “stans.”

In this sense, though you wouldn’t know it if you only followed the American media or “debates” in Washington, we’re potentially entering a new world. Once upon a time not so long ago, Beijing’s leadership was flirting with the idea of rewriting the geopolitical/economic game side by side with the U.S., while Putin’s Moscow hinted at the possibility of someday joining NATO. No longer. Today, the part of the West that both countries are interested in is a possible future Germany no longer dominated by American power and Washington’s wishes.

shadowgovengelhardtMoscow has, in fact, been involved in no less than half a century of strategic dialogue with Berlin that has included industrial cooperation and increasing energy interdependence. In many quarters of the Global South this has been noted and Germany is starting to be viewed as “the sixth BRICS” power (after Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

In the midst of global crises ranging from Syria to Ukraine, Berlin’s geostrategic interests seem to be slowly diverging from Washington’s. German industrialists, in particular, appear eager to pursue unlimited commercial deals with Russia and China. These might set their country on a path to global power unlimited by the EU’s borders and, in the long term, signal the end of the era in which Germany, however politely dealt with, was essentially an American satellite.

It will be a long and winding road. The Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, is still addicted to a strong Atlanticist agenda and a preemptive obedience to Washington. There are still tens of thousands of American soldiers on German soil. Yet, for the first time, German chancellor Angela Merkel has been hesitating when it comes to imposing ever-heavier sanctions on Russia over the situation in Ukraine, because no fewer than 300,000 German jobs depend on relations with that country. Industrial leaders and the financial establishment have already sounded the alarm, fearing such sanctions would be totally counterproductive.

China’s Silk Road Banquet

China’s new geopolitical power play in Eurasia has few parallels in modern history. The days when the “Little Helmsman” Deng Xiaoping insisted that the country “keep a low profile” on the global stage are long gone. Of course, there are disagreements and conflicting strategies when it comes to managing the country’s hot spots: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, the South China Sea, competitors India and Japan, and problematic allies like North Korea and Pakistan. And popular unrest in some Beijing-dominated “peripheries” is growing to incendiary levels.

The country’s number one priority remains domestic and focused on carrying out President Xi’s economic reforms, while increasing “transparency” and fighting corruption within the ruling Communist Party. A distant second is the question of how to progressively hedge against the Pentagon’s “pivot” plans in the region — via the build-up of a blue-water navy, nuclear submarines, and a technologically advanced air force — without getting so assertive as to freak out Washington’s “China threat”-minded establishment.

Meanwhile, with the U.S. Navy controlling global sea lanes for the foreseeable future, planning for those new Silk Roads across Eurasia is proceeding apace. The end result should prove a triumph of integrated infrastructure — roads, high-speed rail, pipelines, ports — that will connect China to Western Europe and the Mediterranean Sea, the old Roman imperial Mare Nostrum, in every imaginable way.

In a reverse Marco Polo-style journey, remixed for the Google world, one key Silk Road branch will go from the former imperial capital Xian to Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, then through Central Asia, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey’s Anatolia, ending in Venice. Another will be a maritime Silk Road starting from Fujian province and going through the Malacca strait, the Indian Ocean, Nairobi in Kenya, and finally all the way to the Mediterranean via the Suez canal. Taken together, it’s what Beijing refers to as the Silk Road Economic Belt.

China’s strategy is to create a network of interconnections among no less than five key regions: Russia (the key bridge between Asia and Europe), the Central Asian “stans,” Southwest Asia (with major roles for Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey), the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe (including Belarus, Moldova, and depending upon its stability, Ukraine). And don’t forget Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, which could be thought of as Silk Road plus.

Silk Road plus would involve connecting the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor to the China-Pakistan economic corridor, and could offer Beijing privileged access to the Indian Ocean. Once again, a total package — roads, high-speed rail, pipelines, and fiber optic networks — would link the region to China.

Xi himself put the India-China connection in a neat package of images in an op-ed he published in the Hindu prior to his recent visit to New Delhi. “The combination of the ‘world’s factory’ and the ‘world’s back office,’” he wrote, “will produce the most competitive production base and the most attractive consumer market.”

The central node of China’s elaborate planning for the Eurasian future is Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Province and the site of the largest commercial fair in Central Asia, the China-Eurasia Fair. Since 2000, one of Beijing’s top priorities has been to urbanize that largely desert but oil-rich province and industrialize it, whatever it takes. And what it takes, as Beijing sees it, is the hardcore Sinicization of the region — with its corollary, the suppression of any possibility of ethnic Uighur dissent.  People’s Liberation Army General Li Yazhou has, in these terms, described Central Asia as “the most subtle slice of cake donated by the sky to modern China.”

Most of China’s vision of a new Eurasia tied to Beijing by every form of transport and communication was vividly detailed in “Marching Westwards: The Rebalancing of China’s Geostrategy,” a landmark 2012 essay published by scholar Wang Jisi of the Center of International and Strategic Studies at Beijing University. As a response to such a future set of Eurasian connections, the best the Obama administration has come up with is a version of naval containment from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea, while sharpening conflicts with and strategic alliances around China from Japan to India. (NATO is, of course, left with the task of containing Russia in Eastern Europe.)

An Iron Curtain vs. Silk Roads

The $400 billion “gas deal of the century,” signed by Putin and the Chinese president last May, laid the groundwork for the building of the Power of Siberia pipeline, already under construction in Yakutsk.  It will bring a flood of Russian natural gas onto the Chinese market.  It clearly represents just the beginning of a turbocharged, energy-based strategic alliance between the two countries. Meanwhile, German businessmen and industrialists have been noting another emerging reality: as much as the final market for made-in-China products traveling on future new Silk Roads will be Europe, the reverse also applies. In one possible commercial future, China is slated to become Germany’s top trading partner by 2018, surging ahead of both the U.S. and France.

A potential barrier to such developments, welcomed in Washington, is Cold War 2.0, which is already tearing not NATO, but the EU apart. In the EU of this moment, the anti-Russian camp includes Great Britain, Sweden, Poland, Romania, and the Baltic nations. Italy and Hungary, on the other hand, can be counted in the pro-Russian camp, while a still unpredictable Germany is the key to whether the future will hold a new Iron Curtain or “Go East” mindset.  For this, Ukraine remains the key.  If it is successfully Finlandized (with significant autonomy for its regions), as Moscow has been proposing — a suggestion that is anathema to Washington — the Go-East path will remain open. If not, a BMB future will be a dicier proposition.

It should be noted that another vision of the Eurasian economic future is also on the horizon.  Washington is attempting to impose a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on Europe and a similar Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Asia.  Both favor globalizing American corporations and their aim is visibly to impede the ascent of the BRICS economies and the rise of other emerging markets, while solidifying American global economic hegemony.

Two stark facts, carefully noted in Moscow, Beijing, and Berlin, suggest the hardcore geopolitics behind these two “commercial” pacts. The TPP excludes China and the TTIP excludes Russia. They represent, that is, the barely disguised sinews of a future trade/monetary war.  On my own recent travels, I have had quality agricultural producers in Spain, Italy, and France repeatedly tell me that TTIP is nothing but an economic version of NATO, the military alliance that China’s Xi Jinping calls, perhaps wishfully, an “obsolete structure.”

There is significant resistance to the TTIP among many EU nations (especially in the Club Med countries of southern Europe), as there is against the TPP among Asian nations (especially Japan and Malaysia).  It is this that gives the Chinese and the Russians hope for their new Silk Roads and a new style of trade across the Eurasian heartland backed by a Russian-supported Eurasian Union. To this, key figures in German business and industrial circles, for whom relations with Russia remain essential, are paying close attention.

After all, Berlin has not shown overwhelming concern for the rest of the crisis-ridden EU (three recessions in five years). Via a much-despised troika — the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission — Berlin is, for all practical purposes, already at the helm of Europe, thriving, and looking east for more.

Three months ago, German chancellor Angela Merkel visited Beijing. Hardly featured in the news was the political acceleration of a potentially groundbreaking project: an uninterrupted high-speed rail connection between Beijing and Berlin. When finally built, it will prove a transportation and trade magnet for dozens of nations along its route from Asia to Europe. Passing through Moscow, it could become the ultimate Silk Road integrator for Europe and perhaps the ultimate nightmare for Washington.

“Losing” Russia

In a blaze of media attention, the recent NATO summit in Wales yielded only a modest “rapid reaction force” for deployment in any future Ukraine-like situations. Meanwhile, the expanding Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a possible Asian counterpart to NATO, met in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. In Washington and Western Europe essentially no one noticed.  They should have. There, China, Russia, and four Central Asian “stans” agreed to add an impressive set of new members: India, Pakistan, and Iran.  The implications could be far-reaching. After all, India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now on the brink of its own version of Silk Road mania. Behind it lies the possibility of a “Chindia” economic rapprochement, which could change the Eurasian geopolitical map. At the same time, Iran is also being woven into the “Chindia” fold.

So the SCO is slowly but surely shaping up as the most important international organization in AsiaIt’s already clear that one of its key long-term objectives will be to stop trading in U.S. dollars, while advancing the use of the petroyuan and petroruble in the energy trade. The U.S., of course, will never be welcomed into the organization.

All of this lies in the future, however.  In the present, the Kremlin keeps signaling that it once again wants to start talking with Washington, while Beijing has never wanted to stop. Yet the Obama administration remains myopically embedded in its own version of a zero-sum game, relying on its technological and military might to maintain an advantageous position in EurasiaBeijing, however, has access to markets and loads of cash, while Moscow has loads of energy. Triangular cooperation between Washington, Beijing, and Moscow would undoubtedly be — as the Chinese would say — a win-win-win game, but don’t hold your breath.

Instead, expect China and Russia to deepen their strategic partnership, while pulling in other Eurasian regional powers. Beijing has bet the farm that the U.S./NATO confrontation with Russia over Ukraine will leave Vladimir Putin turning east. At the same time, Moscow is carefully calibrating what its ongoing reorientation toward such an economic powerhouse will mean. Someday, it’s possible that voices of sanity in Washington will be wondering aloud how the U.S. “lost” Russia to China.

In the meantime, think of China as a magnet for a new world order in a future Eurasian century.  The same integration process Russia is facing, for instance, seems increasingly to apply to India and other Eurasian nations, and possibly sooner or later to a neutral Germany as well. In the endgame of such a process, the U.S. might find itself progressively squeezed out of Eurasia, with the BMB emerging as a game-changer. Place your bets soon.  They’ll be called in by 2025.

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT, and a TomDispatch regular. His new book, Empire of Chaos, will be published in November by Nimble Books. Follow him on Facebook

Moscow sees thousands march for peace in eastern Ukraine

The march traditionally gathered all sorts of opposition groups, with banners of far-right organizations and gay pride flags also noticed in the crowd.

The march traditionally gathered all sorts of opposition groups, with banners of far-right organizations and gay pride flags also noticed in the crowd.

Huge crowds of protesters took to the streets of the Russian capital to demand peace in Ukraine, in the biggest opposition rally in half a year.

The opposition organizers failed to attract the promised 50,000 for the event, but “there was a very high turnout,” RT’s Anissa Naouai reported from the center of Moscow.

City authorities estimated the turnout at 5,000, but the number voiced by independent monitors – 26,000 – seems more believable, according to Naouai.

The demonstrators carried Ukrainian, Russian, and opposition flags, while chanting “No to war!” and other slogans.

According to Naouai, those marching on Sunday deny Kiev’s and Washington’s responsibility for the events in southeastern Ukraine and “see Russia as the aggressor; as the party that is undermining a chance for peace” in the region.

None of the opposition groups protested Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko’s demand for lethal weapons for his military forces to use them against the pro-Independence self defense militia both to the US Congress and President Obama. Both the Congress and Obama refused to supply Mr Poroshenko with the much desired lethal weapons… to finish his ethnic cleansing.

The march traditionally gathered all sorts of opposition groups, with banners of far-right organizations and gay pride flags also noticed in the crowd.

The march began at Puskinskaya Square in central Moscow and concluded after several hours at Prospekt Sakharova. No serious incidents reported.

The march was also attended by supporters of the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

Meanwhile, Interfax reported that several small groups were throwing eggs, tomatoes, and shoes at the opposition demonstrators.

“It’s the first time that the opposition demonstrators have poured onto the streets of Moscow in six months,” Naouai said.

The last protest was held in March after the Ukrainian Republic of Crimea held a referendum which confirmed its desire to part ways with Kiev and reunite with Russia.

Ukraine has been engulfed in violent internal conflict since April, when Kiev’s military began its crackdown on the southeastern regions of the country after they refused to recognize the country’s new coup-imposed authorities.

The United Nations said that the death toll in the Ukrainian conflict has exceeded 3,000, with this number including the 298 passengers and crew on board the MH17 airliner downed over Donetsk region in July.

The number of internally displaced Ukrainians has reached 260,000, with another 814,000 finding refuge in Russia, the UN said.

The sides agreed a ceasefire during talks in Minsk, Belarus on September 5, but there are still considerable amounts of work to be done for the conflict to be settled peacefully.

Kiev and its backers in the US and EU blame Russia for masterminding the unrest and providing anti-Kiev rebels with weapons and troops.

However, no convincing proof has been provided to back the claims, which have been repeatedly denied by Moscow.