Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Europe's potential role in the reconstruction of Africa....
Portia Tarumbwa-Strid, who is originally from Zimbabwe, is a leader of the LaRouche Youth Movement in Germany. She gave this speech to a conference of the Civil Rights Solidarity Movement (BüSo), the German "LaRouche" party, in Berlin on March 20, 2009. The conference was titled "The Reconstruction of the World Economy After the Crash of the System." Her speech has been translated from German. See PDF version of this presentation here.
I would like to begin with this statement: If Europe had heeded the voice of the developing nations, at the summit of the Non-Aligned Nations at Colombo [Sri Lanka] in 1976, which very clearly demanded the policy of Lyndon LaRouche and Helga Zepp-LaRouche, the world would not have landed in this crisis, which, as everyone admits, has struck with breathtaking speed.
Why do I say this? It was, at that time, a moral failure by Europe. Mrs. Zepp-LaRouche came back from that conference and informed the media and the political institutions about the Resolution of the Non-Aligned nations; she was told that they had no interest in this whatsoever. I maintain that this attitude is the origin of today's crisis.
Here, the majority of the world's population—85 nations—spoke in favor of a new financial system, and a debt moratorium for developing nations. That is, the fictitious debts which the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank had forced upon the developing nations—as is still true today—needed to be cancelled, to clear the way for North-South technology transfers, as providing the indispensable basis for the reconstruction of the so-called Third World.
There have been frightful consequences because of the fact that, instead of endorsing this policy, the West decided to reject the industrialization of the developing nations. In purely demographic terms, Africa is dying. The cynical reigning policy is exactly that described by Aldous Huxley in his book Brave New World, and supported by the British Empire. The people of Africa are suffering disease and death from epidemics which were last seen in Europe in the Middle Ages, as the result of underdevelopment.
For example, of the 922 million people who live in Africa, 20% are undernourished, most of them children under the age of 15. For a child, malnutrition or simply a lack of food, means the body does not grow properly, and the child cannot fulfill his intellectual potential, because hunger over long periods prevents one from concentrating, or even leads to lasting mental impairment. Twenty percent of the population of Africa is affected by iodine deficiency, which causes goiter and is life-threatening. Since the onset of globalization, Africa south of the Sahara is the only part of the world where malnutrition has increased in the last 20 years. Fifteen thousand children starve to death every day in Africa!
Therefore, for European civilization, whether or not we permit such genocide, is a question of the moral fitness to survive. There is no reason to allow Africa to continue in this way any longer. We have all the necessary technologies to transform Africa into the breadbasket of the world.
This means that for you and me, if we truly want to get out of this crisis, we can no longer tolerate the customary excuses, "Oh, what can we really change anyway?" and "The bigshots are just going to do what they want to do, anyway."
All one needs to cure this pessimism, is a strong dose of what Friedrich Schiller calls Empfindungsvermögen [sensitive faculties]. As he writes in the Tenth Letter of the Aesthetical Education of Man, "Whoever does not venture into reality will never discover truth."
Therefore, I would like to bring up a few examples at this point, to point the way to what can be done immediately, if both Europe and Africa determine to overcome this crisis.
LaRouche's Physical Economy vs. the British Empire
Most people, whether they be economics students or the average consumer, think of economics as a question of sums of money, of income streams, and household finances. Knowingly or unknowingly, everything is reduced to the calculations of a milkmaid, whose creed is: "One can spend only what he takes in." Nothing else exists. So profit is falsely defined as purely monetary growth, expressed as the difference between what is bought cheaply and sold dearly.
One could say that this idea of profit maximization, which lies at the basis of so-called "market philosophy," is exactly that which is breaking apart, as a failed system. LaRouche calls it the British Empire, because the entire modern ideology of the era of globalization follows either in the footsteps of Thomas Malthus (the father of the "green" movement) or of Adam Smith (the father of neoliberalism), both paid apologists of the British East India Company. It is no wonder that the World Wildlife Fund and most of the tax havens of the hedge funds are in the hands of the British monarchy!
The axiom of this British thinking was, that the world population must be reduced, so that the world's raw materials can be snatched up and world domination secured. Henry Kissinger's infamous memorandum, NSSM 200, expressed this explicitly: If an industrialized Africa is permitted to exploit its own raw materials, this would not leave enough reserves of raw materials for the Anglo-Americans; therefore, the population of Africa must be reduced, and food must be employed as a weapon toward this end.
In opposition to this, LaRouche's theses are based on physical economy. Looking back through history, at man's development from a simple hunting-gathering society to a modern, industrial society, it was not only the quantities of food which increased to feed an growing population, but it was the transformation of the way and manner that food and raw materials were acquired and used. Moreover, the development of basic infrastructure is the expression of the level of technology in a society up to that point. That means that money does not rule the world, but the mastery of principles of nature by the human intellect does!
Basically, the formula is very simple. When the production costs of goods and raw materials rise in relation to the entire labor power of society, that is clearly bad. When the costs to society of acquiring raw materials or food becomes too high, this pulls down the potential population density. One can see, therefore, that when societies have collapsed historically, it was always because technological progress had failed to adequately maintain a higher population density. Hopefully, in the future, we will find the technology-averse relics of the green movement, such as photovoltaic cells and windmills, in museums, because if we continue with the swindle of supposedly free energy sources, the population will be drastically reduced. It seems therefore that the green movement is in reality a brown [Nazi] movement.
Let's take a very concrete look at the projects which we are putting forward for the development of Africa.
As everyone knows, the Sun shines in the most lovely way on Africa, and we should without a doubt take advantage of the terrific climate to achieve a higher crop yield per year. This can only be done with water-control projects such as canals and dams, as we have long advocated.
This must be done for the North of the continent as well as for the South. Water from the Congo River in the North can be managed so as to replenish the dwindling aquifers in the Chad Basin. With retooling, within three months, the automobile industry could supply all the dams, locks, and suitable machines needed. It really wouldn't be that hard.
The same goes for a railroad network. In order to transport four harvests per year to their destinations, the existing rail network—which originated in the colonial system of building rail only from mine to port—must be massively expanded. I think that the Transrapid maglev, rather than conventional trains, should be selected for this purpose. As it is, there exists no railroad spanning Africa, and if one wants to build an African transcontinental railroad, since this would constitute an investment for the next 50-100 years, it would be cheaper to purchase a magnetically levitated system, because that is an orientation toward the future.
In short, instead of remaining imprisoned in the British monetarist profit-motive mentality, one must think like a Lyndon LaRouche or a Franklin Roosevelt, and plan for the long term. Because, ironically, true profit only comes if one invests in human creativity and transplants new ideas into the economy.
In order for this to come true, we need a lot of electrical power. Optimally, we will be able to have 3 kWh per day per person, so as to provide every person three meals a day, clean running water, a good education, and a rational medical-care system.
To provide for one person with water (taking into account all requirements), you need between 3,000 and 5,000 liters per day. Africa does not now have this quantity, but it could be furnished through the desalination of sea water through reverse osmosis. To produce water in the quantities needed, solar panels or windmills would be unsuitable.
Fourth-generation nuclear power plants, that is high-temperature reactors (pebble bed reactors), such as South Africa has already built in cooperation with the Chinese, are the only rational solution for African nations, because these do not present troublesome problems of atomic waste or nuclear meltdown.
The irony is that this technology, with which the developing nations can finally develop themselves, was developed in Germany by Prof. Rudolf Schulten, but is taboo here in Germany!
Stop the Current Tragedy
If we take stock, again, of the actual situation in 2009, and examine more closely why we have gotten into a crisis, we see that there is an unbelievable coverup of the situation Africa faces in the financial crisis. "Experts" claim that "Africa is for the most part not integrated into the financial markets and therefore tends to be less of a concern."
I believe, however, that the food crisis of the last year proves these experts wrong. Unrest in more that 40 nations worldwide has unmasked the evil role of biofuels, and the "green" value-shift is exposed as the enemy of humanity. Speculation on food commodities, through so-called "food futures," has made what mankind absolutely depends upon to sustain life, namely food, into the prize in a game of chance!
The truth is, the worldwide collapse of demand for raw materials is causing production cutbacks, or the complete closure of raw materials production facilities over broad areas of Africa. In Congo alone, 61 mining firms have cut their workforces, creating an additional 200,000 unemployed in that industry. After the prices of copper, diamonds, and uranium crashed, a presentation was made to the houses of Parliament in Namibia by the President, Hifikepunye Pohamba. He declared an emergency because of the flooding of the Zambesi River in northern Namibia, because the entire crop was obliterated. Flooding occurs there every year, but this time over 400,000 people were affected, and the main reason is a shortage of infrastructure. There is a dam project which could solve this problem in Namibia, and which has been known about for a long time, but it has never been implemented.
The plan that the LaRouche movement worked out in the late 1970s for the development of African infrastructure, involved a project to channel water toward the south, through dry Botswana, to the Limpopo River. I think that definitely, Germany must begin this project, to reverse the breakdown of its machine-tool sector.
In Sudan, the attempt to arrest the sitting President, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, by an illegal court, the International Criminal Court, threatens to plunge the whole country further into chaos, just as the government was about to complete a peace settlement. Every African knows that this court is carrying out a neo-colonialist policy, because it brings charges only against Africans, and is funded by private non-governmental organizations, such as those of George Soros and his former business partner, Lord Mark Malloch-Brown (responsible for Africa and Asia in the British Foreign Office).
The African Union, the Arab League, and the Non-Aligned Movement want to cancel this arrest warrant, because they know it poses a threat to the sovereignty of their nations. The message it sends to them is: "If a head of state in the Third World chooses to no longer participate in the system of globalization, we are going to thrown him overboard."
This becomes even clearer, when you know that soon, under President al-Bashir, the largest building project in Africa in decades [the Merowe Dam] will be completed, and that he gave a contract to the Chinese which did not please the European Union, and particularly did not please the British.
In Zimbabwe, there is a similar principle of retribution: Sabotage by international financial institutions has pushed the economy of this small, landlocked African nation into an unbelievable inflation, and forced the population to its knees. More that 4,000 have died there in an outbreak of cholera due to a breakdown of infrastructure.
And exactly what is happening in Zimbabwe—hyperinflation—will be caused worldwide by the new agreement that came out of the G-20 summit in London on IMF special drawing rights.
The cholera epidemic, which spread rapidly as a direct result of the economic collapse, is the forewarning of what LaRouche means by "New Dark Age." I have personally experienced this in Zimbabwe, and declare here, that this is simply unacceptable!
Africa and Europe and the entire world simply have too much potential, and are too beautiful, to yield to the despair of a failed elite, to whom it is of no concern whatever, whether Europe and Africa survive.
The Africans would be happy if the Germans, and the Europeans generally, would stop being enraged over what the Chinese are doing in Africa, and instead do what the Chinese are doing. The Chinese come and say, "We want raw materials. But therefore, we shall build infrastructure for you." One should be clear on this point: The Africans are not stupid. They know that the Chinese are doing more for human rights, by helping to eliminate hunger, need, and misery, instead of coming in with a catalog of various instructions, enumerating them as preconditions for giving aid. The Chinese call what they do, not "development aid," but "business"!
And as the entire world economic system is now collapsing, together with the auto industry and entire areas of the real economy, the unique solutions for retooling the auto industry would be to help with the reconstruction of Africa.
This orientation has nothing to do with altruism, for pure altruism does not really exist. It actually has to do with what gave Europe its longest period of peace in history—the principle of the Peace of Westphalia, with the creed of always looking after the interests of the other. This is exactly the opposite of what Adam Smith preached: that egoistic man grasps for everything, and that if everybody does this at all times, the market will reign with an Invisible Hand! We see today where that has taken us; in opposition to it stands the idea that every nation thinks of the advantage of the other, and by doing so, can fulfill its own potential.
You really have to ask yourself, what were the Europeans thinking in 1976 when Helga Zepp-LaRouche's proposals were not adopted? Perhaps Europe was afraid that others would rise too high? Perhaps they simply did not notice, that without the other, you cannot survive yourself. But today, it is the question of one's own survival as a sovereign nation! The industrialized nations must help the African nations build roads, ports, and railroads, for this is the way that they themselves can make their way out of the crisis.
I am firmly convinced, that we can only succeed together. Europe must learn anew the lesson from the recent school shootings in Winnenden, Germany, and say, "Our youth need a future!" Instead of mind-destroying education with pure rote-learning, the Classical curriculum of Humboldt and Schiller must be revived, with which children, who have more passion for ballgames, could again acquire a passion for intellectual development, and thus become the engineers, doctors, and teachers who will carry through the technology transfer for the reconstruction of Africa. If we write off Africa, we are also writing off Europe!
Will Israeli Spying revelations halt Netanyahu's war drive...?
April 25—Recent revelations about Israeli efforts to fix a Federal indictment of two top officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), through payoffs to members of Congress, have sparked a renewed focus on Israel's continuing political dirty tricks and espionage operations inside the United States. Given that the new scandal directly intersects the inner circle of advisors to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the question on the minds of many astute observers in Washington and other world capitals is: Will these new scandals short-circuit Netanyahu's threats to start a new strategic conflict in the Middle East, through an Israeli military strike against Iran, even as the Obama Administration prepares for direct diplomacy with Tehran?
On April 19, Congressional Quarterly's Jeff Stein revealed that, in late 2005, the National Security Agency intercepted a conversation between an unnamed Israeli operative and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), then the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. According to the transcript of that conversation, the Israeli agent, who was under investigation by the FBI, and was the target of a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court-authorized wiretap, offered to help secure Harman the chairmanship of the committee, following an anticipated Democratic victory in the 2006 midterm elections, in return for her intervention to get charges against two accused AIPAC spies, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, reduced.
The Israeli "operative," whom senior U.S. intelligence sources say was an American citizen, or a dual Israeli-American citizen, promised to funnel campaign cash from media billionaire Haim Saban, the sugar-daddy to the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy, headed by dual citizen Martin Indyk. Among the promised recipients of the 2006 campaign cash: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who became Speaker of the House, following the 2006 Democratic midterm sweep.
According to Stein's account, Harman volunteered that, while her relations with Pelosi, then House Minority Leader, were poor, she could intervene with the Bush Administration, because the White House was anxious to secure her support, for damage-control of a New York Times exposé of the government's use of illegal warrantless wiretaps against American citizens. The White House and Justice Department knew, at the time of the NSA intercept, that the Times exposé was about to be published, and that if Harman would side with the Bush White House, the impact of the revelation of illegal spying on American citizens on U.S. soil would be greatly reduced.
Indeed, the Times story, by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, did appear on Dec. 16, 2005, and Harman did come out defending the White House, for "doing what had to be done" to protect the United States against the threat of another 9/11-type terrorist attack.
And, indeed, the Democratic Party did sweep the 2006 midterm elections and take control over both the House and the Senate. But early revelations about Harman's efforts on behalf of Israel—minus the specifics of the intercepted conversation with the Israeli operative—had already surfaced in 2006, and she was passed over for the coveted House intelligence chairmanship. Speaker Pelosi has recently acknowledged that she knew about the NSA intercept at the time she rejected Harman as committee chair.
In return for Harman's help, Bush's Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, quashed the FBI investigation into the California Congresswoman, in late 2005. The NSA wiretap transcript sat in the dead file—until this month. So, why the renewed attention now?
At least part of the answer can be found in the growing rift between Washington and Tel Aviv, over a wide range of vital policy issues, from Palestinian statehood to Iran. Prime Minister "Bibi" Netanyahu has threatened—early and often—that he is prepared to order Israeli military strikes against Iran's purported nuclear weapons program, unless the United States falls in line with Israel, and promises to do the job instead.
According to Ken Katzman, a senior researcher at the Congressional Research Service, speaking at a recent Capitol Hill forum of the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), the Obama Administration, through Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen, Vice President Joseph Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and "many other" channels, has made it clear to Israel that the U.S. will not tolerate any Israeli strikes against Iran. But the unanswered question is whether the Obama Administration is prepared to put military muscle behind the warnings. Would U.S. Naval forces in the Persian Gulf, or American forces in Iraq, intercept and shoot down incoming Israeli fighter jets or missiles, aimed at targets in Iran?
It is widely believed, among a majority of serious military analysts, that Israel does not possess the capacity—except through the use of a nuclear first strike—to seriously damage Iran's dispersed nuclear research program. However, in a June 2008 report by Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt, "The Last Resort: Consequences of Preventive Military Action Against Iran," the AIPAC- and Likud-linked think-tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), argued that any Israeli strike against Iran, whether successful in disrupting the Iranian nuclear program or not, would be a "game-changer," forcing an existential decision upon the governments in Washington, in Europe, and in the Arab Middle East: whether to side with "moderate" Israel or "extremist" Iran. Some circles in Israel, perhaps in the inner circles around Netanyanu, may believe that Israel would come out on top—and that is where the danger of an Israeli preventive strike is greatest, regardless of the fact that it could be the Sarajevo of World War III.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Bush-Cheney partner in the Iraq War fiasco, and the current chief "peace negotiator" for the Quartet, delivered a speech in Chicago this week, in which he identified Iran as the existential threat to the Middle East—in effect, casting his vote with Netanyahu in favor of military action against Iran, if diplomacy fails, or if Iran, in Israel's skewed judgment, gets too close to possessing a bomb.
Indeed, whereas most American military strategists had fully repudiated the discredited doctrine of "effects-based operations," under which military actions are aimed at "behavior modification" of the enemy, rather than concrete war-winning and peace-winning objectives, Israel has embraced precisely this strategy. In both the July 2006 Lebanon War, and the December 2008 Gaza invasion, Israeli officials spun embarrassing defeat into proclaimed "victory," on the basis of the insane "effects-based" dogma.
The present Netanyahu government is pushing the envelope, playing what Dr. Trita Parsi, speaking at the same MEPC forum with Katzman, described, in the case of Iran's regime, as a doctrine of "simulated irrationality." But when does "simulation" go live? Where does Israel go over the edge and actually launch an "effects-based" attack on Iran, plunging the region, and, potentially the world, into a new bloody conflagration?
Senior U.S. intelligence sources have told EIR that the leak of the NSA intercept of the Jane Harman conversation with the targeted Israeli operative comes in the context of the pending trial of the two "former" AIPAC employees, Rosen and Weissman, who are accused of passing classified documents to Israeli Embassy officials, from confessed Israeli spy and former Air Force reservist and Pentagon Iran analyst Larry Franklin. According to one of these sources, the leak of the NSA transcript, which was accurately reported by Stein in Congressional Quarterly, came from within the Justice Department.
While there are complicating aspects of the Rosen-Weissman case, beginning with the fact that the Bush Justice Department failed to indict AIPAC, as an organization, on the same espionage charges, there is no question that Israel was engaged—again—in espionage, seeking access to U.S. defense secrets, and that the role and identities of the Israeli spy-handlers are known and proven.
On May 26, 2005, Larry Franklin was indicted on charges of passing classified material to Israel. In a superceding indictment, filed on Aug. 4, 2005, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman were also charged. While not naming names, the indictment identified at least three Israelis who were co-conspirators with the AIPAC duo and Franklin, in obtaining classified material from the Pentagon, on the Bush Administration's internal deliberations on how to deal with presumed threats from Iran.
And here is where the U.S.-Israel rift comes directly into play.
The three Israelis targeted in the Franklin/AIPAC probe were: Uzi Arad, Naor Gilon, and Eran Lerman. All three are intimately tied to Netanyahu; two of the three now hold top national security and foreign policy posts in the Netanyahu government.
Arad is the chief national security advisor to the prime minister, and Gilon is the chief of staff to Foreign Minister Lieberman.
The third implicated Israeli, Eran Lerman, is the director of the American Jewish Committee's Israel/Middle East Office in Jerusalem. He took that post in 2001, prior to his being implicated in the Franklin-Rosen-Weissman spy operation, and immediately following his retirement as a colonel in the Israeli Defense Forces' Directorate of Military Intelligence Research and Production Division. Lerman, a London School of Economics graduate, is frequently published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a Likud think-tank headed by Dr. Dore Gold, Netanyahu's former ambassador to the United Nations.
Between 2002 and 2005, Naor Gilon was the political counsellor at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and he was the immediate contact point with Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman. At the time of his direct involvement in the espionage case, Gilon's embassy boss was Ambassador Danny Ayalon, who is now deputy foreign minister, and a member of Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu Party. Gilon, according to the indictments, had at least 15 meetings with Franklin between 2003 and 2004. He first met Franklin in 1997, when Franklin was posted, briefly, at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, as an Air Force Reserve officer. Franklin was sent home, after he repeatedly violated embassy rules by holding unauthorized and unreported meetings with Israeli government officials.
When Netanyahu was prime minister in 1996, then-Foreign Minister Lieberman, still with Likud, was his chief of staff. According to well-informed Israeli sources, Lieberman's departure from Likud to form Yisrael Beitenu, was done with the connivance of Netanyahu, who was having difficulties handling the Russian emigré and "mafiya" apparatus, which forms the base of Lieberman's new party. Lieberman, a one-time bouncer at a Moldovan bar, is the poster-boy for that Russian emigré apparatus.
Contrary to media accounts, the far more significant player in the Franklin spy affair was Uzi Arad, now Bibi's top national security aide. Arad, a career Mossad officer, "retired" from government service in 1999. The following year, he founded the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya, and established their annual global security conference, modeled on the Davos Economic Forum and the Wehrkunde security conferences in Munich.
Franklin attended at least one of the Herzliya conferences hosted by Arad, in 2003. On Feb. 13, 2004, Gilon called Franklin at the Pentagon, and asked him to meet with Arad. The following week, the two met at the Pentagon cafeteria.
When the FBI interrogated Arad about his ties to Franklin, he claimed that they were merely sharing "academic papers." However, up until April 2009, Arad was barred from entering the United States; that decision was reversed only to allow him to visit Washington as Prime Minister Netanyahu's national security representative.
In fact, the still-ongoing U.S. probe into Israeli espionage in the United States is, in part, focused on the question of whether there is a "parallel Mossad," made up of "ex" Israeli spooks, now in think-tanks and other private sector institutions, conducting key espionage programs at arm's length from the official intelligence services. Few senior Israeli officials are willing to run the risk of another "Pollard Affair," in which an official Israeli intelligence agency, the scientific espionage unit, Lekem, was caught running American Naval Intelligence analyst Jonathan Jay Pollard. That Lekem operation was headed by former top Mossad official Rafi Eytan. Both Arad and Lerman were protégés of "Dirty Rafi," and they certainly know the price that Israel has paid—to this day—for their Pollard escapade.
When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Israel recently, and met with Netanyahu, the prime minister delivered an unambiguous and undiplomatic message, by having Uzi Arad participate in the meeting. When Clinton suggested that a smaller meeting were appropriate, and that each side should send one person out of the room, offering the prime minister the opportunity to correct the obvious faux pas, Netanyahu obliged—by dismissing Minister Dan Meridor. Arad stayed in the room, and Clinton remained tight-lipped throughout....
Battle lines drawn in central Asian water dispute is a sign of the times to come worldwide..., especially in south Lebanon, Shebaa
Battle lines drawn in central Asian water dispute is a sign of the times to come worldwide..., especially in south Lebanon, Shebaa etc.
April 19, 2009
By Bruce Pannier
Do countries have the right to use water flowing through their territory as they wish? Or do they have an obligation to consider the needs of neighbors living further downstream?
That's been a constant dilemma for the Central Asian states since they became independent after the Soviet break-up.
Much of Central Asia's water flows from the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, leaving downstream countries Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan dependent and worried about the effects of planned hydropower plants upstream.
"There are lots of discussions about water and energy going on among the Central Asian states. It seems that this process is fueled by some interested powers, who follow their own aims," Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon said in his annual speech to the nation on April 15, referring to Uzbekistan.
"They say that implementation of water-energy projects in Tajikistan will harm neighboring countries. In this regard I want to underscore once more that such points of view are absolutely baseless."
Uzbekistan has been waging a campaign against the construction of large hydropower stations in Kyrgyzstan (Kambar-Ata) and Tajikistan (Roghun), Soviet-era projects that were left incomplete when the USSR dissolved.
Tashkent fears that those two countries' use of water from Central Asia's two great rivers -- the Syr Darya and Amu Darya -- to generate power will diminish the amount reaching Uzbekistan, whose 28 million inhabitants to make up Central Asia's largest population.
"We think that all decisions on using a watercourse of trans-border rivers, including on building hydro-technical facilities, should not, under any circumstances, damage the environment and infringe the interests of people who live in the contiguous countries," the Uzbek state-run newspaper "Narodnoye slovo" quoted Boriy Alikhonov, acting head of the State Committee for Environmental Protection, as saying in December.
Other officials say the people of Uzbekistan are suffering because Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are depleting the water supply with their hydroelectric projects.
"In our republic, for those living by the Aral Sea [decreasing amounts of water in the river] has had very negative consequences that have affected the lives and health of millions of people," says Akbarkhon Magdiev, press secretary of the Liberal Democratic Party -- the largest faction in the Uzbek parliament.
"Their lives and health are endangered due to this trans-border problem, especially in Karakalpakstan, Khworezm, Navoi, and Bukhara. Every moment they are experiencing health problems because of this trans-border river problem."
A hydroelectric power station in the Kyrgyz mountainsTo address the issue, Uzbekistan has enlisted the help of its downstream neighbors.
In an rare example of regional diplomacy, Uzbek President Islam Karimov contacted his counterparts in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, convincing them of the threat from the Kyrgyz and Tajik hydropower projects.
Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry released a statement on April 14 describing the Kambar-Ata and Roghun projects as reflecting "the best Soviet traditions of uncontrolled violence against nature." The Uzbek Foreign Ministry said: "Any decision that does not take into account the interests of neighbors will further aggravate the situation with water supply" and "may adversely affect the living conditions of tens of millions of people in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan."
The Uzbek Foreign Ministry statement stressed that "third countries' interference in Central Asia's water and energy problems is inadmissible," but then added there was a "need to carry out an international examination of all hydro-energy projects on trans-border rivers without fail, under UN aegis."
Analysts say the water issue has also become a top priority for Turkmenistan's president.
"The problem of water has become a serious issue for the [Turkmen] government. The president now has to consider this problem on the same level as other strategic state tasks," says Alexander Narodetsky, a Britain-based specialist on Turkmenistan, adding that water issues have become "a regular topic" in talks between Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov and his counterparts in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
"The people of Turkmenistan well understand why their president is talking about this. Since ancient times it has been considered wise and necessary to try not to lose one single drop of moisture [in Turkmenistan]," Narodetsky adds.
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan say their neighbors' worries are unfounded.
Speaking to reporters in Bishkek on April 15, Bazarbai Mambetov, an expert on energy and water issues and a former deputy Kyrgyz prime minister, denied that his country is reducing the amount of water flowing downstream.
"Inasmuch as the water resources originate on the territory of Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyzstan can also declare its sovereign rights on water resources," Mambetov said. "[But] I want to say to our Uzbek brothers, and to Kazakhstan, which has also made policy statements about this issue recently, that never in the last 30 years, never, have we reduced the amount of water flowing from the [tributary of the Syr Darya, the Naryn] river."
Tajik President Rahmon said his country would never leave neighboring countries without water. But he added that Tajik authorities "cannot be inattentive to our people who continue to suffer and face difficulties related to the shortage of electricity in winter for more than 15 years."
Likewise, Deputy Tajik Foreign Minister Abdullo Yuldoshev has said that "water should serve as a blessing to all the people of the states of Central Asia," but added that Tajikistan "will fight for our national interests, which in no way hurt of limit the interests of our neighbors whose territories are located further downstream on the Amu Darya."
Cash-strapped Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan cannot afford to pay the prices their neighbors -- all of which possess large reserves of oil or natural gas (or both) -- seek for energy supplies, so winter power rationing has become a way of life in the two countries.
Hydropower is their only hope of becoming energy independent. Both countries also argue they bear the full financial brunt of maintaining the reservoirs that control the flow of water and help prevent flooding in downstream countries.
Within last two years, Uzbekistan increased its gas price to Kyrgyzstan five times. How should Kyrgyzstan react to this? This is the geopolitics in Central Asia.Kyrgyzstan's Mambetov saya his country has the right to sell water considering the energy export policies of one neighbor. "Uzbekistan is selling its gas to Kyrgyzstan for $240 per 1,000 cubic meters, but at the same time, Uzbeks are selling it to Kazakhstan for only $84," he says.
"Within last two years, Uzbekistan increased its gas price to Kyrgyzstan five times. How should Kyrgyzstan react to this? This is the geopolitics in Central Asia."
Previous attempts to provide Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan with energy supplies as compensation for their maintenance of reservoirs quickly fell apart. Last year, Kyrgyzstan proposed treating water as a commodity and selling it, but that drew a strongly negative response from Uzbekistan. Tashkent maintains the position that water belongs to all and cannot be sold or traded.
Delegates at a conference on "European Union-Central Asian: Building an Energy Security Relationship" in Prague on April 16 discussed the issue and said they were anxious to help promote regional stability in Central Asia and offer solutions to problems such as the water issue.
The delegates advocated the construction of mini-hydropower plants, which would be more environmentally friendly. Tajik President Rahmon in his speech announced plans for 50 new mini-plants.
Juerg Staudenmann, a policy adviser for water governance at the UNDP regional center in Bratislava, says the organization is also trying to help the Central Asian states resolve their water problem amicably.
"We are very much involved in issues regarding water governance in Central Asia," Staudenmann says. "We are right now, for example, starting a new program together with the European Commission on integrated water resource management.... We are working in all the five countries of Central Asia through our country offices on all kinds of different aspects of water and energy issues."
The big showdown between Central Asia's upstream and downstream countries appears to be set for April 28, when an international conference on saving the Aral Sea is to be held in Almaty.
The two great rivers of Central Asia once fed the Aral Sea but now water from the Amu Darya barely reaches the desiccating sea and the Syr Darya now dies out in the steppe of Kazakhstan far from the Aral. But the Central Asian oil and gas barons may find it difficult to force Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to shelve their hydropower plans since Russia and Iran are the main investors in Kyrgyz and Tajik projects.
RFE/RL Kazakh Service director Edige Magauin, Kyrgyz Service director Tynchtykbek Tchoroev, Bubukan Dosalieva of the Kyrgyz Service, Iskander Aliev and Tohir Safarov of the Tajik Service, Turkmen Service director Oguljamal Yazliyeva, and Shukrat Babajanov of the Uzbek Service contributed to this report
Central Asian Leaders Fail To Overcome Differences At Water Summit
Kazakh children play on an abandoned ship in the dry bed of the Aral Sea.
April 28, 2009
By Antoine Blua
A rare Central Asia summit of the five founding members of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea revealed some common ground on that issue -- but nevertheless ended in bitter disagreement.
Meeting in the southeastern Kazakh city of Almaty for a one-day summit, the presidents of all five Central Asian states failed to overcome differences over water use.
Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev exposed the real bone of contention among the states during his address -- energy shortages, the construction of new hydropower stations, and concerns by downstream states as to how their water supplies will be affected.
"The strategic issue that requires resolution is the coordination of our timetables of water release for irrigation and energy needs and compensatory fuel supplies [to Kyrgyzstan], and this is what should be the subject of international cooperation among parties interested in using water-saving technologies," Bakiev said.
The comments by Bakiev, whose "upstream" country is looking at hydropower as an answer to its energy needs, triggered an angry reaction from a "downstream" counterpart, Uzbek President Islam Karimov.
"It was agreed that the only issue to be discussed at the current summit and the expanded summit would be the activities of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea and its main tasks in the future," Karimov said.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, representing another country keen on taking advantage of its ample water resources to produce electricity, also refused to introduce the water issue into the talks and was apparently angered by other leaders' assertions that water-supplying countries were responsible for water shortages.
"I thought we agreed not to discuss hydroenergy issues," Rahmon said. "I proposed it and you and the other colleagues agreed. And now there's a whole discussion being started. I also have something to say about it."
Upstream vs. Downstream
The summit's host, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, later produced a statement focusing only on the decline of the Aral Sea. The document was signed by all five Central Asian leaders, including Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov of Turkmenistan.
Kyrgyzstan's Bakiev defended his country's hydropower plans.Noticeably absent from the summit was uninvited Russia, which in recent months has called on countries in the region to take the concerns of others into consideration when thinking about future hydropower projects.
The call was seen by Tajikistan as a sign that Moscow was siding with Uzbekistan in the most serious source of dispute -- and instability -- among upstream and downstream countries in Central Asia.
Rivers that originate from mountainous Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan irrigate lands in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan before flowing into the Aral Sea.
Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, which suffer most during cold winters and have little hydrocarbon resources, have long been pursuing the construction of hydropower projects.
"At a time when natural energy resources are scarce, in order to ensure a stable supply of energy resources to our population, especially in the cold winter period, our country now has to place a special emphasis on the development of the hydroelectric industry," Kyrgyz leader Bakiev said.
The region's most populous country, Uzbekistan, fiercely opposes such projects, saying the construction of the hydropower stations would reduce the flow of water on its territory.
Saving The Aral
On a positive note, Nazarbaev announced that that Kazakhstan was not going to wind up the planned Aral Sea-saving efforts, despite the global economic crisis.
The Aral, located between Kazakhstan to the north and Uzbekistan to the south, was once the world's fourth-largest inland body of water.
But the sea has dramatically shrunk in recent decades due in large measure to the diversion of its feeder rivers for irrigation, causing ecological and social disasters.
Its water levels have fallen to the point that the sea split into two separate bodies of water -- the Northern and the Southern Aral Seas.
As part of the first phase of the project to replenish the northern part, a 13-kilometer dike was opened in 2005. As a result, the Northern Aral Sea's surface area is now more than 40 percent larger than it was at its lowest point.
Nazarbaev said the second stage, involving constructing another dike to raise the water levels, would start in the near future.
Optimists say that within a few years the sea could again be lapping at the shores of the former port of Aral, which now stands 35 kilometers from the shore, bringing environmental recovery and new economic opportunities.
But regional cooperation and water management in all five Central Asian states remains of vital importance to the regeneration project...
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
[Turkish branch of "Gladio Operation" being uncovered day-by-day. Like all secret armies pre-positioned in all NATO countries, these government terrorists created covert weapons stashes all over the countryside, in anticipation when the secret armies would rise-up and "save the country" from they chao they themselves planned to unleash on their own countrymen.]
Parts 1 and 2 HERE
Various supplies of munitions have been found hidden in shanty houses or buried underground since the start of the investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine group charged with plotting to overthrow the government, which apparently have been taken out of the arms depots of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), but the military has been quiet on these discoveries for the most part, other than denying that it had anything to do with hiding the weapons.
The TSK’s silence on explaining how the weaponry discovered during the Ergenekon investigation was taken while under its supervision has led to a series of questions. Are any of the weapons found registered in the TSK’s weapons’ inventory? Who and how were these weapons taken out of the TSK depots? Have any of the culprits been found? Are there any suspects?
Monday, April 27, 2009
US promotes Iran in energy market
By M K Bhadrakumar
Last week, the Barack Obama administration made its first major move in the geopolitics of Eurasia with the appointment of Richard Morningstar as the special envoy for Eurasian energy. The brilliant, devastatingly effective diplomat of the Bill Clinton administration is back on his old beat.
Curiously, despite its extensive ties to Big Oil, the George W Bush administration's performance in energy politics reads dismally. Russia's Vladimir Putin outsmarted the United States in the Caspian. Enter Morningstar. He served the Clinton administration as special advisor to the president and secretary of state on the former Soviet Union, special advisor on Caspian basin energy diplomacy and ambassador to the European Union (EU). He was a key figure in pushing through - against great odds - the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which stands out as an enduring achievement for US energy diplomacy in the post-Soviet period.
Moscow should take note that a formidable adversary has re-entered the arena. With a career background in EU affairs and Caspian energy diplomacy, Morningstar's appointment signifies that Washington is going to take a shot at the Nabucco gas pipeline project. Resolute action to get the project going includes lining up funding, securing the necessary gas supplies, beating back Russian countermoves and least of all rallying European support. Nabucco has the potential to rewrite Russia-EU relations and consolidate the US's trans-Atlantic leadership. The 3,300 kilometer-long pipeline from the Caspian via Turkey to Austria would reduce the EU's growing dependence on Russian energy.
Morningstar said in a major policy speech in 1998, "The fundamental objective of the US policy in the Caspian is not simply to build oil and gas pipelines. Rather it is to use those pipelines, which must be commercially viable, as tools for establishing a political and economic framework that will strengthen regional cooperation and stability and encourage reform for the next several decades."
Indeed, conditions have since changed. Today Russia is a resurgent power, unlike the weak, stumbling player Morningstar tackled in the 1990s. The other energy producing countries of post-Soviet space - Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan - also can no longer be hustled. They know how the market works; they have negotiating skills and are not overawed by international diplomacy. Again, China has appeared on the landscape as a player with killer instincts and financial muscles hard to match. Iran, too, is poised to enter the ring and Turkey is no longer a docile follower of American wishes.
Equally, major European powers like Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria have extensive energy ties with Russia and are disinclined to see lines drawn between the West and East. Alas, there is complete disunity in attempts to formulate EU foreign policy. Member countries do not trust the EU to protect their interests and instead prefer bilateral national initiatives on issues of energy security. The financial and economic crisis discourages projects of long gestation that need heavy investment.
Furthermore, Nabucco poses problems. As a pipeline proposing to transport Caspian gas to southern Europe, it faces stiff competition from the Russian-sponsored South Stream. The rivalry was on display in Sofia, Bulgaria, at the "Natural Gas for Europe" conference on Friday, attended by 28 European, Caspian and Central Asian countries - and Morningstar. The conference steered clear of endorsing either project.
Besides, there is a three-way split in European opinion regarding Nabucco. Neither Germany nor Italy - which have secured bilateral energy tie-ups with Russia - are keen to make further investments in energy diversification projects, whereas the countries of "New Europe" see Nabucco as a means to escape dependency on Russian gas. Meanwhile, the Balkan states want both Nabucco and South Stream as they can pocket hefty transit fees. And Turkey, which fancies itself as Europe's energy hub if Nabucco comes through, hopes to leverage it for accession to the EU, a prospect "Old Europe" loathes.
Securing upstream reserves for Nabucco also remains a vexed issue. Azerbaijan, which is a potential supplier for Nabucco, has recently moved closer to Moscow and signed an agreement to supply Azeri gas to Russian pipelines. Morningstar will need to persuade Baku to return to the US fold. He has excellent contacts in Baku, but Baku has strong compulsions to seek Moscow's goodwill.
The fraternal ties between Azerbaijan and Turkey have chilled lately as a consequence of the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement (which Washington encourages). Baku has warned that the expected opening of the Turkish-Armenian border "could lead to tensions in the region and would be contradictory to the interests of Azerbaijan". It counts on Moscow's support for the withdrawal of Armenian troops from regions surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, while insisting that the "normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations must proceed in parallel with the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied lands of Azerbaijan".
If Moscow brings about an Armenian troop pullout, the Caucasian great game will transform beyond recognition. Significantly, during his visit to Moscow on April 17, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said he saw no obstacles to a deal for the supply of gas to Russia's largest energy company, Gazprom.
Without Azeri gas, Nabucco may languish. This has spurred the US to secure access to the gas reserves of Turkmenistan. Unsurprisingly, there is elation in Brussels and Washington that while addressing an energy conference on Thursday in Ashgabat, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov said, "Today we are looking for conditions to diversify energy routes and the inclusion of new countries and regions into the geography of routes ... A key component of securing the reliability of international energy deliveries is the diversification of routes, the creation of multi-branched infrastructure for delivery to consumers."
But it is too early to celebrate. As London-based think-tank Eurasia Group analyst Ana Jelenkovic put it, "I think a lot of Europeans and the US are trying to exploit what they think is a dip in Russia-Turkmen relations, but I wouldn't be so quick to say that it's going to be a significant geopolitical shift."
The US is indeed probing all options. In a hugely surprising move, while speaking to reporters after the Sofia conference, Morningstar spoke of Iran as a potential gas supplier for Nabucco. "Obviously, right now, gas from Iran creates some difficulties for the United States as well as for other countries involved," he admitted.
"We [US] reached out to Iran, we want to engage with Iran, but it also takes two to go to the dance and we are hoping that there will be positive responses from Iran," Morningstar said. He reportedly said Nabucco could well exist without Iranian gas, but the US was really trying to reach out to Tehran. He was hopeful about the prospects since a possible "carrot" would be the development of Iran's energy sector with Western technology if there is a thaw in US-Iran relations. He implied that Iran stands to hugely benefit as the Obama administration is deeply committed to Europe's energy security.
Interestingly, even as Morningstar spoke in Sofia, the US delegate at the conference in Ashgabat, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Krol, made yet another proposal involving Iran in his speech. He said the US remained open to the prospect of gas from Central Asia being exported to Europe via Iran, which borders Turkmenistan to the south. Krol's audience included Iranian delegates.
Evidently, Iran had anticipated the inevitability of such a shift in US thinking. In February, Iran signed a tentative agreement to develop the massive Yolotan-Osman gas fields near eastern Turkmenistan. Iran also sealed a deal to increase its annual purchases of Turkmen gas to 10 billion cubic meters (bcm), which itself amounts to one-fifth of what Russia buys from Turkmenistan. Iran has also been discussing with Turkey the routing of Turkmen gas to Europe via the existing Iran-Turkey gas pipeline. The US had earlier opposed Turkish cooperation with Iran on this front, but now there is a paradigm shift, with Washington promoting precisely such cooperation and itself soliciting Iranian gas to ensure the energy security of its European allies.
But, a question mark arises in terms of the US competing head-to-head with China for access to Turkmen (and Iranian) gas. China is close to completing a gas pipeline through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to Turkmenistan (which can also be extended to Iran) that will allow for natural gas exports of 30 bcm within the next two years. Beijing says it is confident that work on the 7,000 kilometer pipeline project could be finished by the end of the current year. Turkmenistan has promised to optimally supply 40 bcm of gas via this pipeline.
Curiously, Morningstar took a differentiated approach to China. With regard to the South Stream, he was unsparing in voicing his discontent. He bluntly said, "We have doubts about South Stream ... We do have serious questions." But when it came to China, he was an altogether changed man.
"We want to develop cooperative relationships with all the countries that are involved," said Morningstar. "We are living in a time of financial crisis that is really a problem for all of us. We can't afford to be fighting about these issues, and we need to try to be constructive, and try to deal with the common issues together.
"China is a country that I think we in the United States want to engage with, with respect to energy issues. I don't think it is a bad idea that China is involved in Central Asia. I think it helps the Central Asian countries. Maybe there are opportunities that we can cooperate - European companies, American companies, European countries, the United States - maybe we can cooperate with China in that part of the world and it's something that we at least need to explore as an area of possible cooperation."
Only a week into his new job, Morningstar has begun to sprint. He has outlined an ambitious blueprint of US energy diplomacy in the Caspian that all but takes EU energy security under American wings and aims at neutralizing Russia's gains in the Caspian energy sweepstakes during the Bush era. But he sees China's inroads into Central Asia positively as they serve the US's geopolitical interests in isolating Russia and rubbishing Moscow's claims over the region as its sphere of influence.
Clearly, Washington will adopt a highly pragmatic approach to Iran. It is signaling its willingness to jettison US sanctions against Iran and instead keenly promote Iran as Russia's competitor in the European gas market both as a supplier and as a transit country for Central Asian gas. Few annals of modern diplomatic history would match US realism.
Washington thereby hopes to build US-Iran relations as well. Tehran badly needs to modernize its energy industry and develop its liquefied natural gas sector, which provides highly lucrative business opportunities for hi-tech American oil companies. No doubt, it is a “win-win” situation for Washington and Tehran.....?
Friday, April 24, 2009
In the normal case, pushing the reset button should not be a difficult thing to do. Yet, it is almost two months since United States Vice President Joseph Biden offered to do just that.
When he addressed the Munich security conference in February, Biden offered to reset the button in US-Russia relations. However, despite many positive signals and an overall lowering of rhetoric, the moves so far have been by and large symbolic. Across Eurasia, the signs are to the contrary. The Great Game is picking up momentum. The sharp fall in oil prices has complicated Russia's economic recovery, which in turn would disrupt the dynamics of the integration processes under Moscow's leadership - political, military and economic - in the post-Soviet space.
US diplomats are scouring the region for chance to drive wedges in the ties between Moscow and the regional capitals. Tajikistan, one of Russia's staunchest allies, has distinctly warmed up to the US. Uzbekistan is once again ducking, which suggests it is open to the highest bidder. But Turkmenistan could be the jewel in the crown of the US's regional diplomacy.
A concerted US effort has begun to somehow detach Ashgabat from the Russian sphere of influence and thereby kill the prospects of Russia's plans for laying new gas pipelines for the European market. Alongside, there is also a determined bid to develop a northern supply route to Afghanistan via the Caucasus and the Caspian that would bypass Russia. While Russian cooperation is welcome, the US will not want its vulnerability in Afghanistan to be exploited for a reciprocal accommodation of Russian interests in Europe.
As of now, Moscow is keeping cool. Any excitement would only play into the hands of the hardliners in Washington. It reacted calmly in early April in the face of the attempt to stage a "color revolution" in Moldova to replace the democratically elected government friendly toward Moscow. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cautioned that the US and Russia should not "force" former Soviet republics to choose between an alliance with Washington or Moscow, nor should there be any "hidden agendas" in US-Russia relations. "It is inadmissible to try to place a false choice before them [former Soviet republics], either you are with us or against us. Otherwise, this will lead to a whole struggle for spheres of influence," Lavrov pointed out.
Attention at the moment is on the so-called Cooperative Longbow 09/Cooperative Lancer military exercise that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) proposes to hold from May 6 through June 1 in Georgia. The drill aims to improve "interoperability" between NATO and its partner countries. But, clearly, the US choreographed the initiative as a reiteration of the West's security commitments to the Georgian regime. In the event, the US had a hard time persuading its NATO partners to participate. Germany and France, which are opposed to NATO needlessly provoking Russia, declined.
A NATO military exercise in the highly combustible security environment in the Caucasus is indeed controversial. Russia sees it as a "back-door" attempt by Washington to involve NATO with Georgia's security and as a creeping expansion by the alliance into the Caucasus. Indeed, the geopolitical consequences of the conflict last August are yet to be assimilated.
Moscow reacted by calling off a meeting of Russian and NATO chiefs of the general staff, scheduled for May 7. The mild reaction disappointed hardliners in the US. Russian analysts have underscored that the military exercise constitutes a deliberate attempt to vitiate the atmosphere ahead of the expected visit by US President Barack Obama to Moscow in June.
President Dmitry Medvedev gave a measured reaction. He said, "This is a mistaken and dangerous decision ... [which] creates the danger of all sorts of complications arising ... because these sorts of actions are clearly about muscle-flexing and military build-up, and with the situation in the Caucasus tense as it is, this decision looks short-sighted ... We will follow developments closely and make decisions if necessary."
Moscow's preference, therefore, will be to keep the matter strictly at the level of Russia-NATO ties. Whether Lavrov will choose to discus the subject with his US counterpart Hillary Clinton when they meet on May 7 to prepare the agenda of Obama's visit to Moscow is an open question.
Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, has gone on record that Moscow's response will not affect the transit of supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan via Russian territory. "I do not believe it will be among any possible retaliatory measures. We have never questioned the importance of [NATO cargo] transits, even during the war [in the Caucasus last August]. It is an issue of strategic interests in which we share a common enemy," Rogozin said.
Moscow's stance takes care that Washington has no excuse to complain about Russian cooperation over Afghanistan. This comes at a time when the US is making a determined bid to firm up a transit route to Afghanistan from the Black Sea via Georgia and Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan, which bypasses Russia. Cargo arriving in Turkmenistan can be sent across the border to western Afghanistan or can be trans-shipped to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which also enjoy a border with Afghanistan. Thus, US diplomacy has been focusing on the three Central Asian countries - Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan - which can be accessed from the Black Sea, bypassing Russia altogether.
The US signed a transit agreement with Tajikistan this week. A similar agreement was signed with Uzbekistan last month while consultations are going on with Turkmenistan. US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher discussed the possibility of overland cargo transit and overflights at a meeting with Turkmen President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov in Ashgabat on April 15.
These developments are unfolding against the backdrop of an overall weakening of the Russian position lately in Central Asia. The fall in oil prices and the overall economic crisis in Russia arguably hamper Moscow's capacity to assert its leadership role in the region.
US diplomacy has succeeded to some extent in loosening Russia's ties with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Uzbekistan did not participate in two important regional meetings which were important events for Russia's integration processes: last week's foreign ministers meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in Yerevan and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference on Afghanistan last month in Moscow.
Indeed, if Tashkent "defects", that will be a prize catch for Washington and it will resurrect the "Great Central Asia" strategy that aims at whittling down Russian (and Chinese) influence in the region.
At the moment, however, US diplomacy is pinning great hopes on Turkmenistan. Washington sees a window of opportunity insofar as Russian-Turkmen energy cooperation, which forms the backbone of the relationship between the two countries, has run into difficulties. Essentially, the US hopes to break Russia's control over Turkmen gas exports and to somehow scuttle Russian plans to feed its planned South Stream pipeline to southern Europe with Turkmen gas supplies. The US seeks to cajole Ashgabat to come on board the rival the Nabucco gas pipeline project that bypasses Russia and will help diversify Europe's energy supplies.
Whether the Turkmen leadership will heed the US's entreaties is another matter. Turkmen people have sharp bazaar instincts and they must be relishing the accelerating US-Russia rivalry, which they will unfailingly exploit to extract the most favorable terms from Russia (and China). All the same, the relentless US hammering is eroding Russia's position.
Only a year ago, Russia offered to pay European prices for Central Asia's gas-producing countries. These purchase contracts are hardly affordable for Gazprom today, given a combination of factors, such as the decline in European energy demand due to the economic recession and the drop in energy prices.
Gazprom is caught in a bind. With demand dropping in Europe, import of Turkmen gas begins not to make sense. But Russia cannot halt Turkmen supplies either. When demand picks up eventually - as it will - Russia will badly need Turkmen gas all over again. Kommersant newspaper commented, "In a mid-term perspective, Ashgabat has no alternate buyer or transiter to Gazprom ... Obviously, some kind of compromise will be reached to find a way out. But whatever the outcome, Moscow-Ashgabat relations will never be the same again."
United States diplomats are doing all they can to portray that it is unwise for Central Asian energy producers to place faith in Russia and that gaining direct access to the international market without the Russian middle man would be the right thing to do. The argument seems to increasingly carry weight in Ashgabat. The signing of a memorandum of understanding on April 16 between Turkmenistan and Germany's Rheinisch-Westfaelische Elektrizitaetswerk (RWE) energy holding on the transportation of Turkmen gas to Europe and the development of the Caspian shelf shows a new vector in Turkmen thinking.
RWE is Germany's largest energy producer and supplier and the second-largest gas supplier. It is a partner in the international consortium hoping to build the Nabucco pipeline, which will bypass Russia by transporting gas from Azerbaijan via Turkey to Europe. The agreement with RWE is Turkmenistan's first ever with a major Western energy company. Under the agreement, RWE will be a consultant for identifying the options for export of Turkmen gas to Germany and Europe. Besides, RWE will also explore and develop gas resources on Turkmenistan's continental shelf in the Caspian Sea.
From the Western perspective, the timing of the RWE-Turkmen agreement couldn't have come at a better time. The Turkmen decision doubtless enhances the prospects for Nabucco, which Russia has been rubbishing as a mere pipedream. The European Union summit meeting in Prague on May 7 is expected to take a conclusive view on the implementation of the Nabucco project. With the emerging possibility of Turkmen gas supplies for Nabucco, if the EU summit formalizes the project, Europe will have taken a big step towards diversifying its energy sources and reducing its energy dependence on Russia. Therefore, Nabucco holds far-reaching significance for Russia's relations with the West.
The May 7 EU meeting is expected to transform the geopolitics of Eurasia in certain other directions as well. The summit will launch the EU's new "Eastern partnership" policy involving six former Soviet republics - Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia - with the barely disguised intention to increase Brussels' influence in these countries at the expense of Moscow. The EU has no plans to offer the former Soviet republics membership, but at the same time would like to take them under its wings politically.
The "Eastern partnership" policy is crafted most ingeniously in such a way that through trade, travel and aid, the EU will work for greater integration of the former Soviet republics without having to actually accept them as full-fledged members.
The EU remains confident that the former Soviet republics will find Brussels' overtures decisively more attractive than the integration processes conceived in Moscow. In strategic terms, the raison d'etre of the EU's "Eastern partnership" policy is to counter Russia's influence in its "near abroad" and, therefore, it effectively works in tandem with NATO's eastward expansion.
Creative commentators have coined neologisms like "Chimerica" and "Chindia" for key bilateral relationships in world politics. But few envisage a "Chirussia", even though Sino-Russian ties today are at their highest level in history. Limitations to their "strategic partnership" emerge every now and then, most recently during the Russia-Georgia war over South Ossetia. But anti-Western commonalities to the Sino-Russian tango are equally evident from their exuberant language of "multipolarity".
What has been missing in studies of the partnership is a credible intellectual framework to assess its strengths and weaknesses. Former Australian diplomat Bobo Lo fills the lacuna with a new book arguing that the Sino-Russian friendship has contradictions which cannot be papered over.
The present world system is in transition, with a declining United States but no single state replacement in sight. Lo posits a "new geopolitics" where short-term opportunistic and tactical alignments are the norm of diplomacy. With fast morphing domestic and international circumstances rendering "permanent national interests" transient, the author avers that China and Russia cannot afford to enter into a committed marriage.
The book's opening chapter surveys the burden of history on contemporary Sino-Russian relations. Although both countries' leaderships harp on present-day and future opportunities for partnership, the ghosts of the past have not been exorcised. The Mongol occupation of Russian city-states (AD 1223-1480) solidified the notions of "yellow peril" and "the East as an abiding source of threat in the Russian mind". (p 18) Russian popular attitudes to this day picture China as alien and menacing.
The "unequal treaties" imposed by Russia's Tsars on Qing China in the mid-19th century fostered a lasting Russian assumption of superiority and corollary Chinese humiliation from loss of territory. In the 1920s and 1930s, Joseph Stalin's support for president Chiang Kai-shek caused friction between the Bolsheviks and the Chinese Communist Party. Post-1949 relations between "older brother" Moscow and "younger brother" Beijing were cagey, especially due to the former's fathering of an independent Mongolian state.
When disputes over the undemarcated border led to a mini-war in 1969, Moscow contemplated using nuclear weapons should Beijing launch a "mass attack" using sheer force of numbers. The Sino-Soviet split reinforced mutual stereotypes and kept relations frosty and suspicious. Rapprochement came only in the late 1990s, when Russian president Boris Yeltsin moved his country's foreign policy away from a "Western-centric" approach. Convergence between Russian and Chinese positions improved before the new millennium, thanks to American double standards and "humanitarian interventions".
Yet, tensions lingered over settlement of the border dispute and growing Russian animosity to Chinese migration into Russia's Far East. In Yeltsin's later years, Moscow envisaged partnership with China as leverage against Washington, but Beijing viewed it in practical terms as insurance for Russian weapon exports and for frontier security. This owed to Moscow and Beijing's "diverging perceptions of their respective roles in the post-Cold War order". (p 37)
Since the ascent of Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russia's former president, now Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, Sino-Russian relations are more substantial than ever before, even expanding to military-to-military cooperation. But once again, Moscow's approach to the partnership differs from Beijing's. For Russia, it is an "anti-relationship" to counterbalance the US's hegemony. Putin understands that Russia needs "other powers if it is to exert a serious influence in international affairs". (p 43) By befriending China, he aims to avoid strategic confrontation on two fronts (the West and East), reflecting Russian wariness of a potentially aggressive China.
Hu, on the other hand, sees no need to balance American power and is not interested in allowing the nation's partnership with Russia to ruin China's closeness to the US. Fearing repercussions to its domestic economic modernization, Beijing wants to avoid being seen as anti-Western. Lo clarifies that, for China, the partnership with Russia is of "secondary importance, lagging well behind more substantial ties with the US, the European Union and the countries of the Asia-Pacific". (p 47)
Though both Russia and China boast an "identity of views", Beijing was unpleasantly jolted when Putin initially endorsed a US troop presence in Central Asia after September 11, 2001, blithely accepted the US's abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and concluded a Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty with Washington in 2002. In all these moves, China was kept out of the loop by Russia. The Kremlin's "Western-centrism" has from time to time rattled China.
Despite formal settlement of the territorial dispute under the watchful gazes of Hu and Putin, the demographic imbalance between a depopulated Russian Far East and the heavily populated northeastern provinces of China has stoked Russian nervousness and xenophobia. In cities like Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, writes Lo, "anti-Chinese sentiment is rarely far from the surface". (p 219) It is furthered by cross-border trade tilted heavily in favor of Chinese interests, arousing fears of Russia being reduced to a raw materials appendage of China's manufacturing colossus. Russians also worry that Chinese nationalists could resurrect Mao Zedong's demands that the Russian Far East be returned to China.
The Sino-Russian relationship is unequal, argues Lo, due to the gradual shift in the bilateral balance of power in China's favor. Russia's aggregate military strength still exceeds that of China, so much so that the former does not hesitate to sell hi-tech weaponry to the latter. But in the economic sphere, China is the dominant partner as a knowledge-based and "post-modern" industrial juggernaut, while Russia remains a petro-state. The bilateral terms of trade are so asymmetrical that it looks as though "a modernizing China is exploiting a backward Russia for its energy and timber". (p 85)
China's entry as a major player in Central Asia after the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 has perturbed Moscow. In response, the Kremlin has played on Central Asian apprehensions about Chinese economic domination. In 2005, it attempted unsuccessfully to scupper the sale of PetroKazakhstan to the China National Petroleum Corporation. For years, Moscow has been trying to get India to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to stave off Chinese domination of regional structures. But Russia realizes that ejecting the US military from Central Asia is a grander objective for which a tactical alliance with China is exigent.
While Russia has tried to showcase the SCO as an alliance to oppose American hegemony in Central Asia, China's first priority is that the organization helps secure its far western Xinjiang province, instead of countering the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. China's calls to steer the SCO towards regional economic integration through a free-trade zone have not been music to Russian ears, as it portends Central Asia's dependency on China. One reason for Moscow's flotation of a separate Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is to reassure itself that it has a regional forum from which China is absent.
In East Asia, Russia does not desire to witness one hegemony (the US) being replaced by another (China). Lo reasons that an overly powerful China in the Asia-Pacific could "undermine Russian attempts to play a more active part in the region's affairs". (p 119) Beijing, on its part, does not intend to assist the re-entry of Russia as another great power into this contested area. Lack of progress on the Russo-Japanese dispute over the southern Kuril Islands benefits China, as it compels Moscow to be "China-dependent" in East Asia. Pending a Russo-Japanese thaw, Beijing is confident that Moscow will remain a "bit player" unable to undermine China's leading position in the region.
The Sino-Russian energy relationship enjoys complementarities, but it, too, has not evaded inclement weather. China's bargaining ploys to obtain Russian oil and gas at discounted rates mean Europe remains a far more attractive market for Moscow. Flip-flops on the East Siberian-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline are symptomatic of the uncertain energy links between China and Russia. The pipeline agreement unraveled in 2003 when Japan offered Russia a more lucrative deal to construct a pipeline that bypasses China altogether. But the Russo-Japanese arrangement collapsed in 2006 due to their territorial dispute, turning the tide back in Beijing's favor. The unpredictability of Russian decision-making has led Beijing to restrict its demand for Russian oil to "non-dependent levels". (p 147) Putin's blueprint of "Asianizing" Russian energy markets have therefore floundered.
The later chapters of Lo's book focus on Russia-China-US "triangularism" in global geopolitical contests. Since 1996, Moscow has employed the "China card" to try to persuade Washington to be more responsive to Russian interests. Russian resurgence under Putin severely deteriorated relations with the US and generated a "new cold war". But China is not disposed to globally challenge American influence, despite professing a preference for "multipolarity". Unlike Russian leaders, Chinese elites have no anti-American "genetic make-up", (p 167) and are happy engaging with both Russia and the US on their own merits. If China intends in any way to undermine American power, says Lo, it "will be an evolutionary and uncoordinated process" rather than in alliance with Russia. (p 169)
Sino-Russian relations are currently at their peak, but they signify only a limited partnership due to a variance in strategic orientation of the two countries. The partnership is at its apogee right now because of the long-term presence of the US military in Central Asia. But the future holds many unknowns for the bear and the dragon. Much will ride on the direction of Sino-American relations. Lo prophesies that a "Sino-American condominium" would cut Russia down to "little more than a secondary regional power". (p 186)
While direct enmity between Moscow and Beijing is improbable, even in the long term, Lo predicts "strategic tension" in coming decades. If China keeps growing as a global power and if the bilateral relationship grows more asymmetrical, Russian frustrations will multiply. The prudent management of this tension will have a crucial bearing on the coming world order revolving around Asia. "Chirussia" may be a non-starter, but Lo's erudite analysis leaves readers better off about the subtexts of this complex friendship.
This publication is part of DIIS’s Defense and Security Studies project which is funded by a grant from the Danish Ministry of Defense...
This is a brief English version of a Danish DIIS Report on the foreign policy of Iran. In the Report, Iran’s foreign policy is investigated both ideologically and in respect of its pragmatic motivations.
It is argued that, since the revolution, and especially since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran has shown itself to be a rational, pragmatic actor in foreign policy, even though actions and rhetorical outbursts from parts of the country’s leadership have at times suggested otherwise.
It is also suggested that a dialogue between Iran and the West – and with the United States in particular – could very well turn out to be a prerequisite for peace in the Middle East.
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