Friday, April 30, 2010

China breaks the Himalayan barrier

China breaks the Himalayan barrier
By M K Bhadrakumar

Two veteran diplomats, one from China and the other an American, trudge their weary way from their respective capitals to the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan to witness as "observers" a gathering of eight leaders from South
Asia agonizing over the stasis of their 25-year old regional forum.

And then they retire to Beijing to exchange notes.

One year ago, such a scenario would have been considered implausible - even illogical. Yet, when Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya receives the United States Assistant Secretary of State Robert O Blake Jr at Beijing on Monday for the first meeting of the newly-formed "US-China Sub-Dialogue on
Asia", what seemed far-fetched moves into the realm of geopolitical reality.

The summit meetings of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) are better known as occasions for India-Pakistan diplomatic pageantry. The 16th SAARC summit at the Bhutanese capital of Thimpu on April 28-29 was no exception. The regional media, at least, thought so.

Yet another India-Pakistan prime ministerial meeting did take place on the sidelines of the regional forum in a new attempt to breed a fresh format of dialogue as the two South Asian adversaries try to tackle their intractable differences.

The new India-Pakistan process may or may not prove enduring. However, the Thimpu summit will be seen in retrospect as a watershed event where something fundamentally changed in the alchemy of regional cooperation in South Asia. (SAARC comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Nepal, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.)

Plainly put, cooperation - or the lack of it in comparison with most other regions on the planet - is henceforth going to be an international spectacle with the "great powers" present to take the pulse of the gyrating actors.

Equally, what emerges is that a region that withstood Cold War infections for decades may not be so lucky this time as it gears up for what Ian Brummer, president of the Eurasia Group, recently called "the fight of the century" between China and the US.

To be sure, the backdrop is unprecedented and rather intimidating. The US has become a long-term military presence in the region for the first time in history. And China, also for the first time in its history, is casting aside its millennia-old reclusiveness in Middle Asia and seems set to pole-vault over the Himalayas and become an active participant on the South Asian arena.

From ''observer' to participant
It is interesting that the US-China sparring in South Asia is beginning with a gingerly round of mutual consultation to figure out each other's hardcore perspectives and unspoken intentions. Which side took the initiative to hold the two-day consultation that begins on Monday remains unclear, but since the venue is Beijing, it appears China did.

The SAARC has seven other "observers" - Iran, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Mauritius, Australia and Myanmar - but the sub-regional meet at Beijing will keep them out. Evidently, China and the US do not have a high estimation of them (including the Europeans and the Japanese) as capable of carrying the burden of global responsibility to oversee the South Asian region's acute problems of security and stability.

All the same, the US and Chinese statements on the occasion of the SAARC summit present a study in contrast. Blake was perfunctory to the point of being protocol-minded. For the record, he congratulated the SAARC on its 25th anniversary this year and "welcomed" its "vision for greater South Asian regional cooperation". In all probability, he spent his time fruitfully elsewhere in bilateral meetings.

The US State Department spokesman in Washington awkwardly suggested that the SAARC summit was nothing terribly earthshaking: "One of a number of important structures that you have across the broader Asia region. We think they're important. We encourage them ... the secretary [Hillary Clinton] is committed to strengthen the United States' ties to other structures like ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations]. This is an indication of our ongoing and deepening commitment to the region."

When his turn came, on the other hand, Vice Foreign Minister Wang manifestly warmed up. He stressed Beijing's desire to "elevate friendly ties" with the SAARC to "a new level". He viewed SAARC in ideological terms, as a forum where "China stands together with developing countries".

Wang responded to the SAARC summit's focus on climate change by calling on developed countries to provide financial, technical and capacity-building assistance to enhance the ability of developing countries to cope with climate change.

"China is ready to strengthen practical cooperation with South Asian countries on climate change through bilateral channels and within the framework of South-South cooperation," he said.

Wang further assured that "on the basis and in a spirit of equality and mutual benefit, China is ready to conduct dialogue and exchanges and expand practical cooperation with SAARC". He announced a contribution of US$300,000 by China to the SAARC Development Fund and invited the body's senior officials [heads of foreign ministries] to a meeting in Beijing.

Evidently, China takes its "observer" status - which it secured in 2005 - seriously. There have been reports that China aspires to seek full membership of SAARC, but India thinks that the regional body had better remain as it is with eight member countries belonging to the geographically definable region, and the bloc's charter stipulates that all decisions need to be unanimous.

The challenge for Delhi ...
India faces an existential dilemma somewhat similar to what Russia is gradually coming across in
Central Asia (and the US may face in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America or in Southeast Asia): the appearance of a red star over the slice of firmament they somehow regarded as their own sphere of influence where they claimed to have uncontestable special interests in determining the shape of the constellation.

No analogy is quite complete. Unlike Russia in Central Asia, India never ruled the South Asian region but then the enveloping cultural ambience and the shared history and geographical space and bindings of a common civilizational that flow through millennia are perhaps far more profound.

Both Russia and India have a troubled history of relations with China in modern times and have fought bloody border conflicts, but Russia has been far more successful in coming to terms with the past.

One main difference is that the Central Asian region comprises autocratic regimes for whom Russia stands between them and the deluge, whereas the South Asian countries are all democracies of one kind or the another that do not necessarily depend on India for their political survival.

Besides, South Asian countries have an altogether different perception of China than that harbored by India - China as a benefactor.

Even India's close neighbors like Nepal and Sri Lanka are eager to cultivate deeper Chinese involvement in their countries. And in the more recent past, China has been responding with noticeable alacrity, which of course causes uneasiness in the Indian mind although there is no evidence that China obstructs the expansion of India's cooperation with its regional partners.

The hard reality is that the potentials of India's economic cooperation with its neighbors - except Nepal and Bhutan which are recipients of Indian aid - remain far from explored and the emerging possibility is that China may come from behind and overtake India.

... to get its act together
Unlike India, China places primacy on its immediate neighborhood in its foreign policy and as Wang displayed, Beijing has a definite action plan with regard to carrying forward the impetus of cooperation with its South Asian neighbors.

The clock has begun ticking for India to watch out for a point when China overtakes India in terms of substantive volume of cooperation with the SAARC partners. China did a similar act on Japan (and the US) in Southeast Asia.

For India itself, China currently figures as the number one trade partner. The bilateral trade target for 2010 is US$60 billion, and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun said last week, "I believe if we make the right efforts, we can even exceed the target."

China is developing all-round cooperation with India's SAARC partners in a structured way in the economic, political and even military spheres. Curiously, China has been quite effective in the use of ''soft power'' too.

Chinese diplomacy is placing its accent on people-to-people contacts, including with India. The attempt is to repeat the phenomenal success China scored in the Asia-Pacific and Southeast Asian region by placing ''soft power'' as a cutting edge of its diplomacy.

India has annual tourist traffic of 1 million people with China, whereas the figure for South Korea stands at 5 million. The tiny island group of the Maldives hugs India's coast, yet receives more Chinese tourists than Indians.

There is no evidence that Indian diplomacy is geared for what lies ahead as China makes its presence felt as the SAARC region's key partner.

Already there is immense frustration among the SAARC countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives that the stasis of the regional body is rooted in the adversarial character of India-Pakistan ties. In an extraordinary outburst at Thimpu, Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed bluntly demanded that India and Pakistan should "compartmentalize" their mutual animosities and allow regional cooperation to gain traction.

China's profile as the South Asia's leading interlocutor highlights India's inability to lead its own sub-region and erodes its credibility as a regional power. This is the stark message that the Indian foreign policy establishment needs to cull from the Thimpu summit once the dust settles after the alluring India-Pakistan diplomatic road show there.

In hard terms, there is no escaping the fact that Delhi needs to evaluate the damage caused by the "militarization" of the Indian foreign policy mindset in the past few years. India may end up holding the wrong end of the stick through its obsession with the "string of pearls" thesis - that Beijing is encircling India. What is actually taking place is far more perilous - Chinese diplomacy may make India look ineffectual as a regional power.

The fact that Blake headed for Beijing fresh from the Thimpu summit of SAARC testifies to a geopolitical reality.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Hypocrisy of the Nuclear Game

by Patrick Seale

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) -- the world’s major arms control agreement, now 40 years old and signed by 189 states -- is in deep crisis. Can it be rescued and, indeed, can it be reinforced to meet the challenges to international security of the coming decades?

This will be the task of the NPT review conference, due to be held in New York from 3 to 28 May -- one of the most important dates in the nuclear calendar.

There are, unfortunately, no great expectations that the conference will make the world a safer place. There is simply too much mistrust surrounding everything to do with nuclear weapons -- mistrust between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states, between those who abide by the rules and those who are suspected of breaking them. The truth is that secrecy, double-dealing and hypocrisy have long characterised the nuclear game.

The NPT was set up on the basis of a three-sided bargain:

1. Five nuclear weapon states -- the United States, Russia, the UK, France and China -- committed themselves to getting rid of their nuclear weapons. This disarmament remained, however, a vague aspiration rather than a concrete pledge. When it was supposed to happen was never spelled out.

2. In turn, non-nuclear weapon states who signed the NPT gave a pledge not to acquire nuclear weapons -- although some of them then sought to do so clandestinely, under the cover of the Treaty.

3. As a reward for their pledge to foreswear nuclear weapons, they were promised access to nuclear fuel and technology for peaceful civilian purposes. But such access has, all too often, been denied.

In a word, the grand bargain on which the NPT rested was more often breached than observed. Today, it seems in danger of collapsing altogether -- and nowhere more so than in the Middle East.

The situation at present is that the first five nuclear weapon states have not really disarmed at all, and show no serious intention to do so. President Barack Obama’s speech at Prague in April 2009, in which he promised “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” -- what has come to be known as his call for “global zero” -- has not yet been reflected in practical politics.

Admittedly, the United States and Russia have agreed to some cuts -- and put their signatures to a new START treaty earlier this month -- but their nuclear arsenals remain vast, with thousands of strategic and tactical weapons on each side. This is not disarmament as it was meant to be.

Another blow to the NPT has been the behaviour of North Korea. It signed the Treaty but then proceeded to acquire nuclear weapons clandestinely -- and to test them. Faced with international outrage at this breach of the rules, North Korea withdrew from the NPT, and has since been treated as a pariah.

Three other countries have dealt a still more serious blow to the dream of disarmament, non-proliferation and access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Israel, India and Pakistan have all built nuclear weapons and have refused to join the NPT. Evidently, the existence of the Treaty did not prove an obstacle to their accession to nuclear status. They have suffered no unwelcome consequences as a result of their proliferation, not even a word of reproof.

Quite the contrary: although Israel went ‘nuclear’ in the 1960s, it has benefited ever since from lavish American financial and military aid, as well as unstinting political support. The United States has steadfastly refused even to raise publicly the question of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. As a result, Israel has been able to maintain a nuclear monopoly in the Middle East, which it no doubt considers a key element in securing its regional military hegemony. It has repeatedly used force to prevent other states in the region from acquiring nuclear weapons.

India and Pakistan have also escaped censure or sanctions on account of their nuclear activities. Instead, India has recently been granted privileged access to American nuclear fuel and technology, while Pakistan, a close American ally in the struggle against the Taliban, has been a recipient of substantial American financial aid.

Such preferential treatment has by no means been extended to Iran, since its determination to master the uranium fuel cycle has led to suspicions that it is secretly attempting to build nuclear weapons -- or at least acquire the technical ability to do so at speed in an emergency.

Iran is a signatory of the NPT and has allowed its facilities to be inspected regularly by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Its leaders have repeatedly denied that they are seeking nuclear weapons. They even maintain that possession of such weapons of mass destruction is contrary to their Islamic faith. Nevertheless, they claim the ‘inalienable right’ to use nuclear energy for civilian purposes -- a right which is indeed afforded them by the Treaty.

But this has not protected Iran from the threat of more sanctions and even of military attack. U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has been working hard to mobilise international support for a UN Security Council Resolution imposing tough sanctions on Iran. These sanctions are intended, she says, to convince Iran to begin genuine ‘good faith’ negotiations on its nuclear programme.

As she told Britain’s Financial Times on April 19, “ignoring the threat posed by Iran will put the world in a more precarious position within six months to a year.” She seemed by these words to be referring to the possibility of an Israeli strike against Iran.

“What’s the alternative?” she asked. “The alternative is to permit them to continue pursuing nuclear weapons...which will trigger an arms race among their neighbours...and could even trigger a conflict. And I don’t think that’s a chance worth taking.”

Someone should perhaps suggest a new approach to Mrs Clinton, one which might offer Iran incentives rather than threats. Turkey, Brazil and China have all said that dialogue with Iran would be more productive than confrontation. Iran might, for example, be more conciliatory if it were offered security guarantees -- especially against an Israeli strike. It might respond favourably on the nuclear issue if America were to encourage the Gulf States to include Iran in a regional security pact. Iran’s anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric would certainly be softened if Washington were able to persuade its Israeli ally to allow the emergence of an independent and viable Palestinian state.

The Middle East is widely seen as a crucial area for global security. President Obama should persist in his efforts at conciliation with Iran -- and with the world of Islam in general -- and not allow himself to be pushed off course by hawks in Israel and Washington.

It is so sad to see that USA is NOT the country that it claims to be.... we are allowing the Zionists to have 200+ A-bombs, Not to sign the NPT, committing atrocities such as the one reported in the "Goldstone" report by the UN and to be a State Sponsor of terrorism,extra-judicial assassinations and constant wars on its neighbors.... BUT we punish Iran for being a signatory to the NPT, follow the IAEA and the international law. WE ARE NOT A JUST AND FREE SOCIETY. ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER.

If B. Obama continues to bow down to the Zionists as he is and allow them to follow the path they have chosen, he will not see a re-election. He is now showing that he can't control the Zionists and his policies are made in TelAviv and not in DC.

We as a free nation or what is left of it need to realize that the Zionists infiltration of our government is the sole eminent danger to our independence and democracy. Our country has bled and has innocent blood on her hands because of these Zionist policies and history will not judge us lightly. Think about it.

Iran, Brazil and the 'bomb'

Iran, Brazil and the 'bomb'
By Pepe Escobar

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim put it very politely at a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki in
Tehran this Tuesday. Amorim said, "Brazil is interested to have a share in settling the Iranian nuclear issue in an appropriate way."

"Appropriate" is code for dialogue - not a fourth round of sanctions slammed by the
United Nations Security Council, much less the military option, which the Barack Obama administration has stridently kept on the table. Thus by positioning itself as a mediator in search for a peaceful solution, the Brazilian government is in fact on a "soft" collision course with the Obama administration.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is visiting Tehran next month. For "full spectrum dominance" US hawks this is anathema - as well as for Western right-wing media, Brazilian outlets included, which have been hammering Lula non-stop for his foreign policy initiative.

It matters little that once again Amorim stressed there is absolutely no consensus among the so-called "international community" to isolate Tehran. "Community" once again in this case means Washington plus a few European countries. The global South, as a whole, votes for dialogue. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is unanimously against further sanctions. The Group of 172 (all the countries outside of the Group of 20) is against further sanctions.

Brazil and Turkey, both against further sanctions, currently hold non-permanent seats at the UN Security Council. Their common position essentially mirrors China's and Russia's - both Security Council permanent members. Russia's poker face tactics and China's agreement to "discuss" sanction packages have been misinterpreted by corporate media and sold as acquiescence to Washington's demands.

Not true. At the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) meeting in Brasilia less than two weeks ago, these countries once again tacitly agreed new sanctions are not the solution, and stressed the dossier should be settled by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In Tehran, Mottaki and Amorim also discussed the Iranian proposal for a nuclear fuel swap deal as a "confidence-building measure" that would benefit Iran vis-a-vis Washington and European capitals. Brazil offered to enrich uranium for Iran.

The problem is the new round of sanctions is being discussed in New York only between the five permanent Security Council members plus
Germany - and only later will be extended to non-permanent members such as Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon, which takes the rotating chair of the Security Council next month.

The heart of the matter
Each player has their own reasons to oppose sanctions. Moscow - which already supplies Iran with nuclear reactor technology, as well as weapons - knows that sooner or later Washington will have to concede the obvious; that Iran, a key energy producer, is a natural regional power. For Beijing, Iran is a matter of national energy security; further sanctions threaten this "stability" and fall into the category of the wishful thinking of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

New Delhi hardly failed to notice that in Afghanistan, Washington has embarked on an all-out alliance with Islamabad, so India needs a stable Iran as a counter-power to Pakistan interfering in Afghanistan and once again engaging the Taliban. Brasilia wants to expand business with Tehran; and Lula for his part has been adamant that more sanctions will only open the way for all-out war, not prevent it.

Diplomats at the latest BRIC meeting hinted at the heart of the matter. The BRIC leaders - the actual, new, multi-polar power that is seriously engaged in keeping US hegemonic ambitions in check - have carefully evaluated all the mixed signals, from Pentagon supremo Robert Gates' "secret" letter to Obama in January reviewing the military options "on the table" against Iran to Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen saying at Columbia University that a strike would be his "last option". They have evaluated the level of anxiety in Washington. And they have concluded there will be no US attack on Iran.

They might be wrong. Veiled by a lot of smoke and mirrors in corporate media, there's a furious catfight going on in Washington nowadays among full spectrum dominance practitioners - from military types to American Enterprise Institute people. But it all basically amounts to one thing: when to strike Iran - sooner or later.

For the hawks, the bottom line is that Washington will never allow Iran to "acquire a nuclear capability". That inevitably implies pre-emptive war. Iran's "crime", so far, has been to develop a nuclear energy program allowed by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and inspected to kingdom come.

Within this high anxiety scenario, it does not matter that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently preached total global nuclear disarmament, and once again repeated his fatwa against even the threatened deployment of weapons of mass destruction. They are haram (forbidden) according to Islamic law.

The Pentagon itself, via Gates, remains on the offensive - threatening Iran with an explicit "all options on the table", that is, nuclear attack included; and Obama, in an Orwellian newspeak masterpiece twist, has added that the US will "sustain our nuclear deterrent" as an "incentive" to both Iran and North Korea. Incentive to commit seppuku, perhaps?

So what next?
Next month, in New York, there will be a new revision of the NPT. The Obama administration has already pressured Brazil to accept an additional protocol to the NPT. Brazil has refused.

In essence, the NPT is extremely asymmetrical. Those nations belonging to the nuclear club get VIP treatment compared to the rest. The additional protocol increases this discrimination - making it hard for any non-nuclear power even to conduct non-military research.

Brazil - which, crucially, hails from a pacifist tradition - defends the right for any sovereign country to acquire ''nuclear technology capacity''. That's what Iran has embarked on, according to all available evidence. So obviously Brasilia had to be on a collision course with Washington as far as a revised NPT is concerned. Brasilia considers it a submission to foreign interference.

As for sanctions, Washington needs a reality check. To believe that the BRICs or countries in
Asia and Europe will not buy Iranian oil and gas; won't sell gasoline to Iran; and that Iranian banks won't develop ways to interface with the global economy (they have partners, for instance, in the United Arab Emirates and in Venezuela) is to live in Wonderland.

Chinese oil majors are selling gasoline to Iran directly. Iran will double its production of gasoline by 2012 after expanding 10 refineries, and is investing nearly $40 billion to build seven new refineries. Iran will keep swapping petroleum products - mostly with the Central Asian ''stans''; this shows, for instance, how it is able to import gasoline bypassing the international banking system.

And on top of it there's the black market. Jordan and Turkey smuggled rivers of oil out of sanctioned Iraq during the 1990s. With new sanctions on Iran it would be the turn of a new generation of Iraqis to hit the jackpot. As for the military dictatorship of the mullahtariat in Tehran, it would love nothing better than to use its energy profits to solidify its protective shield.
The BRIC leaders - Lula included - may have seen through the smoke and mirrors after all. Bomb? What bomb? They all know Iran cannot build a bomb, for instance, at Natanz, as long as it's being inspected to death by the IAEA. Suppose Iran pulls a North Korea, kicks out the inspectors, pulls out of the NPT and decides to build a bomb in some undisclosed location. They would need a lot of water and power - and
surveillance satellites would register every move.

The BRIC leaders have in fact concluded that Washington cannot do anything about Iran acquiring "nuclear capability" apart from invading the country in a joint remix of Desert Storm and Shock and Awe and conducting bloody regime change.

Rounds and rounds of sanctions won't stop it. Israeli, US, or joint "precision" bombing would only set it back a little - not counting myriad nasty forms of blowback. There's only one sensible solution. Washington has to sit on the table with Tehran with a real "unclenched fist" and deploy all diplomatic options in search of an overall Middle East security package - and that would include full denuclearization; that is, no more "secret" Israeli nuclear bombs. It's doubtful whether the Obama administration - assailed by hawks on every front - will ever step up to this challenge.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Russia-Ukraine pact leaves EU all at sea

Russia-Ukraine pact leaves EU all at sea
By Stephen Blank

Russia's new deal with
Ukraine on the Black Sea Fleet and gas prices, ratified in Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday, has profound bilateral significance, as well as for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and even Europe. It ratifies long-term Russian gains at the expense of all the other players and continues to solidify Moscow's claim to possess a sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union.

Ukraine had sought to obtain reduced gas prices to cope with its deep economic crisis. It had three alternatives: the first, which it pursued, was to offer Moscow a share in a consortium alongside Ukraine and the European Union, to manage the reorganization of the Ukrainian gas distribution network. Moscow turned this down as it did not want to be a part of a consortium in regard to reforming the Ukrainian gas network because it would not have a controlling share: if there were to be a consortium, Moscow wanted it to be one that it controlled.

Kiev's second alternative was to bite the bullet and institute reforms within its gas economy. Yet, that course would alienate President Viktor Yanukovych's power base, which depends on cheap gas and non-transparent deals. Such reforms would also generate momentum towards greater harmonization of the Ukrainian economy with those of EU members to its West and would thus represent a form of Westernization over the long term, clearly not something Moscow wanted as the present situation affords it multiple sources of leverage.

Consequently, Ukraine adopted the new deal under which it receives a 30% reduction in the cost of gas (from US$330 per thousand cubic meters - tcm - to $230 per tcm). It obviates the need for a politically difficult reform, allows Ukraine to formulate a budget without meeting the tough criteria set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), satisfies Yanukovych's support, and takes the controversial issue of the Black Sea Fleet off the table.

It also rescues the troubled Naftogaz Ukrainy, the state company of Ukraine involved in extraction, transportation and refinement of natural gas and crude oil, from looming bankruptcy.

However, in numerous ways this short-term deal represents a defeat for Ukraine and a massive victory for Russia. Their agreement allows Russia to prolong the stay of its navy in Ukraine's port of Sevastopol until 2042. Kiev loses because the Black Sea Fleet and its accompanying socio-political-economic-cultural infrastructure enables Russia to keep the Crimea, and thus Ukraine, in a permanent condition of de facto circumscribed and limited sovereignty.

Moscow will retain all its points of leverage over Kiev and gain more because the deal allows Russia to build two nuclear reactors in Ukraine and preserve its nuclear monopoly there (as an alternative to gas).

Apart from this limitation on Ukraine's effective sovereignty, Moscow also reinforces its tangible leverage over Kiev by restoring its dependence on Russian subsidies and preserving Ukraine's non-transparent gas economy. Third, it prevents Ukrainian democratization and market reforms. Fourth, it thereby inhibits Kiev's moves towards the IMF, and ultimately the EU.

Fifth, given the navy base lease's duration of 25 years, with an option to renew for another five years, the deal all but ensures that future Ukrainian governments will be stuck with a minority controlled by Moscow in the Crimea and will find it very difficult to move westwards towards the EU or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) until 2042, if not later.

This deal also has profound implications for Ukrainian and European gas supplies. Russia is intensifying its work with Ukraine on the aforementioned consortium to restructure its gas network. Nonetheless, with Ukraine firmly dependent on Russia, Moscow will gain more leverage on it because it is pushing hard for South Stream, a pipeline project that will essentially bypass Ukraine as regards supplying Central and Southeastern Europe. If South Stream proceeds, as Moscow hopes, it will isolate Ukraine from Europe even more.

Similarly, this deal shows Moscow reverting to past practices of subsidizing neighbors and "special friends" to preserve their dependence on Russia. Moscow had claimed to abandon this policy in 2005, but never fully managed to do so. Now, it is clearly going to become a policy once again, and a powerful source of leverage on Europe and Eurasia.

Indeed, Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko announced that Moscow sees no reason to revise other contracts, so the price of favorable subsidies for any other customer will be more dependence on, or subservience to, Russian objectives.

Finally, this deal also allows Russia to maintain the Black Sea Fleet, even if it is not very useful outside the CIS, and continue to try and close the Black Sea to NATO and use it (especially if Moscow procures the Mistral and accompanying infrastructure with that ship from
France) to intimidate Georgia and maintain constant pressure on Ukraine.

This is an extraordinarily impressive victory for Moscow, but it is a major loss for Kiev and the EU, which continue to pay the price of having no effective energy policy on Russia, or no coherent policy for the members of the CIS between Belarus and Armenia.

Since nature abhors a vacuum, Moscow has not only filled that space, it has taken another major step towards consolidating itself as the security manager of the European CIS.

Dr Stephen Blank is a professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, PA.

The Geography of Chinese Power

China’s blessed geography is so obvious a point that it tends to get overlooked in discussions of the country’s economic dynamism and national assertiveness.

Yet it is essential: It means that China will stand at the hub of geopolitics even if the country’s path toward global power is not necessarily linear.

Today China’s ambitions are as aggressive as those of the United States a century ago, but for completely different reasons. China does not take a missionary approach to world affairs, seeking to spread an ideology or a system of government. Instead, its actions are propelled by its need to secure energy, metals and strategic minerals in order to support the rising living standards of its immense population.

Within the Chinese state, Xinjiang and Tibet are the two principal areas whose inhabitants have resisted China’s pull. In order to secure Xinjiang — and the oil, natural gas, copper, and iron ore in its soil — Beijing has for decades been populating it with Han Chinese from the country’s heartland.

The mountainous Tibetan Plateau is rich in copper and iron ore and accounts for much of China’s territory. This is why Beijing views with horror the prospect of Tibetan autonomy and why it is frantically building roads and railroads across the area.

China’s northern border wraps around Mongolia, a giant territory that looks like it was once bitten out of China’s back. Mongolia has one of the world’s lowest population densities and is now being threatened demographically by an urban Chinese civilization next door.

Having once conquered Outer Mongolia to gain access to more cultivable land, Beijing is poised to conquer Mongolia again, albeit indirectly, through the acquisition of its natural resources.

North of Mongolia and of China’s three northeastern provinces lies Russia’s Far East region, a numbing vastness twice the size of Europe with a meager and shrinking population and large reserves of natural gas, oil, timber, diamonds and gold.

As with Mongolia, the fear is not that the Chinese army will one day invade or formally annex the Russian Far East. It is that Beijing’s demographic and corporate control over the region is steadily increasing.

China’s influence is also spreading southeast. In fact, it is with the relatively weak states of Southeast Asia that the emergence of a Greater China is meeting the least resistance.

There are relatively few geographic impediments separating China from Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar, and China continues to develop profitable relationships with its southern neighbors. It uses Asean (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) as a market for selling high-value Chinese manufactured goods while buying from it low-value agricultural produce.

Central Asia, Mongolia, the Russian Far East and Southeast Asia are natural zones of Chinese influence. But they are also zones whose political borders are not likely to change. The situation on the Korean Peninsula is different. No one really expects China to annex any part of the Korean Peninsula, of course, But although it supports Kim Jong-il’s Stalinist regime, it has plans for the peninsula beyond his reign.

Beijing would like to eventually dispatch there the thousands of North Korean defectors who now are in China so that they could build a favorable political base for Beijing’s gradual economic takeover of the region.

China is as blessed by its seaboard as by its continental interior, but it faces a far more hostile environment at sea than it does on land.

The Chinese Navy sees little but trouble in what it calls the “first island chain”: the Korean Peninsula, the Kuril Islands, Japan (including the Ryukyu Islands), Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia.

China’s answer to feeling so boxed in has been aggressive at times — for example when, in March 2009, a handful of Chinese Navy ships harassed the U.S. surveillance ship Impeccable while it was openly conducting operations in the South China Sea.

Beijing is also preparing to envelop Taiwan not just militarily but economically and socially. How this comes about will be pivotal for the future of great-power politics in the region. If the United States simply abandons Taiwan to Beijing, then Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia and other U.S. allies in the Pacific will begin to doubt the strength of Washington’s commitments. That could encourage those states to move closer to China and thus allow the emergence of a Greater China of truly hemispheric proportions.

So can the United States work to preserve stability in Asia, protect its allies there, and limit the emergence of a Greater China while avoiding a conflict with Beijing?

Strengthening the U.S. air and sea presence in Oceania would be a compromise approach between resisting a Greater China at all cost and assenting to a future in which the Chinese Navy policed the first island chain. This approach would ensure that China paid a steep price for any military aggression against Taiwan.

Still, the very fact of China’s rising economic and military power will exacerbate U.S.-Chinese tensions in the years ahead. To paraphrase the political scientist John Mearsheimer, the United States, the hegemon of the Western Hemisphere, will try to prevent China from becoming the hegemon of much of the Eastern Hemisphere. This could be the signal drama of the age.

Following recent reports that China has embarked upon a ‘far sea defence’, this paper by Chris Rahman explores the central tenets of China’s maritime security agenda. Rahman argues that bluewater capabilities are not the main focus for China’s naval development; rather the semi-enclosed and other narrow seas of East Asia are. But even those preoccupations pose direct challenges to the regional security order.

This Policy Analysis makes the following arguments about China’s maritime strategic agenda:

1. China has legitimate and growing maritime interests, and increasingly will plan to safeguard those interests independently.

2. The PLA Navy aspires to the ability to undertake operations far from home, but bluewater capabilities are not the main focus for China’s naval development.

3. China’s maritime strategic focus remains on the semi-enclosed and other narrow seas of East Asia.

4. China’s East Asian maritime preoccupations, not its occasional bluewater forays, are of greatest strategic significance. They pose direct challenges to the US sea‑based alliance system and the regional order that the system underpins.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010



Since the beginning of last year, the Chinese Navy, which no longer makes a secret of its aspiration of becoming a Pacific naval power on par with the US, has been adopting a dual strategy. This strategy is marked by an open and increasing assertiveness in the South and East China Seas and by a defensive extension of its capabilities, areas of operation and naval networking
into the Indian Ocean and the Gulf areas.

2. Its assertiveness in the South and East China Seas is marked by repeated reiteration of its territorial claims in the area and its determination to protect its rights to fisheries, minerals,
and oil and gas in the areas claimed by it. It is also marked by the expression of its readiness to use its Navy to protect its rights.

3.On May 16,2009, China officially imposed a ban on summer fishing in the South China Sea. Rejecting a Vietnamese protest against the ban, which affected the livelihood of Vietnamese fishermen who enjoyed traditional fishing rights in the area, Qin Gang, a spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said on June 9,2009, that China had "indisputable" sovereignty over the South China Sea islands, includingXisha and Nansha islands, and their adjacent waters. "It's a regular and justified administrative measure of China to post a summer fishing ban within the South China Sea, with the aim of protecting the sustainability of marine life in this area," Qin said. Simultaneously, China deployed some patrol ships in the area to enforce the ban.

4. On January 5,2010, Jiang Yu, a spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, said that China's sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea, including the Xisha and Nansha islands, was indisputable. He was explaining an announcement by the State Council of a guideline on the development of tourism in the province of Hainan, which said that tourism would be promoted on the Xisha and some uninhabited islands.

5. On February 9,2010, the China National Offshore Oil Company Limited (CNOOC Ltd.) announced that its partner, Husky Oil China Limited, a subsidiary of Husky Energy Inc., has discovered a new deepwater gas field in the South China Sea. It said in a statement on its website that the LiuHua (LH) 29-1 field is the third deepwater gas discovery made in Block 29/26 of the Pearl River Mouth Basin in the eastern South China Sea, after other discoveries in 2006 and 2009. According to the Xinhua news agency, CNOOC Ltd. is the listed subsidiary of the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, China's largest offshore oil company.

6. On April 26
,2010, China's fishery administration said it had started regular patrols of the South China Sea by sending two vessels to take over from two others which were escorting Chinese fishing boats in the area. Wu Zhuang, Director of Administration of Fishery and Fishing Harbor Supervision for the South China Sea under the Ministry of Agriculture, said :"China Yuzheng 301 and 302 take over from China Yuzheng 311 and 202, which have been patrolling the sea area of Nansha Islands since April 1." He added that the patrol ships were sent to escort Chinese fishing boats in the South China Sea and reinforce China's fishing rights in the waters around Nansha Islands. The two ships set sail from Sanya, a coastal city in the Hainan province .

7. Simultaneously with its increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea, the Chinese have also stepped up their assertiveness in the East China Sea where their claims and interests clash with those of Japan. The fact that Tokyo has now a government, which is well disposed towards China and attaches greater importance than was done by past Governments to strengthening Japan’s relations with China, has not come in the way of the new assertiveness in the East China Sea.

8. On February 23,2010, Qin Gang, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, was asked for China’s reaction to a news report that Japan would appeal to an international maritime court if China started using an East China Sea oil and gas field for gas production. He replied as follows: "China and Japan have a principled common understanding on the East China Sea issue. China upholds and maintains the common understanding. This position has never changed." Qin added that China hoped Japan could provide a more favorable environment to put the common understanding into practice. According to the principled common understanding, the Japanese side could participate in the cooperative development of the Chunxiao oil and gas field in accordance with relevant laws of China, but the cooperative development is different from "joint development”, he said.

9. On April 8,2010, China’s PLA Daily announced that the East Sea Fleet would conduct a “large-scale” military exercise in the East China Sea. Following this, the Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa announced on April 13 that 10 Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) vessels, including two submarines and eight warships, have sailed through international waters between the islands of Okinawa and Miyako, heading southeast into the Pacific Ocean, since April 10. It was reported that the Japanese had made enquiries about these movements from Beijing through diplomatic channels. Beijing pointed out the same day that similar drills had been carried out in in international waters in the past by the navies of other countries. It implied that if other Navies could carry out such exercises in international waters, so could China. Japanese sources interpreted the movements as “signaling an effort by Beijing to expand naval activities in international waters with the aim of preventing intervention by other naval forces.”

10. Japan complained to China on April 21 that a Chinese military helicopter flew close to a Japanese naval vessel, the second encounter of such nature to happen in a month. Japan's Defense Ministry said the helicopter was within 300 feet (90 meters) of the Japanese vessel and had circled it twice. The Japanese vessel was monitoring Chinese military activities. However, the Japanese Foreign Minister KatsuyaOkada was quoted by the Kyodo news agency as saying that the Chinese vessel did not violate any international laws. After the first incident on April 8, the Japanese Foreign Ministry protested to China on April 12, saying the close flight was "a dangerous act from the view of naval safety," and requested China to look into the matter. The Ministry again protested after the second incident and received a reply that the Chinese Government will investigate. The Japanese Defense Ministry has said it believed that the Chinese actions may be a show of power, and added that Japan intends to strengthen its defense in the area. The “Mainichi”, the Japanese daily, quoted the Japanese Defence Ministry as saying that the Chinese Navy conducted military exercises from April 7 to 9 in the East China Sea. Chinese ships passed through international waters between the main Okinawan island and Miyako Island on April 10 at around 8 p.m., and on around April 13 sailed near the Okinotorishima Island, the southernmost part of Japan.

11. Briefing the media in Beijing on April 22, Huang Xueping, a spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of National Defence, defended Chinese naval exercises in the East China Sea and asserted that the movement of Chinese naval ships out in the East China Sea did not violate international laws and posed no threat to other countries. He added that it is routine practice for the army to have its drills in the high seas, and is also a practice done by other countries. He warned: "Countries concerned should not track down or disrupt the activities of Chinese military vessels engaged in normal defense exercises."

12.Instead of being defensive and low-profile about the presence and assertiveness of the Chinese Navy in the South and East China Seas, the Government/Party controlled Chinese media have been openly asserting China’s readiness to protect its traditional rights and defend its territorial claims in the area through its modernized Navy. They project the increasing assertiveness as a message that a modern and powerful Chinese Navy has arrived on the Pacific scene as a force to be reckoned with.

13. In an interview to the “China Daily News” ( April 27), Jin Linbo, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, suggested that Tokyo should communicate with Beijing before taking any unilateral action, which may be "misinterpreted" by China. He added: "The increase in frequency and size of our military exercise is normal; it only shows that China's navy is getting stronger. As long as it does not breach any law, other countries should gradually get used to it."

14. ”The “ Global Times” , the English daily of the Party-owned “People’s Daily” group, wrote on April 27: “As strategic equilibrium is shifting in west Pacific Ocean, even the slightest change can be rough for one side to take. A regular military drill by Chinese naval ships in international waters early this month caused a fuss in Japan. The Japanese media was full of hot air over the incident and tried to attach blame to China's seemingly assertive behavior. Admitting the drill took place in international open water, the Japanese media still claimed it raised concern in Japan "since it did not happen before." A stronger navy is a result of China's growing economic strength and ongoing modernization of its military power. It is a strategic requirement of a big power, which must defend its interests to the best of its ability.
As China is assuming more responsibilities in East Asia, there will be more frequent military exercises in international waters. Beefing up China's naval forces is also necessary given the US is shifting considerable strategic defensive strength in the west Pacific. Naturally, the transformation of the Chinese navy will bring changes to the strategic pattern in East Asia and the west Pacific Ocean that has lasted for the last five decades. But the trans-formation is positive. China does not hold an intention to challenge the US in the central Pacific or engage in a military clash with Japan in close waters, though it is willing to protect its core interests at any cost. The west Pacific region is critical to world peace and stability; ensuring both requires the involvement of all major countries in the area. Neither side has a monopoly over the future of the west Pacific. Both the US and Japan, along with many other world powers, have aggressively expanded their maritime capabilities, but they need to adjust their viewpoint when considering China's moves. The time when dominant powers enjoyed unshared "spheres of influence" around the world is over. The purpose of China's growing navy is to provide offshore defense and to protect trade routes and Chinese citizens around the globe. It is difficult to imagine China would rely on a maritime strategic system built by the US after World War II to protect its global interests today. A growing Chinese navy is a symbol of China's peaceful rise.
Many countries have acknowledged that a rising China does not pose a threat to the world. If they truly mean it, they should be able to understand a growing Chinese navy.”

15. The Chinese Navy is there to stay and grow and assert China’s claims and rights. That is the message loud and clear.

16. While thus taking an increasingly assertive line on the presence and activities of its Navy in South and East China Seas and West Pacific, Chine continues to maintain a low profile over the presence and activities of its naval vessels in the Indian Ocean and Gulf Regions. They are projected as having a defensive role in protecting Chinese merchant ships and energy supplies from attacks by pirates and others. Chinese analysts do not as yet talk of any Chinese strategic interest in power projection in the Indian Ocean area. ( 28-4-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies.