Posts Tagged ‘India’

China On Pace To Dethrone The US

Posted: October 9, 2017 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

 

“Not sure whether China will be nice to self-ruled Taiwan? Wait until after the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party.

What’s in store for the hotly disputed, resource-rich South China Sea, where Beijing has taken a military and technological lead since 2010? Wait until after the Congress.

Coffee maker wouldn’t start today? Wait until after the Congress.

Wait. But you get the idea: This event, due to start Oct. 18, is monumental enough to put a lot of Asia on hold — and make it worry.”

That’s how Ralph Jennings opened his piece for Forbes on Wednesday. Humor aside, the point he’s making is the same one I made at the end of September — that China’s upcoming National Congress is a really big deal.

China sets the regional tone on nearly all matters, as Jennings points out in his article:

“Chinese foreign and economic policies shape much of Asia. China’s ever-growing efforts to build and fund infrastructure around the subcontinent through initiatives such as One Belt, One Road have obvious impact on smaller countries that might otherwise struggle to finance their own projects. Neighbors from Japan to India are watching China for foreign policy cues that affect their iffy diplomatic relations with the region’s major power.”

But China’s geopolitical influence extends far beyond Asia. The country has long been viewed as the rising global superpower on pace to dethrone the United States. Much has been written and said about

China’s willingness to embrace this role as more and more countries turn to it for guidance.

China is highly conscious of this trend. It feels the world’s eyes aimed squarely in its direction and very much wants everything at the upcoming Congress, during which President Xi Jinping is expected to be reaffirmed as leader and appoint his own trusted allies to key positions of power, to go smoothly.

This is why, as I pointed out last month, the Chinese government has implemented a system-wide crackdown – both in the streets and in cyberspace – on political dissent ahead of the Congress. It all goes back to perception and the desire to present to the world the “One China” the country’s government says exists.

But perhaps there’s even more to it than that. It may be that once power is further solidified under Xi at the Congress, China will be ready to fully embrace the role of world leader. On Wednesday, its state-run Xinhua News Agency ran an article titled “China offers wisdom in global governance,” which opened with the following:

“With its own development and becoming increasingly closer to the center of the world stage, China has been injecting positive energy into the international community in pursuit of better global governance over recent years.”

Xinhua writes that China’s leadership ability is already well-established and that even though it’s currently undergoing a restructuring of its own, its vision for the world is one rooted in peace and innovation:

“As the world’s second largest economy and the biggest contributor of global economic growth, China’s innovative concepts on improving global governance and promoting global peace and common prosperity have gained wide recognition and support from other countries.

“Undergoing structural reforms, China is implementing its new concept of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development, eyeing a quality growth model driven by innovation.

“Meanwhile, the country is assuming its international responsibility to promote common development with other countries in the interconnected world.”

Continuing, Xinhua points to international acceptance of One Belt, One Road as evidence of China’s ability to take the lead in adapting to the modern era:

 

“The Belt and Road Initiative, building a community of shared future for mankind and the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, all proposed by China, have been incorporated in U.N. resolutions, showing wide international consensus on the concepts.

“Equality, mutual respect and win-win cooperation feature in the Chinese plans, which also safeguard the irreversible trend of globalization.”

This “win-win cooperation” is China’s guiding principle, Hu Angang of Tsinghua University in Beijing, told Xinhua. He even dubbed the philosophy “win-winism,” as the state news organ explains:

 

“’Win-winism’ highlights an open world economy for common development of all countries and joint efforts to address global challenges such as climate change and terrorism, and exchanges of different cultures, said the researcher.”

Xinhua goes on to write that Liu Wei, president of Renmin University of China, says the country has taken the lead by “putting forward new concepts, thoughts and plans to reshape the global governance system.”

With China in the spotlight ahead of the National Congress, it shouldn’t be taken lightly that the superpower would allow such bold language by one of its state mouthpieces. Indeed, it could be that a post-Congress China will be a far more assertive player on the world stage.

Advertisements

 

The geopolitical reality in the Middle East is changing dramatically.

The impact of the Arab Spring, the retraction of the U.S. military, and diminishing economic influence on the Arab world – as displayed during the Obama Administration – are facts.

The emergence of a Russian-Iranian-Turkish triangle is the new reality. The Western hegemony in the MENA region has ended, and not in a shy way, but with a long list of military conflicts and destabilization.

The first visit of a Saudi king to Russia shows the growing power of Russia in the Middle East. It also shows that not only Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but also Egypt and Libya, are more likely to consider Moscow as a strategic ally.

King Salman’s visit to Moscow could herald not only several multibillion business deals, but could be the first real step towards a new regional geopolitical and military alliance between OPEC leader Saudi Arabia and Russia.

This cooperation will not only have severe consequences for Western interests but also could partly undermine or reshape the position of OPEC at the same time.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is currently hosting a large Saudi delegation, led by King Salman and supported by Saudi minister of energy Khalid Al Falih.

Moscow’s open attitude to Saudi Arabia—a lifetime Washington ally and strong opponent of the growing Iran power projections in the Arab world—show that Putin understands the current pivotal changes in the Middle East.

U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and even the UAE, have shown an increased eagerness to develop military and economic relations with Moscow, even if this means dealing with a global power currently supporting their archenemy Iran. Analysts wonder where the current visit of King Salman will really lead to, but all signs are on green for a straightforward Arab-Saudi support for a bigger Russian role in the region, and more in-depth cooperation in oil and gas markets.

In stark contrast to the difficult relationship of the West with the Arab world, Moscow seems to be playing the regional power game at a higher level. It can become an ally or friend to regional adversaries, such as Iran, Turkey, Egypt and now Saudi Arabia. Arab regimes are also willing to discuss cooperation with Russia, even though the country is supporting adversaries in the Syrian and Yemen conflicts and continues to supply arms to the Shi’a regime in Iran.

Investors can expect Russia and Saudi Arabia to sign a multitude of business deals, some of which have already been presented. Moscow and Riyadh will also discuss the still fledgling oil and gas markets, as both nations still heavily depend on hydrocarbon revenues. Arab analysts expect both sides to choose a bilateral strategy to keep oil prices from falling lower. Riyadh and Moscow have the same end goal: a stable oil and gas market, in which demand and supply keep each other in check to push price levels up, but without leaving enough breathing space for new market entrants such as U.S. shale.

Putin and Salman will also discuss the security situation in the Middle East, especially the ongoing Syrian civil war, Iran’s emerging power, and the Libya situation. Until now, the two have supported opposite sides, but Riyadh has realized that its ultimate goal, the removal of Syrian president Assad, is out of reach. To prevent a full-scale Shi’a triangle (Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon), other options are now being sought to quell Tehran’s power surge. Moscow is key in this.

Putin’s unconditional support of the Iranian military onslaught in Iraq and Syria, combined with its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon or Houthis in Yemen, will be discussed and maybe tweaked to give Riyadh room to maneuver into the Russian influence sphere. The verdict on this isn’t yet out, but Riyadh’s move must be seen

in light of ongoing Moscow discussions with Egypt, Libya, Jordan and the UAE.

A growing positive Putin vibe in the Arab world is now clear. The strong leadership of Russia’s new Tsar has become a main point of interest for the (former pro-Western) Arab regimes. The U.S. and its European allies have only shown a diffuse political-military approach to the threats in the MENA region, while even destabilizing historically pro-Western Arab royalties and presidents. Putin’s friendship, however, is being presented as unconditional and long lasting.

Even though geopolitics and military operations in the Middle East now are making up most headlines, the Saudi-Russian rapprochement will also have economic consequences. Riyadh’s leadership of OPEC is still undisputed, as it has shown over the last several years. Saudi Arabia’s eagerness to counter the free-fall of oil prices has been successful, but a much bigger effort is required to bring prices back to a level of between $60-75 per barrel. Russia’s role—as the largest of non-OPEC producers—has been substantial, bringing in not only several emerging producers, but also by putting pressure on its allies Iran, Venezuela and Algeria.

The historically important Moscow-Riyadh cooperation in oil and gas is unprecedented. Without Russia’s support, overall compliance to the OPEC production cut agreement would have been very low, leading to even lower oil prices.

The Saudi-Russian rapprochement could, however, be seen as a threat by the West and OPEC itself. Western influence in the region has waned since the end of the 1990s, not only due to the peace dividend of NATO, but especially because OECD countries are moving away from oil. Saudi Arabia had to find new markets, which happened with China and India. The Saudi future is no longer based on Western customers or support, but lies in Asia and other emerging regions. The FSU region has also popped up on Saudi screens. Investment opportunities, combined with geopolitical support and military interests, are readily available in Russia and its satellite states.

For OPEC, the Moscow-Riyadh love affair could also mean a threat. Throughout OPEC’s history, Riyadh has been the main power broker in the oil cartel, pushing forward price and production strategies; most of the time this was done in close cooperation with all the other members, most of them Arab allies. This changed dramatically after Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to cooperate in global oil markets. Through the emergence of this OPEC/ non-OPEC cooperation, Moscow and Riyadh have grown closer than expected. The two countries now decide the future of global oil markets before they discuss it with some of the other main players like UAE, Iran, Algeria and Nigeria. King Salman’s visit is seen as another step toward a more in-depth cooperation in oil and gas related issues.

Besides global oil market cooperation, Saudi Arabia is and will become more interested to invest in natural gas development, not only to have an interest in Russia’s gas future but also to bring in Russian technology, investment and LNG to the Kingdom.

At the same time, media sources are stating that Saudi Arabia is NOT asking Russia to take part in the long-awaited Aramco IPO in 2018. Russian individual investors and financial institutions, however, are expected to take an interest.

Putin understands not only Russian chess tactics but also the Arab “Tawila” approach. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman already will prepare his Tawila strategy, putting enough stones on the table to ensure his successful end game. MBS, currently de-facto ruler of the Kingdom, is targeting a full house—Russian cooperation in energy, defense and investments—while softening Moscow’s 100% percent support of the Shi’a archenemy Iran.

For both sides, Moscow and Riyadh, the current constellation presents a win-win situation. Moscow can reach its ultimate goal in the Middle East: to become the main power broker and knock the US from the pedestal. For Riyadh, the option to counter the Iranian threat, while also bolstering its own economy and hydrocarbon future, is now within reach.

King Salman’s trip could go down in history as the point of no return for the West. Pictures of Russian President Vladimir Putin and King Salman of Saudi Arabia could replace historic pictures of King Saud and U.S. President Roosevelt (Bitter Lake, 1945). In a few years, King-to-be Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman might tell his children that this was one of the pillars that changed not only the Middle East but also supported his Vision 2030 plan of becoming a bridge between the old (West) and the new (Russia-Asia).

By Chris Hedges

The American empire is coming to an end. The U.S. economy is being drained by wars in the Middle East and vast military expansion around the globe. It is burdened by growing deficits, along with the devastating effects of deindustrialization and global trade agreements. Our democracy has been captured and destroyed by corporations that steadily demand more tax cuts, more deregulation and impunity from prosecution for massive acts of financial fraud, all the while looting trillions from the U.S. treasury in the form of bailouts. The nation has lost the power and respect needed to induce allies in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa to do its bidding. Add to this the mounting destruction caused by climate change and you have a recipe for an emerging dystopia. Overseeing this descent at the highest levels of the federal and state governments is a motley collection of imbeciles, con artists, thieves, opportunists and warmongering generals. And to be clear, I am speaking about Democrats, too.

The empire will limp along, steadily losing influence until the dollar is dropped as the world’s reserve currency, plunging the United States into a crippling depression

and instantly forcing a massive contraction of its military machine.

Short of a sudden and widespread popular revolt, which does not seem likely, the death spiral appears unstoppable, meaning the United States as we know it will no longer exist within a decade or, at most, two. The global vacuum we leave behind will be filled by China, already establishing itself as an economic and military juggernaut, or perhaps there will be a multipolar world carved up among Russia, China, India, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa and a few other states. Or maybe the void will be filled, as the historian Alfred W. McCoy writes in his book “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power,” by “a coalition of transnational corporations, multilateral military forces like NATO, and an international financial leadership self-selected at Davos and Bilderberg” that will “forge a supranational nexus to supersede any nation or empire.”

Under every measurement, from financial growth and infrastructure investment

to advanced technology, including supercomputers, space weaponry and cyberwarfare, we are being rapidly overtaken by the Chinese. “In April 2015 the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggested that the American economy would grow by nearly 50 percent over the next 15 years, while China’s would triple and come close to surpassing America’s in 2030,” McCoy noted. China became the world’s second largest economy in 2010, the same year it became the world’s leading manufacturing nation, pushing aside a United States that had dominated the world’s manufacturing for a century. The Department of Defense issued a sober report titled “At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World.” It found that the U.S. military “no longer enjoys an unassailable position versus state competitors,” and “it no longer can … automatically generate consistent and sustained local military superiority at range.” McCoy predicts the collapse will come by 2030.

Empires in decay embrace an almost willful suicide. Blinded by their hubris and unable to face the reality of their diminishing power, they retreat into a fantasy world where hard and unpleasant facts no longer intrude. They replace diplomacy, multilateralism and politics with unilateral threats and the blunt instrument of war.

This collective self-delusion saw the United States make the greatest strategic blunder in its history, one that sounded the death knell of the empire—the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The architects of the war in the George W. Bush White House, and the array of useful idiots in the press and academia who were cheerleaders for it, knew very little about the countries being invaded, were stunningly naive about the effects of industrial warfare and were blindsided by the ferocious blowback. They stated, and probably believed, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, although they had no valid evidence to support this claim. They insisted that democracy would be implanted in Baghdad and spread across the Middle East. They assured the public that U.S. troops would be greeted by grateful Iraqis and Afghans as liberators. They promised

that oil revenues would cover the cost of reconstruction. They insisted that the bold and quick military strike—“shock and awe”—would restore American hegemony in the region and dominance in the world. It did the opposite. As Zbigniew Brzezinski noted, this “unilateral war of choice against Iraq precipitated a widespread delegitimation of U.S. foreign policy.”

Historians of empire call these military fiascos, a feature of all late empires, examples of “micro-militarism.” The Athenians engaged in micro-militarism when during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) they invaded Sicily, suffering the loss of 200 ships and thousands of soldiers and triggering revolts throughout the empire. Britain did so in 1956 when it attacked Egypt in a dispute over the nationalization of the Suez Canal and then quickly had to withdraw in humiliation, empowering a string of Arab nationalist leaders such as Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and dooming British rule over the nation’s few remaining colonies. Neither of these empires recovered.

“While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force for conquest and control of overseas dominions, fading empires are inclined to ill-considered displays of power, dreaming of bold military masterstrokes that would somehow recoup lost prestige and power,” McCoy writes. “Often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micromilitary operations can yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already under way.”

Empires need more than force to dominate other nations. They need a mystique. This mystique—a mask for imperial plunder, repression and exploitation—seduces some native elites, who become willing to do the bidding of the imperial power or at least remain passive. And it provides a patina of civility and even nobility to justify to those at home the costs in blood and money needed to maintain empire. The parliamentary system of government that Britain replicated in appearance in the colonies, and the introduction of British sports such as polo, cricket and horse racing, along with elaborately uniformed viceroys and the pageantry of royalty, were buttressed by what the colonialists said was the invincibility of their navy and army. England was able to hold its empire together from 1815 to 1914 before being forced into a steady retreat. America’s high-blown rhetoric about democracy, liberty and equality, along with basketball, baseball and Hollywood, as well as our own deification of the military, entranced and cowed much of the globe in the wake of World War II. Behind the scenes, of course, the CIA used its bag of dirty tricks to orchestrate coups, fix elections and carry out assassinations, black propaganda campaigns, bribery, blackmail, intimidation and torture. But none of this works anymore.

The loss of the mystique is crippling. It makes it hard to find pliant surrogates to administer the empire, as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. The photographs of physical abuse and sexual humiliation imposed on Arab prisoners at Abu Ghraib inflamed the Muslim world and fed al-Qaida and later Islamic State with new recruits. The assassination of Osama bin Laden and a host of other jihadist leaders, including the U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, openly mocked the concept of the rule of law. The hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of refugees fleeing our debacles in the Middle East, along with the near-constant threat from militarized aerial drones, exposed us as state terrorists. We have exercised in the Middle East the U.S. military’s penchant for widespread atrocities, indiscriminate violence, lies and blundering miscalculations, actions that led to our defeat in Vietnam.

The brutality abroad is matched by a growing brutality at home. Militarized police gun down mostly unarmed, poor people of color and fill a system of penitentiaries and jails that hold a staggering 25 percent of the world’s prisoners although Americans represent only 5 percent of global population. Many of our cities are in ruins. Our public transportation system is a shambles. Our educational system is in steep decline and being privatized. Opioid addiction, suicide, mass shootings, depression and morbid obesity plague a population that has fallen into profound despair. The deep disillusionment and anger that led to Donald Trump’s election—a reaction to the corporate coup d’état and the poverty afflicting at least half of the country—have destroyed the myth of a functioning democracy. Presidential tweets and rhetoric celebrate hate, racism and bigotry and taunt the weak and the vulnerable. The president in an address before the United Nations threatened to obliterate another nation in an act of genocide. We are worldwide objects of ridicule and hatred. The foreboding for the future is expressed in the rash of dystopian films, motion pictures that no longer perpetuate American virtue and exceptionalism or the myth of human progress.

“The demise of the United States as the preeminent global power could come far more quickly than anyone imagines,” McCoy writes. “Despite the aura of omnipotence empires often project, most are surprisingly fragile, lacking the inherent strength of even a modest nation-state. Indeed, a glance at their history should remind us that the greatest of them are susceptible to collapse from diverse causes, with fiscal pressures usually a prime factor. For the better part of two centuries, the security and prosperity of the homeland has been the main objective for most stable states, making foreign or imperial adventures an expendable option, usually allocated no more than 5 percent of the domestic budget. Without the financing that arises almost organically inside a sovereign nation, empires are famously predatory in their relentless hunt for plunder or profit—witness the Atlantic slave trade, Belgium’s rubber lust in the Congo, British India’s opium commerce, the Third Reich’s rape of Europe, or the Soviet exploitation of Eastern Europe.”

When revenues shrink or collapse, McCoy points out, “empires become brittle.”

“So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly wrong, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, eleven years for the Ottomans, seventeen for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, just twenty-seven years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003 [when the U.S. invaded Iraq],” he writes.

Many of the estimated 69 empires that have existed throughout history lacked competent leadership in their decline, having ceded power to monstrosities such as the Roman emperors Caligula and Nero. In the United States, the reins of authority may be in the grasp of the first in a line of depraved demagogues.

“For the majority of Americans, the 2020s will likely be remembered as a demoralizing decade of rising prices, stagnant wages, and fading international competitiveness,” McCoy writes. The loss of the dollar as the global reserve currency will see the U.S. unable to pay for its huge deficits by selling Treasury bonds, which will be drastically devalued at that point. There will be a massive rise in the cost of imports. Unemployment will explode. Domestic clashes over what McCoy calls “insubstantial issues” will fuel a dangerous hypernationalism that could morph into an American fascism.

A discredited elite, suspicious and even paranoid in an age of decline, will see enemies everywhere. The array of instruments created for global dominance—wholesale surveillance, the evisceration of civil liberties, sophisticated torture techniques, militarized police, the massive prison system, the thousands of militarized drones and satellites—will be employed in the homeland. The empire will collapse and the nation will consume itself within our lifetimes if we do not wrest power from those who rule the corporate state.

 

Confirming, and sending the clearest sign of his previously discussed pivot toward Russia and away from NATO and the West, on Tuesday President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey had signed a deal to purchase a Russian surface-to-air missile system, and paid the first installment. The deal cements Turkey’s recent rapprochement with Russia, despite differences over the war in Syria, the downing of a Russian fighter jet over Turkey in late 2015 and the assassination of a Russian ambassador earlier this year, and comes as Turkey’s ties with the United States and European Union have become strained to the point of breaking.

Although the missile purchase from Russia was made public several months ago, Erdogan’s announcement was the first confirmation that Turkey had transferred money to pay for the S-400 missile system.

“Signatures have been made for the purchase of S-400s from Russia,” Erdogan said in comments published in several newspapers on Tuesday. “A deposit has also been paid as far as I know.”

As the NYT writes, “the purchase of the missile system flies in the face of cooperation within the NATO alliance, which Turkey has belonged to since the early 1950s. NATO does not ban purchases of military hardware from manufacturers outside the American-led alliance, but it does discourage members from buying equipment not compatible with that used by other members.”

According to reports in the Russian media, Turkey is to get four batteries of S-400 launchers complete with targeting radar and control posts. Some aspects of the deal are reportedly to be finalized, but Russian officials said the contract furthers Russia’s geostrategic interests.

* * *

Predictably, the Pentagon promptly reiterated its concerns over the deal, which it said undermines inter-operability of weapons systems among NATO allies. “We have relayed our concerns to Turkish officials regarding the potential purchase of the S-400. A NATO inter-operable missile defense system remains the best option to defend Turkey from the full range of threats in its region,” spokesman Johnny Michael said in a statement.

A NATO official in Brussels where the alliance is headquartered, said that no NATO member currently operates the Russian missile system and that the alliance had not been informed about the details of the purchase by Turkey. “What matters for NATO is that the equipment allies acquire is able to operate together,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity as required by alliance procedures. “Interoperability of allied armed forces is essential to NATO for the conduct of our operations.”

However, on Wednesday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the critics of Turkey’s deal with Russia, saying Ankara had no intention of waiting for the protection of its NATO allies.

“They have gone crazy because we made a deal for S-400s,” Erdogan said Wednesday in a speech to the ruling AKP mayors in Ankara, as cited by Hurriyet.

“What do you expect? Should we wait for you? We take care of ourselves in every security point. We are taking precautions and we will continue to do so,” the Turkish leader said.

Erdogan criticized the reluctance of US and Israel to authorize supply of combat drones to Turkey as another example of how Turkish security was sidelined by its allies.

“When they did give [drones], their repair and maintenance put us in a difficult position. Now [Turkey] has come to a point where it can produce its own unmanned, armed air vehicles. And now they are uncomfortable with that,” Erdogan added.

Erdogan also dismissed issues of interoperability, brand loyalties or the geopolitical optics of such a sale. “Nobody has the right to discuss the Turkish republic’s independence principles

or independent decisions about its defense industry,” the daily newspaper Hurriyet reported him as saying.

“We make the decisions about our own independence ourselves,” he said. “We are obliged to take safety and security measures in order to defend our country.”

As the NYT adds, Erdogan’s announcement — made to Turkish journalists aboard his presidential jet as he returned from Kazakhstan — appeared timed as a response to two judicial cases announced last week in the United States. One is against his presidential bodyguards, who are charged with assaulting protesters when Mr. Erdogan visited Washington this year. The other is against a group of Turks, including a former minister, accused of breaking United States sanctions against Iran. Erdogan has angrily criticized both cases.

* * *

The S-400 SAM is designed to detect, track and then destroy aircraft, drones or missiles. It’s Russia’s most advanced integrated air defense system, and can hit targets as far as 250 miles away. Russia has also agreed to sell them to China and India, both nations who are masters at reverse engineering. Most concerning for NATO, however is that the systems delivered to Turkey would not have a friend-or-foe identification system, which means they could be deployed against any threat without restriction.

Turkey has been weighing options for acquiring long-range SAMs for years. In 2013, Ankara surprised other NATO members by announcing that it was going to purchase the FD-2000 system from China, sparking criticism from Washington. Defense observers speculated that Turkey played the China card to put pressure on its allies and get better terms for buying a NATO-compatible SAM system, such as the US-made Patriot PAC-3. The Chinese deal stalled and was eventually scrapped, with Turkey reportedly unhappy over Beijing’s reluctance to hand over the technology behind the advanced system. Last year Ankara announced that it was in talks with Russia over a potential purchase of the S-400.

Turkey has other reasons for the missile purchase. It needs to cultivate good relations with Russia, and it also needs to build its own military defense, said Asli Aydintasbas, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “Turkey wants the deal,” she said, “and Russia is only too happy to drive a wedge into the NATO alliance.”

While NATO’s collective defense should have been sufficient for Turkey – NATO deployed Patriot missiles there during a rise of tensions with Syria in the past – Erdogan lost trust in the West since last year’s failed “coup attempt”, which he slammed repeatedly as a Western plot to oust him, and appears determined to secure his own defense.

Furthermore, the transfer of technology from Russia is attractive to Turkey: Erdogan has spoken also of his frustration at having requests to the United States for drones turned down, and of his satisfaction that Turkey developed its own.

Notably, Erdogan’s announcement of the deal with Russia came after Germany said that it was suspending all major arms exports to Turkey because of the deteriorating human rights situation in the country and the increasingly strained ties. “We have put on hold all big requests that Turkey sent to us, and these are really not a few,” the German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said during a panel discussion in Berlin on Monday, according to Reuters.

While the purchase of Russian missiles will take cooperation between the two nations to a new level, but is not the first time that Turkey has bought military equipment from Russia. It turned to Moscow in the early 1990s to buy military helicopters and armored personnel carriers. Last year, Russia and Turkey reached an agreement to revive a suspended natural-gas pipeline project.

Meanwhile, as the US military-industrial complex has flourished in recent months following a spike in deals with Saudi Arabia, South Korea and other nations courtesy of rising geopolitical tensions, Russia has remained largely squeezed out of the arms market in Western and Eastern Europe, even in countries that once bought nearly all their weapons from the Soviet Union, has looked for years to NATO’S eastern flank as a promising market and the alliance’s weakest link. It has also sold weapons to Greece, another NATO member and to Cyprus, which is not a member of NATO but houses British military bases and effectively serves as an outpost of the alliance.

Meanwhile, as Turkey’s suspicions toward the West have grown, relations with Russia warmed, driven by the personal relationship between Erdogan and Vladimir Putin. Erdogan has expressed personal admiration for Putin, to the consternation of many European and American leaders, if not President Trump. Erdogan has also shown a preference for the Russian model, with its sense of restoring a lost empire, returning Turkey to a more independent place in the world and rejecting Western democracy.

At the same time, the fact that Turkey belongs to NATO has only increased Mr. Putin’s desire to forge strong relations with Mr. Erdogan despite their differences over the conflict in Syria.

Mr. Putin and myself are determined on this issue,” Erdogan told journalists about the missile deal.

 

Did the doomsday clock on the petrodollar (and implicitly US hegemony) just tick one more minute closer to midnight?

Apparently confirming what President Maduro had warned following the recent US sanctions, The Wall Street Journal reports that Venezuela has officially stopped accepting US Dollars as payment for its crude oil exports.

As we previously noted, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said last Thursday that Venezuela will be looking to “free” itself from the U.S. dollar next week. According to Reuters,

“Venezuela is going to implement a new system of international payments and will create a basket of currencies to free us from the dollar,” Maduro said in a multi-hour address to a new legislative “superbody.” He reportedly did not provide details of this new proposal.

Maduro hinted further that the South American country would look to using the yuan instead, among other currencies.

“If they pursue us with the dollar, we’ll use the Russian ruble, the yuan, yen, the Indian rupee, the euro,” Maduro also said.

And today, as The Wall Street Journal reports, in an effort to circumvent U.S. sanctions, Venezuela is telling oil traders that it will no longer receive or send payments in dollars, people familiar with the new policy said.

 

Oil traders who export Venezuelan crude or import oil products into the country have begun converting their invoices to euros.

The state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela SA, known as PdVSA, has told its private joint venture partners to open accounts in euros and to convert existing cash holdings into Europe’s main currency, said one project partner.

The new payment policy hasn’t been publicly announced, but Vice President Tareck El Aissami, who has been blacklisted by the U.S., said Friday, “To fight against the economic blockade there will be a basket of currencies to liberate us from the dollar.”

There is no major market reaction for now – a modest bid to Bitcoin and some weakness in EUR and Gold (seems someone wants this to look like nothing).

However, as Nomura debt analyst Siobhan Morden warns:

“You can say whatever you want for your domestic propaganda and make it look like you’re retaliating against the U.S…. This political posturing will only be to their detriment.”

So what happens if Europe also sanctions Venezuela? Will Rubles or Yuan… or Gold be the only way to buy Venezuela’s oil?

* * *

This decision by the nation with the world’s largest proven oil reserves comes just days after China and Russia unveiled the latest Oil/Yuan/Gold triad at the latest BRICS conference.

It’s when President Putin starts talking that the BRICS reveal their true bombshell. Geopolitically and geo-economically, Putin’s emphasis is on a “fair multipolar world”, and “against protectionism and new barriers in global trade.” The message is straight to the point.

“Russia shares the BRICS countries’ concerns over the unfairness of the global financial and economic architecture, which does not give due regard to the growing weight of the emerging economies. We are ready to work together with our partners to promote international financial regulation reforms and to overcome the excessive domination of the limited number of reserve currencies.”

To overcome the excessive domination of the limited number of reserve currencies” is the politest way of stating what the BRICS have been discussing for years now; how to bypass the US dollar, as well as the petrodollar.

Beijing is ready to step up the game. Soon China will launch a crude oil futures contract priced in yuan and convertible into gold.

This means that Russia – as well as Iran, the other key node of Eurasia integration – may bypass US sanctions by trading energy in their own currencies, or in yuan.

Inbuilt in the move is a true Chinese win-win; the yuan will be fully convertible into gold on both the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges.

The new triad of oil, yuan and gold is actually a win-win-win. No problem at all if energy providers prefer to be paid in physical gold instead of yuan. The key message is the US dollar being bypassed.

RC – via the Russian Central Bank and the People’s Bank of China – have been developing ruble-yuan swaps for quite a while now.

Once that moves beyond the BRICS to aspiring “BRICS Plus” members and then all across the Global South, Washington’s reaction is bound to be nuclear (hopefully, not literally).

Washington’s strategic doctrine rules RC should not be allowed by any means to be preponderant along the Eurasian landmass. Yet what the BRICS have in store geo-economically does not concern only Eurasia – but the whole Global South.

Sections of the War Party in Washington bent on instrumentalizing India against China – or against RC – may be in for a rude awakening. As much as the BRICS may be currently facing varied waves of economic turmoil, the daring long-term road map, way beyond the Xiamen Declaration, is very much in place.

* * *

Having threatened China today with exclusion from SWIFT, we suspect Washington is rapidly running out of any great ally to sustain the petrodollar-driven hegemony (and implicitly its war machine). Cue the calls for a Venezuelan invasion in 3…2..1…!

CA.L- How unfortunately hilarious this is…

By Andre Vltchek & Alessandro Biancchi, Chief Editor of Anti-Diplomatico

1) AB: The geographic location of Afghanistan has always occupied a central role. The April peace talks between Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Russia and China seemed to have put an end to the persistent and dominant American presence in the country. What’s your opinion?

AV: What you have mentioned is extremely important, but I’m not ready to celebrate, yet. This could be, at least in theory, the first step towards the end of one of the most destructive and brutal occupations in NATO’s history, or in what the US mainstream press likes to describe as “the longest American war.”

Let us also not call it only the “American presence”. I know some Europeans lately love to portray themselves as some kind of victims, but they are definitely not. Europe is at the core of this entire global nightmare. And the US is nothing else other than its creation: it is Europe’s offspring. In many ways, the United States is Europe.

The UK is now well behind this horror through which Afghanistan is being forced to go through, at least theoretically; a sadistic revenge for all former British defeats in the country. The UK is responsible for more massacres worldwide than any other country on Earth. And now it is shaping the US and in fact the entire Western imperialism, ideologically. Its Machiavellianism, its propaganda machine is second to none.

What I can confirm from my first-hand experience is that by now the people of Afghanistan have had truly enough of this Western imperialist barbarism. They are exhausted after 16 years of the horror invasion. They dislike the West; mistrust the West… But most of them are silent, because they are constantly being frightened into submission. And also remember: collaboration with the Western occupation forces is now the greatest ‘business’ in the country. Afghan diplomats, many politicians, countless military commanders, Western-funded NGO’s, even thousands of educators, are all serving the occupiers. Billions of dollars are being made from such shameful collaboration. It is all one huge business, and the mafia of servile Afghan ‘journalists’, diplomats, governors and ‘educators’ will never leave their lucrative positions voluntarily.

Western colonialism corrupts! It corrupts one generation after another in all conquered, occupied countries.

Afghans who are pure, Afghans who are proud, true patriots with beautiful hearts (and there are still many of such people in this country that became one of my favorite places on Earth) have presently no power, no say.

Fortunately, even the elites are now realizing that there is no way forward under the present regime, and under the present foreign rule.

In Kabul and in the provinces, people are beginning to look towards Russia, China, but also Iran, even India. Despite its terrible past track record in this part of the world, even Pakistan cannot be ignored, anymore. Anything is better than NATO.

2) AB: Like in other parts of the world, the presence of American troops does not fully explain the long-term goals of military planners. Afghanistan in some respects resembles a similar situation to Southeast Asia. In South Korea, the American presence has persisted since 1950, and with it the destabilization of the Korean peninsula. The American surge will not change the delicate balance negotiated between the parties back in April and it will not affect the efforts of Moscow and Beijing to stabilize the country. How do you define the US presence today in Afghanistan?

AV: I define it as inhuman, barbaric and thoroughly racist. And I’m not talking about the US presence only, but also about the European presence, particularly the British one.

There could be absolutely no doubts regarding how deep once-socialist Afghanistan has sank under the NATO cruelty. It is enough to go even to the sites of the UNDP or the WHO and it all there, in details: Afghanistan is now the least ‘developed’ (using HDI criteria) country in Asia. Afghan people have the lowest life expectancy on their continent.

The US alone claims that it has managed to spend, since the invasion in 2001, between 750 billion and 1.2 trillion dollars. That’s huge, an astronomical amount, even bigger than the entire Marshall Plan after WWII (adjusted to today’s dollar)! But has it been spent to help the Afghan people? Of course not! It has gone mainly into corrupting of ‘elites’ and their offspring, into the military, into the salaries of foreign contractors. Huge military bases were built; some were at some point decommissioned, others were moved somewhere else. Airports were constructed – all of them military ones. Private Western security firms are having a ball. I once calculated that if all that money were to be equally divided between all Afghans, the country would have had a much higher income per capita than relatively affluent Malaysia, for 16 consecutive years!

What the West has done to Afghanistan is insane! It is Orwell meeting Huxley, and all mixed with the worst nightmares of painters like George Grosz and Otto Dix.

Old trolleybus lines built by the former Czechoslovakia are gone; only stumps are left. But so much is still surviving. Soviet apartment buildings, so-called Makroyans, are still standing and flats there are in great demand to date. Water ducts in the countryside were built by Soviet Union, and so were irrigation canals around Jalalabad and elsewhere. India built dams. China constructed public medical facilities. What did the West create? Nothing else other than total misery, armed conflicts and above all – countless military barracks, tall concrete walls and fences, the drug trade, intellectual prostitution and as always, dark and complete nihilism!

In 2007, around 700 Afghan civilians were killed by Western airstrikes alone, a great increase even when compared with 2006.

Georgian military contractors who are working for the US occupation army recently told me: US have total spite for Afghan people. They even destroy unused food at its military bases, instead of giving it to starving children.

People of Afghanistan know perfectly well who are their friends, and who are enemies.

3) AB: The world is changing, and more and more fruitful efforts to replace the chaos wrought by US policies can be seen. The road to economic prosperity and a re-established unity among the Afghan people is still a work in progress, but once the country manages to establish its independence, Washington will have a hard time dictating conditions. Will countries like Russia, China and India be able to prevent a dangerous escalation in Afghanistan?

AV: Many people in Afghanistan are actually dreaming about true independence, and most of them remember with great love, all the kindness and internationalism given to them by the Soviet people. Unlike the Westerners, the Soviets came here first as teachers, doctors, nurses and engineers. They shared with the locals all that they had. They lived among them. They never hid behind fences. To date, in Afghanistan, you say you are Russian, and dozens of people will embrace you, invite you to their homes. It is all in stark contrast to the Western propaganda, which says that

Afghans dislike Russians!

When it comes to Russia and China, yes, both countries acting in concert would be able to bring economic prosperity and social justice to Afghanistan. I’m not so sure about India, which is, until now, clearly sitting on two chairs, but definitely China and Russia are ready and able to help.

The problem is that Afghanistan is still very far from any sort of independence. The West has occupied it for 16 years, that’s terrible enough. But the country has also been sacrificed for the even more sinister designs of the US and NATO, for much longer than that: Afghanistan has been, for decades, a training ground for the pro-western jihadi cadres, starting with Al-Qaeda/Mujahedeen (during the ‘Soviet War’ and the war against Afghan socialism). Now the Taliban is ruining the country, but also, increasingly, ISIS are murdering all in sight here. Recently, ISIS have been arriving from Syria and Lebanon, where they are in the process of being defeated by the Syrian army, by the Russians, but also by the Lebanese forces and Hezbollah. The ISIS was, as is well known, created by the West and its allies in the Gulf.

This is essential to understand: two countries that the West wants to fully destabilize are Russia and China. In both of them, Islamist fundamentalists have been fighting and bringing horrible damage. The West is behind all this. And it is using and sacrificing Afghanistan which is absolutely perfect for the Western imperialist designs due to its geographical location, but also because it is now fully destabilized and in a state of chaos. In Afghanistan, NATO is maintaining ‘perpetual conflict’. Jihadi cadres can be easily hardened there, and then they can be ‘exported’; to go and fight somewhere in Northwest China or in the Central Asian parts of Russia.

The destruction of Afghanistan is actually a well-planned genocidal war of the West against the Afghan people. But the country is also a training ground for jihadists who will eventually be sent to fight against Russia and China.

4) AB: While the United States exhales the last breaths as a declining global power, no longer able to impose its will, it lashes out in pointless acts like lobbing 60 cruise missiles at Syria or sending 4,000 troops to Afghanistan. Such acts do not change anything on the ground or modify the balance of forces in Washington’s favor. They do, however, have a strong impact on further reducing whatever confidence remains in the US, closing the door to opportunities for dialogue and cooperation that might have otherwise got on the table.

AV: Here I have to strongly disagree. I’m almost certain that the West in general, and the United States in particular, are clearly aware of what they are doing. The US has some of the most sinister colonial powers as its advisers, particularly the United Kingdom.

The US will not simply go down the drain without a great fight, and don’t ever think that Europe would either. These two parts of the world were built on the great plunder of the planet. They still are. They cannot sustain themselves just from the fruits of their brains and labor. They are perpetual thieves. The US can never be separated from Europe. The US is just one huge branch growing from an appalling trunk, from the tree of European colonialism, imperialism and racism.

Whatever the US, Europe and NATO are presently doing

is brilliantly planned. Never under-estimate them! It is all brutal, sinister and murderous planning, but from a strictly strategic point of view, it is truly brilliant!

And they will never go away on their own! They will have to be fought and defeated. Otherwise they are here to stay: in Afghanistan, in Syria, or anywhere else.

5) AB: What is the role of Italian troops that you have seen in your last visit to Afghanistan?

AV: It is a usual cocktail consisting of what Italian fascism has been made of throughout its colonialist, fascist and NATO eras: a medley of cruelty, hypocrisy, as well as some great hope in Rome that Italy could finally become a competent and ‘respected’ occupier… I saw the Italian troops in Herat… They occupied an ancient citadel of the city, jumping like members of some second-rate ballet troupe all around, just because some high-ranking Italian officer was bringing his family to visit the site. It was all tremendously embarrassing… I still have some photos from that ‘event’. But the best thing about Italians as occupiers is that they can hardly be taken seriously; they are disorganized, chaotic, and hedonistic even during war.

I actually love to see them in such places like Afghanistan, because they do very little damage. They are true showoffs. The French, Brits, and the US – they are efficient and brutal, true killing machines. Italians are still better at making movies, writing poetry and cooking, than murdering locals in occupied foreign countries.

 

Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog

 

Two major hurricanes, unprecedented earthquake swarms, and wildfires roaring out of control all over the northwest United States – what else will go wrong next?

When I originally pointed to the month of September as a critical time, I had no idea that we would see so many catastrophic natural disasters during this time frame as well. Hurricane Harvey just broke the all-time record for rainfall in the continental United States, Hurricane Irma is so immensely powerful that it has been called “a lawnmower from the sky”, vast stretches of our country out west are literally being consumed by fire, and the magnitude-8.2 earthquake that just hit Mexico was completely unexpected. As I have stated so many times before, our planet is becoming increasingly unstable, but most people simply do not understand what is happening.

My good friend Zach Drew posted the best summary of the major disasters that we have been experiencing so far this month that I have seen anywhere…

California is on fire.

Oregon is on fire.

Washington is on fire.

British Columbia is on fire.

Alberta is on fire.

Montana is on fire.

Nova Scotia is on fire.

Greece is on fire.

Brazil is on fire.

Portugal is on fire.

Algeria is on fire.

Tunisia is on fire.

Greenland is on fire.

The Sakha Republic of Russia is on fire.

Siberia is on fire.

Texas is under water

India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, experience record monsoons and massive death toll.

Sierra Leone and Niger experience massive floods, mudslides, and deaths in the thousands.

Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia are crushed in the death grip of a triple digit heat wave, dubbed Lucifer.

Southern California continues to swelter under triple digit heat that shows no sign of letting up.

In usually chilly August, the city of San Francisco shatters all-time record at 106 degrees, while it reaches 115 degrees south of the city. Northern California continues to bake in the triple digits.

(()) Yellowstone volcano is hit with earthquake swarm of over 2,300 tremors since June, recording a 4.4 quake on June 15, 20017 and 3.3 shaker on August 21, 2017.

(()) 5.3 earthquake rumbles through Idaho

(()) Japan earthquake 6.1 possible tsunami.

(()) Mexico earthquake 8.2 imminent tsunami. Beach lines are receded atleast 50+ meters

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma (biggest ever recorded), Jose and Katia are barreling around the Atlantic with 8 more potentials forming

And last but not least an X10 C.M.E solar flare two nights ago. The highest recorded solar flare ever!

 

For much more from Zach, you can follow his work regularly at TruNews.com.

Some are describing what is happening to us as a “perfect storm”, and they are wondering if even more major disasters are coming in the very near future.

Let us hope not, because there is a tremendous amount of concern that we may not be able to pay for the disasters that have happened already. The following comes from Politico…

 

Harvey and Irma could be a breaking point. At $556 billion, the Houston metropolitan area’s economy is bigger than Sweden’s. New Jersey could easily fit inside the region’s sprawling footprint, where Harvey dumped 34 trillion gallons of water, as much as the three costliest floods in Texas history combined. The Harvey response alone eventually could double the $136 billion in government aid spent after Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans.

And as of Friday, an estimated $1.73 trillion worth of real estate was in the path of Irma’s hurricane-force winds, according to the University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies.

We won’t know the true extent of the damage that has been caused down in Florida for many days, but we do know that much of the state is already without power…

More than 3.3 million homes and businesses and counting have lost power in Florida as Hurricane Irma moves up the peninsula. The widespread outages stretch from the Florida Keys all the way into central Florida. Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest electric utility, said there were nearly 1 million customers without power in Miami-Dade County alone. The power outages are expected to increase as the storm edges further north. There are roughly 7 million residential customers in the state.

In the end, the federal government will likely step in and spend a lot of money that it does not have to rebuild and restore the communities that Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma have destroyed.

But we are already 20 trillion dollars in debt, and it is being projected that we will continue to add another trillion dollars to that total every year for the foreseeable future.

At some point all of this debt will simply become completely unsustainable.

Of course the major disasters will just inevitably keep on coming. As Politico has pointed out, major natural disasters seem to just keep on getting bigger, and they seem to be hitting us more frequently than in the past…

The disasters are arriving with greater frequency. Counting Harvey, the U.S. this year has experienced 10 weather-related events each costing $1 billion or more. The country averaged fewer than six big-dollar storms, flood, fires and freezes a year between 1980 and 2016, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Between 2012 and 2016, however, weather catastrophes occurred almost twice as often.

I know that I have been writing about these hurricanes a lot in recent weeks, and I promise to get back to focusing on the economy in the days to come.

But it is absolutely imperative that we all begin to understand that something has fundamentally changed. Our world has become much less stable, and “apocalyptic events” are starting to hit us one after another.

So will things start to calm down in the months ahead?