Pepe Escobar: A chessboard drenched in blood

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A chessboard drenched in blood
By Pepe Escobar 

The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” Everyone remembers the Downing Street Memo, which unveiled the Bush/Blair “policy” in the run-up to the 2003 bombing/invasion/occupation of Iraq. The “policy” was to get rid of Saddam Hussein via a lightning war. The justification was “terrorism” and (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which had “disappeared”, mounted in trucks, deep into Syria. Forget about intelligence and facts. 

The tragedy of MH17 – turned, incidentally, into a WMD – might be seen as a warped rerun of imperial policy in Iraq. No need for a memo this time. The “policy” of the Empire of Chaos is clear, and multi-pronged; diversify the “pivot to Asia” by establishing a beachhead in Ukraine to sabotage trade between Europe and Russia; expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to Ukraine; break the Russia-China strategic partnership; prevent by all means the trade/economic integration of Eurasia, from the Russia-Germany partnership to the New Silk Roads converging from China to the Ruhr; keep Europe under US hegemony. 

The key reason why Russian President Vladimir Putin did not “invade” Eastern Ukraine – as much as he’s been enticed to by Washington/NATO – to stop a US military adviser-facilitated running slaughter of civilians is that he does not want to antagonize the European Union, Russia’s top trading partner. 

Crucially, Washington’s intervention in Kosovo invoking R2P – Responsibility to Protect – was justified at the time for exactly the same reasons a Russian intervention in Donetsk and Luhansk could be totally justified now. Except that Moscow won’t do it – because the Kremlin is playing a very long game.

The MH17 tragedy may have been a horrendous mistake. But it may also have been a desperate gambit by the Kiev minions of the Empire of Chaos. By now, Russian intel may have already mastered the key facts. Washington’s predictable modus operandi was to shoot from the hip, igniting and in theory winning the spin war, and doubling down by releasing the proverbial army of “top officials” brimming with social media evidence. Moscow will take time to build a meticulous case, and only then lay it out in detail. 

Hegemony lost 
The Big Picture spells out the Empire of Chaos elites as extremely uneasy. Take Dr Zbigniew “The Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski, who as a former foreign policy mentor has the ears of the increasingly dejected White House paperboy. Dr Zbig was on CNN this Sunday challenging Europe’s leaders to “stand up to Putin”. He wonders if “Europe wants to become a satellite” and worries about “a moment of decisive significance for the future of the system – of the world system”. 

And it’s all Putin’s fault, of course: “We’re not starting the Cold War. He [Putin] has started it. But he has gotten himself into a horrendous jam. I strongly suspect that a lot of people in Russia, even not far away from him who are worried that Russia’s status in the world is dramatically being undermined, that Russia’s economically beginning to fail, that Russia’s threatened by the prospect of becoming a satellite to China, that Russia’s becoming self-isolated and discredited.” 

Obviously Dr Zbig is blissfully unaware of the finer points of the Russia-China strategic partnership, as well as their concerted voice inside the BRICS, the G-20 and myriad other mechanisms. His trademark Russophobia in the end always gets the better of him. And to think that in his latest book, Strategic Vision (2012), Dr Zbig was in favor of an enlarged “West” annexing Turkey and Russia, with the Empire of Chaos posing as “promoter” and “guarantor” of broader unity in the West, and a “balancer” and “conciliator” between the major powers in the East. A quick look at the record since 2012 – Libya, Syria, Ukraine, encirclement of China – reveals the Empire of Chaos only as fomenter of, what else, chaos. 

Now compare a fearful Dr Zbig with Immanuel Wallerstein – who was a huge influence in my 2007 warped geopolitical travel bookGlobalistan. In this piece (in Spanish) Wallerstein argues that the Empire of Chaos simply can’t accept its geopolitical decadence – and that’s why it has become so dangerous. Restoring its hegemony in the world-system has become the supreme obsession; and that’s where the whole “policy” that is an essential background to the MH17 tragedy reveals Ukraine as the definitive do or die battleground. 

In Europe, everything hinges on Germany. Especially after the National Security Agency scandal and its ramifications, the key debate raging in Berlin is how to position itself geopolitically bypassing the US. And the answer, as pressed by large swathes of German big business, lies in a strategic partnership with Russia. 

Show me the missile
Slowly, with no hype and no spin, the Russian military are starting to deliver the goods. Here, courtesy of the Vineyard of The Saker blog, is their key presentation so far. As The Saker put it, Russia had – and has – a “20/20 radar vision”, or full spectrum surveillance, on everything going on in Ukraine. And so, arguably, does NATO. What the Russian Ministry of Defense is saying is as important as the clues it is laying out for experts to follow. 

The damaged MH17 starboard jet engine suggests a shape charge from an air-to-air missile – and not a Buk; that’s consistent with the Russian Ministry of Defense presentation graphically highlighting an Ukrainian SU-25 shadowing MH17. Increasingly, the Buk scenario – hysterically peddled by the Empire of Chaos – is being discarded. Not to mention, again, that not a single eyewitness saw the very graphic, thick missile trace that would have been clearly visible had a Buk been used. 

Way beyond the established fact of a Ukrainian SU-25 trailing MH17, plenty of unanswered questions remain, some involving a murky security procedure at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport – where security is operated by ICTS, an Israeli company based in The Netherlands and founded by former officers from the Israeli Shin Bet intel agency. And then there is the unexplained presence of “foreign” advisors in Kiev’s control tower.  

As much as Bashar al-Assad in Syria had absolutely no motive to “gas his own people” – as the hysterical narrative went at the time – the Eastern Ukraine federalists have no motive to down a civilian airliner. And as much as Washington doesn’t give a damn about the current civilian slaughter in Gaza, it doesn’t give a damn about the MH17 civilian deaths; the one and only obsession is to force Europeans to sanction Russia to death. Translation: break up Europe-Russia commercial and geopolitical integration. 

One week before the MH17 tragedy, the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies was already sounding the alarm concerning the Empire of Chaos’s “policy” and its refusal to “adhere to the principles and norms of international law and the rules and spirit of the existing system of international relations”. 

Moscow, in building its case on the MH17 tragedy, will bide its time to debunk Kiev’s claims and maximize its own credibility. The game now moves to the black boxes and the cockpit voice recorder. Still Ukraine will remain the do or die battlefield – a chessboard drenched in blood. 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). 

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com. 

(Copyright 2014 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.) 

Fonte: Asia Times

Pepe Escobar: The future visible in St Petersburg

THE ROVING EYE
The future visible in St Petersburg
By Pepe Escobar

The unipolar model of the world order has failed. 
– Vladimir Putin, St Petersburg, May 22

In more ways than one, last week heralded the birth of a Eurasian century. Of course, the US$400 billion Russia-China gas deal was clinched only at the last minute in Shanghai, on Wednesday (a complement to the June 2013, 25-year, $270 billion oil deal between Rosneft and China’s CNPC.)

Then, on Thursday, most of the main players were at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum – the Russian answer to Davos. And on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, fresh from his Shanghai triumph, addressed the participants and brought the house down.

It will take time to appraise last week’s whirlwind in all its complex implications. Here are some of the St Petersburg highlights, in some detail. Were there fewer Western CEOs in town because the Obama administration pressured them – as part of the “isolate Russia” policy? Not many less; Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley may have snubbed it, but Europeans who matter came, saw, talked and pledged to keep doing business.

And most of all, Asians were ubiquitous. Consider this as yet another chapter of China’s counterpunch to US President Barack Obama’s Asian tour in April, which was widely described as the “China containment tour”. [1]

On the first day at the St Petersburg forum I attended this crucial session on Russia-China strategic economic partnership. Pay close attention: the roadmap is all there. As Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao describes it: “We plan to combine the program for the development of Russia’s Far East and the strategy for the development of Northeast China into an integrated concept.”

That was just one instance of the fast-emerging Eurasia coalition bound to challenge the “indispensable” exceptionalists to the core. Comparisons to the Sino-Soviet pact are infantile. The putsch in Ukraine – part of Washington’s pivot to “contain” Russia – just served to accelerate Russia’s pivot to Asia, which sooner or late would become inevitable. 

It all starts in Sichuan
In St Petersburg, from session to session and in selected conversations, what I saw were some crucial building blocks of the Chinese New Silk Road(s), whose ultimate aim is to unite, via trade and commerce, no less than China, Russia and Germany.

For Washington, this is beyond anathema. The response has been to peddle a couple of deals which, in thesis, would guarantee American monopoly of two-thirds of global commerce; the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – which was essentially rebuked by key Asians such as Japan and Malaysia during Obama’s trip – and the even more problematic Trans-Atlantic Partnership with the EU, which average Europeans absolutely abhor (see Breaking bad in southern NATOstan, Asia Times Online, April 15, 2014). Both deals are being negotiated in secret and are profitable essentially for US multinational corporations. 

For Asia, China instead proposes a Free Trade Area of Asia-Pacific; after all, it is already the largest trading partner of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

And for Europe, Beijing proposes an extension of the railway that in only 12 days links Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, to Lodz in Poland, crossing Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus. The total deal is the Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe network, with a final stop in Duisburg, Germany. No wonder this is bound to become the most important commercial route in the world. [2]

There’s more. One day before the clinching of the Russia-China gas deal, President Xi Jinping called for no less than a new Asian security cooperation architecture, including of course Russia and Iran and excluding the US. [3] Somehow echoing Putin, Xi described NATO as a Cold War relic.

And guess who was at the announcement in Shanghai, apart from the Central Asian “stans”: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and crucially, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The facts on the ground speak for themselves. China is buying at least half of Iraq’s oil production – and is investing heavily in its energy infrastructure. China has invested heavily in Afghanistan’s mining industry – especially lithium and cobalt. And obviously both China and Russia keep doing business in Iran. [4]

So this is what Washington gets for over a decade of wars, incessant bullying, nasty sanctions and trillions of misspent dollars. 

No wonder the most fascinating session I attended in St Petersburg was on the commercial and economic possibilities around the expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), whose guest of honor was none other than Li Yuanchao. I was arguably the only Westerner in the room, surrounded by a sea of Chinese and Central Asians.

The SCO is gearing up to become something way beyond a sort of counterpart to NATO, focusing mostly on terrorism and fighting drug trafficking. It wants to do major business. Iran, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Mongolia are observers, and sooner rather than later will be accepted as full members. 

Once again that’s Eurasian integration in action. The branching out of the New Silk Road(s) is inevitable; and that spells out, in practice, closer integration with Afghanistan (minerals) and Iran (energy).

The new Crimea boom
St Petersburg also made it clear how China wants to finance an array of projects in Crimea, whose waters, by the way, boasting untold, still unexplored, energy wealth, are now Russian property. Projects include a crucial bridge across the Kerch Strait to connect Crimea to mainland Russia; expansion of Crimean ports; solar power plants; and even manufacturing special economic zones (SEZs). Moscow could not but interpret it as Beijing’s endorsement of the annexation of Crimea.

As for Ukraine, it might as well, as Putin remarked in St Petersburg, pay its bills. [5] And as for the European Union, at least outgoing president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso understood the obvious: antagonizing Russia is not exactly a winning strategy. 

Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, has been one of those informed few advising the West about it, to no avail: “Russia and China are likely to cooperate even more closely … Such an outcome would certainly benefit China, but it will give Russia a chance to withstand US geopolitical pressure, compensate for the EU’s coming energy re-orientation, develop Siberia and the Far East, and link itself to the Asia-Pacific region.” [6]

On the (silk) road again
The now symbiotic China-Russia strategic alliance – with the possibility of extending towards Iran [7] – is the fundamental fact on the ground in the young 21st century. It will extrapolate across the BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Non-Aligned Movement. 

Of course the usual shills will keep peddling that the only possible future is one led by a “benign” empire. [8] As if billions of people across the real world – even informed Atlanticists – would be gullible enough to buy it. Still, unipolarity may be dead, but the world, sadly, is encumbered with its corpse. The corpse, according to the new Obama doctrine, is now “empowering partners”.

To paraphrase Dylan (“I left Rome and landed in Brussels”), I left St Petersburg and landed in Rome, to follow yet another episode in the slow decadence of Europe – the parliamentary elections. But before that, I was fortunate to experience an aesthetic illumination. I visited a virtually deserted Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences, where two dedicated, extremely knowledgeable researchers gave me a private tour of some pieces belonging to arguably the most outstanding collection of Asian manuscripts on the planet. As a serial Silk Road traveler fanatic, I had heard about many of those documents, but I had never actually seen them. So there I was, on the banks of the Neva, a kid in a (historical) candy store, immersed in all those marvels from Dunhuang to Mongolia, in Vedic or Sanskrit, dreaming of Silk Roads past and future. I could stay there forever.

Notes: 1. China Thwarts U.S. ‘Containment’ With Vietnam Oil Rig Standoff, Forbes, May 8, 2014.
2. Le president chinois appelle la Chine et l’Allemagne – construire la ceinture economique de la Route de la Soie (in French), Xinhua, March 30, 2014.
3. China calls for new Asian security structure, Washington Post, May 21, 2014.
4. Russia plans to build up to eight new nuclear reactors in Iran, Reuters, May 22, 2014.
5. Naftogaz Debt to Gazprom Stands at $4 Bln – EU Energy Commissioner, Ria Novosti, May 28, 2014.
6. See here.
7. China, Iran and Russia: Restructuring the global order, Al Jazeera, May 20, 2014.
8. In Defense of Empire, The Atlantic, March 19, 2014.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

(Copyright 2014 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Fonte: Asia Times

PEPE ESCOBAR: “PIVÔ” NA EURÁSIA

22 DE MAIO DE 2014

 

Pepe Escobar: “Pivô” na Eurásia

21/5/2014, [*] Pepe EscobarFacebook

The  Eurásia Pivot

Traduzido pelo pessoal da Vila Vudu

Escrevo de São Petersburgo, cidade na qual, nas próximas horas e dias, haverá diversão da boa, garantida.

timing para firmar o negócio de gás acordo Rússia-China de US$400 bilhões em Xangai, não poderia ser mais ESPETACULAR. É coisa IMENSAMENTE estratégica. Primeira coisa que fiz hoje cedo, mal cheguei ao aeroporto Schiphol, desembarcado em São Petersburgo, foi procurar jornais. A primeira página do Wall Street Journal, noticiava, pode-se dizer que com algum júbilo, “Negócio Rússia-China de gás emperrou”. Dois telefonemas depois da manchete precipitada, estava tudo resolvido, selado, assinado e confirmado.

Significa, dentre muitas outras coisas, que as sanções de EUA/UE contra Moscou já têm de ser analisadas pelo que realmente são: piada.

Analisem a declaração conjunta Rússia-China sobre a Ucrânia; é crise “doméstica”. “É indispensável que se encontrem ou se criem meios pacíficos, políticos, para resolver problemas que surjam”.

Entrementes, o Primeiro-Ministro Medvedev disse à TV Bloomberg que sim “estamos andando lenta, mas com certeza na direção de uma segunda Guerra Fria”. Subtexto: é o que Washington deseja.

Analisem então o que Xi disse a Putin:

O desenvolvimento posterior de uma parceria ainda mais ampla entre Rússia e China, com cooperação estratégica baseada nos interesses mútuos e ditada pela necessidade de promover justiça e igualdade no mundo, manter a paz no planeta, e pela necessidade de alcançar a prosperidade conjunta da China e da Rússia, é escolha inevitável que brota do próprio processo de formação de um mundo multipolar.

E analisem o que disse Putin, sobre o progressivo ultrapassamento do petrodólar:

Estamos trabalhando para aumentar a quantidade de pagamentos que serão feitos em moedas nacionais, e planejamos considerar novos instrumentos financeiros.

É coisa grande, MUITO, MUITO GRANDE, mais do que se pode ver já. Quase nem se acredita! Moscou completou o mais elegante e perfeito pivô estratégico na direção da Ásia e a China bailou junto, em perfeita harmonia.

Parabéns, governo Obama: vocês são excepcionais no basquetebol.

__________________

[*] Pepe Escobar (1954) é jornalista, brasileiro, vive em São Paulo, Hong Kong e Paris, mas publica exclusivamente em inglês. Mantém coluna (The Roving Eye) no Asia Times Online; é também analista de política de blogs e sites como: Tom Dispatch, Information Clearing HouseRed Voltaire e outros; é correspondente/ articulista das redes Russia TodayThe Real News Network Televison e Al-Jazeera. Seus artigos podem ser lidos, traduzidos para o português pelo Coletivo de Tradutores da Vila Vudu e João Aroldo, no blog redecastorphoto.

Livros:

− Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War, Nimble Books, 2007.

− Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge, Nimble Books, 2007.   
− Obama Does Globalistan, Nimble Books, 2009. 

US ‘pivots’, China reaps dividends

america_and_china_890555

THE ROVING EYE
US ‘pivots’, China reaps dividends
By Pepe Escobar 

Let’s start with a flashback to February 1992 – only two months after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. First draft of the US government’s Defense Planning Guidance. It was later toned down, but it still formed the basis for the exceptionalist dementia incarnated by the Project for the New American Century; and also reappeared in full glory in Dr Zbig “Let’s Rule Eurasia” Brzezinski’s 1997 magnum opus The Grand Chessboard

It’s all there, raw, rough and ready:

Our first objective is to prevent the reemergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed by the Soviet Union. This … requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. These regions include Western Europe, East Asia, the territory of the former Soviet Union, and Southwest Asia.

That’s all one needs to know about the Obama administration’s “pivoting to Asia”, as well as the pivoting to Iran (“if we’re not going to war”, as US Secretary of State John Kerry let it slip) and the pivoting to Cold War 2.0, as in using Ukraine as a “new Vietnam” remix next door to Russia. And that’s also the crucial context for Obama’s Pax Americana Spring collection currently unrolling in selected Asian catwalks (Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Philippines). 

Obama’s Asia tour started this week in full regalia at the famed Jiro restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo, ingesting hopefully non-Fukushima radiated nigiri sushi (disclosure: I was there way back in 1998, when sushi master Jiro Ono was far from a celebrity and the sushi was far from atomic). Obama’s host, hardcore nationalist/militarist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, obviously picked up the bill. But the real bill comes later, as in Japan bowing to strict US demands – on trade, investment, corporate law and intellectual property rights – embedded in the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is code for American Big Business finally cracking open the heavily protected Japanese market. 

Abe is a tough customer. His rhetoric is heavy on “escaping the post-war regime”, as in re-weaponizing Japan and not playing second fiddle militarily to Washington in Asia anymore. The Pentagon obviously has other ideas. Post-sushi at Jiro, what matters for Obama is to force Tokyo to bend over not only on TPP but also on keeping the weaponizing subordinated to the larger US agenda. 

Beijing, predictably, sees all that for what it really is, as expressed in this Xinhua op-ed; the actions of an “anachronistic”, “sclerotic” and “myopic” superpower that needs to “shake off its historical and philosophical shackles”. 

The Southeast Asia leg of the Spring collection tour is all about making sure to Malaysia and Philippines, not as strong militarily as Vietnam, that the US Navy will never be replaced as the hegemon in the South China Sea – or even allow China to reach parity with it. It’s at the heart of the “pivoting to Asia” as containment of China, whose aim is preventing China from becoming a naval power simultaneously in the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific. 

The Pentagon is predictably paranoid, accusing China of waging not only one but “three warfares” against the US. The fact is Beijing is developing a state-of-the-art underground base for 20 nuclear submarines in Hainan island just as Malaysia boosts its own submarine base in Borneo and the Philippines keeps imploring Washington for more planes, ships, airstrips and cyber capabilities as protection for what it regards as its absolute priority: explore for oil and gas in the West Philippine Sea to boost the economy. 

Radiate me with trade deals, baby
The Spring collection is far from derailing other pivoting – whose latest offering is the current “anti-terrorist” campaign in eastern Ukraine by the Kiev regime changers, which follows a most curious calendar. CIA’s John Brennan hits Kiev, and the regime changers launch their first war on terra. Dismal failure ensues. Vice President Joe Biden visits Kiev and the regime changers, right on cue, relaunch their war on terra. 

Thus the pivoting to Cold War 2.0 proceeds unabated, as in Washington working hard to build an iron curtain between Berlin and Moscow – preventing further trade integration across Eurasia – via instigation of a civil war in Ukraine. German Chancellor Angela Merkel remains on the spot: it’s either Atlantic high-fidelity or her Ostpolitik – and that’s exactly where Washington wants her. 

As for the batshit crazy factions fully deployed across the Beltway revolving door, everything goes, from “warning” China not to pull a Crimea to advocating war in Syria and even the North Atlantic Treaty Organization entering a nuclear war, as shown here by the appropriately denominated Anne Marie Slaughter. This is what she’s teaching her exceptionalist students at Princeton. 

How’s Beijing reacting to all this hysteria? Simple: by reaping dividends. Beijing wins with the US offensive trying to alienate Moscow from Western markets by getting a better pricing deal on the supply of Eastern Siberian gas. Beijing wins from the European Union’s fear of losing trade with Russia by negotiating a free-trade agreement with its largest trading partner, which happens to the be the EU. 

And then, the sterling example. Just compare Obama’s Spring collection tour, as a pivoting appendix, to the current tour of Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. It’s a business bonanza, focused on bilateral financing and, what else, trade deals. 

It’s all in the mix: Peruvian and Chilean copper; Brazilian iron and soybeans; support for Venezuelan social programs and energy development; support for Cuba in its interest for greater Chinese involvement in Venezuela, which supplies Cuba with subsidized energy. 

And all this against the background of a Beltway so excited that the Chinese economy is in deep trouble. It’s not – it grew at 7.4% year-on-year for the first quarter of 2014. Demand for iron and copper won’t significantly slow down – as the Beijing-driven urbanization drive has not even reached full speed. Same for soybeans – as millions of Chinese increasingly start eating meat on a regular basis (soybean products are a crucial feedstock). And, of course, Chinese companies will not losee their appetite for diversifying all across South America. 

For the large, upcoming Chinese middle class – on their way to becoming full-fledged members of the number one economic power in the world by 2018 – this Spring collection is a non-starter. He or she would rather hit Hong Kong and queue up in Canton Road to buy loads of Hermes and Prada – and then strategically celebrate with Jiro quality, non-Fukushima-radiated, sushi. 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: A snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com. 

Front-page picture credit: AFP PHOTO/JAPAN POOL/Cabinet Public Relations Office 

(Copyright 2014 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)  Fonte: Asia Times

Pepe Escobar: “Breaking bad in southern NATOstan “

THE ROVING EYE 
Breaking bad in southern NATOstan 
By Pepe Escobar 

ON THE ROAD IN PROVENCE – To quote Lenin, what is to be done? Back to Brussels and Berlin? A close encounter with dreary Northern NATOstan, consumed by its paranoid anti-Russia obsession and enslaved by the infinitely expandable Pentagon euro-scam? Perhaps a jaunt to Syria war junkie Erdogastan? 

Talk about a no contest. Joie de vivre settled it; thus The Roving Eye hooked up with Nick, The Roving Son, in Catalonia, and armed with La Piccolina – Nick’s vintage, go-go ’80s Peugeot caravan powered by a Citroen engine – we hit the road in Provence, prime southern NATOstan real estate. Instead of breaking crystal meth, non-stop breaking of fine infidel liquids and choice Provencal gastronomy.
Call it a subterranean, non-homesick, non-bluesy investigation into the economic malaise of Club Med nations; the pauperization of the European middle class; the advance of the extreme right; and the looming prospect of an economic NATO. All within the framework of exceedingly cool family quality time. And subversively enough, with both laptop and mobile turned off. 

Does God drink Bandol? 
We were fortunate enough to catch the inaugural week of the Van Gogh Foundation in Arles – with its remarkable entrance portal inscribed with Van Gogh’s enlarged signature; its suspended garden of colored mirrors; and a crack exhibition on the master’s chromatic evolution up to the frenetic 15 months he lived in Arles. A few minutes contemplating La Maison Jaune (1888) is an intimation of immortality, revealing what exceptionalism is really all about. 

Aesthetic illuminations were a given – from Baux castle at sunset to sipping a Perrier mint on a terrace overlooking the countryside around hilltop Gordes; from a starry night in the open at the Colorado Provencal (intriguingly trespassed by a military helicopter flying low, Baghdad surge-style) to debating the merits of each variation of chevre de Banon – that Epicurean “cheese of exception” wrapped up in chestnut leaves. 

And then the crossing to the Grand Canyon of Verdon – the most American of European canyons, attacked on different angles from both the north and south rim, including a trek along the old Roman trail and a close encounter with the jagged, chaotic, ghostly rock silhouettes of Les Cadieres (chairs, in Provencal) – the Verdon’s answer to the Twin Towers. Call it a quirky Provencal take on Osama and al-Zawahiri trekking the Hindu Kush. 

As we descended from the Col de Leques, the owner of a mountainside cafe told us he had just opened for the whole season, lasting until mid-September. But here, in early April, the Verdon was bathed in silent glory, except for the occasional badass biker. 

Then – as in Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou – a dash towards La Mediterrane. First stop in Front National-controlled Toulon – so proper, so regimented, so fearful even of non-immigrant skateboarders, yet displaying a monster NATO cargo ship in full regalia. 

It’s impossible to have a plateau de moules in mid-afternoon at the port, but at the Ah-Ha Chinese restaurant there are Verdon canyons of food are available around the clock, which once again goes to show how Asia’s entrepreneurial drive has left Europe in the dust. 

Cue to a Platonic banquet at the venerable Auberge Du Port in Bandol – orgiastic bouillabaisse paired with the best local wine, which would be a close match between Bastide de la Ciselette and Domaine de Terrebrune. None of these infidel liquid marvels, by the way, have been touched by globalization. 

There’s hardly a single millimeter of free land space in the coast around Marseille – that’s part of a well-known dossier, the environmental destruction of southern NATOstan. Still we managed to find a relatively secluded grove for the appropriate Rimbaud mood (la mer, la mer, toujours recommence). 

Then the dreaded moment reared its ugly head – at Sanary-sur-Mer, where Huxley wrote Brave New World at his Villa Huley and Thomas Mann held court in the Chemin de la Colline. Brecht in fact might have sung anti-Hitler songs out of a table at Le Nautique; so after debating with Nick the comparative merits of Beneteau sailing boats, I finally decided to stop with all that Brechtian distancing and walked to the nearby kiosk to buy the papers, order a cafe au lait, and turn on the mobile. 

Not impressed is an understatement. One week off the grid, and the same sarabande of paranoia, frenetic pivoting and monochromatic exceptionalism. Yet, there it was, like a pearl at the bottom of the turquoise Mediterranean, buried in the info-avalanche: the definitive news of the week, perhaps the year, perhaps the decade. 

Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller had met with China National Petroleum Corporation chairman Zhou Jiping in Beijing on Wednesday. They were on their way to sign the 30-year, mega-contract deal to supply China with Siberian natural gas “as soon as possible”. Probably on May 20, when Putin goes to Beijing. 

Now this is the genuine article. Pipelineistan meets the strategic partnership Russia-China, as solidified in the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with the tantalizing prospect of pricing/payment bypassing the petrodollar, otherwise known as the “thermonuclear option”. Ukraine, compared to this, is a mere sideshow. 

Welcome to the Brussels rat-o-drome
It was on the road from the Mediterranean back to Arles via Aix-en-Provence that it hit me like an Obama drone. This whole trip was after all about the sublime chevre wrapped up in chestnut leaves in Banon, those “rose petal” bottles of wine; in Bandol, artisan producers and season mountain folks spelling out their fears in village markets and unpretentious chateaux. This was all about economic NATO. 

The Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement is a top priority of the Obama administration. Tariffs are already almost negligible across most products between the US and the European Union. So a deal is essentially about a power grab over continental markets by Big American Agro-Business (as in an invasion of genetically modified products), as well as American media giants. Call it a nice add-on to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – which in a nutshell means an American takeover of the heavily protected Japanese economy. 

Southern NATOstan does offer glimpses of a European post-historical paradise – a Kantian rose garden protected from a nasty Hobbesian world by the “benign” Empire (the new denomination of choice, coined by – who else – neo-cons of the Robert Kagan variety). Yet the main emotion enveloping southern NATOstan, as I witnessed since the start of 2014 successively in Italy, Spain and France, is fear. Fear of The Other – as in the poor interloper, black or brown; fear of perennial unemployment; fear for the end of middle-class privileges until recently taken for granted; and fear of economic NATO – as virtually no average European trusts those hordes of Brussels bureaucrats. 

For nine months now, the European Commission has been negotiating a so-called Trade and Investment Partnership. The “transparency” surrounding what will be the largest free-trade agreement ever, encompassing more than 800 million consumers, would put North Korea’s King Jong-eun to shame. 

The whole secret blah blah blah revolves around the euphemistic “non-tariff obstacles” – as in a web of ethical, environmental, juridical and sanitary norms that protect consumers, not giant multinationals. What the behemoths aim for, on the other hand, is a very profitable free-for-all – implying, just as an example, the indiscriminate use of ractopamine, an energy-booster for pork that is even outlawed in Russia and China. 

So why is the Obama administration suddenly so enamored of a free-trade agreement with Europe? Because US Big Business has finally found out that the Holy Grail of an economic pivoting to China won’t be so holy after all; the whole thing will be conducted under Chinese terms, as in major Chinese brands progressively upgrading to control most of the Chinese market. 

Thus Plan B as a transatlantic market submitting 40% of international trade to the same big business-friendly norms. Obama has been heavily spinning the agreement will create “millions of well-paid American jobs”. That’s highly debatable, to say the least. But make no mistake about the American drive; Obama himself is personally implicated. 

As for the Europeans, it’s more like rats scurrying in a secret casino. As much as the National Security Agency monitors every phone call in Brussels, average Europeans remain clueless about what they will be slapped with. Public debate over the agreement is for all practical purposes verboten for European civil society. 

European Commission negotiators meet only with lobbyists and multinational CEOs. In case of “price volatility” down the road, European farmers will be the big losers, not Americans, now protected by a new Farm Bill. No wonder the direct and indirect message I received from virtually everyone in the Provencal countryside is that “Brussels is selling us out“; in the end, what will disappear, in a death by a thousand cuts manner, is top-quality agriculture, scores of artisan producers with a savoir-faireaccumulated over centuries. 

So long live hormones, antibiotics, chlorine and GMOs. And off with their heads in the terroir! NATO issuing threats to Russia is such a lame, convenient diversionary tactic. As La Piccolina left Provence carrying its share of sublime artisan goods, I could not but understand why the locals see an economic NATO future with such Van Goghian apprehension. 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).  He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com. 

(Copyright 2014 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.) Fonte: Asia Times

Pepe Escobar on China/Russia ‘Deal of the decade’ & Europe’s secret US deal blues

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Publicado em 15/04/2014
While the West weighs up putting more spanners in the works with sanctions, Russia and China are getting on with business. The two are looking at a deal that could see gas pumped into the world’s most-populated nation for the next 3 decades. Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar told RT that Beijing’s stance on the global political arena is bearing fruit.

Pepe Escobar: Why the EU can’t ‘isolate’ Russia

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Why the EU can’t ‘isolate’ Russia
By Pepe Escobar

German Chancellor Angela Merkel could teach US President Barack Obama one or two things about how to establish a dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As if Obama would listen. He’d rather boost his constitutional law professor self, and pompously lecture an elite eurocrat audience in the glittering Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, like he did this Wednesday, on how Putin is the greatest threat to the US-administered global order since World War II. Well, it didn’t go that well; most eurocrats were busy taking selfies or twittering.

Putin, meanwhile, met with the CEO of German engineering and electrical conglomerate Siemens, Joe Kaeser, at his official residence outside Moscow. Siemens invested more than US$1.1 billion in Russia over the past two years, and that, Kaeser said, is bound to continue. Angela was certainly taking notes.

Obama couldn’t behave otherwise. The constitutional law expert knows nothing about Russia, in his (meager) political career never had to understand how Russia works, and may even fear Russia – surrounded as he is by a coterie of spectacularly mediocre aids. His Brussels rhetorical tour de force yielded absolutely nothing – apart from the threat that if Putin persisted in his “aggression” against eastern Ukraine or even NATO members-countries the president of the United States would unroll a much stiffer sanction package.

What else is new, considering this by supreme CIA asset and former Pentagon head in the first Obama administration, Bob Gates, is what passes for political analysis in the US.

The $1 trillion game-changer 
Demonized 24/7 by the sprawling Western propaganda machine as a ruthless aggressor, Putin and his Kremlin advisers just need to play Sun Tzu. The regime changers in Kiev are already mired in a vicious catfight. [1] And even Ukraine’s acting Prime Minister Arseniy Petrovych “Yats” Yatsenyuk has identified the gloomy times ahead, stressing that the signature of the economic part of the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU has been postponed – so there will be no “negative consequences” for industrialized eastern Ukraine.

Translation: he knows this will be the kiss of death for Ukrainian industry, on top of it coupled with an imminent structural adjustment by the International Monetary Fund linked to the EU (maybe) bailing out a bankrupt Ukraine.

Asia Times Online’s Spengler coined a formulation: “A specter is haunting Europe, and that is the specter of a Russian-Chinese alliance at the expense of Europe.” The alliance is already on – manifested in the G-20, the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. There are military technology synergies on the horizon – the ultra-sophisticated S-500 air defense system is to be unveiled by Moscow, and Beijing would absolutely love to have it. But for the real fireworks, just wait a few weeks, when Putin visits Beijing in May.

That’s when he will sign the famous $1 trillion gas deal according to which Gazprom will supply China’s CNPC with 3.75 billion cubic feet of gas a day for 30 years, starting in 2018 (China’s current daily gas demand is around 16 billion cubic feet).

Gazprom may still collect most of its profits from Europe, but Asia is its privileged future. On the competition front, the hyper-hyped US shale “revolution” is a myth – as much as the notion the US will be suddenly increasing exports of gas to the rest of the world any time soon.

Gazprom will use this mega-deal to boost investment in eastern Siberia – which sooner rather than later will be configured as the privileged hub for gas shipments to both Japan and South Korea. That’s the ultimate (substantial) reason why Asia won’t “isolate” Russia. ( See Asia will not ‘isolate’ Russia, Asia Times Online, March 25, 2014.)

Not to mention the much-anticipated “thermonuclear” (for the petrodollar) possibility that Russia and China will agree payment for the Gazprom-CNPC deal may be in yuan or rubles. That will be the dawn of a basket of currencies as the new international reserve currency – a key BRICS objective and the ultimate, incendiary, new (economic) fact on the ground.

Time to invest in Pipelineistan 
Even though its centrality pales compared to Asia, Europe, of course, is not “expendable” for Russia. There have been rumbles in Brussels by some poodles about canceling the South Stream pipeline – pumping Russian gas underneath the Black Sea (and bypassing Ukraine) to Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Italy and Austria. The Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister, Dragomir Stoynev, said no way. Same for the Czech Republic, because it badly needs Russian investment, and Hungary, which recently signed a nuclear energy deal with Moscow.

The only other possibility for the EU would be Caspian gas, from Azerbaijan – following on the trail of the Zbig Brzezinski-negotiated Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, which was conceived expressly to bypass both Russia and Iran. As if the EU would have the will, the speed and funds to spend billions of dollars to build yet another pipeline virtually tomorrow, and assuming Azerbaijan had enough supply capacity (it doesn’t; other actors, like Kazakhstan or ultra-unreliable Turkmenistan, which prefers to sell its gas to China, would have to be part of the picture).

Well, nobody ever lost money betting on the cluelessness of Brussels eurocrats. South Stream and other energy projects will create a lot of jobs and investment in many of the most troubled EU nations. Extra sanctions? No less than 91% of Poland’s energy, and 86% of Hungary’s, come from Russia. Over 20% of the foreign lending of French banks is to Russian companies. No less than 68 Russian companies trade at the London Stock Exchange. For the Club Med nations, Russian tourism is now a lifeline (1 million went to Italy last year, for instance.)

US Think Tankland is trying to fool American public opinion into believing what the Obama administration should be applying is a replay of the “containment” policy of 1945-1989 to “limit the development of Russia as a hegemonic power”. The “recipe”: weaponize everybody and his neighbor, from the Baltic nations to Azerbaijan, to “contain” Russia. The New Cold War is on because, from the point of view of US so-called “elites”, it never really left.

Meanwhile, Gazprom’s stock price is up. Buy now. You won’t regret it.

Notes:
1. Popcorn Please While “Putin’s Agitators” Rule in Kiev, Moon of Alabama, March 26, 2014.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). 

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

(Copyright 2014 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Pepe Escobar: The Kerry-Lavrov chess match

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The Kerry-Lavrov chess match
By Pepe Escobar

It’s hardly a match between equals – as one is playing Monopoly while the other plays chess. It’s as if Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been postponing his checkmate, while US Secretary of State John Kerry increasingly realizes he’s facing the inevitable. 

Lavrov has explained over and over again, a loose federation is the only possible solution for Ukraine, as part of a “deep constitutional reform”. That would imply ethnic – and even sentimentally – Russian eastern and southern Ukraine would be largely autonomous. Kerry gave signs of agreeing around two weeks ago that Ukrainian regions need more decision power; but then the White House recharged its moral blitzkrieg – coinciding with President Barack Obama’s trip to The Hague and Brussels. Still, even after an inconclusive four-hour Kerry-Lavrov chess match in Paris, there will be a checkmate.

The Russian solution is the same plan proposed by Moscow already a few weeks ago, and again discussed on the phone by Obama and President Vladimir Putin on Friday – which prompted Kerry to redirect his flight to Paris. Each Ukrainian region, according to Lavrov, would be able to control its economy, taxes, culture, language, education and “external economic and cultural connections with neighboring countries or regions”. That’s such a sound plan that even former – or perennial, depending on spin – cold warriors such as Henry Kissinger and Zbig Brzezinski reasonably agree. 

The key problem is that Washington immovably considers the present Kiev set up - also known as the Khaganate of Nulands, as in State Department Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nulands – as legitimate. Moscow sees them as a bunch of putschists and fascists. And Washington still refuses to press Kiev to accept a federal system – thus allowing, among other things, Russian as an official second language.

The latest American stunt is a massive propaganda drive of “The Reds are coming” kind, about Russian troops massing at the border(pliant corporate media spins numbers over 100,000).

Kerry, for the moment, is at least refraining from hysteria; he admits Washington and Moscow agree a diplomatic solution is a must, just to revert to the new meme – the artificial, Pentagon/NATO-spun “prelude to an invasion”.

Washington’s official position remains that Moscow must disarm its forces in Crimea (it won’t happen); admit international observers (it might happen); and pull troops back from the eastern border (Moscow argues these are exercises, with the same number as usual – fewer than 20,000). Lavrov having to stress over and over again there are no Russian plans to invade eastern Ukraine sound almost like a punch line in stand-up comedy. 

Beware The Empire of Chaos 
Then there are the upcoming presidential elections. Rivers of vodka may be bet that that will be an extremely dodgy operation. The Svoboda and Right Sector goons currently in positions of power will do everything to tamper with the results (as they are not exactly popular). After German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s horse – former boxer “Klitsch” – decided to abandon the race, the leader is – what else – an oligarch: billionaire chocolate tycoon Petro Poroshenko. He already dismissed the federal solution, as in “somebody in the Russian government trying to tell us what type of governmental system we should have”.

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And there’s nothing about “democracy” to start with, as the regime changers, as reported by Kommersant, are in full speed already rewriting the Ukrainian constitution, with Prime Minister “Yats” Arseniy Yatseniuk urging them to come up with the final redaction within the next two weeks.

The unspoken Siberian tiger in this room is a Russian unconditional. Kiev must officially pledge that Ukraine will not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And we all know, since the Khaganate of Nulands was installed, this was always about the Pentagon-led expansion of NATO. 

Putin’s “carrot” to Obama is something that he also told him on the phone: the future of Transnistria in Moldova, on Ukraine’s south-west border, should be solved by talks in a 5+2 format; Moldova, Transnistria, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Russia and Ukraine, with the European Union and US as observers. Once again, no “invasion” involved.

Glaring in all this is an already immovable fact – Crimea joining the Russian Federation. And there’s no turning back, whatever the US, the EU and Kiev may spin. 

But that poses an ulterior problem. Putin’s rationale to move on Crimea – after Russian intelligence uncovered a plot to replicate in Simferopol the coup in Kiev – was that Crimea’s autonomy was not enough to protect it from the regime changers. The same could be argued later about ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in eastern and southern Ukraine. So the autonomy conditions – and the constitutional reform – would have to be ironclad. They probably won’t. 

Still, the stark fact is that no one gives a damn about “the Ukrainian people”, be it the US, the EU or the International Monetary Fund (Russia at least cares for Russians in Ukraine). Another even more sensitive ulterior problem, assuming Washington and Moscow reach a deal, is how far can you trust the “word” of the United States government. Russia has first-hand experience on the matter, as in Bush father promising Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand across eastern Europe. It did – like a blob in a cheap horror flick. 

We should never forget the Big Picture; as with the NSA Orwellian-panopticon complex, this is most of all about the application of the Pentagon’s Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine, which implies encirclement of Russia (via NATO), coupled with the pivot-style encirclement of China. And the overarching logic remains the same; this is The Empire of Chaos in action.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). 

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

(Copyright 2014 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Fonte: Asia Times