China not happy with Australian foreign policy white paper

@ascorrespondent

CHINA’s foreign ministry has publicly rebuked “irresponsible remarks” regarding the South China Sea in an Australian white paper released this week, a document which warned of China’s rising regional influence and highlighted the need to bolster ties with “like-minded” partners.

The 115-page 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper argued that a more insular United States would be detrimental to a global “rules-based order”

“Australia believes that international challenges can only be tackled effectively when the world’s wealthiest, most innovative and most powerful country is engaged in solving them,” read the paper, which is a guide for Australian diplomacy.

“Powerful drivers are converging in a way that is reshaping the international order and challenging Australia’s interests,” it said – seemingly a thinly veiled allusion to the rise of China.

The Asian hegemon is Australia’s largest trading partner, however the country has remained concerned about the political influence of the Chinese Communist Party. China, meanwhile, is suspicious of Australia’s close military relationship with the United States.

Australia warned in the paper of risks it faces, particularly in the “Indo-Pacific region” due to a shift in the balance of power.

It highlighted the South China Sea as a “major fault line in the regional order”, and said it was “particularly concerned by the unprecedented pace and scale” of China’s land reclamation and construction activities in the disputed waters.

Responding to the white paper on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry official Lu Kang said that “Australia is not a claimant state of the South China Sea issue and has repeatedly stated that the country does not have any stance on issues of sovereignty disputes.”

Lu urged Australia to keep its promise and stop making “irresponsible remarks” on the issue, reported the Chinese English-language daily Global Times.

An opinion piece also published on Thursday in the Global Times – the international mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party –criticised the white paper, stating that it “reveals Australia’s anxiety”.

“Australia is geographically distant from China, but it has been trying to get involved in the disputes that China has with its neighboyring countries. It has called on the US to play a balancing role and incited China’s neighbours to adopt a tough attitude toward China,” said the article.

While the Australian government recognised the economic benefits from China’s rise, it was also trying to “wish China away”, said Jane Golley, deputy director at the Australian Centre on China in the World, Australian National University.

“To actually drop the word ‘Asia’ from ‘Asia-Pacific’ undoes three decades of diplomatic effort,” Golley said, referring to the use of the phrase “Indo-Pacific” which came up 120 times in the paper. “Asia-Pacific” was not used once.

The United States and some of its allies have recently been talking up their vision of the “Indo-Pacific”, instead of the “Asia-Pacific”, in a play on words aimed at undermining the influence of China.

“There is a small reference to China’s geo-economic strategy in the paper but the emphasis is on the tensions that could create, rather than the economic benefits,” Golley said.

Relations between Australia and China sank to a low point this year after Australia rejected high-profile Chinese investments, citing “national interest”.

Australia has also shown little enthusiasm for China’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative, which aims to connect China to Europe and beyond with infrastructure projects. The initiative was mentioned just once in the paper.

“We are not embracing the future,” Golley said. “We are holding on to the past and reaching on to the life jacket rather than thinking of building a whole new ship.”
Source: https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/11/china-not-happy-australian-foreign-policy-white-paper/#2aZFHdl3JuQHAJTL.97

Russia squeezing US out as agricultural superpower

The US is being pushed out of the grain market as Russia’s bumper wheat harvest has dragged down prices to record lows. Russian agricultural exports are booming thanks to a weaker national currency and massive investment.

“We are pushing America aside in some markets, and we are satisfied with this,” said Russia’s Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Tkachev.

This year Russian farmers are expected to harvest the biggest crop in over a century. Russia will produce at least 83 million tons of wheat in the current growing season, according to estimates by The Wall Street Journal.

Lower prices and close proximity to large markets gives Russia an advantage, according to the General Director of the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies Dmitry Rylko.

“A relatively weak ruble is good for the Russian wheat market. We see either gradual or rapid growth for our exports,” the expert told RT.

However, the figure announced by the Russian government earlier this year is much more impressive. The Moscow-based grain consultant ProZerno estimates a harvest of over 130 million tons. It is 2.6 percent more than the previous record set in 1978 before the Soviet-Afghan War.

“Today our task is to set reasonable prices across the country. The grain crop of 130 million tons, there is more to come. It may reach up to 200 million tons. The main thing is to find new sales markets,” said Tkachev.

The US agricultural sector has faced lousy weather this season, meaning fewer acres of wheat were sowed in 2017 than ever before. US wheat output is expected to decline by a quarter compared to the previous season.

Unfavorable conditions along with Russia’s resurgence pushed wheat prices at the Chicago Board of Trade down almost 25 percent to $4.19 a bushel (about 27 kilograms) compared to July, when Russia began a record wheat harvest. The US Wheat Associates trade group announced the shutdown of its office in Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer.

“We literally can’t compete on the price of wheat in those markets compared to Russia,” said the trade group’s spokesman Steve Mercer, as quoted by the WSJ.

According to the US Agriculture Department, American wheat will make up just 15 percent of global exports in 2017, down from half four decades ago. The plunge was also caused by more grain grown in Europe and India. The US will produce half as much as Russia, according to the department.

Last year, Russia managed to become the world’s leading producer and exporter of grain, after shipping 34 million tons from its 119 million ton harvest. Exports of Russian wheat are expected to increase to 40 million tons this year, according to the agriculture ministry.

“No one is leaving the market. The Americans are rather better at corn and soybean farming, and they are successfully doing that while losing position in wheat,” Rylko told RT.


Russians love Made in Russia

President Vladimir Putin has led the national charge toward self-sufficiency, arguing food generates more export income for Russia than arms. He has even vowed to become the world’s biggest supplier of organic food, ushering in a potential culinary Cold War with the bio-engineered mega-farms of the U.S.

Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev captured the mood in late September when he announced Moscow’s ban on European food was having such a positive effect in bolstering domestic output that he wanted sanctions to last longer. “We are interested in keeping them for another five years,” he told the Rossiya 24 TV channel, backsliding into one of the Kremlin’s more traditional timetables for economic plans. “Russian consumers are now happy to be looking for Russian-made goods in shops,” he added.

Russia hasn’t eradicated foreign products from supermarket shelves, but it has moved toward greater self-sufficiency. The country imported 36 percent of its food in 2013, before the EU’s sanctions and Moscow’s retaliatory embargo. In 2015, that figure dropped to 28 percent. In 2016, according to preliminary data, that fell again to 24 percent in the first quarter and 22 percent in the second.

Where Russia struggles to make up the shortfall — in fruit and dairy, for example — it has scrambled to find new trading partners. Moscow has approved dairy imports from New Zealand and has opened up to Asian dairy investments from Vietnam and Thailand.

Russia’s S-400 missile system: A new Middle East invasion

Powerful and popular anti-missile/aircraft system is a game changer with its ability to use ultra-fast long- and short-range missiles

Saudi Arabia’s agreement to purchase the S-400 anti-aircraft Triumf anti-missile system from Russia is a major blow to the United States and its European allies.

The deal follows Turkey’s $2.5 billion agreement to buy the S-400, and ongoing negotiations with Egypt for the S-400. Egypt already has the S-300VM system (also known as the Antey 2500) which can engage short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, precision guided weapons, strategic and tactical aircraft, as well as early warning and electronic warfare aircraft. (Originally the S-400 was called the S-300 PMU-3.)

Among other countries with the S-300 system are Greece, a NATO ally who got them from Cyprus when the Turks threatened Cyprus with war unless the country gave up its missiles. Thus, they were given to Greece to defuse a crisis with Turkey.

There are other users of these systems. There is China, of course, but also India, Ukraine, Venezuela and NATO member Bulgaria, to name a few.

But the S-400 is the real game changer. The reason is the multiple intercept missiles the S-400 system can fire. The S-400 supports four different missiles – the very long range 40N6E-series (400 km), the long range 48N6 (250 km), the 9M96e2 (120 km) and the short range 9m96e (40 km). By comparison the US Patriot system supports only one interceptor missile with a range of 96 km.

But there is more. The 9M96E2 is one of the jewels of the S-400 system. It flies at Mach 15 (around 5,000 meters per second or 18,500 kph), it can engage targets as low as 5 meters off the ground, and it can maneuver pulling up to 20 Gs (a human can withstand no more than 9 Gs with special pressure suits and helmets and for only a few seconds). It is designed to knock out penetrating aircraft and missiles flying “off the deck” or just above ground and neutralize cruise missiles.

Dr. Carlo Kopp, one of the world’s top aerospace experts, says the S-400 has optional acquisition radars designed to defeat modern stealth aircraft such as the F-22 and the F-35. They work by operating in multiple frequency bands including both VHF and L bands that can “see” stealth-protected fighters.

Stealth designs have been built on low-detection by X-band radars, the most common military and civilian radars (others such as C-band – now known as the G/H band – are less prevalent). The F-35 has stealth protection mainly in the front of the aircraft, meaning that when it turns away from its target it is vulnerable. In time, the entire air defense system of the US and its allies, all based primarily on X band, will become obsolete as China and Russia move toward stealth aircraft and missiles.

Along with the radar enhancements (which may or may not be delivered to foreign customers), Russia has a formidable integrated air defense system even though the size of its truly modern aircraft fleet is quite small compared to the United States and NATO. Russia lost a decade in the arms race when it had no money to develop and build new aircraft, and its economy today barely supports acquisition of effective numbers of new equipment. Indeed, one of the reasons Russia developed its air defenses along with wanting to counter US stealth aircraft and cruise missiles is because it could not afford a big fleet of modern fighter aircraft. (The US administration and Congress should pay close attention to Russia’s limited offensive capabilities, not too often done these days of anti-Russian hysteria in Washington.)

One use of the S-400 long-range missile is against stand-off systems including flying command posts and aircraft such as the E-3 Sentry AWACS. These aircraft, which are used by the US and its NATO allies with a squadron stationed in Japan at Kadena AFB and in the UAE at al-Dhafra, are vulnerable to S-400 interceptors and lose their stand-off range protection. We may be reaching the end of the AWACS capability, which were originally designed in the 1960s.

The S-400 also has capability against ballistic missiles, a feature that surely attracted Saudi Arabia’s interest. How good it is against ballistic missiles? No one knows for sure.

The Saudi decision to buy the S-400 is probably linked to Egypt’s earlier purchase of the S-300VM and desire to get the S-400. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states probably paid for Egypt’s weapons.

The Russians have definitely made a breakthrough with sales of weapons to some NATO countries with uncertain futures in the bloc (e.g. Greece, Turkey) and strong US client countries such as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states such as the UAE. One immediate new example: Russia says the UAE is just months away from buying the formidable Su-35 multirole fighter jet, the current Queen of the Russian Air Force fighter fleet.

The Russian breakthrough makes sense in technological terms. The US does not have a true competitor to the S-400 system and the US is not anxious to see such systems proliferate. Too bad and too late.

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/russias-s-400-missile-sales-new-middle-east-invasion/?utm_source=The+Daily+Brief&utm_campaign=56fc335907-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_10_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1f8bca137f-56fc335907-21552319

Karzai warns Afghans and neighbors to resist ‘US agenda’

Karzai is confident that Afghans and regional stakeholders support his crusade against the “American agenda” in Afghanistan, which he describes as an attempt to create disharmony among nations

 

Three years since he left office, the presence of former president Hamid Karzai still lingers in the corridors of Afghan politics. The fact that he continues to live on the same street as the presidential palace also ensures that he remains keenly involved in matters of a nation at war.

It is at this humble but traditional home in Kabul that Karzai extends the courtesy of his hospitality to scores of Afghan leaders, ministers, tribal elders and international diplomats, on a daily basis. He meets with hundreds of local and international stakeholders, making peace and relationships that can influence the turn of regional events in Afghanistan’s favor, a country that he helped put back together with the help of US allies after the fall of the extremist Taliban regime in 2001.

However, today, Karzai is among the few prominent Afghan voices against the occupying US forces. He has strongly condemned the new Afghan strategy put forth by US President Donald Trump in late August. “The neighborhood is no longer an ally of the US in their war against terror,” he told us on a warm September afternoon at his residence in the capital.

Karzai is confident that not only Afghans but also regional stakeholders support his crusade against the “American agenda” in Afghanistan, which he describes as an attempt to create disharmony among nations in the region, such as India, Pakistan, Iran and China.

“If they genuinely want to fight extremism and terrorism, they cannot do it by creating rivalry here in this region. They cannot take one ally and create rivalries — that’s adding to the conflicts in Afghanistan,” he said, referring to Trump’s statement calling out Pakistan for harboring insurgents, while encouraging India to play a bigger role in Afghanistan.

However, this is not to say that Karzai doesn’t value international powers trying to foster peace in his country. On September 4, leaders of the five BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — called on Pakistan to end terrorism in Afghanistan and the region following Trump’s statement. 

Move to name terror groups was ‘important’

“BRICS was an important development,” Karzai said, hailing the statement by BRICS nations on terrorism emanating from Pakistan as a “significant development.”

“Naming terrorist organizations at BRICS was important for the countries that are really affected, like India, China and Russia. This is what we need — cooperating in this region against extremism and terrorism. Not the imaginations of the US played out in our region.”

Karzai dismissed Pakistan’s defensive reaction to the BRICS statement, saying that Islamabad lays some of the blame on Kabul. “Nobody believes Pakistan’s [excuse] blaming Afghanistan for providing terrorist sanctuaries,” he said.

“They know Afghanistan is not involved in that or has the capacity to do things like that. They must deal with this and not us,” he added, urging Pakistan to give up extremism. “We want Pakistan to recognize that playing with extremism is never going to help them.”

While Karzai remains critical of Pakistan’s role in regional security, he is also suspicious of Washington’s intention in condemning Pakistan. “President Trump’s strategy makes it look like [there are proxy wars in Afghanistan] and we don’t want that. We don’t want Afghanistan to become a battleground for rivalries, or a place where proxies fight,” he explained.

As the conversation moved more towards regional politics, Karzai expressed appreciation of India’s role in the development of Afghanistan. Karzai’s relationship with India goes a long way back – to his days as a student in Himachal Pradesh, evidence of which can be seen in his library, which boasts of a copy of the Indian constitution, which he has read and referred to several times during his years as leader of a new nation.

Karzai urged India to not be swayed by Trump’s policies. “My advice to India is that it should have its independent policy towards Afghanistan and not be influenced by Americans,” he said. “India should not ally itself with America’s objectives in Afghanistan because those objectives are not good for this region. They are surely not going to be good for India eventually.”

Having presided over the new Afghanistan for more than a decade, Karzai is no stranger to the consequences of proxy wars. “These rivalries will be played out in Afghanistan. Why should we be the ground where larger powers with their own interests create a war in which we die?” he said, noting the drastic increase in civilian casualties over the last two years.

‘India never interfered in our ties with Pakistan’

The former leader also dismissed talk of an India-Pakistan proxy war being played out in his homeland.

“During my government, India never interfered with our relationship with Pakistan,” he revealed, adding that Indian leaders Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi had both been considerate about Afghanistan’s sensitive position in the region.

“We spoke about these issues with India and at one point they even refrained from helping Afghanistan militarily because they said Pakistan may get irritated,” he recalled. “They were trying to avoid too much irritation for Pakistan; that’s what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told me.”

Despite this, Pakistan still appears to be concerned about Afghanistan’s growing affinity to India. “Pakistan, of course, constantly kept talking about India, [and it] especially has issues with the number of Indian consulates in Afghanistan,” he revealed.

As Karzai bid us farewell, he repeated his warning. “Tell India to not fall for the strategic games that the US is playing in this region. We want an Afghanistan-India relationship that is not impacted by the strategic interests of another power [that is well] away from us.”

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/karzai-warns-afghans-neighbors-resist-us-agenda/?utm_source=The+Daily+Brief&utm_campaign=da61e3311e-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_10_12&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1f8bca137f-da61e3311e-21552319