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New Great Game in the Caucasus and Central Asia

Players unite and face off so fast Eurasian integration’s chessboard feels like musical chairs prestissimo

By PEPE ESCOBAR

The Eurasian chessboard is in non-stop motion at dizzying speed. Caucasus and Central Asia are in the focus of developments.

After the Afghanistan shock, we’re all aware of the progressive interconnection of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). And of the preeminent roles played by Russia, China and Iran. These are the pillars of the New Great Game.   

Let’s now focus on some relatively overlooked but no less important aspects of the game. Ranging from the South Caucasus to Central Asia.

Iran under the new Raisi administration is now on the path of increased trade and economic integration with the EAEU, after its admission as a full member of the SCO. Tehran’s “Go East” pivot implies strengthened political security as well as food security.

That’s where the Caspian Sea plays a key role. Inter-Caspian sea trade routes completely bypass American sanctions or blockade attempts. 

Iran’s renewed strategic security anchored in the Caspian will also extend to and bring benefits to Afghanistan, which borders two of the five Caspian neighbors: Iran and Turkmenistan. 

The ongoing Eurasian integration process features a Trans-Caspian corridor as a key node. From Xinjiang in China across Central Asia, then Turkey, all the way to Eastern Europe. The corridor is a work in progress.

Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC)

Some of it is being conducted by CAREC (Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation), which strategically includes China, Mongolia, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the five Central Asian “stans” and Afghanistan. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) coordinates the secretariat. 

CAREC is not a Chinese-driven Belt and Road and Asian Infrastructure Development Bank (AIIB) body. Yet the Chinese do interact constructively with the Western-leaning, Manila-based ADB.

Belt and Road is developing its own corridors via the Central Asian “stans”. And especially all the way to Iran, now strategically linked to China via the long-term, $400 billion energy-and-development deal.

The Trans-Caspian will run in parallel to and will be complementary to the existing BRI corridors. There we have, for instance, German auto industry components loading cargo trains in the Trans-Siberian bound all the way to joint ventures in China while Foxconn and HP’s laptops and printers made in Chongqing travel the other way to Western Europe.

The Caspian Sea is becoming a key Eurasian trade player since its status was finally defined in 2018 in Aktau, in Kazakhstan. The Caspian is a major crossroads simultaneously connecting Central Asia and the South Caucasus, Central Asia and West Asia, and northern and southern Eurasia.

It’s a strategic neighbor to the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) – which includes Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan and India. While also connecting Belt and Road and the EAEU. 

Watch the Turkic Council

All of the above interactions are routinely discussed and planned at the annual St Petersburg Economic Forum and the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. These are Russia’s top economic meetings alongside the Valdai discussions.  

There are also interpolations between players – some of them leading to possible partnerships that are not exactly appreciated by the three leading members of Eurasia integration: Russia, China and Iran.  

For instance, four months ago Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbaev visited Baku to propose a strategic partnership – dubbed 5+3 – between Central Asia and South Caucasus states.

A specific problem is that both Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace – which is a military gig. And also of the Turkic Council, which has embarked on a resolute expansion drive. To complicate matters, Russia also has a strategic partnership with Azerbaijan. 

The Turkic Council has the potential to act as a monkey wrench dropped into the Eurasian works. There are five members: Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Pan Turkism or Pan Turanism

This is pan-Turkism – or pan-Turanism – in action, with a special emphasis on the Turk-Azeri “one nation, two states.” Ambition is the norm. The Turkic Council has been actively trying to seduce Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Hungary to become members.

Assuming the 5+3 idea gets traction that would lead to the formation of a single entity from the Black Sea all the way to the borders of Xinjiang, in thesis under Turkish preeminence. And that means NATO preeminence.   

Russia, China and Iran will not exactly welcome it. All of the 8 members of the 5+3 are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace. While half (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia) are also members of the counterweight, the Russia-led CSTO.  

Eurasian players are very much aware that in early 2021 NATO switched the command of its quite strategic Very High Readiness Joint Task Force to Turkey. Subsequently, Ankara has embarked on a serious diplomatic drive. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Aka visiting Libya, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Translation: That’s Turkey – and not the Europeans – projecting NATO power across Eurasia.

Add to it two recent military exercises, Anatolian 21 and Anatolian Eagle 2021, focused on special ops and air combat. Anatolian 21 was conducted by Turkish special forces. The list of attendants was quite something, in terms of a geopolitical arc. Apart from Turkey, we had Albania, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan – with Mongolia and Kosovo as observers.

Once again, that was Pan-Turkism – as well as neo-Ottomanism – in action.

Watch the new Intermarium

Speculation by Brzezinski nostalgia denizens that a successful 5+3, plus an expanded Turkic Council, would lead to the isolation of Russia in vast swaths of Eurasia are idle.

There’s no evidence that Ankara would be able to control oil and gas corridors. This is prime Russian and Iran territory. Nor to influence the opening up of the Caspian to Western interests. That’s a matter for the Caspian neighbors, which include, once again, Russia and Iran. Tehran and Moscow are very much aware of the lively Erdogan/Aliyev spy games constantly enacted in Baku. 

Pakistan for its part may have close relations with Turkey – and the Turk-Azeri combo. Yet that did not prevent Islamabad from striking a huge military deal with Tehran. 

According to the deal, Pakistan will train Iranian fighter pilots and Iran will train Pakistani anti-terrorism special ops. The Pakistani Air Force has a world-class training program – while Tehran has first-class experience in anti-terror ops in Iraq/Syria as well as in its sensitive borders with both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Turk-Azeri combo should be aware that Baku’s dream of becoming a trade/transportation corridor hub in the Caucasus may only happen in close coordination with regional players.

India and Iran are developing their own corridor

The possibility still exists of a trade/connectivity Turk-Azeri corridor to be extended into the Turkic-based heartland of Central Asia. Yet Baku’s recent heavy-handedness after the military victory in Nagorno-Karabakh predictably engineered blowback. Iran and India are developing their own corridor ideas going East and West.

It was up to the chairman of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization, Alireza Peymanpak, to clarify that “two alternative Iran-Eurasia transit routes will replace Azerbaijan’s route.” The first should open soon, “via Armenia” and the second “via sea by purchasing and renting vessels.”

That was a direct reference, once again, to the inevitable International North-South Transportation Corridor: rail, road and water routes crisscrossing 7,200 kilometers and interlinking  Russia, Iran, Central Asia, the Caucasus, India and Western Europe. The INSTC is at least 30% cheaper and 40% shorter than existing, tortuous routes.

Baku – and Ankara – have to be ultra-savvy diplomatically not to find themselves excluded from the inter-connection, even considering that the original INSTC route linked India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia.

Two Camps

Two camps seem to be irreconcilable at this particular juncture. Turkey-Azerbaijan on the one hand and India-Iran on the other. Pakistan in the uncomfortable middle.

The key development is that New Delhi and Tehran have decided that the INSTC will go through Armenia.

That’s terrible news for Ankara. A wound that even an expanded Turkic Council would not heal. Baku, for its part, may have to deal with the unpleasant consequences of being regarded by top Eurasian players as an unreliable partner.

Anyway, we’re still far from the finality expressed by the legendary casino mantra, “The chips are down.” This is a chessboard in non-stop movement.

We should not forget, for instance, the Bucharest Nine. These are: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. That concerns a prime NATO wet dream. It is the latest remix of the Intermarium – as in de facto blocking Russia out of Europe. A dominating team of 5 +3 and Bucharest Nine would be the ultimate pincer in terms of  “isolating” Russia.

Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.

Russia and India signed documents on military cooperation

Russia and India have signed several documents on small arms and military cooperation, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said on Twitter.

“I am glad that a number of agreements, contracts and protocols have been signed regarding small arms and military cooperation,” the Indian minister wrote.

However, he added that India “appreciates the strong support of Russia.” “We hope that our cooperation will bring peace, prosperity and stability to the entire region,” Singh said.

On December 6, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced the beginning in New Delhi of a meeting of the Russian-Indian intergovernmental commission on military and military-technical cooperation with the participation of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. During the meeting, he noted that India is one of the key partners of Russia in the defense sphere, and relations between the countries are of a “particularly privileged strategic nature.”

“The unprecedented level of trust between our countries is evidenced by the intensity and depth of military-technical cooperation, which is reaching a new qualitative level every year,” the Russian Defense Minister said.

On December 6, the Ministry of Defense announced the signing of an agreement between the governments of the two countries on a program of military-technical cooperation until 2030. The document implies cooperation of the branches and arms of the armed forces, and includes the supply and development of weapons and military equipment.

On November 14, the director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) of Russia, Dmitry Shugaev, announced the start of supplies to India of equipment for S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems. The contract for the supply of the complexes was signed in 2016. India became the third foreign buyer of these complexes after China and Turkey.

Why India and Russia need an alliance?

Before gaining independence, India was a colony of Great Britain. After World War II, when the Cold War broke out between the USSR and the United States, India chose neutrality. Along with Egypt and Cuba, she joined the Non-Aligned Movement.

At the same time, the Indians had rather close relations with the USSR. Soviet Union provided significant military assistance to India under Khrushchev during the Indo-Chinese conflict. And despite the fact that China was a communist country and Moscow’s ally in the Cold War. In the same 1960s, Moscow supported New Delhi in a dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. Moreover, it was with the participation of Chairman of the Council of Ministers Kosygin that the Second Indo-Pakistani War was stopped. The declaration on January 10, 1966 on the cessation of fighting was signed in Tashkent.

India is trying to pursue the same course of non-alignment today. 

However, just as then, geopolitical realities – lingering rivalries with China and Pakistan – are forcing Indians to seek strong allies. In this sense, India has little choice: the United States, the European Union and Russia. Europe could be a mainstay, but traditionally tries not to get involved in the battle of the titans. Even in the US-Russian confrontation, the Europeans are calling for a reduction in the intensity of passions, and by the way, they recently challenged the conclusions of the US intelligence about the alleged Russian invasion. The EU has close economic ties with China. Plus the EU is a very heterogeneous structure. France is now offended by the Anglo-Saxons because of the anti-Chinese AUKUS. Germany is very modest in foreign policy.

As for the United States itself, this would be a very convenient option for India. The United States is now actively opposing China. Both economically and through military alliances. India participates in the QUAD alliance and is conducting naval exercises in the Indian Ocean with the United States, Japan and Australia. The last of them, in October, became the largest in 40 years. Only the whole snag of the alliance with Washington for New Delhi is that the Americans demand complete submission . The United States literally prohibits India from buying S-400 air defense systems from Russia. It is threatening it with sanctions, as was the case with Turkey.

Unique partners

Russia is for India, if not the only, then at least a unique partner. Unlike the United States, it will not oppose China. But at the same time the Russian Federation is selling weapons to India. That helps maintain the balance of power in Asia. It is thanks to Russian efforts that India and China are now full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Can you imagine joint military exercises between Indians and Chinese under the auspices of the Pentagon? Of course not. But almost such exercises took place this year! In September, 200 Indian military personnel, as well as Chinese and Pakistani observers, took part in the Russian-Belarusian maneuvers “West-2021”.

Russia is trying to bring China and India closer together economically. Within the BRICS format, there is a joint pool of reserve currencies, which helps to strengthen the financial sovereignty of the five countries. Russia is strengthening India’s defenses and working to reduce its conflict with China. Separately, it is also worth mentioning the North-South project, leading from Russia to India and vice versa. That will enhance trade opportunities and macro-regional significance of both countries.

For Russia lations with India must be strengthened. This enhances its role in Asia. It strengthens its cards in front of the United States. And, in a good sense of the word, allows it to balance the growing China. After all, an alliance with India is good money. For 30 years, the supply of aircraft, tanks and Kalashnikovs alone increased the Russian budget by $ 60 billion.

India does not hide interest in the Arctic

Often, when referring to the Northern Sea Route (NSR), one can hear the definition that this is the “Russian way to India.” Indeed, the NSR is the shortest and safest access to the powerful, developing market of this vast country.

No pipe, even the widest in diameter, can meet India’s oil and gas needs. But shipping by sea is a different matter. It seems that India has been eyeing alternative routes for a long time to ensure its energy security. For Russian gas and oil companies, a partner such as India will help diversify the markets for minerals.

The development of the Arctic for New Delhi is also a matter of constant competition with another global player in the region. With China, which has already laid the foundation for the third icebreaker in the “Snow Dragons” series. India is trying to keep up. It is known that she has been eyeing the Russian project 21180 (M) icebreakers for a long time. These auxiliary diesel-electric icebreakers of a new type with a powerful energy complex and a modern propeller electric installation of Russian production are assessed by the Indians as ships with enhanced functionality. They are able to mill ice up to 1.5 meters.

In terms of displacement, they correspond to the Norwegian patrol icebreaker Svalbard. However, the practice of military-technical cooperation between India and Russia shows that New Delhi trusts more Russian developers and shipbuilders. That is more than once expressed in mutually beneficial and long-term contracts. The project 21180 icebreaker “Ilya Muromets” became the first icebreaker in 45 years, created exclusively for the needs of the Russian Navy. It is part of the Northern Fleet.

Proven partnership over the years

The reincarnation of the aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Gorshkov took place in Severodvinsk. With the active participation of the Nevsky Design Bureau, thanks to India. Russian shipbuilders have gained unique experience in the implementation of such global tasks. The Indian order made it possible to actually upgrade the Russian MiG-29K carrier-based fighter to the 4 ++ level.

Today MIG-29K meets all modern requirements for carrier-based aircraft. It is unobtrusive – 20% of the aircraft are assembled from non-metallic composite materials. To reduce visibility in the infrared range, the “cooled wing” technology has been implemented.

The fighter is equipped with the latest avionics, infrared target finder, guidance of close air-to-air missiles by turning the pilot’s head. The new radar “Zhuk-ME”, installed on board, finds targets at a distance of 200 km. With its help, guidance is carried out with corrected bombs and medium-range missiles.

Although the MiG-29K has a shorter range and payload than the Su-33, it is more compact. Thanks to the money of the Indians, is deeply modernized relative to the original Soviet projects MiG-29K and Su-33.

MiG-29KUB. 
Photo: Rulexip / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Military cooperation is being transformed into the Arctic Cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi. It continues not only in the military, but also in the oil and gas sector. This may allow India to become the first non-Arctic state to extract resources in the Arctic. 

Russian-Indian cooperation in geological exploration and joint development of oil and gas fields, including offshore projects, is rapidly developing. Indian companies are involved in the development of oil and gas fields within the Sakhalin-1 project and the Vankor oil and gas condensate field. It is worth noting that Rosneft is a shareholder in the large Indian oil refinery Vadinar.

Is China jealous?

Improving the delivery of Russian energy resources to Indian partners is also a priority. China is very jealous of India’s admission to the region. At the same time, the economic potentials of India and China differ.

China, in addition to having ice-class ships, has long been active in investing in infrastructure energy projects in the Arctic. India in this sense lags far behind. And it’s not just New Delhi’s caution. There are players who constantly distract India from projects that are profitable for it.

India has a clearly positive image in the Arctic G8. In addition, India has lobbying opportunities for a representative diaspora in the Arctic countries. Especially in the United States and Canada. Weak investment activity of Indian business structures is a profitable business.

Chasing two hares

India has long surpassed Japan and has become the third largest economy in the world, calculated in purchasing power parity terms. The consumption of hydrocarbons is growing every year.

According to the forecasts of the International Energy Agency, India will become the third country in the world in terms of energy consumption by 2030. Due to the lack of its own sources of primary energy, the country will increase their imports. And she is going to do this, taking the most active part in the development of polar resources. In any case, there is such a desire.

In this sense, Russia for India is a guarantee of colossal investments. The only problem is the inconsistency of the concepts of the development of the civil and military navy. It’s like chasing two birds with one stone. On the one hand, India does not want to lag behind China in the Arctic. But on the other hand, it is implementing an ambitious maritime strategy. The goal of which is to turn the country into the main power in the Indian Ocean.

Does India have enough finance, especially considering that the United States is increasingly engaging India in a clash with China through a four-sided military bloc, the so-called Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), which also includes Japan and Australia. Will India have time for the Arctic if it is drawn into the war?

The US is indeed purposefully luring India into a trap from which the Asian giant simply cannot emerge victorious. Indeed, Pakistan will take the side of China in the event of an escalation of the regional conflict. And a conflict between nuclear-weapon states can easily escalate into a nuclear catastrophe. This is already fraught with stability on the planet, but do such little things worry the hawks in Washington …

Divide and conquer

The development of the Arctic by India is postponed every time the word “Aksaychin” appears on the world agenda. A region of confrontation between India and China. Two powers that more than others can influence the radical redistribution of world resources. Can the United States allow such “gluttonous” countries, in the opinion of the Yankees, to approach the division of Arctic resources? The question is rhetorical.

The United States can say whatever it wants in the Congress, but the Americans will not allow the strengthening of the influence of China and the supposedly allied India in the Arctic. Their true desire is for India and China to moderate their ambitions. For this, Washington is making every effort to play off Beijing and New Delhi in a senseless duel. That is obviously disadvantageous for both countries.

What is behind the Polish insurgency in the EU empire?

Illusions and reality

Poland is already at enmity with the European Union in almost all directions. From sabotaging the EU’s green transition, which could bury the Polish coal industry, and Germany’s criticism of Nord Stream 2, to migrants and ideological conflict. Cherry on the cake – The Polish Constitutional Court has now recognized the primacy of Polish law over EU law.

This is a very unpleasant precedent that hinders the plans of Brussels and Berlin behind it to sharply deepen integration after the British exit. This means the continuation of the destruction of the European Union. If London has slammed the door, then Warsaw is slamming and does not think (too expensive) and undermines the situation from within, openly rejecting the EU’s supranational claims. This is another test for the European Union.

It is useful to listen to the statement of the outgoing Angela Merkel, which was reported by the media on November 1 this year. She warns : “We are forgetting the lessons of the Second World War.” Although back in 2010 she said that “we learned lessons” from the war.

Merkel recalls the “recurring logic” in history. Where institutions created to act as protectors from conflict collapse as old traumas are forgotten. It is clear that we are talking about a possible collapse of the EU. There is also a transparent allusion to the fate of Poland. Country which took an active part in inciting World War II and then became its victim.

The inertia of thinking is a well-known fact. When the market rallies for a long time, most traders think it will last forever, and vice versa. The same pattern applies to politics, and may outwardly unexpectedly comprehend the EU. Empires disintegrate, overexerting themselves and finding themselves unable to service their growing obligations.

Expansion has already stalled

While Brussels / Berlin are fighting back by tightening fiscal discipline for the PIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain), escalating the “Russian threat”, “migration tribute” to Ankara, etc. But the expansion has already stalled and is mired in gray zone crises (Moldova, Ukraine). Now this has been added to open “political riots” on the outskirts (Poland, Hungary) and demands for “tribute” (transfers from European funds). Who can guarantee that this is not the beginning of the disintegration of the European empire into “tribes” (East, Center, South)?

Ex-German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer published an article in which he suggested that the EU first tackle the problems at its borders. Only and then to dream of a global role that it does not have. The politician called it a “dangerous contradiction” when the EU “rings out about strategic autonomy [from the US], while depriving itself of the means to achieve an independent role in foreign policy and security.”

Warsaw blackmailing itself

Poland is trying to follow the path of Great Britain in the European Union. Securing a “special position” (high level of autonomy) and retaining “financial bonuses”. However, Britain was one of the three largest donors to the EU budget. Poland is the largest subsidized country in the European Union. It turns out a dependent position: “we will blackmail you for your money.”

The EU has generously funded Poland for almost a quarter century. The account has long gone into hundreds of billions. Only from EU structural funds for regional development Poland in 2014-2020 received € 90 billion (an average of almost € 13 billion per year).

According to the EU financial plans for 2021-2027, approved in October of this year, as part of the post-pandemic recovery program, Poland is allotted from the EU’s “wallet” only non-repayable subsidies of more than € 120 billion (an average of € 17 billion per year). Not to mention preferential credits and other “bonuses”. Against this background, fines of € 1.5 million per day (€ 0.5 billion per year) recently imposed by the EU Court of Justice on Warsaw for disobedience are childish pranks.

While the European Union continues to repair Polish roads and train stations, Warsaw demands special treatment. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in the Polish Seim boasts that he knocked out billions in Brussels, because “assertive politics, not patting on the shoulder” is most effective in dealing with EU. A good example for neighboring Hungary and other frustrating member states.

At the same time, Moravetsky adds that the EU is dealing with “imaginary problems that have basically created for itself.” Geopolitical rudeness or ordinary impudence?

The origins of Polish politics: the US factor

All things considered, it seems that it is not so simple. Poland is not just blackmailing, sabotaging and trolling Brussels. 80% of Polish exports go to the EU countries. The majority of the country’s population supports EU membership and even goes to rallies on this matter.

In feuds with the European Union, Warsaw traditionally emphasizes the importance of NATO and the United States. It is beneficial for the US for the EU to be integrated. But not too much. Earlier the “Trojan horse” was London, which blocked the construction of the federation. Now Polish politicians are trying to fit into this role. They are becoming useful for an increasingly self-isolating Washington. The expectation that NATO membership, US support and the pumping of the “Russian threat” will not allow Berlin to tighten the screws and cut off the oxygen to the Polish “economic miracle”.

“Poland problem” for Brussels is the problem of the geopolitical weakness of the European Union. The EU remains unconditionally dependent on US guarantees for its defense. And you can’t argue. Warsaw politicians sense weakness. However, they can overestimate their strengths. Just as has happened more than once in history.

NATO Threatens Germany with Nuclear Weapons in Eastern Europe

The United States may deploy nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said November 19. As the spokesman for the Alliance explained, this could happen if Berlin refuses to keep American bombs on its territory. The Russian Foreign Ministry described the words of the secretary general as a rejection of the “fundamental for European security” obligations enshrined in the Russia-NATO Founding Act. What is behind this signal was analyzed by independent military observer Alexander Ermakov.

History of the issue

On November 19, speaking at a NATO event in Germany, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg casually answered a question by making an unheard-of statement. NATO’s common nuclear weapons could be deployed in Eastern Europe. Let us recall what kind of common NATO nuclear arsenal we are talking about. This mission is “NATO nuclear sharing”, in Russian official diplomatic terminology “NATO joint nuclear missions”, whose roots go back to the 1950s, when the United States began to deploy tactical nuclear weapons (including aerial bombs) in Europe.

At that time, the attitude of politicians and military strategists to nuclear weapons was completely different. The concept of their nonproliferation in its current form was not accepted. The United States planned and began to implement a program to create a common NATO nuclear force. By transferring its weapons to its allies and forming special joint units. The plans included a group of surface ships with mixed crews armed with Polaris missiles. The idea of ​​deploying numerous railway missile systems in Europe was considered. Ready to involve the allies even in their grandiose project of a huge rocket base under the Greenland glacier.

None of this was implemented. The Americans transferred medium-range missiles to a number of allies (in particular, Great Britain, Italy and Turkey) and deployed storage bombs in a number of countries. They also began training national crews for their use. The first such agreement was concluded in 1958 with Great Britain. Formal control over the charges was retained by the American military. They also played the role of instructors.

In 1968 NPT was signed

The USSR was much less actively engaged in nuclear armament of the allies . However, in the early 1960s. began to express considerations about the transfer of charges to the allies (they had carriers, and will continue to be). However, after the shock of the Cuban missile crisis, the attitude towards nuclear weapons became more serious. The United States and the USSR took the path of relative support for the idea of ​​nonproliferation. They abandoned the idea of ​​creating a full-fledged “NATO common nuclear force”. Deployed medium-range missiles were soon removed from service.

In 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was signed. However, the United States did not completely abandon the practice of storing nuclear weapons in those countries where they had already been deployed at the time of its signing, and from training local personnel. First of all, this concerned aerial bombs, but during the Cold War, charges were also stored for tactical short-range ballistic missiles of the Allies (for example, for the German Pershing IA). At that moment it fit into the logic of the bloc confrontation and was not particularly criticized by the USSR, which was doing the same, albeit to a much lesser extent. Tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Eastern Europe were primarily intended to equip Soviet groups (they were deployed in Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia and Poland).

With the end of the Cold War, the USSR promptly withdrew its nuclear weapons from the countries of the collapsing Warsaw Pact. The last nuclear warheads were launched into the national territory in August 1991. Washington was in no hurry to follow Moscow’s example.

Puting junior partners in their place

Many Western European politicians are for the immediate withdrawal of American bombs. The United States to a certain extent take into account public opinion. The withdrawal from Great Britain took place under its pressure. However, they prefer to “work” first of all with the political elite. It consist of people loyal to the United States and associated with them. . There is the desire to economize on one’s own defense, having sold part of the sovereignty. Or unwillingness to independently make decisions and be responsible for them. Or a real fear of being left without protection.

This concerns Germany perhaps even more so than some others. For Germany, the issue of the bomb carrier is more acute. The country does not have the F-35, and it will have to spend specially for this task.

The NATO Secretary General, who is pursuing American policy, deliberately did not conceal or play up. “If you dare to demand the withdrawal of our bombs, then we will take them out to Poland on the basis of a bilateral agreement. And we will not even ask you on the fields of the Alliance.”

This does not make much sense

From a practical point of view, this does not make much sense. Installations in Poland will only be better observed by Russian intelligence. It is also easier to hit them due to their close location. “Approach time” in the case of air bases is not as important as in the case of the deployment of ballistic missiles – it should be counted from the detection of an aircraft flying towards the target, and not from the moment of takeoff. 

Such rhetoric should be greeted in the diplomatic arena as unacceptable as possible, and recalled for as long as possible. This is complete arrogance, disregard for the same Founding Act. It runs counter even to the old American “excuses” why NATO nuclear sharing is legal and does not violate the NPT.

China and Europe open competition for Russian gas

The infrastructure for the delivery of energy resources from the Russian Federation to the EU is much larger than in the case of export to the “Celestial Empire”, but Beijing’s prospects are more serious

The period of construction of new gas pipelines from Russia to Europe is almost over. However, in the eastern direction this process will continue further. Does this mean that the EU should worry about the presence of Russian gas in the near future, which may “migrate” to Asia?

China, Mongolia and Russia are developing a new Soyuz Vostok gas pipeline. It will stretch from the Russian Federation to Asian countries. According to Deputy Prime Minister of Mongolia Sainbuyangiin Amarsaykhan, the construction of such a highway can begin in three years.

In essence, we are talking about the creation of Power of Siberia-2. It will even more open the doors of the Chinese energy market for Russian pipeline gas. Talks about a new additional highway to the PRC through Mongolia were conducted back in 2019. It was not entirely clear then whether such a project would be implemented or not.

Now it became clear that the highway will be built for sure. The only question is when and under what conditions. This automatically makes it impossible to increase energy supplies to the EU countries.

It would be a great exaggeration and dilettantism to say that all Russian gas intended for the Old World may eventually migrate to the “Celestial Empire” and other Asian countries. Alas, the infrastructure for delivering energy from Russia to Europe is much more serious than for exporting to China. However, this does not mean at all that the European Union has nothing to worry about. The EU countries will still have problems with the purchase of gas from the Russian Federation. Power of Siberia-2, as an unpleasant bonus, will make them even more serious.

Will China take everything for itself or is it a myth?

Even before the construction of Power of Siberia, however, as well as after its launch in December 2019, many European politicians and experts, even from Asia, said that this project would be a failure.

Power of Siberia will not immediately reach its design capacity in terms of deliveries of 38 billion cubic meters per year. Last year, the contract provided for pumping only 5 billion cubic meters to China. Compared to the volume of gas exports from Russia to Europe, these are crumbs.

Recall that even in 2020, when due to COVID-19 energy consumption in the Old World was minimal, the supply of “blue fuel” from Russia to Europe, including Turkey, amounted to 135.75 billion cubic meters ( data from Gazprom Export).

The past months of 2021 also showed that the volumes of pipeline gas supplies to China are incomparable with those to Europe. The volumes of Russian gas pumped to Gazprom’s main customers in the first quarter of 2021 set a 3-year record. The company supplied 52.7 billion cubic meters to Europe.

Gazprom needs to agree on guaranteed export volumes with China. This is a topic for bargaining for several years. Then you need to sign a transit agreement with Mongolia. If everything goes well, construction will start only in 2024. That means that gas will not flow through this pipeline soon.

It will eventually pump even more than the first gas pipeline to China. In November of this year, the management of PJSC Gazprom even announced that the export capacity of Power of Siberia-2 could exceed the capacity of the first Russian gas pipeline to China by more than 1.3 times.

The dragon from the east cannot be underestimated

The volume of Russian gas supplies clearly speaks in favor of Europe – the current 135.75 billion cubic meters to the EU versus the potential 88 billion to China, and these figures will not appear in a year or two, or even in 5 years.

It would seem, why should the European Union worry? Alas, there really is a reason. The problem is that there are growth prospects for Russian gas exports to China, but in the case of supplies to the EU, they no longer.

Even in the coronavirus-crisis year 2020, when the world first faced the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced energy consumption, the average price of Russian gas in China was $ 150.2 per 1,000 cubic meters. For comparison: in the same year, the average export price of Gazprom to non-CIS countries, including Europe, was $ 143 per 1,000 cubic meters.

China loves to bargain with Russia no less than Europe. Sometimes it is even more difficult to agree on the volume of supplies and the price. The question remains open whether Russia will be able to attract Chinese capital to finance the construction of the Soyuz Vostok.

In the long term, the government and business of the PRC will be glad to increase purchases of gas from the Russian Federation. This became clear especially now, when, during the global energy crisis, it became clear that solar panels and wind energy cannot normally supply the “Celestial Empire” with electricity in adverse weather, which means that a safety net is needed – gas.

The prospects for increasing Russian energy supplies to the EU are very vague. It seems that there have been more gas pipelines in recent years. Nord Stream, Turkish Stream, Nord Stream-2. For some reason there is not enough gas in the Old World, especially now during the energy crisis.

Which one is more attractive?

Russia uses new lines, but at the same time reduces the volume of pumping on old lines. For example, if in 2019 92.3 billion cubic meters were sent to Ukraine (for the transit of part of this volume to the EU), then in 2020 only 55.7 billion cubic meters. The decrease in the volume of pumping through the Ukrainian pipe, in fact, turned out to be surprisingly equal to the size of the throughput of the Turkish Stream.

“At first glance, the European direction of gas exports does not seem as attractive to Russia as the eastern one (China). The reason for this is the active decarbonization process in the EU, coupled with cross-border carbon regulation, which will come into force as early as 2023. The value of the cross-border carbon tax for Russian companies are estimated at approximately $ 3-4.8 billion a year.

LNG from Russia is a lifeline for the EU, however expensive

It should be admitted that despite future difficulties with the supply of pipeline “blue fuel” from the Russian Federation, Europe can safely hope for the import of liquefied gas.

The specifics of LNG trade in the world economy today is such that this product, in contrast to gas pipelines, is more mobile. It is from the mains that the energy carrier gets from point “A” to point “B” and nothing else. But a liquefied gas tanker can always be rerouted from one port to another, where they will pay more for LNG at the moment.

This is clearly seen in the example of the supply of liquefied gas from the United States, which Europe was counting on in 2021, but most of these volumes eventually went to Asia – to a region where LNG was offered at a higher price than in the Old World.

Central Asian Games – Iran & All, All, All

Who is with whom against whom?

A wave of panic erupted in the media over the report of US Congressman Eliot Engel that Azerbaijan provided Israel with its bases to strike at Iran. This message is supported by a whole series of facts. While world is watching Taiwan and Sotuh China Sea, Central Asia is quietly preparing for a possible war involving number of countries.

This is to present the situation in Central Asia from a military-technical point of view. Not a political one.

However, one cannot do without a minimum of political information on the topic.

On October 1, the exercises of the armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) began on the western bank of the Araks River, which flows practically along the border of Iran and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic (NAR), an exclave of the Republic of Azerbaijan (RA). The exercises are distinguished by a concentration of troops and weapons previously unseen for Iran. As well as an unusual location. In response, the Republic of Turkey (TR) began joint exercises with Azerbaijan and Pakistan on October 5. Turkish troops were delivered to the exercise area through the only short (9 km) section of the Turkish-Azerbaijani border in the NAR, the Dilak border crossing. The Azerbaijanis had to fly through Georgia to Turkey, then march through the same passage, but most of them were from the local contingent.

Is Azerbaijan really surprised?

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said in an interview with the Turkish state agency Anadolu that he was stunned by the development of events in Iran. “ Each country can conduct any military exercises on its territory. This is her sovereign right. But why now and why on our border? »A big, respected person is playing an innocent sheep. But he knows very well that it was his armed forces that created a pretext for exacerbating relations. We are talking about blocking the road between the Armenian cities of Goris and Kapan by Azerbaijanis, arresting two Iranian drivers and levying a duty and tax (about $ 100) for the trip. But this is a pretext. The reasons for the exacerbation, of course, are deeper.

Let’s not plunge into the jungle of geopolitics and the history of the Middle East. Just note that the decades-long US and Israeli struggle against Iran’s nuclear program is unsuccessful. Numerous sanctions, sabotage against nuclear enterprises and even the killing of specialists did not help to solve the problem.

Leaked information or rumors?

On May 8, 2018, US President Donald Trump announced the US withdrawal from the JCPOA (the so-called nuclear deal on Iran). In response, on the same day, Iran announced a phased withdrawal from the restrictions. There is an opinion that Iran has never stopped working on the creation of nuclear weapons. For example, the government of Israel on April 1 of the same year announced the continuation of the secret project “Amad” (started in 2000) to develop nuclear warheads for missiles. International attention has focused on Iran’s production of enriched uranium, while nuclear weapons include a range of specific materials. The JCPOA did not imply control over their production. In a word, the fears of the United States and Israel that Iran is close to production or has already produced nuclear warheads are quite justified.

According to leaked information (more rumors), after the failure of the Vienna talks, Iran is going to declare that it has nuclear weapons. In light of the impending aggression against them, the Ayatollah regime apparently hopes that this will have a powerful stopping effect on its main enemy, Israel.

Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises “Indestructible Brotherhood 2021”

I suppose that it was precisely this readiness of Iran’s nuclear weapons that became the main reason for the rush. And what we are now seeing is only the beginning of a large chain of events. The end of such a chain could be a full-scale global nuclear war. “

Interests of many countries involved

In the current geopolitical pyramid, with the foundations of Iran-Israel-Turkey-Pakistan-Azerbaijan-Armenia, the top is undoubtedly the United States. Although the pyramid should be drawn with this very top down. All those indicated in the base are more or less close. The Americans are on the other side of the globe.

At least 6 regional states and the United States can take the most direct part in the conflict. 

USA, population 333 million.

Not a single serious mess in the last 70 years is complete without them. Against the background of a series of failures here and there and the permanently threatening default, the Americans need some kind of uplifting event. Best of all is the “shiny little war”. And it is desirable so that they do not fly by themselves. I don’t think I need to waste your time to describe their interest in this matter. 

While keeping in the shadows, manipulating, directing, throwing intelligence and a little something. They can provide Azerbaijan with their Patriots, recently withdrawn from Saudi Arabia. Also Tel Aviv with the THAAD complex. They will not intervene immediately, but when the main hostilities subside in order to appropriate all the achievements. Americans can take part in air strikes with cruise missiles from their air bases in the Middle East and Turkey. And in naval operations. However, they may be the first to strike the main blow using nuclear weapons. Trident missiles from submarines. Other weapons are deeply buried – up to 500m, nuclear and missile objects cannot be hit in rocky soils. The United States has experience in bombing its bases with Iranian tactical ballistic missiles.

US base in Iraq attackeed by Iranian missiles

Iran has reported 80 deaths of American servicemen. The United States did not recognize the irrecoverable loss of personnel, only one destroyed plane, but on January 28, pressed by media footage about the evacuation of the wounded, they confirmed that 50 servicemen had received head injuries, on January 31 they agreed to 64, and on February 10 they announced that such injuries already diagnosed in 109 servicemen. Did it take a month for this diagnosis?

Iran, population 87 million. Azerbaijan, population 10 million.

Historically, Iran and Azerbaijan for centuries have been part of the same state. It was called by different names, with unstable borders. After a series of Russian-Persian wars, the Azerbaijani people were divided. Today, about 30 million Azerbaijanis live in Iran. This greatly strains the Iranian authorities. They fear an explosion of separatism. In this regard, the strengthening of Turkey’s influence in the Caucasus seems to them a real big threat. At the same time, there are many ethnic Iranians in Azerbaijan: Talysh, Tats, Kurds, Mountain Jews. Azerbaijanis have deep historical and cultural ties with Iran and even common ethnic and social traits. The population of the countries mainly professes Shiite Islam. That directly influenced the formation of similar morals and customs.

Talish- Iranian-speaking people living in the south of Azerbaijan. According to unofficial data, their number in this country reaches almost 2 million. Many of them are residents of Baku and Sumgait. They demand independence, though not very energetically.

Rulers on both sides swear love for their neighbors. So in the event of a war between them, there will be no occupation or seizure of Azerbaijan, but the “reunification” of fraternal peoples. There is an exchange of goods between the countries, but not much. Azerbaijan competes with Iran in oil and gas supplies to and through Turkey.

Armenia, 3 million people

Armenia, it seems, has chosen the role of a victim for itself and is not going to defend itself. Pashinyan is preparing, however, for a visit to Moscow. Both the head of parliament and the minister of foreign affairs came recently. Probably ask the Russians for weapons and protection.

The capture of Armenia is very desirable for Turkey. Entirely or in the form of a wide corridor to Azerbaijan.

Armenia is part of the CSTO. So when attacked Russia will be forced to intervene in full. So much for the 13th Russian-Turkish war. The 102nd base of the RF Armed Forces and the peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh are located in Armenia.

Turkey, population 87 million.

Turkey and Iran are sworn friends, they quarrel, then they reconcile. Both countries are fighting Kurdish separatists and hate Saudi Arabia. Turkey buys Iranian oil and gas. Iran buys Turkish goods with the proceeds, it turns out almost barter. But in Syria, they have fundamental contradictions. Turkey considers Syria the territory of the Ottoman Empire and opposes Assad. Iran needs Syria as a springboard for actions against Israel and Assad is a natural ally for them. 

Recently, Turkey has taken some steps towards rapprochement with Israel and Saudi Arabia. This cannot but anger Iran. But what really strains the Ayatollahs is Turkish pan-Turkism, which is the basis of their policy towards the Caucasus and Central Asia.

In general, Turkey does not need Azerbaijan as a springboard for strikes on Iran. They have a common border, there are Turkish air bases near it. For example, Diyarbakir, 500 kilometers away. There are hard-surface airfields even closer. But it cannot let Israel into its bases. Not by concept.

And the sharply complicated relations with Israel after May 10, 2021 are not conducive to an alliance. In Azerbaijan, they will have to interact with each other in one way or another. God forbid that it does not work out.

Israel, population 9.2 million.

Relations between Iran and Israel are the simplest and most understandable. Absolute mutual hatred. An unconcealed desire to destroy each other. Between them lie Iraq and Syria, distances from 1300 km in a straight line, and above the enemy for Hel ha Avir – the Israeli Air Force, territory. It is extremely difficult for aviation to operate at such distances. That gave rise to talk that Azerbaijan is needed as a springboard for Israel. 

However, Tel Aviv could have asked the United States to push through Iraq for the purpose of setting up “jump airfields” there. For example, at the Ain al-Assad airbase destroyed by the Iranian TBR. But with the organization of some kind of air defense. Otherwise, it will be like January 8, 2020. It is armed with medium-range ballistic missiles, supplied the LORA TBR (range 500 km, approx. 50 units) to Azerbaijan. Officially it does not have nuclear weapons, but everyone knows that they are.

“Israel has no nuclear weapons, but if necessary, we will use them” (C) Golda Meir (credited).

We will have to interact with Iran, despite many acute contradictions, especially on the Palestinian issue.

Pakistan. Population 228 million people

Relations with Iran have been good for a long time. Tensions between the countries arose after the US flight from Afghanistan. There was active trade between the countries. Pakistan has actively supported the Taliban government. It is an ally of Turkey and Azerbaijan in pursuing a pan-Turkist policy in Central Asia. Iran is totally unhappy with this. Pakistan also has nuclear weapons. Pakistan stated that if Iran starts a war with Azerbaijan, then Pakistani troops “will enter Iran through Tehran and leave through Tabriz.”

Does Iran have allies?

Two allies who will even take part in the hostilities – Syria and Armenia – are very weak and will not be able to seriously affect the balance of forces. Syrian airspace will not be friendly. Israel will have to take this into account.

Iranian tactical missile systems Fateh-110, Fateh-313, Hormuz with ranges of 200-250 km and drones may be in Syria with a high probability. It is not for nothing that Israel is bombing Damascus airport so thoroughly. As soon as the plane lands from Iran, F-16I Sufa with GBU-39 bombs take off in 10 minutes. 

Iranian electronic warfare systems and special forces DRGs can also operate from Syria and Armenia. Iranian special forces are worthy of a separate topic. There are whole divisions and brigades in the Army and the IRGC.

Armenia separates Turkey and Azerbaijan. It can become an insurmountable border for the Turks and Israelis. Taking into account Russian ability to block the delivery of military contingents, the transfer of aviation, and any military cargo to Azerbaijan through Georgia both by sea with transshipment and by air over the Black Sea, this line could, in principle, completely disrupt the ground operation. In the event of the outbreak of hostilities, Russia, of course, will formally make a request to Georgia to open a transport corridor to Armenia. With a probability of 500% it will be refused. This means that Russia will have to use the experience of the “Syrian Express” and deliver everything through Iran.

China and the DPRK

These two states, of course, will not take direct part in hostilities. China needs Iranian oil. Negotiations were under way to supply 150 Chengdu J-10 fighters (analogous to the F-16). However, the Chinese themselves still lack them. With the help of the Chinese, Iran developed the Bavar-373 air defense system, an analogue of the S-300 PMU-2, and Khordad-15, an analogue of the C-350. Both the PRC and the DPRK transferred their missile technologies to it, this is a fact. There are assumptions that they could have transferred nuclear technologies and materials. And even ready-made nuclear weapons, but this is not a fact.