The North-South corridor and the Eurasia canal

From Russian point of view

The accident of the container ship Ever Given in the Suez Canal, which blocked this important transport artery for almost a week, sparked discussions on alternative routes for the delivery of goods from Asia to Europe. One such alternative is the so-called North-South corridor and the associated Eurasia Canal project. They are able to connect the center of the continent and the Gulf region with the markets of Europe.

At the same time, the implementation of these logistics projects is impossible without Russia. Why are both routes interesting for world trade?

Nursultan, move the sea!

The agreements on the implementation of the North-South International Transport Corridor (ITC) project – from the Indian port of Mumbai (Bombay) through the Persian Gulf, Iran, the Caspian Sea and further through our country up to the ports of the Baltic Sea and western borders – were signed by Russia. India and Iran in St. Petersburg back in 2000. The 7200 km route avoids the passage of the Suez Canal and the roundabout route around all of Europe, transporting goods from India and the Persian Gulf countries through Russian territory directly to the markets of Northern and Western Europe.

In turn, the Eurasia canal adjoins the North-South corridor and brings it to the countries of Eastern and Southern Europe. This navigable canal should connect the Caspian and Azov Seas and pass through the bitter-salt lake Manych-Gudilo and the Manych depression. The maximum height of depression is only 20 meters above sea level.

The idea of ​​”Eurasia” arose much earlier, in the 1930s, even before the construction of the Volga-Don Canal. Such a deep-water channel would allow not only river-sea vessels to enter the Caspian, but also large sea-going ships. For the first time in modern times, the idea of ​​building a canal was returned at the interstate level in 2007. It was during a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the head of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Both projects are not purely maritime transport routes. Rather, they are similar to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which uses Eurasian connectivity across inland seas, roads, and railways. So-called “combined” transport corridors. Such corridors include not only port-to-port maritime transport. They also include significant land sections that complement maritime transport.

Benefits for Kazakhstan

In the usual comparison, of course, road and rail transport lose out to sea transport. In case of combined transport, direct comparison often does not work. Take Kazakhstan: this country is located in the very center of Eurasia – and in one way or another it is forced to rely on roads and railways to trade with the world. And the closer the conditional sea comes to the borders of Kazakhstan, the easier and cheaper it will be for Astana to send its goods for export and receive imported goods from abroad.

By itself, the Caspian Sea is unsuitable for this: it is an isolated seawater that does not communicate with the World Ocean by deep-water transport. But if you connect the Caspian with the Black Sea, which already has access to the ocean routes through the Bosphorus, and provide rail transportation to the Persian Gulf region, then Kazakhstan’s entry into the world market will be much easier.

Ukrainian rake

At first glance, Russia’s interest in the North-South corridor and the Eurasia channel is not so obvious. After all, let’s say, cargo from Central Asia, which today goes to Europe on our railways, will then be sent directly by sea vessels from the Caspian ports belonging to Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan. After that, the sea vessel will transport them either to the ports of Iran, or straight to Europe through “Eurasia”.

However, there is a certain flaw in this logic. The geographical advantage should not be abused. This is clearly shown by the example of Ukraine. Ukraine, being a practical monopoly on the transit of Russian gas to Europe in the mid-1990s, completely squandered this unique potential in less than 30 years. Russia simply built bypass routes around Ukraine.

The development of the future logistics of the Caspian region can follow the same logic. There is an alternative version of the shipping channel between the Caspian and the Black Sea. That should pass through Azerbaijan and Georgia, along the valleys of the Kura and Rioni rivers. The British even tried to dig such a canal in the early 1920s. However, the annexation of Menshevik Georgia to Russia closed the possibility for its construction. Today such plans are cherished by Turkey. Turkey wants to link Central Asia with its territory through Azerbaijan and Georgia, and in the future through Armenia.

Iran as counterweight to Turkey

If Russia retains control over important sections of the North-South corridor in cooperation with Iran and provides a deep-water sea route to the Caspian through its territory, this will not only reduce the cost of logistics for a number of Asian countries, but also reliably “tie” them to Russia. In addition, Iran is a natural counterweight to Turkey in the region, which was clearly demonstrated during the recent aggravation of the Karabakh conflict.

As for our railways, you don’t have to worry about them. There is quite enough work for Russian Railways within the framework of the increased trade turnover along the North-South corridor. The decrease in trade turnover due to sea vessels passing through Eurasia will be offset by canal fees collected from them.

The main effect of the implementation of both projects may be the creation of two Russian transport corridors at once. They will compete with all the “southern” routes from Asia to Europe. Including the route through the Suez Canal and around the Cape of Good Hope. Russia becomes not only a transport hub, but also a guarantor of stability for many countries of Eurasia. Such an intracontinental transport corridor is much less dependent on unexpected changes in the geopolitical situation. Or the West’s desire to grossly interfere in world trade through sanctions, embargoes and other restrictions.

Author: Alexey Anpilogov


On June 15, 2007, at the 17th Foreign Investors’ Council Meeting in Ust-Kamenogorsk, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan proposed the Eurasia Canal project to build a canal connecting the Caspian and Black Seas. The project was estimated to cost US$6 billion and take 10 years to complete.[7][8]

Wikipedia

If built, the nearly 700 km (430 mi) Eurasia Canal would be four times longer than the Suez Canal and eight times longer than the Panama Canal. President Nazarbayev stated that the canal would make Kazakhstan a maritime power and benefit many other Central Asian nations as well.[7] Russia has proposed an alternative plan to upgrade the existing Volga-Don Canal.

Wikipedia

Iran wants to join Eurasian Economic Union

Will Russia allow it?

There are some good reasons for Moscow’s lukewarm response to the possibility of Tehran’s admission to the EAEU. What are factors for and against Iran joining Eurasian Economic Union from Russian point of view?

By NIKOLA MIKOVIC

The Russia-dominated Eurasian Economic Union might soon be acquiring a new member: Iran. Boxed in because of its rivalry with other states in the Middle East, and laboring under US-imposed sanctions, Tehran believes it needs to strengthen ties with such neighbors as might be willing to accept it.

Iran appears to think that membership in the EAEU is a done deal. That is despite officials of the bloc denying they had received any formal request. When Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Speaker of the Iranian parliament, visited Moscow on February 10, he declared Iran would “permanently join the EAEU in two weeks.” Apart from the fact that the date has passed, such optimism is extremely premature.

The response from Mikhail Myasnikovich, chairman of the board of the Eurasian Economic Commission, was telling. The Eurasian union wants Iran to have “a special view on cooperation with Eurasia,” he said. It hardly sounds like a warm welcome. Other EAEU officials have stressed that Iran must formally apply for membership. A veiled warning, perhaps, that Iran cannot expect to bypass procedures.

On the face of it, there are reasons for Tehran and Moscow to support Iran’s inclusion into the bloc. The economic area is an integrated market of 180 million people with a combined GDP of more than US$5 trillion. It encourages the free movement of goods and services and can formulate common policy in key areas such as energy, agriculture, transport, customs, and foreign trade and investment.

Iran already has had a free-trade agreement with the Eurasian union since 2018. In 2020, trade turnover between Iran and the EAEU increased by 2%, exceeding $2 billion.

Mutual benefits

Food products and agricultural raw materials accounted for most of that trade in both directions. 80% of the goods that the EAEU supplied to Iran and 68% of what Iran sent to the EAEU.

Joining the EAEU would improve Iran’s economic and political position globally and help to offset, at least partly, the cost of US sanctions.

On the Russian side, Moscow wants another pathway to the markets of the Middle East. That is why the Kremlin strongly supports the construction of the Nakhchivan corridor. It is a land route connecting not only Azerbaijan to its Nakhchivan exclave between Turkey and Armenia, but also Russia and Turkey and – crucially – Russia and Iran.

A future rail link between Russia and Iran, passing though Azerbaijan and Armenia, will undoubtedly enhance economic ties between the two countries as well as Iran’s trading relations with other Eurasian union member states.

However, how receptive Arab Middle East states would be to Russian goods transiting through Iran is another question altogether. This might be a reason for Moscow’s distinctly lukewarm response to the possibility of Tehran’s admission to the bloc.

In fact, there are several large questions hanging over inducting a new member into the bloc. Bloc consists of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, in addition to Russia. Uzbekistan, Moldova and Cuba have observer status.

Impact on Russian relationship with Israel and Arab States

It is not improbable that closer economic ties would lead to stronger military ones. The UN Security Council embargo on conventional arms shipments to Iran expired in October. It is no secret that Iran is interested in purchasing Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft system. As well as Su-30 fighter jets. But such a deal would almost certainly ramp up tensions between Moscow and Washington and raise alarm bells in Gulf Arab states.

Then there is Russia’s relationship with Iran’s arch-enemy, Israel. The Russians have not prevented Israel from striking at Iranian targets in Syria, despite operating S-400 units in the area. Russia was the mediator in a prisoner exchange between its ally, Syria, and Israel that took place this month and there are rumors of further ongoing negotiations on humanitarian issues and even on wider geopolitical matters.

Speculation aside, what is known is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed continued coordination between their two countries in light of developments in regional security. Was Iran also on the agenda?

Moscow, after all, must maintain its own delicate balancing act and guard its geopolitical interests. The normalization of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states has changed interest-dynamics in the region, tilting the balance further toward the Arab Gulf region’s anti-Iran alliance. How does Russia profit from the new Middle East?

Some other countries are already in the queue to join

Finally, there is the fact that there are others ahead of Iran in the queue to join the Eurasian union. Syria is one of them; 40 other countries also have stated their wish to develop trade and economic cooperation with the bloc.

As well as declaring that Iran would soon join the EAEU, Qalibaf said he had brought “a very important message” from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It may well be that Moscow is composing its own, equally important message to send back to Tehran.

NIKOLA MIKOVIC

Nikola Mikovic is a political analyst in Serbia. His work focuses mostly on the foreign policies of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, with special attention on energy and “pipeline politics.” 

More by Nikola Mikovic

Russia holds the key to German sovereignty

A more sovereign Germany closer to Russia and China may be the straw that breaks the US hegemon’s back

By PEPE ESCOBAR

In an interview with popular talk show host Vladimir Solovyov – with the full transcript published by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Lavrov said Moscow “must be ready” for a possible “break with the European Union.”

The ominous break would be a direct result of new EU sanctions, particularly those “that create risks for our economy, including in the most sensitive areas.” And then, the Sun Tzu-style clincher: “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov, afterwards, made sure to explain that Lavrov was taken out of context: the media, predictably, had seized on a “sensational” headline.

So Lavrov’s full, nuanced answer to a question about rocky EU-Russia relations must be carefully examined:    

“We believe we would be ready for this. We are neighbors. Speaking collectively, they are our largest trade and investment partner. Many EU companies operate here; there are hundreds or even thousands of joint ventures. When a business benefits both sides, we will continue. I am sure that we have become fully self-sufficient in the defense sphere. We must also attain the same position in the economy to be able to act accordingly if we see again (we have seen this more than once) that sanctions are imposed in a sphere where they can create risks for our economy, including in the most sensitive areas such as the supply of component parts. We don’t want to be isolated from the world, but we must be prepared for this. If you want peace, prepare for war.”

It’s quite clear that Lavrov is not stating that Russia will unilaterally cut off relations with the EU. The ball is actually in the EU’s court: Moscow is stating that it will not exercise a first-strike option to break relations with the Brussels eurocracy. And that in itself would also be quite different from breaking relations with any of the 27 EU member-states. 

The context Peskov referred to is also clear: EU envoy Josep Borrell, after his disastrous trip to Moscow, had raised the issue that Brussels was weighing the imposition of further sanctions. Lavrov’s response was clearly designed to drum some sense into the thick heads of the European Commission (EC), run by notoriously incompetent former German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen and her foreign policy “chief” Borrell.

Plenary session at the European Parliament. Brussels on 09/02/2021. Session pleniere au Parlement Europeen. Bruxelles le 09/02/2021.

Earlier this week, Peskov was forced to come back incisively to the volcanic saga: “Regrettably, Brussels keeps talking about sanctions, so does the United States with maniacal persistency. This is something we will never welcome. It is something that we do not like at all.”

Talk about diplomatic euphemism. 

So the stage is set for a raucous – to say the least – meeting of EU foreign ministers next Monday, where they will discuss – what else? – possible new sanctions. Those most probably would include travel bans and asset freezes on selected Russians, including people very close to the Kremlin, blamed by the EU to be responsible for the jailing earlier this month of right-wing blogger and convicted fraudster (a scam against Yves Rocher) Alexei Navalny.

The overwhelming majority of Russians see Navalny – with a popularity rate of 2% at best – as a lowly, expendable NATO asset. The meeting next week will pave the way for the summit of member state leaders at the end of March, where the EU could – and that’s the operative word – formally approve new sanctions. That would require a unanimous decision by the EU’s 27 member states.

As it stands, apart from the stridently Russophobic usual suspects – Poland and the Baltics – it doesn’t appear Brussels is aiming to shoot itself in the back.  

Remember Leibniz

EU observers obviously have not been observing how Moscow’s pragmatic view of Brussels has evolved in the past few years.

Russia-EU trade will continue, no matter what. The EU badly needs Russian energy; and Russia is willing to sell it, oil and gas, pipelines and all. That’s strictly business. If the EU doesn’t want it – for a basket of reasons – no problem: Russia is developing a steady stream of businesses, energy included, all across East Asia.

The always relevant Valdai Discussion Club, a Moscow-based think tank, for instance, is carefully tracking the trade aspect of the Russia-China strategic partnership:

“US policy will continue to seek a split between China and Russia. Europe remains an important partner for Moscow and Beijing. The situation in Central Asia is stable, but it requires the building up of Russian-Chinese cooperation.”

Putin, laterally, also weighed in on the EU-Russia saga, which is a subtext of that perennial battle between Russia and the West: “As soon as we began to stabilize, to get back to our feet – the policy of deterrence followed immediately… And as we grew stronger, this policy of deterrence was being conducted more and more intensely.”

I hinted last week at the intergalactic-distant possibility of a Berlin-Moscow-Beijing axis.
Media and telecoms analyst Peter G. Spengler in a lengthy email to me elegantly qualified it as belonging to Robert Musil’s sense of possibility, as described in his masterpiece The Man Without Qualities.

Peter Spengler also called attention to Leibniz’s Novissima Sinica, and particularly to an essay by Manfred von Boetticher on Leibniz and Russia, represented by Tsar Peter the Great, in which the role of Russia as a bridge between Europe and China is emphasized.

Even though Leibniz, in the end, never met Peter the Great, we learn that “it was always Leibniz’s goal to get practical application for his theoretical findings. Throughout his life, he was looking for a ‘great potentate’ who was open to modern ideas and with whose help he could realize his ideas of a better world. In the age of absolutism, this seemed to be the most promising perspective for a scholar for whom the progress of science and technology as well as the improvement of education and economic conditions were urgent goals.”

“Tsar Peter, who was as powerful as he was open to all new plans and whose personality fascinated him anyway, must therefore have been an extraordinarily interesting contact for Leibniz. Since Western Europe had come into closer contact with China through the Jesuit mission and Leibniz had recognized the importance of the millennia-old Chinese culture, he also saw in Russia the natural link between the European and Chinese cultural spheres, the center of a future synthesis between the Orient and the Occident. With the emerging upheavals in the Russian Empire, his hopes seemed to be fulfilled: Full of expectation, he followed the changes in Russia, as they were emerging under Peter I.”

Yet to evoke Leibniz at this stage is to dream of heavenly spheres. The pedestrian geopolitical reality is that the EU is an Atlanticist institution – de facto subordinated to NATO. Lavrov might want to behave like a Daoist monk, or even pull a Leibniz, but it’s hard when you’re forced to deal with a bunch of dummies. 

It’s all about sovereignty

Rabid Atlanticists argue that non-entity Navalny is directly related to Nord Stream 2. Nonsense: Navalny was built (italics mine) by the usual suspects as a battering ram to undermine Nord Stream 2.

The reason is that the pipeline will consolidate Berlin at the core of the EU’s energy policy. And that will be a major factor in the EU’s overall foreign policy – with Germany, at least in theory, exercising more autonomy in relation to the US.

So here’s the “dirty” secret: it’s all a matter of sovereignty. Every geopolitical and geoeconomic player knows who does not want a closer Germany-Russia entente.

Now imagine a hegemonic Germany in Europe forging closer trade and investment ties with not only Russia but also China (and that’s the other “secret” inbuilt in the EU-China trade-investment deal).

So whoever is lodged in the White House, there’s nothing else to expect from the US Deep State apart from the “maniacal” push towards perennial, accumulated sanctions. 

The ball is actually in Berlin’s court, much more than in the court of eurocratic nightmare Brussels, where everyone’s future priority amounts to receiving their full, fat retirement pensions tax-free.

Berlin’s strategic priority is more exports – within the EU and most of all to Asia. German industrialists and the business classes know exactly what Nord Stream 2 represents: increasingly assertive German sovereignty guiding the heart of the EU, which translates as increased EU sovereignty.

An immensely significant sign has been recently delivered by Berlin with the approval granted for imports of the Sputnik vaccine.

Is Musil’s sense of possibility already in play? It’s too early to tell. The hegemon has unleashed a no-holds-barred hybrid war against Russia since 2014. This war may not be kinetic; roughly, it’s 70% financial and 30% infowar.

A more sovereign Germany closer to Russia and China may be the straw that breaks the hegemon’s back.

WHICH TARGET AFTER SYRIA?

19 years of “war without end”

President George W. Bush decided to radically transform the Pentagon’s missions, as Colonel Ralph Peters explained in the Army magazine Parameters on September 13, 2001. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appointed Admiral Arthur Cebrowski to train future officers. Cebrowski spent three years touring military universities so that today all general officers have taken his courses. His thoughts were popularized for the general public by his deputy, Thomas Barnett.

The areas affected by the US war will be given over to “chaos”. This concept is to be understood in the sense of the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, i.e. as the absence of political structures capable of protecting citizens from their own violence (“Man is a wolf to man”). And not in the biblical sense of making a clean slate before the creation of a new order.

This war is an adaptation of the US Armed Forces to the era of globalization, to the transition from productive capitalism to financial capitalism. “War is a Racket,” as Smedley Butler, America’s most decorated general, used to say before World War II [1]. From now on, friends and enemies will no longer count; war will allow for the simple management of natural resources.

This form of war involves many crimes against humanity (including ethnic cleansing) that the US Armed Forces cannot commit. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld therefore hired private armies (including Blackwater) and developed terrorist organizations while pretending to fight them.

The Bush and Obama administrations followed this strategy: to destroy the state structures of entire regions of the world. The US war is no longer about winning, but about lasting (the “war without end”). President Donald Trump and his first National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, have questioned this development without being able to change it. Today, the Rumsfeld/Cebrowski thinkers pursue their goals not so much through the Defence Secretariat as through NATO.

After President Bush launched the “never-ending war” in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003), there was strong contestation among Washington’s political elites about the arguments that had justified the invasion of Iraq and the disorder there. This was the Baker-Hamilton Commission (2006). The war never stopped in Afghanistan or Iraq, but it took five years for President Obama to open new theatres of operation: Libya (2011), Syria (2012) and Yemen (2015).

Two external actors interfered with this plan.
 In 2010-11, the United Kingdom launched the “Arab Spring”, an operation modeled on the “Arab Revolt” of 1915, which allowed Lawrence of Arabia to put the Wahhabi in power on the Arabian Peninsula. This time it was a question of placing the Muslim Brotherhood in power with the help not of the Pentagon, but of the US State Department and NATO.
 In 2014, Russia intervened in Syria, whose state had not collapsed and which it helped to resist. Since then, the British – who had tried to change the regime there during the “Arab Spring” (2011-early 2012) – and then the Americans – who were seeking to overthrow not the regime, but the state (mid-2012 to the present) – have had to withdraw. Russia, pursuing the dream of Tsarina Catherine, is today fighting against chaos, for stability – that is to say, for the defence of state structures and respect for borders.

Colonel Ralph Peters, who in 2001 revealed the Pentagon’s new strategy, published Admiral Cebrowski’s map of objectives in 2006. It showed that only Israel and Jordan would not be affected. All other countries in the “Broader Middle East” (i.e., from Morocco to Pakistan) would gradually be stateless and all major countries (including Saudi Arabia and Turkey) would disappear.

Noting that its best ally, the United States, was planning to cut its territory in two in order to create a “free Kurdistan”, Turkey unsuccessfully tried to get closer to China, and then adopted the theory of Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu: “Zero problems with its neighbours”. It distanced itself from Israel and began to negotiate peace with Cyprus, Greece, Armenia, Iraq etc. It also distanced itself from Israel. Despite the territorial dispute over Hatay, it created a common market with Syria. However, in 2011, when Libya was already isolated, France convinced Turkey that it could escape partition if it joined NATO’s ambitions. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a political Islamist of the Millî Görüş, joined the Muslim Brotherhood, of which he was not a member, hoping to recoup the fruits of the ’Arab Spring’ for his own benefit. Turkey turned against one of its main clients, Libya, and then against one of its main partners, Syria.

In 2013, the Pentagon adapted the “endless war” to the realities on the ground. Robin Wright published two corrective maps in the New York Times. The first dealt with the division of Libya, the second with the creation of a “Kurdistan” affecting only Syria and Iraq and sparing the eastern half of Turkey and Iran. It also announced the creation of a “Sunnistan” straddling Iraq and Syria, dividing Saudi Arabia into five and Yemen into two. This last operation began in 2015.

The Turkish General Staff was very happy with this correction and prepared for the events. It concluded agreements with Qatar (2017), Kuwait (2018) and Sudan (2017) to set up military bases and surround the Saudi kingdom. In 2019 it financed an international press campaign against the “Sultan” and a coup d’état in Sudan. At the same time, Turkey supported the new project of “Kurdistan” sparing its territory and participated in the creation of “Sunnistan” by Daesh under the name of “Caliphate”. However, the Russian intervention in Syria and the Iranian intervention in Iraq brought this project to a halt.

In 2017, regional president Massoud Barzani organised a referendum for independence in Iraqi Kurdistan. Immediately, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran understood that the Pentagon, returning to its original plan, was preparing to create a “free Kurdistan” by cutting up their respective territories. They coalesced to defeat it. In 2019, the PKK/PYG announced that it was preparing for the independence of the Syrian ’Rojava’. Without waiting, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran once again joined forces. Turkey invaded the “Rojava”, chasing the PKK/YPG, without much reaction from the Syrian and Russian armies.

In 2019, the Turkish General Staff became convinced that the Pentagon, having temporarily renounced destroying Syria because of the Russian presence, was now preparing to destroy the Turkish state. In order to postpone the deadline, it tried to reactivate the “endless war” in Libya, then to threaten the members of NATO with the worst calamities: the European Union with migratory subversion and the United States with a war with Russia. To do this, it opened its border with Greece to migrants and attacked the Russian and Syrian armies in Idleb where they bombed the Al Qaeda and Daesh jihadists who had taken refuge there. This is the episode we are living through today.

The Moscow Additional Protocol

The Turkish army caused Russian and Syrian casualties in February 2020, while President Erdoğan made numerous phone calls to his Russian counterpart, Putin, to lower the tension he was causing with one hand.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged to curb the Pentagon’s appetites if Turkey helped the Pentagon restart the “endless war” in Libya. This country is divided into a thousand tribes that clash around two main leaders, both CIA agents, the president of the Presidential Council, Fayez el-Sarraj, and the commander of the National Army, Khalifa Haftar.

Last week, the UN Secretary General’s special envoy to Libya, Professor Ghassan Salame, was asked to resign for “health reasons”. He complied, not without expressing his bad mood at a press conference. An axis has been set up to support al-Sarraj by the Muslim Brotherhood around Qatar and Turkey. A second coalition was born around Haftar with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, but also Saudi Arabia and Syria.

It is the great return of the latter on the international scene. Syria is the culmination of nine years of victorious resistance to the Brotherhood and the United States. Two Libyan and Syrian embassies were opened with great pomp and circumstance on 4 March, in Damascus and Benghazi.

Moreover, the European Union, after having solemnly condemned the “Turkish blackmail of refugees”, sent the President of the Commission to observe the flow of refugees at the Greek-Turkish border and the President of the Council to survey President Erdoğan in Ankara. The latter confirmed that an arrangement was possible if the Union undertook to defend the ’territorial integrity’ of Turkey.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talk during a meeting in Moscow, Russia March 5, 2020. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS

With keen pleasure, the Kremlin has staged the surrender of Turkey: the Turkish delegation is standing, contrary to the habit where chairs are provided for guests; behind it, a statue of Empress Catherine the Great recalls that Russia was already present in Syria in the 18th century. Finally, Presidents Erdoğan and Putin are seated in front of a pendulum commemorating the Russian victory over the Ottoman Empire.

It was thus on this basis that President Vladimir Putin received President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Kremlin on March 5. A first, restricted, three-hour meeting was devoted to relations with the United States. Russia would have committed itself to protect Turkey from a possible partition on the condition that it signs and applies an Additional Protocol to the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-Escalation Area [2]. A second meeting, also of three hours duration but open to ministers and advisers, was devoted to the drafting of this text. It provides for the creation of a 12-kilometre-wide security corridor around the M4 motorway, jointly monitored by the two parties. To put it plainly: Turkey is backing away north of the reopened motorway and losing the town of Jisr-el-Chogour, a stronghold of the jihadists. Above all, it must at last apply the Sochi memorandum, which provides for support only for the Syrian armed opposition, which is supposed to be democratic and not Islamist, and for combating the jihadists. However, this “democratic armed opposition” is nothing more than a chimera imagined by British propaganda. In fact, Turkey will either have to kill the jihadists itself, or continue and complete their transfer from Idleb (Syria) to Djerba (Tunisia) and then Tripoli (Libya) as it began to do in January.

In addition, on March 7, President Putin contacted former President Nazerbayev to explore with him the possibility of deploying Kazakh “blue chapkas” in Syria under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). This option had already been considered in 2012. Kazakh soldiers have the advantage of being Muslims and not orthodox.

The option of attacking Saudi Arabia rather than Turkey from now on has been activated by the Pentagon, it is believed to be known in Riyadh, although President Trump is imposing delirious arms orders on it in exchange for its protection. The dissection of Saudi Arabia had been envisaged by the Pentagon as early as 2002 [3].

Missiles were fired this week against the royal palace in Riyadh. Prince Mohamed ben Salmane (known as “MBS”, 34 years old) had his uncle, Prince Ahmed (70 years old), and his former competitor and ex-heir prince, Prince Mohamed ben Nayef (60 years old), as well as various other princes and generals arrested. The Shia province of Qatif, where several cities have already been razed to the ground, has been isolated. Official explanations of succession disputes and coronavirus are not enough [4].

Notes:

[1] “I had 33 years and 4 months of active service, and during that time I spent most of my time as a big shot for business, for Wall Street, and for bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster in the service of capitalism. I helped secure Mexico, especially the city of Tampico, for the American oil companies in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a suitable place for the men of the National City Bank to make a profit. I helped rape half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the American bank Brown Brothers from 1902 to 1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the benefit of American sugar companies in 1916. I delivered Honduras to American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927, I helped the Standard Oil company do business in peace.” Smedley Butler in War Is a Racket, Feral House (1935)

[2] “Additional Protocol to the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-Escalation Area”, Voltaire Network, 5 March 2020.

[3] “Taking Saudi out of Arabia“, Powerpoint by Laurent Murawiec for a meeting of the Defence Policy Board (July 10, 2002).

[4] “Two Saudi Royal Princes Held, Accused of Plotting a Coup”, Bradley Hope, Wall Street Journal; “Detaining Relatives, Saudi Prince Clamps Down”, David Kirkpatrick & Ben Hubbard, The New Yok Times, March 7, 2020.


By Thierry Meyssan
Source: Voltaire Network]

Location, location, location: Why Russian LNG can beat competition from US & Australia?

Russia’s geographical position makes its exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) more profitable and competitive with American and Australian supplies, according to Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak.

Russia ships most of its LNG (around 69 percent) to Asian markets, where the bulk of global LNG supplies are sent. The country could also export its LNG via traditional Russian pipeline gas European routes, due to low cost and short transportation distance, the minister wrote, in an article for the Energy Policy journal.

“Russia’s convenient geographical position between Europe and Asia allows our LNG to be profitable at current prices and to win competition from the US and Australia,” Novak said. “If necessary, we can deliver liquefied gas to any European country, and it will be faster and cheaper than many other suppliers.”

The Northern Sea Route (NSR) could be a key transport link to connect massive Arctic energy projects Russia is currently developing with target markets. The route, which lies in Arctic waters and within Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone, could cut the transportation time by a third, compared to shipments via the Suez Canal.

Russia is one of the world’s leading exporters of natural gas. Last year, it produced more than 40 billion cubic meters of LNG – a nearly 50 percent increase from 27 billion cubic meters it had in 2018. By 2035, Novak expects the country to boost production to 120 million tons, amounting to around a fifth of the forecasted global LNG production.

Trump urges Europe to buy American natural gas to ensure their energy security

European countries should rely on US gas imports to ensure their energy security, US President Donald Trump announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“With an abundance of American natural gas now available European allies no longer have to be vulnerable to unfriendly energy suppliers,” Trump told the audience as he boasted that the US had outpaced other countries “by far” in oil and gas production.

We urge our friends in Europe to use America’s vast supply and achieve true energy security.

The statement falls in line with US efforts to boost its energy shipments to Europe, especially imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Meanwhile, many European nations have already stressed that they want to diversify their sources of energy, and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia could be one of the ways to achieve this.

However, Washington has recently issued an ultimatum to European companies involved in the Russia-led project, threatening to impose harsh sanctions on them unless they ditch it. Fearing the restrictions, the Swiss-Dutch company Allseas stopped all work on the final stages of the project and withdrew its vessels from the construction area in the Baltic Sea in December.

The US approach has already been criticized in Europe, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying that “sanctions are the wrong way to go.” As she met Russian President Vladimir Putin, she also stressed that Nord Stream 2 is set be finished against all odds by the end of 2020 or early 2021.

India could become first non‑Arctic state to develop Russia’s Arctic resources

New Delhi is considering participating in Russian oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in the Arctic as cooperation with Moscow could open vast opportunities for India in the resource-rich region.

“We are establishing cooperation in geological exploration, joint development of oil and gas fields on the territories of the two countries, including offshore projects, which will eventually allow India to become the first non‑Arctic state to extract resources in the Arctic,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with the Times of India

India, one of the largest and fastest growing LNG markets, wants to get Russian LNG from the Arctic to satisfy its growing energy demand. It could join the Arctic LNG project led by Russian energy giant Novatek, according to India’s Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan.

“We are also studying the opportunities to participate in the future Novatek project in the Arctic. We are looking into all the opportunities to get LNG from this region,” the minister told reporters on Wednesday.The interest in Russian gas supplies comes as India turns away from joint projects with neighboring Pakistan. New Delhi has refused to sign a memorandum of understanding on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline construction amid escalating tensions with Islamabad.

“We don’t want to deal with Pakistan. We are more interested in Russian LNG,” Pradhan said.

In September, Russia’s Novatek and India’s H-Energy Global signed an agreement on LNG supplies to India on a long-term basis. The memorandum of understanding envisages joint investment in future LNG terminals of the two companies, as well as establishing a joint venture to sell LNG and natural gas to customers in India, Bangladesh and other countries.

Crude reserves in Russia’s Arctic are also attracting Indian companies willing to invest into the massive Vostok oil project. According to Pradhan, the project is “very interesting” for the country, but he did not elaborate on how much it is going to invest. Vostok Oil is a joint venture between state-owned oil major Rosneft and private oil producer Neftegazholding (NGH) with the projected production of up to 100 million tons.

Aurus Is Russia’s Answer To Rolls-Royce

If you were to ask someone about what came to mind when you say ‘Russian motorcar,’ we bet that 9/10 will think about a Lada, and most probably one that’d broken down. While many have laughed at the former Soviet Union’s attempts at building motorcars, the Russians are back, and their latest attempt is rather serious.

The brand is called ‘Aurus’ and they fashion themselves an ultra-luxury carmaker, a brand you can say in the same breath as Rolls-Royce and Bentley. But we didn’t have to tell you that for you to make the assumption: Look at that grille, those suspiciously-familiar headlights, and the pronounced rear haunches and you know they went on a Goodwood factory tour. 

Perhaps in laughably-Russian fashion, the press materials surrounding Aurus go to pretty decent lengths to talk about the “uncompromising levels of ballistic and explosive protection” that’s fitted to the Senat Limousine, which we’re sure its sole customer, one Mr. Vladimir Putin, appreciates very much. What he probably doesn’t appreciate is the 4.4-litre V8 engine, co-developed by Porsche, mostly because he can’t hear it from so far away. And takeoffs should be swift and silent anyway, given that the power-train is aided by an electric motor to produce a grand total of 440kW.

Not enough zoom? Then you can opt for a 6.6-litre V12 in the unarmored Senat, which will give you no less than 632kW. Happy now?

At 5630mm in length, the Senat is longer than a Bentley Mulsanne but shorter than a standard-wheelbase Phantom, though the 6630mm Senat Limousine trumps all. Beneath all Senats is a unified modular platform, which houses the all-wheel drive power-train. Regardless of the model you’ll find a cabin that’s been designed almost exclusively with rear passengers in mind, with rear seats that tilt up to 45º and set off with soft pillows. You’ll also find a fridge built-in, replete with Aurus-branded crystal flutes, and leather-trimmed fold-out tables to rest them on.

The Aurus lineup may currently consist of the Senat saloon & limousine, but the family is set to grow. An Arsenal minivan (no relation to the football team) and a Komendant SUV will be introduced later, with names inspired by the towers of the Kremlin. Aurus will officially go to market in Q1 2019, while the firm also harbours plans to breach international markets. With a planned initial production run of just 150-cars/year for 2019 and 2020, the company will open a brand-new production facility in 2021 that’ll increase capacity to 5,000-cars annually, with the option to expand further to accommodate as many as 10,000-cars a year.

Source: https://www.carshowroom.com.au/news/aurus-is-russia-s-answer-to-rolls-royce/

How the New Silk Roads are merging into Greater Eurasia

Russia is keen to push economic integration with parts of Asia and this fits in with China’s Belt and Road Initiative

By PEPE ESCOBAR

The concept of Greater Eurasia has been discussed at the highest levels of Russian academia and policy-making for some time. This week the policy was presented at the Council of Ministers and looks set to be enshrined, without fanfare, as the main guideline of Russian foreign policy for the foreseeable future.

President Putin is unconditionally engaged to make it a success. Already at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in 2016, Putin referred to an emerging “Eurasian partnership”.

I was privileged over the past week to engage in excellent discussions in Moscow with some of the top Russian analysts and policymakers involved in advancing Greater Eurasia.

Three particularly stand out: Yaroslav Lissovolik, program director of the Valdai Discussion Club and an expert on the politics and economics of the Global South; Glenn Diesen, author of the seminal Russia’s Geoeconomic Strategy for a Greater Eurasia; and the legendary Professor Sergey Karaganov, dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the National Research University Higher School of Economics and honorary chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, who received me in his office for an off-the-record conversation.

The framework for Great Eurasia has been dissected in detail by the indispensable Valdai Discussion Club, particularly on Rediscovering the Identity, the sixth part of a series called Toward the Great Ocean, published last September, and authored by an academic who’s who on the Russian Far East, led by Leonid Blyakher of the Pacific National University in Khabarovsk and coordinated by Karaganov, director of the project.

The conceptual heart of Greater Eurasia is Russia’s Turn to the East, or pivot to Asia, home of the economic and technological markets of the future. This implies Greater Eurasia proceeding in symbiosis with China’s New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And yet this advanced stage of the Russia-China strategic partnership does not mean Moscow will neglect its myriad close ties to Europe.

Russian Far East experts are very much aware of the “Eurocentrism of a considerable portion of Russian elites.” They know how almost the entire economic, demographic and ideological environment in Russia has been closely intertwined with Europe for three centuries. They recognize that Russia has borrowed Europe’s high culture and its system of military organization. But now, they argue, it’s time, as a great Eurasian power, to profit from “an original and self-sustained fusion of many civilizations”; Russia not just as a trade or connectivity point, but as a “civilizational bridge”.

Legacy of Genghis Khan 

What my conversations, especially with Lissovolik, Diesen and Karaganov, have revealed is something absolutely groundbreaking – and virtually ignored across the West; Russia is aiming to establish a new paradigm not only in geopolitics and geoeconomics, but also on a cultural and ideological level.

Conditions are certainly ripe for it. Northeast Asia is immersed in a power vacuum. The Trump administration’s priority – as well as the US National Security Strategy’s – is containment of China. Both Japan and South Korea, slowly but surely, are getting closer to Russia.

Culturally, retracing Russia’s past, Greater Eurasia analysts may puzzle misinformed Western eyes. ‘Towards the Great Ocean’, the Valdai report supervised by Karaganov, notes the influence of Byzantium, which “preserved classical culture and made it embrace the best of the Orient culture at a time when Europe was sinking into the Dark Ages.” Byzantium inspired Russia to adopt Orthodox Christianity.

It also stresses the role of the Mongols over Russia’s political system. “The political traditions of most Asian countries are based on the legacy of the Mongols. Arguably, both Russia and China are rooted in Genghis Khan’s empire,” it says.

If the current Russian political system may be deemed authoritarian – or, as claimed in Paris and Berlin, an exponent of “illiberalism” – top Russian academics argue that a market economy protected by lean, mean military power performs way more efficiently than crisis-ridden Western liberal democracy.

As China heads West in myriad forms, Greater Eurasia and the Belt and Road Initiative are bound to merge. Eurasia is crisscrossed by mighty mountain ranges such as the Pamirs and deserts like the Taklamakan and the Karakum. The best ground route runs via Russia or via Kazakhstan to Russia. In crucial soft power terms, Russian remains the lingua franca in Mongolia, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

And that leads us to the utmost importance of an upgraded Trans-Siberian railway – Eurasia’s current connectivity core. In parallel, the transportation systems of the Central Asian “stans” are closely integrated with the Russian network of roads; all that is bound to be enhanced in the near future by Chinese-built high-speed rail.

Iran and Turkey are conducting their own versions of a pivot to Asia. A free-trade agreement between Iran and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) was approved in early December. Iran and India are also bound to strike a free-trade agreement. Iran is a big player in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which is essential in driving closer economic integration between Russia and India.

The Caspian Sea, after a recent deal between its five littoral states, is re-emerging as a major trading post in Central Eurasia. Russia and Iran are involved in a joint project to build a gas pipeline to India.

Kazakhstan shows how Greater Eurasia and BRI are complementary; Astana is both a member of BRI and the EAEU. The same applies to gateway Vladivostok, Eurasia’s entry point for both South Korea and Japan, as well as Russia’s entry point to Northeast Asia.

Ultimately, Russia’s regional aim is to connect China’s northern provinces with Eurasia via the Trans-Siberian and the Chinese Eastern Railway – with Chita in China and Khabarovsk in Russia totally inter-connected.

And all across the spectrum, Moscow aims at maximizing return on the crown jewels of the Russian Far East; agriculture, water resources, minerals, lumber, oil and gas. Construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants in Yamal vastly benefits China, Japan and South Korea.

Community spirit

Eurasianism, as initially conceptualized in the early 20th century by the geographer PN Savitsky, the geopolitician GV Vernadsky and the cultural historian VN Ilyn, among others, regarded Russian culture as a unique, complex combination of East and West, and the Russian people as belonging to “a fully original Eurasian community”.

That certainly still applies. But as Valdai Club analysts argue, the upgraded concept of Greater Eurasia “is not targeted against Europe or the West”; it aims to include at least a significant part of the EU.

The Chinese leadership describes BRI not only as connectivity corridors, but also as a “community”. Russians use a similar term applied to Greater Eurasia; sobornost (“community spirit”).

As Alexander Lukin of the Higher School of Economics and an expert on the SCO has constantly stressed, including in his book China and Russia: The New Rapprochement, this is all about the interconnection of Greater Eurasia, BRI, EAEU, SCO, INSTC, BRICS, BRICS Plus and ASEAN.

The cream of the crop of Russian intellectuals – at the Valdai Club and the Higher School of Economics – as well as top Chinese analysts, are in sync. Karaganov himself constantly reiterates that the concept of Greater Eurasia was arrived at, “jointly and officially”, by the Russia-China partnership; “a common space for economic, logistic and information cooperation, peace and security from Shanghai to Lisbon and New Delhi to Murmansk”.

The concept of Greater Eurasia is, of course, a work in progress. What my conversations in Moscow revealed is its extraordinary ambition; positioning Russia as a key geoeconomic and geopolitical crossroads linking the economic systems of North Eurasia, Central and Southwest Asia.

As Diesen notes, Russia and China have become inevitable allies because of their “shared objective of restructuring global value-chains and developing a multipolar world”. It’s no wonder Beijing’s drive to develop state-of-the-art national technological platforms is provoking so much anger in Washington. And in terms of the big picture, it makes perfect sense for BRI to be harmonized with Russia’s economic connectivity drive for Greater Eurasia.

That’s irreversible. The dogs of demonization, containment, sanctions and even war may bark all they want, but the Eurasia integration caravan keeps moving along.