United States is losing Europe for alliance with Australia

Was Biden wrong in upseting the oldest ally of United States – France?

I believe it is worth returning to this topic as it is significant on a very broad – global scene. New alliance between Australia, United Kingdom and United States (AUKUS). It would be wrong to see this not really new alliance as “Asian NATO”. Counting remaining two members of the “Quad” (India and Japan) would be, in my opinion premature. That particularly applies for India. India does not want to abandon its Non-Aligned status in return of irritating China. Anyone planning to see Japan as part of that alliance is forgetting enormous historical burden it would bring with it. Not even South Korea would want to join it. Not to mention other Asian states that were victims of Japanese aggression during WWII.

It might turn that by taking his first step towards creation of “Asian NATO”, Joe Biden unintentionally made the first step towards dismantilng NATO! If this turns to be correct prediction then we are witnessing geopolitical change comparable to the fall of Berlin Wall. The “Old Europe” and France in particular are shocked and speachless. Not much is happening behind the closed doors right now but that will change soon. Results of German election for federal parliament are still coming in. As soon as there is new government formed in Germany, there will be very active talks regarding future positioning of “Old Europe”. I have no doubts about that.

What if Washington’s hopes of Green Party in Germany holding country firmly under control? Those curious to see what the real “elections meddling” looks like should pay attention – pressure on all major actors on German political scene will be applied from Washington, Moscow, Beijing and Paris.

Franco-American relations worse since 1778

Defence alliance with the UK and Australia makes sense for United States. These are two countries that followed military adventure of US without exception. However, linking it to France – and the EU – makes no sense in the process. If this announcement was made without breaking contract for submarines between Australia and France, there would be no problems. Appart from countries involved it would be noticed only in Beijing and with mild reaction. With submarines being part of it the new alliance became global news. Reactions from Paris and Beijing were almost equaly lous. And, nobody should be surprised with that.

Biden administration has found itself embroiled in an avoidable conflict with Paris over the canceled multibillion-dollar defense contract between France and Australia. This gap is significant in the annals of Franco-American relations. For the first time since 1778, France recalled its ambassador from the United States. And it is unlikely that all this will soon subside. Inevitably, this will have serious consequences for the entire American alliance with France, the European Union and NATO. Ultimately, China and Russia will benefit from this turn of events.

Lack of sophistication

In fact, the United States and the United Kingdom needed to strengthen their military relations with Australia. It is the most powerful English-speaking democracy in this part of the world. Biden should be credited for doing something truly grandiose. Offering Australia patented American nuclear submarine technology – which Washington hasn’t done for another country since 1958 – to build a strong military alliance to curb China’s rise to India in the Pacific Ocean.

However, nowhere was it written that this union was to be created at the expense of a democratic France. In France, Washington has a capable military partner. The strongest on the European continent.  Like the United States and Britain, France also has interests in the Indo-Pacific.

Five years ago, Australia wanted to replenish its submarine fleet. Its Collins-class diesel submarines were in need of replacement. French defense contractor Naval Group was tasked with replacing six Australian Collins-class diesel submarines with 12 French Barracuda-class diesel submarines.

The deal began to collapse at least 15 months before the intervention of the Americans and British. It also became clear that Australia’s leaders really didn’t want another set of diesel submarines.

Ultimately, however, if Australia does not intend to use nuclear warheads on its submarines, then a nuclear submarine may not be worth the investment and time that Australia requires. Especially given that Australia lacks the infrastructure needed to build and maintain nuclear submarines.

It never occurred to anyone in Canberra or Washington to warn their friends in Paris about Australia’s imminent abandonment of French submarines in favor of Anglo-American ones. Was there really nothing that the Biden administration could not offer as comfort for Paris? It seemed like “adults” were ruling Washington again!

Losing Europe to win Australia?

Biden’s indifference to the interests of France provoked the outrage of the French. In my opinion, combined with some other factors, it could well lead to a serious collapse of the Euro-American alliance.

The severing of Franco-American relations over the Australian submarine deal may have been just the latest in a long string of incidents in which Europe’s leaders needed to take the final step in charting a new course further away from Washington. It will not happen soon but possibility of very different relationship between EU and Russia is quite realistic. Are we going to see Eurasia from Lisbon to Vladivostok without sanctions and walls?

For India Emperor has no clothes

India’ top diplomat S Jaishankar urges Western foreign-policy elites to engage in serious dialogue and compromise

By JAVIER M. PIEDRA

India has been sending a consistent message to the West over the past several years – apparently to no avail. The US may think in terms of a (conceptually problematic) Indo-Pacific region, but India is part of the Eurasian landmass; it sees itself more as a land/sea power than a maritime one. 

India, as a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), seeks a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific within the greater Eurasian context. This means that India will continue to deal with Russia, Iran, China and Myanmar (and anyone else) as it sees fit.

India perceived the changing dynamics in international relations long before Western foreign-policy elites caught on. It will decide matters of national security and external affairs according to its own perception of its interests.  

Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in recent public appearances, has been trying to drill some sense into the ossified heads of Western foreign-policy elites.

One sometimes feels he has taken a leaf from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes. The one in which two tailors convince the Emperor they can weave him a wardrobe that is invisible to fools or incompetent servants of the realm when in fact they make no clothes at all. They persuade onlookers to believe that the Emperor is wearing invisible clothes. 

Jaishankar’s message is that the policies of Western intellectuals have not been working, and unbeknownst to themselves, they are walking around buck-naked. Afghanistan, of course, has drawn devastating attention to their nakedness. 

Global politics have changed

If the West wishes to engage India meaningfully, it should pay attention to Jaishankar. As former foreign secretary of India and ambassador to the US and China, he has repeatedly counseled the West’s foreign-policy elites to ditch their post-1989 obsession with geopolitical gamesmanship – not his words – and engage in serious dialogue and compromise with other countries. 

In other words, Jaishankar is saying that just as the East India Company (1697-1857) and the British Raj (1858-1947) are things of the past, so is the post-1989 unipolar world. Global politics have changed. 

Jaishankar is calling on the West to reflect on many of its failed approaches to problem-solving in foreign affairs and accept that a rebalancing is taking place in the world. In his view, genuine dialogue and teamwork are more appropriate to current world affairs than the one-sided unilateralism, whining and zero-sum vision of Western foreign-policy elites of recent years. 

‘Good diplomacy’

Multipolarity is more than a weighted distribution of power among states – however that might be calculated – in which several groupings of states have roughly equal diplomatic, military, cultural, and economic influence. There’s more to it than that. A foreign policy viable over the long term, he insists, must be based on the inherent rights of sovereign nation-states. It does not matter however strong or weak, to engage, co-exist and have independent voices despite power asymmetries. 

Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington shortly after being appointed external affairs minister, Jaishankar stated that “a country keeps [its] relationships well-oiled with all the major power centers. And the country which does that best actually has a political positioning in the world which may be superior to its actual structural strengths.

“Good diplomacy,” he continued, “means more today than it did a few years ago.” He was urging the West to re-examine its current approach to foreign policy or risk irrelevance by alienating otherwise potentially friendly nation-states and disrupting the international system. 

An Indian proverb captures this nicely: “When the direction of the wind changes, adjust the sails on the boat.” That’s what India expects of the West. Namely, to institute a course correction lest sticky situations that could be resolved diplomatically descend into chaos. Afghanistan today is a good example, and there are many others.  

The West must not forget that history weighs heavily on India, which played no important role in the post-World War II order, and which had only a limited say in the Partition of British India in 1947.

The days of the British East India Company are over

Because of this, and given India’s undeniable rise in the 21st century, the West must be careful not to exclude India from the “high table,” as Jaishankar has said. The West must neither be seen in India as using the country to underwrite its own geo-strategic objectives nor as a toll road or platform for its own commercial interests. 

The days of the British East India Company are oer. Its motto, “By Command of the King and Parliament of England,” no longer applies to India. And much less to Eurasia. 

India is a forgiving nation but has a long memory. At the Atlantic Council in 2019, Jaishankar reminded the West of India’s “two centuries of humiliation” at the hands of the British.

He would never have said that in an open forum with the cameras rolling unless he wanted to remind his audience that Britain extracted from India the equivalent of some US$45 trillion during the colonial period. He wanted to convey a message: It’s high time the West rethinks its approach to international engagement, and especially to India. 

The West must come to grips with the fact that “there is a very radical change underway in the world. A radical change in the sense that this time around, really, the 1945 world order is running out of gas.” 

At the India Economic Conclave this March, Jaishankar said that China “has strategically ‘out-thought’ the West over successive generations. That explains why they are where they are. I’ve always seen lessons in China’s growth. In China’s importance, salience, centrality, call it what you want. To me, yes, China is a neighbor. And in many ways a challenging neighbor. It should inspire us.”

India sees the use of military as a last resort

One might infer Jaishankar thinks that if the West picks a fight with China, it must be the right fight. If it bites off more than it can chew, the outcome could well be far from pleasant. India sees the use of the military as a last resort. It was evident when India, in 2020, deployed reinforcements to Ladakh’s Galwan Valley. 

The joint press conference of US Secretary of State Anton Blinken and Indian EAM Jaishankar on July 28 in Delhi further confirms that India lost patience with Western sermons about India’s violations of human rights, which India does not deny. But when similar violations are leveled against the West, somehow the “Emperor” is fully decked out in new clothes.

Jaishankar was nothing if not diplomatic when reacting to Blinken’s criticism of Indian democracy. Jaishankar made three pointed observations: “Number one, the quest for a more perfect union applies as much to Indian democracy as it does to the American one – indeed, to all democracies. 

“Number two, it is the moral obligation of all – of all polities to right wrongs when they have been done, including historically. And many of the decisions and policies you’ve seen in the last few years fall in that category.

“Number three, freedoms are important, we value them, but never equate freedom with non-governance or lack of governance or poor governance. They are two completely different things.” 

To criticize the United States at a press conference is not an everyday event. India is telling the West that diplomacy comprises many views, opinions, and approaches. No single country holds a monopoly on virtuous political views and economic leadership. 

Dealing with China

India knows that the West has the habit of switching sides. There are many examples. Jaishankar reminds his Western counterparts that “when India was defeated in 1962, the West actually came to the assistance of India. But in less than a decade in 1971, when it seemed to the West that India was seeking primacy in the subcontinent, the West opposed India.”

There are certain red lines that should not be crossed; the West must be more consistent in its policies and show greater loyalty to its friends. It is a reasonable assumption that, here, Jaishankar is thinking of Pakistan’s historically close ties to the US. 

With respect to China, Jaishankar continues to meet with his Chinese counterpart, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. As reported on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, “China-India relations still remain at a low level, which is not in the interest of either side.” Nevertheless, expect the two sides to continue to engage in smart and tough diplomacy, making every effort to refrain from military encounters. 

India will hold its ground, especially on matters of territorial integrity. But in the first instance will negotiate to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. In this respect, Indian Army Chief General Manoj Naravane, like Jaishankar, understands the seriousness of the ongoing Sino-Indian border dispute along the Line of Actual Control. But rather than hurling bombs at the Chinese in public, he exudes a calm optimism. Showing no signs of paranoia or fear about China’s encroachment across the LAC.

“Trust but verify”

“China,” he says, “is trying to force its way and change the status quo with little regard for the interest of neighboring countries … trying to bulldoze its way. [Countries] need to take a stand and safeguard their interests…. [But] we must believe that China is serious this time [about finding a non-military solution to our northern border] and that [it] will abide by all clauses of this particular and previous agreements.”

The Indian army chief then calmly said that India’s approach to China is to “trust but verify.” It is ironic to hear a foreign statesman evoke Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” mantra at a time when Western leaders have veered so sharply from Reagan’s (wildly successful) approach to ending the Cold War.  

India and China recognize that the border issue is “visibly impacting the relationship in a negative manner.” But as reported in the Kashmir Observer in July, “India and China have once again agreed to resolve their border standoff in Ladakh as prolonging the existing situation ‘was not in the interest of either side.’” 

And as David Goldman predicted in his Asia Times article “Cardinal Richelieu and the ghosts of empires past,” “India will quietly make its accommodation with China.” That seems to be the direction of Sino-Indian relations, whether the West likes it or not. 

Those in the West who are trying to convert the Quad from a strategic dialogue to a NATO-like military alliance should think twice, because the Indians will oppose its militarization. 

No ‘Asian NATO’

“The idea that when we come together and there is some sort of a threat or messaging to others, I think people need to get over this.… Using words like ‘Asian NATO,’ etc, is a mind-game which people are playing,” said Jaishankar.

“I can’t have other people have a veto about what I’m going to discuss, with whom I’m going to discuss, how much I’m going to contribute to the world. That’s my national choice. That kind of NATO mentality has never been India’s. If it has been there in Asia before I think it’s in other countries and regions, not in mine.”

One hopes that “neo-Mackinderite” proponents of the “Great Game” in Eurasia are listening.  

As Jaishankar has said, the “Quad is an expression of convergence of interests of many countries. It’s in many ways a reflection of the contemporary nature of the world order. We have to put the Cold War behind us; only those who are stuck in the Cold War can’t understand the Quad.” Going one step further, Jaishankar sees South-South cooperation as further evidence of the rebalancing that is taking place.

The West’s double standards

Minister Jaishankar, on his second trip in two months to Tehran, was more than clear when speaking of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi: “A warm meeting with President Ebrahim Raisi after his assumption of office. Conveyed the personal greetings of PM Narenda Modi. [Raisi’s] commitment to strengthening our bilateral relationship was manifest. So too was convergence in our regional interests. Looking forward to working with his team.”

Another disheartening moment for “neo-Mackinderites.” Jaishankar is not taking issue with the West for holding Iran accountable for human-rights violations and the export of terrorism, but he is saying that India will hold talks with anyone it pleases; 1989 is so yesterday.  

Another point worth reflecting on: What must Eurasian countries think when the West condemns Communist China, as it should, but showers praise and taxpayers’ money on Communist Vietnam? Vietnam’s leadership, after all, are committed communists whose track record on human rights is less that brilliant. The West’s double standard at the ideological level is surely as clear to Jaishankar as it is to everyone else. 

Ties with Russia

India and Russia have just wrapped up joint anti-terrorist military exercises in the Volgograd region in southern Russia. On a three-day visit in July to Moscow to prepare for the India-Russia bilateral annual summit, Jaishankar tweeted, “A warm and productive meeting with FM Sergey Lavrov. Reviewed preparations for our bilateral Annual Summit. Wide-ranging discussion on regional issues: Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Libya and Caucasus; ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific. 

“Spoke about recent global developments including Russia-US relations. Satisfied with our cooperation in multilateral organizations including UNSC. The quality of conversation reflected our special and privileged strategic partnership.”

To fill in the gaps, ​it wouldn’t hurt to read Jaishankar’s speech “India-Russia Ties in a Changing World” that he recently delivered at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow. 

And at the sixth Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on September 3, Prime Minister Modi reiterated the special and privileged partnership between India and Russia.

“India and Russia will be partners in opening of the Northern Sea Route for international trade and Commerce.…. The friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time.… India will be a reliable partner for Russia….

“I am happy that the Chennai-Vladivostok Maritime Corridor is making headway. This connectivity project along with the International North-South Corridor will bring India and Russia physically closer to each other.” Eurasian connectivity and Indo-Russian partnership is clear-cut.  

 

‘Mutual respect’

There is much for the West to reflect upon. Jaishankar is not spouting “talking points” when he says that “the West [at different times] didn’t want India to get too weak, and the West didn’t want to let India get too strong.”

He seems to be saying that it will not be easy for India and the West to build a lasting strategic relationship unless India is no longer viewed, as it was in the past, as a pawn in a much larger geo-strategic game that is still going on in the minds of foreign-policy elites. Post-1989 hubris must stop. 

Rarely heard in Western media, Gravitas, a Delhi-based Indian news channel, has produced a provocative commentary that captures, rightly or wrongly, the sentiments of many in Asia toward Western foreign-policy elites, especially considering the debacle now playing out in Afghanistan.

“The US needs India’s strategic partnership at this point to tackle China, to tackle climate change, to beat the pandemic. Tells you how flimsy their ideas really are. You see, every friendship has a red line, in this case, that red line is domestic interference.

“The US cannot waltz in and weigh in on Indian democracy. No country can. And that’s the whole point of mutual respect and sovereignty. The question is ‘how can India and the US find a balance?’ The United States has no permanent friends, just interests.” 

The West must work harder to convince India, through words and deeds, that it sees India as more than a strategic pawn, a customer for military equipment or a platform to secure supply lines from China. Climate change, infrastructure, connectivity, capital markets, digital, data and people exchanges are all well and good, but in the final analysis, India, as any nation-state, wants to be treated with respect and dignity. 

G20 has really replaced G7

Western elites must get used to the fact that, as Jaishankar says, a geo-strategic repositioning is taking place in Eurasia. “And if there is a single way by which to capture [the much larger strategic and cultural recalibration under way], it is the fact that today the G20 has really replaced the G7 as the primary body for global deliberations.”

Jaishankar might be on to something. The Group of 20’s broad membership and penchant for constructive diplomacy just might induce our “neo-Makinderites” to reassess the politics of confrontation, and the Quad to become more inclusive and a mechanism for constructive engagement. 

Speaking at a meeting of the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council on September 2 in Bled, Slovenia, Jaishankar observed: “Europe needs to know that it has friends in Asia, in the Indo-Pacific; that a lot of the principles and the outlook that Europe has, a lot of other countries share. I think that the binary – Western/non-Western – is a false binary.”

India will act as India wants

In other words, India rejects the thinking that justified the British Raj, and that still dominates the post-1989 reasoning of many Western foreign-policy circles. India will act as India wants; we can expect others to do the same.

And so, as the Emperor and his foreign-policy mandarins strut about in their “new clothes” (while in reality being buck-naked), pretending to hold the keys to the kingdom, the bringers of peace, prosperity, and stability, EAM Jaishankar, and others, have the temerity to point out, “But the Emperor has no clothes!” 

NATO’s botched Afghan policy and exit, the further unraveling of “neo-Mackinderite” foreign-policy thinking, the forward march of Eurasian economic and cultural ties, and the rebalancing that Jaishankar has been talking about for years, just might force the much-needed agonizing reappraisal of Western policy that was needed in 1989, and again in 2001, but never happened. Perhaps this time it will.  


Javier M Piedra is a financial consultant, specialist in international development and former deputy assistant administrator for South and Central Asia at USAID

AUKUS – the beginning of the end of NATO?

Is creation of a new alliance between the US, UK and Australia – the beginning of the end of NATO pact?

So it started!

The announcement that the United States, Great Britain and Australia have entered into a joint pact in the field of defense and security, dubbed AUKUS, has become an event that has already caused quite a lot of noise in the world from the very beginning.

In particular, in China – this event was received with hostility. In Beijing, in general, they called this pact directed against China. And Chinese interests not only in the Asia-Pacific region, but also in the world. China announced that this agreement between the three countries intensifies the arms race and seriously undermines the “regional peace”.

In the EU, this event, judging by the first reactions of politicians and various institutions of power on this fact, was a complete surprise. And even more, it was the reason why one of the EU countries, namely France as a whole, announced that this agreement on the creation of a kind of alliance – “was a stab in the back” which undermined trust between the allies!

Moreover, I want to note that the reaction of France in this case is quite understandable. This event became the reason for Australia’s refusal to purchase submarines from Paris.

First reactions

In the countries of Oceania, this event, in general, was the reason for the condemnation of the creation of a new military-political alliance and the signing of this agreement. In New Zealand, this event became the reason for the statement that they would ban Australian submarines from leaving their waters!

Only in Russia so far, at the time of this writing, this event has not been commented on at the official level. It has not generally expressed any reaction, but I think that if not today, then tomorrow this event will still receive assessment.

I consider this event from the point of view as the beginning of the end of NATO.

Yes! This is exactly what it is in my opinion. European members of NATO were already shaken in their trust in the aliance leaders – USA. It seems that Afghanistan debacle was just a beginning of something much bigger. Has American establishment made assessment that NATO is not necessary and is too expensive? Are we starting to witness transition of an intelligence alliance known as the “five eyes” into new military alliance spreading over Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Will Europe be left to deal with “Russian threat” on its own?

Why do I think so?

Let’s consider this situation, or rather this event, from a purely political point of view. EU “neither sleep nor spirit” knew about the ongoing negotiations on the creation of this alliance. This came as a complete surprise to the EU! It should be noted that it can and even should be regarded as an open expression of mistrust and even disregard on the part of the United States, Great Britain and Australia for the interests of their allies from the EU. 

In fact Washington, London and Canberra are simply, and not so simply, created a new military-political alliance without notifying their closest allies in the military-political NATO bloc about it. Thus, openly demonstrating their true attitude towards their own allies!

The creation of US, UK and Australia alliance in the field of defense and security without notifying its NATO allies is essentially nothing more than an open demonstration of complete disregard for the opinions of its so-called “allies.” In my opinion, it is a very rash step on the part of the participants in the new pact. It suggests that there is a rather serious split in views in the ranks of NATO. This gives a clear understanding of the fact that the very essence of the meaning of NATO’s existence for some of its member countries, such as the United States and Great Britain, has simply lost its relevance.

There is no alliance without trust

Well, the right thing is how you can be an ally with those who talk about the need to confront threats to Europe, but at the same time, behind Europe itself, it creates new alliances, which not only leave Europe alone with China, but also take away from the countries of Europe large enough orders for their military products?

It is impossible to talk about some kind of alliance if one of the parties makes and creates new pacts, about which the other ally finds out only after the fact. What do we understand and say that there is no longer any sense in the existence of NATO!

Secondly, if this event is viewed from a purely economic and technological point of view, then it should also be noted that the creation of this new alliance is nothing more than the beginning of the end of NATO! Especially if we take into account the fact that Australia has abandoned its plans to purchase submarines from France. 

The United States essentially destroyed the multi-billion dollar deal between France and Australia. And even more than that, the United States has pledged to transfer its technologies for the production of nuclear submarines! Yes, not transfer them to NATO member countries, but Australia – not even a member of NATO. In my opinion it also suggests that there is no longer any sense in the existence of NATO!

Technology transfer

During the entire existence of NATO, the United States has shared its technologies only with Great Britain!

There is a possibility that Europe may be outraged for the sake of appearance and then calmly forget all this. It would not be the first time. 

Something inside tells me that it is quite real. The events of recent year demonstrate to the whole world the fact that NATO is no longer relevant! And this event underlines this very clearly!

Please share your opinion in the comments!

Russia, China & India – Working together in Afghanistan

By Pranay Sharma

While world leaders debate whether or not to engage with the Taliban-led leadership in Afghanistan and how, Russia seeks to reassure its longtime partner India that New Delhi’s perspective matters.

Just recently Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. To assess the situation in Afghanistan. The leaders agreed to create a joint group of representatives of the foreign policy departments and the national security sphere.

Russia appears to be in no hurry to recognize the Taliban *. Moscow will share its assessment of the situation with New Delhi as soon as it is held.

The capture of Kabul by the Taliban opened the way for Russia and China to expand their influence in South and Central Asia. Both countries, as well as Qatar, which maintains good relations with Taliban political leaders, have not closed their embassies in the Afghan capital, while the United States and its allies, as well as India, hastily seek to evacuate their staff.

New Delhi’s influence on the Taliban is small, given India’s deep suspicions of an Islamist group, which it accuses of harboring militants who carried out attacks in Kashmir, which it controls, with the encouragement of the country’s nemesis, Pakistan.

Earlier this month, Russia convened an “enlarged three” meeting in Doha with the US, China and Pakistan to discuss the future of Afghanistan, but India was not invited.

The Taliban owe nobody for their victory

“Everyone is rushing about right now, trying to figure out how to protect their interests,” says PS Raghavan, former chairman of India’s National Security Advisory Council. However, according to him, it is not easier for Moscow and Beijing to deal with the Taliban. Although both countries supported the US withdrawal, he adds, “The Taliban owe neither China nor Russia for their victory.”

Indeed, while China has offered to help rebuild Afghanistan, it is concerned that extremism will spread to Xinjiang, the country’s northernmost province. On Wednesday, Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping held a telephone conversation to discuss the security situation. Xi told Putin that Beijing is willing to work with other countries, including Russia, to push all parties in Afghanistan to create an inclusive political structure cut off from terrorist groups.

Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, believes that Russia views China and India as its two main strategic partners. India and Russia define their ties as a “special and privileged strategic partnership” and meet regularly to engage in trade, energy, science, technology and culture.

However, Indian observers also point to Moscow’s warmer relations with Beijing as a source of concern for New Delhi. Last year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov characterized the Quadripartite Security Dialogue (Quad), which includes the US, India, Australia and Japan, as “anti-Chinese” and called it an American ploy to shield New Delhi from Moscow’s influence. Then Indian observers noted that he was silent about the threat that China poses to India, because these countries are involved in a border dispute.

In the modern world, there is no exclusivity in relations

“In the modern world, there is no exclusivity in relations. We can talk about Russia and China, and they will talk about India and the United States, ”says Raghavan, who served as ambassador to Russia in 2014-2016. India, he adds, will have to control bilateral relations in such a way that they do not affect the core interests of other relations.

New Delhi’s concerns about Moscow’s commitment to their partnership increased when Russia took part in a large-scale joint military exercise with China in the Ningxia region earlier this month, using Su-30SM fighters, motorized rifle formations and air defense systems.

This move has caused bewilderment in Delhi, and not only because Moscow is the main supplier of military equipment for India and provides 55% of its military needs. The joint exercises took place against the backdrop of a year-long military clash between China and India in Ladakh.

Deependra Singh Hooda, a retired lieutenant general and former chief of the Indian Army’s Northern Command, said the joint exercise was “intended for the United States, not India.” In his opinion, fears that China will learn about India’s military equipment are unfounded, since most of the equipment supplied by Russia is the same for both sides. “It is wrong to feel oppressed by such teachings,” added Huda.

Moscow tried to facilitate dialogue between Dely and Beijing

Kanwal Sibal, a former Indian foreign secretary who served as Indian ambassador to Moscow from 2004-2007, says Russia has been supplying advanced military equipment to China for many years and has also conducted military exercises with Pakistan. Joint exercises are also conducted within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s security group, in addition, Russia has conducted naval exercises with China in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. As noted by Sibal, Russia also conducts annual military exercises with India. “There is no reason to be particularly worried about these joint military exercises,” he adds.

According to the head of the Carnegie Trenin Moscow Center, Moscow also tried to facilitate dialogue between Delhi and Beijing last year, but the Ladakh dispute is a sovereign issue between the two countries. “Russia will never unite with China against India, it is a completely reliable partner of India,” he said.

According to former national security adviser Raghavan, a guaranteed supply of spare parts for military equipment is better than joint exercises. When China wanted Russia to suspend supplies to India during a border clash, he said, Moscow calmly signaled that it would continue its supplies.

Unlike the Cold War era, Trenin says, India-Russia relations are not exclusive, as India has moved closer to the United States in recent years, which sees Russia as a rival and imposes sanctions on it. India took part in joint naval exercises with the United States as part of the Quad, he said, and while Russia may not like it, it did not question New Delhi’s right to choose partners. “In the changing geopolitical and strategic environment of the 21st century, Moscow and Delhi need to learn to develop their valuable strategic partnership in a non-exclusive manner,” Trenin said.

Most of India’s military equipment is of Russian origin

According to the Washington-based Stimson Center, 86 percent of India’s military equipment, weapons and platforms are of Russian origin, from aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines to tanks deployed in Ladakh. The Su-30MKI fighter, the backbone of the Indian Air Force, is also of Russian origin, while the Indian supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, capable of carrying a nuclear charge, was developed with Russia.

The US is also supplying India with military equipment, such as Apache and Chinook helicopters and M777 howitzers deployed in Ladakh, as well as Boeing C-17 and C-130J aircraft, which provide the Indian Air Force with strategic airlift capability. The US-made P81 anti-submarine aircraft is also popular with the Indian Navy.

According to the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India was the second largest arms importer in the world in 2015-2019. Although New Delhi has diversified its defense sources, making Israel and France the main suppliers as well, Russia remains at the top of the list.

According to the SIPRI database, since 2014, Russia has sold $ 9.3 billion worth of defense materials, and the United States received $ 2.3 billion for similar goods over the same period. Since 2000, deliveries from Russia have accounted for more than two-thirds of India’s total $ 51 billion defense imports.

According to Trenin, Russia does not have a monopoly on the sale of military equipment to India, and New Delhi has been diversifying its defense imports for many years. “However, a defense relationship is a matter of mutual trust, like treating a friend you can trust in times of crisis,” he said.

US withdrawal from Afghanistan – Leonid Ivashov

A shameful flight or a move in a big game?

Leonid Ivashov and Igor Shishkin on what is behind the US defeat in Afghanistan. What are the consequences of the change of power in this country can have for Russia and the world. Why Afghanistan is called the solar plexus of Eurasia.

I. Shishkin: Leonid Grigorievich, this is the first question I have for you in connection with what happened in Afghanistan: the flight of the United States is very much reminiscent of what happened in Vietnam, they are talking a lot about this now, showing some footage, drawing parallels. And the question for you, in fact, as a specialist is to understand what is behind such an escape? Or they are deliberately doing this in order to provoke chaos in this territory, which will engulf its neighbors, China, Iran, Pakistan and Russia. Or, secondly, the United States really could not otherwise hold on to the situation. According to some experts, the United States has demonstrated by such a flight that it is a fading power, they say, there can be many ambitions, but not so many abilities.

Leonid Grigorievich Ivashov. Russian military and public figure, colonel general. Specialist in the field of geopolitics, conflict management, international relations, military history. President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems.

L. Ivashov: Igor Sergeyevich, I generally exclude “flight” from my vocabulary when assessing the actions of the Americans. Let’s think about why the Americans are organizing their military presence, for some reason we think, since they have come, then they will put things in order there, make the population happy, stabilize the situation, and so on. Alas, Americans do not go anywhere for this purpose. They came there to take control of this very important geostrategic region. Afghanistan is the solar plexus of Eurasia, as it is called. Here is an access to powerful states, even civilizations, for example, like China. They once deliberately did this, their nuclear missile test site. Plus access to Pakistan, which has good relations with China lately. There is also an exit to India, then Iran, and so on.

In general, this is a very important region of the world, especially for Eurasia. The Americans built an airfield there, they came to influence the former Soviet, Central Central Asia, to influence Iran, India and so on from here. How to influence? Not only where to carry out some kind of military provocations or special operations, but to influence the maintenance of uncontrollable chaos. Let’s not forget that it was with the arrival of the Americans that drug trafficking increased, because this is the impact on your opponents through drug flows. Americans leave from wherever they go, they stay when they leave. 

So I, while still in the service for several years, noticed that they are campaigning, including among Afghans, in Russia, luring people to their territory in the United States. Moreover, there they are given appropriate education, training, and so on. The question is: what for? This is the preparation of the fifth column, or you can call it whatever you like. They stirred up, created this powerful Taliban movement and calmly leave, they were not even touched at the airport. And now, when they leave, they say, they say, you are going to clean up now. They armed, in fact, this population, everyone lives with some kind of weapon, created these warring groups and left. Further, we see that it is not the Americans who are alarmed now, but precisely the neighboring countries are alarmed. Therefore, to consider it a defeat or flight is, well, at least premature. that it is not the Americans who are alarmed now, but the neighboring countries are alarmed. 

I. Shishkin: This raises the following question then. You say that they came there not to make happy, not to deal with international terrorism, but they came in order to create a lot of trouble for their geopolitical opponents. But, doesn’t this mean that they were still unable to keep Afghanistan? After all, it was probably more profitable for them not to plunge into chaos, but to create powerful bases there, from which they could threaten China, for example, India and Russia, Central Asia and so on.

L. Ivashov:I think that all of this in the aggregate was at the same time and was planned. There is a continuous war, of course, the population is tired, the population wants peace, and I believe there will be peace. But, Americans, look where they just did not conduct these military actions, the same Iraq, Yugoslavia, in Libya. And then they calmly leave, therefore, did they try to stay there? Yes, of course, they would like to have military bases there, and so on, because they have already begun to build airfields there. It was not even Biden who decided this, it was even under Trump that it was decided that the troops would withdraw. 

You need to understand that the nature of this war has changed. And then, let’s see who’s coming there now? Turkey is paired with Qatar, it goes there. We are talking about the current moment, some of the Syrian militants were not accidentally transferred there, although the Afghans themselves are against the presence of other countries in general. China and Pakistan, for example, they also act in pairs, they were very interested in the Americans leaving. But, China is very powerful there, let’s face it. You can’t see it, nothing, but it is present, because China needs a stable and calm Afghanistan. But the Anglo-Saxons learned to do well, not to be present by military force, but to be present in a different way. 

Well, for example, we saw Syria, in Syria the Americans were little present, but look what movements they created there. They were in the shadows, but at the same time they created very powerful movements. We wish, of course, stability to be there. But, the question arises: will different groups of the Taliban start fighting among themselves tomorrow? And will they not create some other movements with American money that will fight against China and others, for example. they were very interested in the Americans leaving. 

I. Shishkin: Considering that the United States absolutely does not need “one belt, one road”, they are very interested in such a development of events.

L. Ivashov: Let’s see, God forbid, that this happens. But, experience suggests that the Americans, it seems, were not present somewhere militarily too strongly, but the states are gradually being destroyed. And it is not known how long such cases will last, because they are always and everywhere.

I. Shishkin: That is, to paraphrase the famous phrase that Great Britain has no eternal enemies, no eternal allies, but only eternal interests, then we can say that the Anglo-Saxons are guided by that there are no eternal victories and eternal defeats. After all, each victory will then turn into a defeat, but this defeat can be turned into a victory.

L. Ivashov: It was recorded that British intelligence spoke about its tasks, they say, that the Arabs should fight against the Arabs for our British interests.

I. Shishkin: One more question: nevertheless, the interest of the Americans is understandable, they are masters of organizing chaos in their own interests, but what about the regimes? They left Saigon, what they were creating collapsed instantly. They did not have time to leave Afghanistan completely, the regime they created collapses instantly. Vietnam still exists, for example, Cuba still exists, even though we left. It turns out that the regimes they create collapse instantly as soon as the bayonet disappears, and the regimes that we created exist and are very stable.

L. Ivashov: Well, they really consider Vietnam their defeat there. But, they know how to benefit from defeats, and then the same Middle East, stirred everything up there, brought some regimes that are unstable. As a result, the entire Middle East is unstable now, but here you must always look at what economic damage the Americans have suffered. Have they suffered any economic damage at all?

I. Shishkin: It seems that no.

Afghanistan – a unique chance for a military alliance between Russia & China

From Russian Point of View

The inglorious and hasty departure of the US military contingents and their allies from the territory of Afghanistan is today almost the main world news , discussed by everyone – from serious analysts to idle gossips. This is not surprising – after all, this event, no doubt, will have geopolitical consequences that go far beyond the purely regional level.

Already now, forecasts are being made with might and main, and numerous versions are being put forward as to what exactly these very consequences may be. There are already plenty of similar “virtualities” built. However, it seems that one of them is missing – rather non-trivial and extremely intriguing just for our country.

No matter how the events in Afghanistan develop further, where the war (both with the participation of foreign troops and without them) has not subsided for many decades, it would be extremely naive to hope for a peaceful scenario that will develop “by itself”. The wrong country, the wrong people, the wrong internal “alignments” and factors of external influence … It is unlikely that a full-fledged solution to the problems of a state that is about to “break apart” again will be possible without a “power component”. This is where a turn is possible, which few expected today, but more than real in the future.

Reluctant peacekeepers?

It should be noted that it is Russia and China (among the major geopolitical “players”) that have the greatest and most direct interest in ensuring that Afghanistan, with the withdrawal of American soldiers from there, does not turn into a new Syria, or something worse. Let’s try to consider their reasons specifically, albeit in the most condensed and schematic form. 

First of all, neither Russia nor China “smiles” in any way as an excessive strengthening of the Taliban, nor, even more so, the revival of ISIS, which is quite likely at the present moment (both organizations are banned in Russia). And regarding the prospects for a keen bickering of many smaller, but from this no less harmful Islamist groups, which can turn both the country itself and all the regions adjacent to it into bloody bedlam, we can say exactly the same thing.

Radical and militant Islamism is an extremely nasty thing, in particular, because it has a pronounced ability, speaking in medical terms, to produce abundant metastases. Its export to the former Soviet republics of Central Asia for our country will mean a sharp increase in the terrorist threat, flows of refugees and illegal migrants, an increase in drug trafficking, arms smuggling and a lot of other “delights”. China, on the other hand, has a common border with Afghanistan, and even, as a sin, in the Xinjiang Uyghur region, inhabited mainly by Muslims. 

There is no doubt that given the current level of Beijing’s “friendship” with the West, there will be innumerable people willing to direct the expansion of radicals under a green or black banner in this very direction. However, to the reality of the prospects of their attacks on Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, this also applies to the fullest. To “spoil the blood” of the Russians and their allies by the hands of the Islamists is for the “white Sahibs” the most proven and, alas, effective method.

It should also not be forgotten that the Chinese comrades absolutely do not need any changes in not only the bordering Afghanistan, but the Pakistan that has “merged” with it. They have very big plans for this country within the framework of the One Belt – One Road project, considerable investments have already been made there, and even more are expected. In Beijing, they definitely do not agree to carry out a grandiose construction “under the roar of cannonade”. In one of the publications I happened to come across a phantasmagoric version that the Chinese de “offered the Taliban infrastructure and energy projects worth billions of dollars in exchange for lasting peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan”, having reached an appropriate agreement. This is just ridiculous. The “Islamic Emirate” (and this is how the Taliban deign to call themselves officially) is, to put it mildly, not quite the structure with which one can negotiate anything at all.

And as for financial investments, did the United States greatly help the US $ 137 billion, which it poured over two decades into the “reconstruction and development” of Afghanistan in ensuring stability in this completely unpredictable country and keeping its own protégés in power there? The Chinese are not more stupid and certainly not more naive than the Yankees. They know how to take into account and not repeat their mistakes in the most beautiful way. And so, by the way, with regard to the United States and not only them … One of the most important tasks for both Russia and China in the current situation is to prevent the preservation and even strengthening of the military-strategic positions in the region of the Americans who are now carrying out an exemplary “drape” from it and their allies, as well as the penetration of other forces there – for example, the same Turkey, rushing with the ghost of “Great Turan”. Just let them go

A Commonwealth Time to Put Into Practice

It has been known for a long time that the US army (and, in particular, specific “offices”) are excellently able to “stay while leaving”. However, they are not alone – for example, the British Daily Telegraph, citing sources in the Special Airborne Service (SAS), reported that the British special forces may well “stay” in Afghanistan. Allegedly “for the training of the local military.” Obviously, those that today surrender to the Taliban in thousands and flee to neighboring Tajikistan. It is perfectly clear against whom all the military and other similar structures of states that have declared their enemies No. 1 not some Taliban, but Russia and China, will actually act from Afghan territory. In addition, Washington does not abandon its attempts to openly settle even closer to our country – in Kazakhstan, for example. This should not be allowed in any case.

Where do we end up? Neither Moscow nor Beijing can afford to “let the situation in Afghanistan take its course”, relying on “maybe it will be formed”. Could it come to the necessity of bringing certain military contingents into this territory? Let’s be realistic – more than. And just do not need “oohs” and “oohs”, hysterics about “the danger of repeating the” Afghan break “of the USSR model”! Firstly, even then, everything was far from being as disastrous as they tried to convince us later, and it could have been even more successful – if not for some strategic miscalculations of the country’s leadership and the army. Secondly, the experience of the Syrian campaign convincingly proves that it is precisely these mistakes that Russia has realized and is not going to repeat. Well, and thirdly, forgive the cynicism, if a state with the ambitions of a world power does not participate in wars outside its own limits, war will sooner or later come to his land. To paraphrase Napoleon, a country that does not create military bases on foreign territory will receive foreign bases on its own. In this particular case, the “alignment” is exactly this and the other is not available.

Much more interesting, perhaps, is the question of what kind of forms military cooperation between Russia and China could take in ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan and the adjacent region? We will consider the topic primarily in a pragmatic aspect – Beijing, perhaps, is much more interested than our country in the material side of solving this problem. “One Belt – One Road” could indeed be extended to Afghan territory – provided a stable peace is established there. For our country, in turn, it is more important to ensure the security of borders – both our own and allies in the same CSTO. However, why not get additional benefits from solving these problems? The People’s Liberation Army of China probably has the military-technical resources to conduct a peacekeeping operation of this magnitude. The problem here is something else – the complete absence of an extremely specific experience, vital in this case. But just our military has it – and from some of them it was acquired directly in Afghanistan, which makes it absolutely invaluable. Each side has something to offer each other, realizing that it will be problematic for both Moscow and Beijing to cope with an incredibly large-scale task alone. That is why such a configuration of the Russian-Chinese peacekeeping contingent seems to be the most appropriate, in which the Celestial Empire would take on the main burden of the logistical and financial support of the mission, and our country would be responsible for its other aspects arising from the presence of a huge array of “developments” which became the result of both the previous Afghan campaign and the recent Syrian one.

Extending the Treaty on Good Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation between Russia and China, the leaders of the two countries spoke very sparingly about the purely military aspects of this very cooperation. Naturally – after all, such things are not announced to the general public. Nevertheless, Vladimir Putin emphasized that “coordination between Moscow and Beijing” undoubtedly plays a serious “stabilizing role”, including in the context of “increasing conflict potential in various parts of the world.” Ensuring peace in Afghanistan can be an excellent example of such “stabilization” in the Russian-Chinese implementation. And this will be even more important in light of the fact that, in front of the eyes of the whole world, the corresponding mission was failed miserably and shamefully by the United States and its allies.

The military alliance between Moscow and Beijing is for the “collective West” perhaps the biggest nightmare they can imagine. On this occasion, in particular, they have repeatedly and very sharply expressed themselves in the White House, calling the very possibility of such an alliance “a direct challenge to the vital interests of the United States.” In order to show that all these are not empty fears, but a very real prospect, over which the West really needs to ponder, the Russian and Chinese military sooner or later need to stand shoulder to shoulder not in exercises, but in a real combat situation, which fully checks for the strength of weapons, people, and defense alliances. So why shouldn’t this happen in Afghanistan?

Scramble for Africa? America and China proxy war


Tom Fowdy

is a British writer and analyst of politics and international relations with a primary focus on East Asia.


A new scramble for Africa? Events in Ethiopia show how America and China are fighting a proxy war for influence on the continent

Washington has long viewed the country as a crucial partner in a key region. However, the new sanctions it’s just imposed on the Addis Ababa government could backfire and push it closer to Beijing.

It’s been a weekend of extraordinary developments in Washington’s relationship with Ethiopia.

On Saturday, the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) secured a contract with a consortium of companies to fund the country’s 5G network. However, it is on the condition the money isn’t used on Chinese telecoms giants Huawei and ZTE. 

Then the very next day, the State Department imposed sweeping sanctions over Ethiopia’s government and army. As well as cutting international aid, over what it deems as human rights abuses in the Tigray region, where Addis has been fighting a conflict with a rebel regional government. Bloomberg reports that these sanctions may broaden to include blocking IMF and World Bank lending to the country.

The sanctions represent a potential turning point in US-Ethiopian relations. These have soured since the bloody Tigray conflict erupted last November. Thousands have been killed and about two million people forced from their homes. There are widespread reports of atrocities, ethnic violence, and alleged war crimes committed against civilian populations.

Washington has long viewed Ethiopia as a critical partner in East Africa. Because of fearing that any destabilization in the region could help Islamic militant groups such as Al-Qaeda and al Shabaab, stoke ethnic tensions, and threaten freedom of movement in the Red Sea

How can one make sense of Washington’s contradictory moves toward the country? President Biden has obviously been under some pressure from Congress to act on the civil war. However, the situation is neatly illustrated by one word: China. 

Simultaneously using sanctions and debt

The US wants to make inroads into Africa to thwart and compete with Beijing’s cozy relationships with many countries on that continent. Washington sees its foreign policy there through the lens of this rivalry. When US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with leaders of Nigeria and Kenya recently, he warned African nations to be wary of Beijing.

To try to assert strategic dominance, Washington is turning to its classic modus operandi of simultaneously using sanctions as leverage in order to influence Ethiopia’s foreign policy, while using debt as a means to procure political moves in its favor and to strengthen the private sector, particularly against Beijing. 

The DFC, America’s development bank, is one to watch. Established in 2019, it is an arm of the US government created to try to rival China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI) in investing in developing countries. It has a more explicit political and ideological angle to it than Beijing’s program. It demands compliance with American strategic preferences in exchange for low interest loans.Also, it forces privatizations to the benefit of US firms. 

The BRI utilizes state owned companies to build projects, whilst the DFC pushes the American private sector. As an example, at the beginning of the year the DFC brokered a deal with the neoliberal government in Ecuador: offering to pay off its debt to China in exchange for signing up to the ‘Clean Network’ initiative (which excludes Huawei and ZTE from the country’s 5G network) and privatizing Ecuadorian oil companies to American investors. 

This partially reflects the pattern of lending brokered by Bretton Woods institutions in the 1980s, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which also leveraged neoliberal economic changes in the 1980s that weakened national economies in Africa but empowered foreign investors in the West. 

Washington accusing China of doing the very things that they do it themselves

It is an interesting contrast, and perhaps an ironic one, from what the US has claimed is “debt trap diplomacy” or “predatory lending” by China. Yet Washington uses conditional loans and sanctions simultaneously with Ethiopia. In a blatant attempt to secure growing leverage over the country. For example, sanctions relief may in time be brokered in exchange for compliance with anti-China objectives, something America has had little luck with in Africa, where many countries have long orientated themselves toward Beijing, not only due to it being a source of easy capital, but because of China’s principle of non-interference. 

This, of course, sets out some of the obstacles ahead for the US in Ethiopia. The sanctions it has imposed will not please Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government. With its army sanctioned, which countries is Ethiopia going to turn to for arms? And which ones likewise support the idea of “sovereignty”? 

The answers are, of course, China and, to a lesser extent, Russia. This may mean while Ethiopia and other countries can leverage US investment, it may come at an unacceptably high price if it comes with political interference. However, it may also provide a tool for African countries to negotiate more squarely than Beijing. This is a deal the Chinese will watch closely. They will certainly be concerned about America making new inroads on the African continent.

In this case, foreign policymakers may dub these new developments a new “scramble for Africa”. That comes with the baggage of denying the agency of African nations themselves in the bid between superpowers to compete for influence. 

Time will tell which superpower will emerge victorious

Either way though, the US has set out a clear strategy on Ethiopia. Weaken the state (one that is often most favorable to China), strengthen the private sector and subsequently use sanctions to impose its own vision on reshaping this African country. Only time will tell what the results are. And which superpower eventually emerges victorious on the African continent.