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Putin’s Grand Strategy: The Greater Eurasia Project

Putin uses SPIEF 2016 to outline a gigantic project to unite the whole Eurasian continent and pleads with the Europeans to take part.

Alexander Mercouris

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The main theme of SPIEF 2016 was that it provided the Russians with an opportunity to explain their foreign policy to the Europeans.

One of the most sterile debates that goes on in certain sections of the Anglophone media is on whether Putin is a strategist or just a tactician.  There are any number of articles that debate the question with the answer usually given that he is just a tactician.

The correct answer to the question is that Putin or more correctly the Russian leadership most definitely do have a strategy, though the Anglophone media commentators who debate the question can be forgiven for always giving the wrong answer because – as their articles all too clearly show – they haven’t the least idea of what this strategy actually is.  This is very surprising because Putin has explained it on many occasions.  With large numbers of Europeans in the audience at SPIEF 2016 he took the opportunity to do so again, emphasising this time the key role Europe – and specifically the European Union – plays in it. 

Here is what Putin said:

“In 2011, with Belarus and Kazakhstan, and relying on the dense network of cooperative relationships we inherited from the Soviet Union, we formed a common customs space, and then upgraded it to the Eurasian Economic Union.

As early as June we, along with our Chinese colleagues, are planning to start official talks on the formation of comprehensive trade and economic partnership in Eurasia with the participation of the European Union states and China. I expect that this will become one of the first steps toward the formation of a major Eurasian partnership. 

Friends, the project I have just mentioned – the “greater Eurasia” project – is, of course, open for Europe, and I am convinced that such cooperation may be mutually beneficial. Despite all of the well-known problems in our relations, the European Union remains Russia’s key trade and economic partner. It is our next-door neighbour and we are not indifferent to what is happening in the lives of our neighbours, European countries and the European economy.

Let me repeat that we are interested in Europeans joining the project for a major Eurasian partnership. In this context we welcome the initiative of the President of Kazakhstan on holding consultations between the Eurasian Economic Union and the EU. Yesterday we discussed this issue at the meeting with the President of the European Commission.”

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This is not only a strategy; it is a hugely ambitious – even grandiose – strategy.  It aims to link the two sides of the Eurasian continent into a single economic space with Russia at the centre, acting as the link and bridge.  It is a proposal not for a “Eurasia” but for a “Greater Eurasia”: a single colossal economic unit extending all the way from the Pacific to the Atlantic.  Moreover it is quite clear this project is fully supported by the Chinese leadership, China of course being the eastern half of the project.  Indeed it is a certainty the Chinese had a hand in making it and that their Silk Road project is part of it.

Far from seeking the break-up of the EU as so many neocon writers in the West claim, what Putin wants is the EU to become a full partner in this project.  Far from being forced to choose between “Russia in Europe” and “Russia in Eurasia”, Putin sees no contradiction in working towards both.  Far from wanting to choose between the EU and China as Russia’s partner, Putin wants Russia to have a partnership with both of them, bringing the two together.

This colossal conception is very much in the style of how the Russians and the Chinese  – two great continental powers accustomed to thinking in global terms – often think.  As it happens similar ideas circulated in St. Petersburg in the 1890s early in the reign of Nicholas II, though the political and technical means to put them into effect simply did not exist at that time.  The famous Soviet politician Vyacheslav Molotov also came up with a somewhat similar project in the 1950s, though it was one which gained little favour with the rest of the Soviet leadership.

By contrast I doubt that the provincial politicians of Europe, narrowly focused on their domestic concerns, are capable of understanding such a project even when it is explained to them as clearly as Putin did at SPIEF 2016.  I am sure Putin knows this even if he sometimes struggles to understand the fact, and that he realises that if Europe is ever to be won over to this project it will have to be done one step at a time.

One Western power does have the strategic vision to understand such a project and significantly it is the one that has no place in it.  That power is of course the US. 

It was quite clear from many of the things Putin said during SPIEF 2016 that he and the rest of the Russian leadership believe the Maidan coup in Ukraine was a ploy by the US to divide Russia from Europe so as to derail the Greater Eurasia project.  As it happens I think Putin is wrong about that – I doubt the US has much conception of the Greater Eurasia project and I think the US was pursuing in Ukraine its own very different strategies – but regardless of that Putin made pretty clear at SPIEF 2016 his bafflement that the Europeans so lack vision and a conception of their own interests that they allowed themselves during the Ukrainian crisis to be so easily manipulated by the US in its own interests.  His speech to the plenary was basically a call to the Europeans to wake up and start acting in their own interests rather than Washington’s:

“I also understand our European partners when they talk about the complicated decisions for Europe that were made at the talks on the formation of the Trans-Atlantic partnership. Obviously, Europe has a vast potential and a stake on just one regional association clearly narrows its opportunities. Under the circumstances, it is difficult for Europe to maintain balance and preserve space for a gainful manoeuvre.

As the recent meetings with representatives of the German and French business circles have showed, European business is willing and ready to cooperate with this country. Politicians should meet businesses halfway by displaying wisdom, and a far-sighted and flexible approach. We must return trust to Russian-European relations and restore the level of our cooperation.

We remember how it all started. Russia did not initiate the current breakdown, disruption, problems and sanctions. All our actions have been exclusively reciprocal. But we don’t hold a grudge, as they say, and are ready to meet our European partners halfway. However, this can by no means be a one-way street.”

Whether the Europeans will heed this call – or are even able to understand it – is another matter.  Personally I doubt they are.  It is striking how the Western news media – including the European media – has reported nothing about the Greater Eurasia project and has said little about Putin’s call for a restoration in relations in order to carry it out.  European leaders who were present at SPIEF 2016 – Juncker, Renzi and Sarkozy – all pressed for better relations with Russia but said nothing about the Greater Eurasia project.

Though Putin’s and the Chinese leadership’s commitment to the Greater Eurasia project there is no doubt, they have been careful not to let it become a trap for them by allowing it to become a project upon which they are so sold that they sacrifice their countries’ other vital interests in order to achieve it.  That was the big mistake Mikhail Gorbachev made in the 1980s when he sacrificed the USSR’s entire position in Europe and ultimately its very existence in his quest to achieve what he called “the common European home”.  If the Europeans prove unreceptive to the project then the Russians and the Chinese and their Central Asian allies have made it clear they will simply go ahead with the project on their own.

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

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Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”

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Via Zerohedge


Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 “Threat” To F-35

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

The Duran

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Authored by Al Masdar News:


Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.

“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said.

While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”

The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.

Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.

Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month.

Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Washington has already slapped China with sanctions over its purchase of S-400s and Su-35 combat aircraft in September. India, however, has voiced confidence that it would not be hit with similar restrictions, which the US Treasury has pursued under the 2017 Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

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