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Russia’s nuclear diplomacy has returned Moscow’s global strategic reach

Often overlooked by most observers of Russian foreign policy, Moscow’s skillful use of nuclear diplomacy has allowed the former superpower to once again have a global strategic reach.

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Russian foreign policy has undergone a renaissance over the past couple of years as its “progressive” faction emerged at the fore of decision-making and bravely pioneered non-traditional partnerships all across the “Ummah” (global Muslim community). This took place concurrently with the country’s “Pivot to Asia”, more accurately described as a “Rebalancing to Asia”, which also saw Russia engage in a diplomatic balancing act with Japan, Vietnam, and India – all of which has been to its Chinese ally’s benefit. Both Eastern (or in the case of the Ummah, Southern) vectors of contemporary Russian foreign policy were greatly enhance by Moscow’s use of military diplomacy in selling (or seeking to sell) weapons to competing sides of any given rivalry in order to maintain the strategic equilibirum between them and therefore preserve the overall peace.

The Core Concept Of Nuclear Diplomacy

Lost amid the more “newsworthy” and “headline-grabbing” manifestations of Russia’s foreign policy resurgence has been its use of nuclear diplomacy as a means of regaining its global strategic reach. This concept can be described as Russia’s effort to clinch nuclear energy partnerships with countries all across the world, and considering that it’s the global leader in this field, it’s been highly successful in this regard. Nuclear energy deals are important for much more than “green”/”clean energy” considerations, as they imply a very high-level and trusted relationship between the two parties. Moreover, every agreement that Russia reaches with its partners includes educational and technical components, meaning that Moscow usually ends up training a new cadre of scientific elites in the partner countries and continues to provide assistance to them for years after the reactor is built.

These long-term and largely unseen elements of Russia’s nuclear diplomacy allow one to speak of this approach as being a highly strategic manifestation of Moscow’s future planning, and accordingly, it also has geopolitical dimensions as well. The countries with which Russia seals nuclear energy deals are presumed to also be pursuing a parallel track of diplomacy in improving the all-around nature of their relationship, with the inclusion of nuclear diplomacy serving both as a symbol of this and also a catalyst designed to speed up the process in taking it to the next level. The exact nature of how this works varies from country to country, but the model remains the same – nuclear diplomacy is an integral component of Russia’s foreign policy toolkit, and it invariably carries with it significant geopolitical dimensions which have allowed Moscow to once again have a global strategic reach.

Great Power Friendship

Russia’s nuclear diplomacy can be split up into two categories of partnerships, Great Powers and Pivot States (including both actual and intended projects). The first are Russia’s privileged partners given the “19th-Century Great Power Chessboard” paradigm that’s driving its “progressive” foreign policy leaders, which to summarize, is that Russia prioritizes the betterment of all-around relations with its similarly sized Great Power peers at the perceived (key word) expense of its smaller- and medium-sized partners in order to advance the “greater good” of multipolarity. Unlike with military diplomacy, it’s difficult for any observer to identify a potential “zero-sum” tradeoff regarding Russia’s nuclear partnerships with Great Powers and Pivot States, though the point in bringing up this stratagem is that it explains why Russia has clinched important nuclear energy deals with India, Turkey, and Iran.

In addition, Russia’s talks on this topic with Egypt, Ethiopia, and even its possible bid in building a nuclear reactor in Saudi Arabia make a lot more sense when viewed through this paradigm. Moscow was previously excited about building a nuclear power plant in fellow BRICS-member South Africa, but this ambition was regrettably sidelined by a “deep state” quasi-judicial plot earlier this year and remains in limbo at the moment. Altogether, however, these seven countries are Great Powers in their given geographic spaces, and Russia’s employment of nuclear diplomacy with each of them – regardless of the success achieved this far – showcases Moscow’s desire to use this as means of solidifying long-standing relations such as the one with India, or streamlining new ones with non-traditional partners such as Saudi Arabia and post-Cold War Ethiopia, all of which could endow Russia with valuable geostrategic benefits in the New Cold War.

Pivot State Partnerships

As for the Pivot States, notable examples to bring up are Bolivia, Paraguay, Hungary, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia. The first two compromise part of the “Pivot Belt” that the author extensively analyzed in his book-length article series about South American geopolitics, and they allow Russia to importantly hold sway in the continent’s central heartland right near the middle of China’s planned Transoceanic Railroad. As for Hungary, this Russian-friendly country sits squarely in the center of Central Europe and endows Russia with a useful partner in the EU. Bangladesh and Myanmar, for their part, are indispensable components of the overland portion of India’s “Act East” policy of ASEAN engagement, and Russia’s desire to strengthen ties with them by means of nuclear diplomacy is a prudent move to give itself a strategic presence along this competitive connectivity route which could one day pave the way for future commercial ventures.

There’s also another reason why Myanmar is the focus of Russia’s nuclear diplomacy nowadays, and it’s because it pairs excellently with Laos and Cambodia in providing Moscow with a strategic “backdoor” to ASEAN via its poorest members. Although the author described the rationale behind this in a previous article elaborating on how Russia could take advantage of these three states’ special economic zones (SEZs), the same logic holds true for nuclear diplomacy and other forms of cooperation as well. Taken together, Russia’s nuclear diplomacy outreaches to pivotally positioned states such as the seven that were mentioned above demonstrates that Moscow is keenly aware of their strategic significance and is using this high-level track of diplomacy to comprehensively deepen its relations with them, focusing first on nuclear energy cooperation and then eventually expanding its ties to include economic, military, and political elements with time.

Concluding Thoughts

Russia is the world leader in the nuclear energy field, and it regularly uses this to its benefit in strengthening relations with Great Powers and Pivot States alike, whether long-running partners inherited from the Soviet period or non-traditional ones which have been reached out to recently. The clever use of nuclear diplomacy has seen Moscow expand its influence into regions of the “Global South” which it would otherwise be unable to compete in, such as South America, Africa, and South-Southeast Asia, and then leverage this advantage to promote its own multidimensional interests in the economic, military, political, and other spheres of bilateral relations. The impressive geographic scope of Russia’s nuclear diplomacy has allowed the country to regain its global strategic reach, but unlike in the Old Cold War when Moscow was exporting the communist ideology to these far-flung regions as a means of acquiring influence there, this time in the New Cold War it’s exporting nuclear energy technology there to do the same thing but in a much more sustainable way.

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution. 

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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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