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US troops in Europe and the Middle East are there to provoke China more than Russia or Iran

While the US troops on the borders of Russia and Iran are generally considered intimidation/provocation tactics aimed at Moscow and Tehran, the broader reality is that America intends to use its troops as speed-bumps in China’s New Silk Road.

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NATO’s recent land and sea exercises in eastern and southern Europe as well as the Black Sea frontiers of Eurasia are at face value, provocations designed to anger and intimidate Russia. Likewise, America’s presence in Iraq and Syria are at face value, provocations designed to angry and intimidate Iran. But they are also something else: they are provocations designed to anger and intimidate China.

The key element here lies in understanding the geography of China’s massive trade/commerce project, One Belt–One Road, also referred to as the New Silk Road.

A map of the likely final routes of the land and sea trade corridors which China is working to build in cooperation with local nations along the route goes a long way in explaining why the United States is conducting troop exercises, engaging in military conflicts and threatening new military conflicts in key spots along the New Silk Road.

The following map shows the routes of China’s New Silk Road. Each number corresponds to an area where US troops or their allies are either active in a conflict zone or have recently engaged in military exercises.

1. The border between Iraq and Iran. 

Kurdish areas in northern Iraq are set to vote in an independence referendum in September of 2017. While it is not clear if the US will officially support the results of the vote which due to a declared boycott of the referendum by the area’s non-Kudish residents will almost certainly be won by nationalists, the US has developed very close ties to Iraqi Kurds over the last decades. The US has likewise supported Iraqi Kurds in their fight against ISIS in northern Iraq.

Iran is staunchly opposed to Kurdish separatism in neighbouring Iraq and has taken Turkey’s side in opposing Kurdish separatism throughout the region. Syria of course also opposes local Kurdish separatists.

Many in Iran are growing increasingly suspicious that the US and Israel plan to use their Kurdish allies as a means of waging a proxy war against Iran and its allies. America seems willing to throw out its historically good relationship with Turkey in order to do just that.

2. North Eastern Syria

The next US hotspot along China’s New Silk Road is in north-eastern Syria. This is also an area in which Syrian Kurds are growing increasingly vocal about independence.

Should America support Kurdish nationalists in northern Iraq and north eastern Syria, this could create two decidedly pro-American entities along the New Silk Road.

Should Syrian and/or Iraqi Kurdish nationalists decide to link up with the Kurdish nationalist PKK in Turkey, the New Silk Road’s journey into Turkey could also be threatened.

Just as Syria and China forge new economic ties, America continues to increase its presence in Syria.

3. Western Balkans 

The New Silk Road’s maritime route into Europe is through Greece where it eventually hugs the western Balkans on its route northwards.

This will see the New Silk Road passing by Albania and Montenegro via the Ionian and Adriatic Seas. The western Balkans has become a big hotspot of US mischief for several reasons.

America has been fomenting Albanian extremism in Macedonia (aka Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) in an attempt to weaken the position of the sovereignty minded President Gjorge Ivanov. The threats of Albanian nationalists to Skopje threaten the entire statehood of the small Balkan country.

Furthermore, America has been deeply supportive of the Greater Albania project which would see Albanians annex not only parts of Macedonia but also parts of Serbia, Montenegro and Greece. Montenegro’s recent, deeply controversial ascension to NATO could only exacerbate the problem as a fraternal nation to Serbia is now NATO’s newest and smallest member.

All of the sudden, The New Silk Road’s path into southern Europe becomes perilous and highly unstable.

4. Romania 

Thousands of NATO troops are currently participating in military exercises in Romania. This comes after the US sold a $3.9 billion Patriot Missile system to the poor European country.

All of the sudden Romania’s seemingly easy route into Europe along the New Silk Road just became dotted with US military hardware and the presence of many NATO troops who will soon be back for more.

5. The Black Sea 

The US has recently conducted its biggest ever Black Sea naval exercises with fellow NATO members along with Ukrainian ships.

This further augments America’s presence along the coasts of Romanian, Russia, Ukraine while also being quite close to Turkey’s shores on the southern sands of the Black Sea.

6. Ukraine 

At present, the post-coup regime which rules Ukraine is ardently pro-America. China and Russia’s close alliance could spur the pro-western regime in Kiev into making life deeply difficult for the New Silk Road, even though such moves would be to their own economic detriment.

The Ukrainian regime is well known for making politicised moves which have hurt its own economic interests, severing economic ties with both Russia and the Donbass Republics being two such examples.

In the coming years, many will ask if the fact that the Ukrainian coup of February 2014 and the formal announcement of One Belt–One Road in the Autumn of 2013 were coincidental events in respect of their proximity in time, not least because Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych visited China in December of 2013 where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. During the meetings which were uniquely successful for Ukraine, China agreed to invest $8 billion into the Ukrainian economy. A few months later a western orchestrated coup removed Yanukovych from power.

7. Poland 

NATO troops continue to pour into Poland where they have been largely welcomed by the Polish government. Can masses of NATO troops coexist with Chinese commerce along the New Silk Road? It certainly does not bode well.

8. Bab-el-Mandeb Strait

Ships on the maritime New Silk Road are set to pass through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait which links the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea. Currently, the Strait is under naval blockade from America’s ally Saudi Arabia. The results which have meant a humanitarian disaster for Yemen which is the subject of the Saudi blockade, could also threaten China’s shipping routes to the Red Sea.

9. Suez Canal/Sinai Peninsula

The Suez Canal borders the Sinai Peninsula. Much of Sinai is currently home to ISIS troops that the Egyptian armed forces have had difficulty in ridding from their territory.

The presence of ISIS in the Sinai has led many to worry that Israel could invade and occupy Sinai as Israel did between 1967 and 1982.

It is wise to remember that Israel is not on the New Silk Road while Iran, Iraq and Syria are. This reality will not be lost on the leaders in Tel Aviv.

This does not make for smooth sailing along the maritime New Silk Road.

CONCLUSION

While America’s presence in eastern and south-eastern Europe as well as western Eurasia is generally seen as a means of agitating Russia and while the American presence in Syria and Iraq is generally seen as a means of agitating Iran, in the broader sense, America has stationed its troops as well as fomented military conflicts along crucial positions of China’s New Silk Road.

Although the path of the New Silk Road does allow for flexibility, America’s wider ambitions across global regions of the New Silk Road are clearly aimed at trying to pave as many speed-bumps as possible into China’s road.

Although none of the conflicts mentioned border China itself, just as sure as China begins to extend the logistical element of its global trade dominance, so too is the United States carefully situating itself in areas designed to make China’s commercial/trade expansion as difficult as possible.

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da6675
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da6675

Why does the US see expansion of free trade as a threat? Because they are neocon control freaks who believe if one nation improves its position, it will hurt the US. China builds great infrastructure projects abroad; the US does sanctions, weapon sales and blowing stuff up. Why do you think Putin is so popular around the world (except US)?. Because hew doesn’t invade other nations. If you believe the neocon lies about Russia invading Ukraine and Crimea, you have drunk so much Kool-Aid you need medical help.

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Meanwhile, US neocons do their best to antagonize any nation that shows some degree of socialism can work. Neocons are not afraid socialism will fail, they are scared it will succeed, and Americans will start getting big ideas.

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Rod Rosenstein resigns from his post before President Trump can fire him

Rosenstein’s comments about secretly recording the President backfire, and resignation may throw the Mueller Russiagate probe into question.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The Washington Times broke the story that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resigned from his post. He submitted his resignation to Chief of Staff John Kelly.  At present the breaking story says the following:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is out at the Department of Justice.

Axios reported that Mr. Rosenstein verbally resigned to White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly, but CNN said that he is expecting to be fired.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, declined to comment on the reports.

Mr. Rosenstein’s departure immediately throws Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe into chaos.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation, leaving Mr. Rosenstein in charge.

President Trump mulled firing the No. 2 at the Department of Justice over the weekend.

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This report came after Fox News reported that the Deputy AG was summoned to the White House. Fox reported a little more detail:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is heading to the White House expecting to be fired, sources tell Fox News, in the wake of a report that he suggested wearing a wire against President Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office last year.

This is a developing story, however one major factor that comes under consideration is the fate of Robert Mueller and his Russiagate investigation, which was authorized by Rosenstein. CNBC had this to say in their piece:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is resigning Monday, according to Axios, which cited a source familiar with the matter.

NBC News’ Pete Williams, however, reported that Rosenstein would not resign of his own accord, and that he will only depart if the White House fired him. He will refuse to resign if asked to do so, Williams added.

Rosenstein was at the White House when Williams reported this on the air. However, President Donald Trump is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Bloomberg later reported that the White House accepted Rosenstein’s resignation, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Rosenstein’s expected resignation will immediately raise questions about the fate of the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

Rosenstein’s job security was called into question after The New York Times reported last week that the No. 2 DOJ official had discussed invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump, and had also talked about surreptitiously recording the president.

Rosenstein oversees the special counsel investigation, and has appointed Mueller to run the Russia probe last year, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case.

The special counsel’s office declined to comment on the report.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Axios’ report. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to CNBC’s inquiry.

Trump has repeatedly blasted Mueller’s inquiry, which also is focused on possible collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign.

He has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and has repeatedly vented frustration about Sessions’ recusal, which directly led to Mueller’s appointment by Rosenstein.

Rosenstein’s expected departure comes on the heels of a guilty plea by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort to conspiracy charges related to his consulting work in Ukraine, which predates his role on the campaign.

As part of the investigation, Mueller’s team has been locked in an ongoing back-and-forth with Trump’s legal team over an in-person interview with the president.

Trump’s lawyers, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have signaled that Trump is unwilling to sit for an interview, calling it a “perjury trap” and setting up a potential challenge for Mueller to subpoena the president.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

 

 

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European Council crushes Theresa May’s soft Brexit dream (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May hoped that the European Council was ready to see things her way, in terms of proceeding with a soft Brexit, which was essentially no Brexit at all…at least not the hard Brexit that was voted on in a democratic referendum approximately two years ago.

Much to May’s surprise, European Council President Donald Tusk delivered a death blow verdict for May’s Brexit, noting that EU leaders are in full agreement that Chequers plan for Brexit “will not work” because “it risks undermining the single market.”

Without a miracle compromise springing up come during the October summit, the UK will drift into the March 29, 2019 deadline without a deal and out of the European Union…which was initially what was voted for way back in 2016, leaving everyone asking, what the hell was May doing wasting Britain’s time and resources for two years, so as to return back to the hard Brexit terms she was charged with carrying forward after the 2016 referendum?

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss what was a disastrous EU summit in Salzburg for UK PM Theresa May, in what looks to be the final nail in May’s tenure as UK Prime Minister, as a hard Brexit now seems all but certain.

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Via Zerohedge

Tusk was speaking at the end of an EU summit in Salzburg, where the leaders of the 27 remaining states in the bloc were discussing Brexit. He said that while there were “positive elements” in May’s Chequers plan, a deal that puts the single market at risk cannot be accepted.

“Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work, not least because it is undermining the single market,” Tusk said. He also said that he could not “exclude” the possibility that the UK could exit the EU in March with no deal.

May has been urging her European counterparts to accept her controversial Chequers plan which has split both the Conservative party and the broader UK population after it was thrashed out back in July. However, despite the painfully-slow negotiation process, which appears to have made little headway with just a few months left, the UK is set to leave the EU on March 29 2019 – with or without an exit deal.

The main sticking point that has emerged, and left May and the EU at loggerheads, has been how to avoid new checks on the Irish border. May has claimed that her proposals were the “only serious, credible” way to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. She said during a press conference after the Salzburg meeting that she would not accept the EU’s “backstop” plan to avoid a Northern Ireland hard border. She said the UK would shortly be bringing forward its own proposals.

May also said that there was “a lot of hard work to be done,” adding that the UK was also preparing for the eventuality of having to leave the EU without a deal. Tusk, meanwhile, said that the upcoming October summit would be the “moment of truth” for reaching a deal, and that “if the conditions are there” another summit would be held in November to “formalize” it.

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Russia makes HUGE strides in drone technology

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The US and Israel are universally recognized leaders in the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Thousands of American and Israeli UAVs are operating across the world daily.

The US military has recently successfully tested an air-to-air missile to turn its MQ-9 Reaper drone into an effective long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance unmanned spy aircraft capable of air-to-surface as well as air-to-air missions. This is a major breakthrough. It’s not a secret that Russia has been lagging behind in UAV development. Now its seems to be going to change with tangible progress made to narrow the gap.

Very few nations boast drones capable of high-altitude long endurance (HALE) missions. Russia is to enter the club of the chosen. In late 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry awarded a HALE UAV contract to the Kazan-based Simonov design bureau.

This month, Russian Zvezda military news TV channel showed a video (below) of Altair (Altius) heavy drone prototype aircraft number “03”, going through its first flight test.

Propelled by two RED A03/V12 500hp high fuel efficiency diesel engines, each producing a capacity of 500 hp on takeoff, the 5-ton heavy vehicle with a wingspan of 28.5 meters boasts a maximum altitude of 12km and a range of 10,000km at a cruising speed of 150-250km/h.

Wingspan: about 30 meters. Maximum speed: up to 950 km/h. Flight endurance: 48 hours. Payload: two tons, which allows the creation of a strike version. The vehicle is able to autonomously take off and land or be guided by an operator from the ground.

The UAV can carry the usual range of optical and thermal sensors as well as synthetic-aperture ground-surveillance radar with the resolution of .1 meter at the range of 35km and 1 meter at the range of 125km. The communications equipment allows real-time data exchange.

Russia’s UAV program currently underway includes the development of a range of large, small, and mid-sized drones. The Orion-E medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV was unveiled at the MAKS 2017 air show. Its developer, Kronstadt Technologies, claims it could be modified for strike missions. The one-ton drone is going through testing now. The Orion-E is capable of automatic takeoff and landing.

It can fly continuously for 24 hours, carrying a surveillance payload of up to 200 kg to include a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) turret, synthetic aperture radar and high resolution cameras. The drone can reach a maximum altitude of 7,500 m. Its range is 250 km.

The Sukhoi design bureau is currently developing the Okhotnik (Hunter) strike drone with a range of about 3,500km. The drone made its maiden flight this year. In its current capacity, it has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection.

The Kazan-based Eniks Design Bureau is working on the small T-16 weaponized aerial vehicle able to carry 6 kg of payload.

The new Russian Korsar (Corsair) tactical surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be upgraded to receive an electronic warfare system. Its operational range will be increased from 150km to 250km. The drone was revealed at Victory Day military parade along with the Korsar unmanned combat helicopter version.

The rotary wing drone lacks the speed and altitude of the fixed wing variant, but has a great advantage of being able to operate without landing strips and can be sea-based. Both drones can carry guided and unguided munitions. The fixed-wing version can be armed with Ataka 9M120 missiles.

The first Russian helicopter-type unmanned aerial vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells was presented at the Army-2018 international forum. With the horizontal cruising speed of the drone up to 60 kph, the unmanned chopper can stay in the air at least 2.5 hours to conduct reconnaissance operations. Its payload is up to 5 kg.

Last November, the Kalashnikov Concern reported that it would start production of heavy unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying up to several tons of cargo and operating for several days at a time without needing to recharge.

All in all, the Russian military operate 1,900 drones on a daily basis. The multi-purpose Orlan-10 with a range of 600km has become a working horse that no military operation, including combat actions in Syria, can be conducted without. Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov,
the head of the Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development, Russian drones performed over 23,000 flights, lasting 140,000 hours in total.

Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027 puts the creation of armed UAVs at the top of priorities’ list. Looks like the effort begins to pay off. Russia is well on the way to become second to none in UAV capability.

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Via Strategic Culture

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