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Venezuela, Afghanistan and North Korea: 3 conflicts which represent the US vs. China and Russia

In spite of the rapidity or protracted nature of US decline, Russia and China, in speaking in a single voice, have lead to the US being isolated in the elite club of the three superpowers.

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While some pundits continue to downplay the increasingly strong partnership between Russia and China, the reality is that as Russia’s economy continues to grow and as China’s geo-political pronouncements continue to become more wide reaching, the world is witnessing the final stage of a new geo-political alignment that has been many years in the making.

China and Russia are now, not only on the same side of many global issues but they are speaking in a singular voice with a similarly loud volume.

Three areas where this has manifested itself include of Venezuela, Afghanistan and North Korea. In each of these cases, both Russia and China are saying almost identical things at the same time and are doing so forcefully.

By contrast, during the early stages of the Syrian conflict which started in 2011, while China was always supportive of the Syrian government in its battle against terrorists, Russia took a lead in the conflict both in respect of diplomatic announcements and after 2015, in respect of military assistance to the Syrian government.

China’s quiet support for Syria has been replaced by vocal support for Venezuela, Pakistan in respect of the Afghan war and in respect of clearly articulating the Sino-Russian peace plan for the Korean peninsula.

Here are the key statements:

1. Venezuela 

On the 17th of August, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov delivered a statement in which he said war in Venezuela is viewed as unacceptable by Russia.

“We are united in the need to overcome the existing disagreements in the country by peaceful means through a nationwide dialogue as soon as possible, without any external pressure, not to mention the unacceptability of the threats of military intervention in the internal affairs of this count”.

Shortly thereafter, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said,

“The present problem in Venezuela should be resolved by the Venezuelan government and people themselves.

The experience of history shows that outside interference or unilateral sanctions will make the situation even more complicated and will not help resolve the actual problem”.

This was followed by a statement the following day from Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova who similarly stated,

“We are strongly against unilateral sanctions against sovereign states. The recently announced measures of financial pressure on Venezuela and President Maduro were introduced by Washington when that country started showing signs of relative domestic stabilisation following elections to the National Constituent Assembly….

In these circumstances, the announced sectoral sanctions against Venezuela’s financial and oil sectors are clearly aimed at further unbalancing the situation in the country, and exacerbating its economic problems. They embolden the irreconcilables who do not see how they can realise their political potential without removing the Venezuelan leaders from office”.

A SUMMARY OF SINO-RUSSIAN POLICIES: 

In respect of Venezuela, Russia and China are both utterly opposed to military action against Venezuela, both oppose unilateral US sanctions and both continue to trade with Venezuela as well as support the reforms of President Maduro.

There is clear blue water between the mutual Sino-Russian position on Caracas vis-a-vis the position of the United States which has implement sanctions, has threatened war and has tried to de-legitimise President Maduro’s government as a “dictatorship”.

 

READ MORE: Russia is fully opposed to sanctions against Venezuela

2. Pakistan/Afghanistan 

On the 22nd of August, when Donald Trump accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorists and not doing enough to fight terrorism and instability on its border with Afghanistan, China and Russia offered robust defences of Islamabad’s record in these areas.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry came out first with a strong rejection of Donald Trump’s assessment of its Pakistani ally,

“Pakistan is at the forefront of the counter-terrorism efforts. For many years, it has made positive efforts and great sacrifices for combating terrorism and made important contributions to upholding world peace and regional stability. We believe that the international community should fully recognise the efforts made by Pakistan in fighting terrorism”.

China further stated,

“The Chinese side is actively committed to promoting the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. We always maintain that political dialogue is the only way out for resolving the Afghanistan issue. The international community should support the ‘Afghan-led’ and ‘Afghan-owned’ reconciliation process, support Afghanistan in realising the widespread and inclusive political reconciliation, support the Afghan people in exploring a development path suiting their own national conditions and support the Afghan government in enhancing counter-terrorism capability and combating extreme terrorist forces. We need to attach importance to the important role of Pakistan in the Afghanistan issue and respect the sovereignty and legitimate security concerns of Pakistan. The Chinese side is willing to maintain communication and coordination with the United States on the Afghanistan issue and make concerted efforts for achieving the peace and stability of Afghanistan and the region at large”.

Shortly thereafter Russia’s envoy to Kabul said,

“Putting pressure [on Pakistan] may seriously destabilise the region-wide security situation and result in negative consequences for Afghanistan”.

Sergey Lavrov furthered stated that Donald Trump’s approach to Afghanistan was effectively useless. Lavrov said,

“The main emphasis in the new strategy, which was announced by Washington, is made on settlement through use of force. We believe that it’s a dead-end approach”.

A SUMMARY OF SINO-RUSSIAN POLICIES: 

In respect of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Russia and China are both opposed to any further attempts by the US to escalate the war. Both countries call for a peace process that involves fostering dialogue between the government in Kabul and that moderate rebel elements of the Pashtun dominated Taliban.

Russia and China equally call for Pakistan’s role in the conflict to be respected and for Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns to be addressed without equivocation.

While China has been more detailed in its opposition to India playing a role in the conflict which would disrupt important cooperative efforts between China and Pakistan, namely the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Russia’s silence on the India issue combined with its vocal support of Pakistan against Trump’s accusations, make it clear that even in respect of Russia’s old Cold War ally in New Delhi, Moscow does not think it is proper for India to intervene in a conflict on Pakistan’s western borders.

China, Pakistan and Russia are therefore reading from essentially the same page in South Asia in spite of historic differences in the region.

3. North Korea 

On the 26th of May, shortly before the far less important G20 summit in Hamburg, Chinese and Russian leaders met in the Russian capital along with leaders of business and media enterprises from both countries. Scores of bilateral deals were signed, thus cementing the importance of the Sino-Russian partnership for the 21st century.

It was during these meetings that the Foreign Ministers of each country, Sergey Lavrov and Wang Yi developed a jointly agreed peace plan for North Korea, a plan which both countries continue to pursue.

At the time, Sergey Lavrov said the following,

“We noted that attempts to use Pyongyang’s actions as a pretext to boost military presence in the region, including the deployment of another part of the US’ global anti-missile defence (THAAD), are counterproductive

We are for adopting measures that, on the one hand, would hamper the further development of the North Korean nuclear missile programs, but at the same time would not lead to an increase in tensions in the region, would not block the possibility of a political and diplomatic settlement of the Korean Peninsula’s nuclear problem”.

Wang Yi then stated,

“We insist on ensuring peace and stability on the (Korean) peninsula, (oppose) any negative actions and statements that contribute to tension, oppose the deployment of the THAAD system in the Republic of Korea under the pretext of the DPRK nuclear problem.

Military actions can only escalate the crisis and bring serious consequences. No matter it was in the past, or in the future, it should not be an option for any country. China and Russia have reached consensus on this issue”.

READ MORE: Foreign Ministers of Russia and China agree on North Korea and Syria (VIDEO)

This was the birth of the so-called ‘Double-freeze’ policy for the Korean peninsula which China and Russia have both restated on the record at the United Nations Security Council multiple times, including when both countries supported increased sanctions on Pyongyang.

However, while Russia and China continue to discourage further missile tests from the DPRK, both countries stood resolutely opposed to further unilateral sanctions imposed by the US on North Korea. These sanctions also targeted foreign businesses conducting commerce with North Korea.

READ MORE: China joins Russia in condemning new US sanctions over North Korea

A SUMMARY OF SINO-RUSSIAN POLICIES: 

China and Russia remain committed to their ‘Double-freeze’ which calls for North Korea ceasing to conduct missile tests while calling on South Korea, the US and Japan to cease their own missile launches and military drills in the region. Additionally, Russia and China continue to jointly call for direct talks between Pyongyang and Washington while reiterating that the UN Security Council is the only proper forum to discuss the matter.

Both countries are totally opposed to war anywhere on the Korean peninsula.

READ MORE: Russia and China can and should work together to bring peace to Korea

CONCLUSION: 

The aggregate effect of these news developments means that China has finally come out of what many perceived (however simplistically) to be Russia’s geo-political shadow while Russia continues to pursue global economic projects around the world, marking a sharp contrast to the 1990s and early 2000s when the Russian economy was reduced to chaos and collapse.

With the Syrian conflict about to end and Russia and China both being vindicated by being on the winning side, it will be unlikely that there will be any future global conflict where a joint Sino-Russian voice will not be heard in a manner that is loud and clear. The NATO powers will have no choice to but to listen to the Sino-Russian opinions on future conflicts as China and Russia are both stronger than ever and more united than ever.

With Russia and China standing together on major global issues, the US will not be able to act with the unilateral ease it exercised during its wars on Yugoslavia (1999), Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011).

Additionally, while Russia continues to expand positive relations with its Cold War adversary Pakistan, India and Vietnam appear to be stuck in a Cold War mentality (albeit with pre-Cold War antecedents) whereby both countries trust Russia but not China. With China and Russia speaking increasingly as one, Vietnam and India both face a decision which will in time amount to choosing both Russia and China or choosing neither.

Luckily for both Hanoi and New Delhi, because of Russia’s relaxed and fluid approach to alliances and because of Moscow’s policy which does not prohibit good bilateral relations with multiple countries, including those engaged in local disputes with one another, India and Vietnam have the ability to move gradually in one direction or the other.

The choice will ultimately be left to both India and Vietnam as neither Russia nor China seeks to impose a partnership on either. In the end this will mean that a pragmatic approach to economic realities will guide both India and Vietnam towards thawing relations with China, that is unless ideology trumps economic considerations, something which is the reality in Modi’s India but may not be the reality in the hearts and minds of future Indian leaders.

The unity between two of the three world’s superpowers means that while the decline of the US will not be as rapid as some expect, American isolation among the elite club of superpowers is already a fact of life, whether Washington acknowledges this or not.

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Republicans call Justice Department’s Bruce Ohr to testify, but where is British Spy Steele? (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 78.

Alex Christoforou

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Representative Mark Meadows tweeted Friday…

“DOJ official Bruce Ohr will come before Congress on August 28 to answer why he had 60+ contacts with dossier author Chris Steele, as far back as January 2016. He owes the American public the full truth.”

Lawmakers believe former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr is a central figure to finding out how the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid PR smear firm Fusion GPS and British spy Christopher Steele to fuel a conspiracy of Trump campaign collusion with Russians at the top levels of the Justice Department and the FBI.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) said Sunday to Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo…

So here you have information flowing from the Clinton campaign from the Russians, likely — I believe was handed directly from Russian propaganda arms to the Clinton campaign, fed into the top levels of the FBI and Department of Justice to open up a counter-intelligence investigation into a political campaign that has now polluted nearly every top official at the DOJ and FBI over the course of the last couple years. It is absolutely amazing,

According to Breitbart, during the 2016 election, Ohr served as associate deputy attorney general, and as an assistant to former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and to then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. His office was four doors down from Rosenstein on the fourth floor. He was also dual-hatted as the director of the DOJ’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Ohr’s contacts with Steele, an ex-British spy, are said to date back more than a decade. Steele is a former FBI informant who had helped the FBI prosecute corruption by FIFA officials. But it is Ohr and Steele’s communications in 2016 that lawmakers are most interested in.

Emails handed over to Congress by the Justice Department show that Ohr, Steele, and Simpson communicated throughout 2016, as Steele and Simpson were being paid by the Clinton campaign and the DNC to dig up dirt on Trump.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the role Bruce Ohr played in Hillary Clinton’s Deep State attack against the Presidency of Donald Trump, and why the most central of figures in the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, British spy for hire Christopher Steele, is not sitting before Congress, testifying to the real election collusion between the UK, the Obama White House, the FBI and the DOJ.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via The Washington Times

Republicans in a joint session of House committees are set to interview former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr this month to gauge whether a complex conspiracy against Donald Trump existed among Hillary Clinton loyalists and the Justice Department.

“DOJ official Bruce Ohr will come before Congress on August 28 to answer why he had 60+contacts with dossier author Chris Steele as far back as January 2016. He owes the American public the full truth,” tweeted Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican and member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

His panel and the House Judiciary Committee plan to hold a joint hearing to interview Mr. Ohr, according to The Daily Caller.

FBI documents show that the bureau bluntly told dossier writer Christopher Steele in November 2016 that it no longer wanted to hear about his collection of accusations against Mr. Trump.

But for months afterward, the FBI appeared to violate its own edict as agents continued to receive the former British spy’s scandalous charges centered on supposed TrumpRussia collusion.

 

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The US-Turkey Crisis: The NATO Alliance Forged in 1949 Is Today Largely Irrelevant

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via American Herald Tribune:


There has been some reporting in the United States mass media about the deteriorating relationship between Washington and Ankara and what it might mean. Such a falling out between NATO members has not been seen since France left the alliance in 1966 and observers note that the hostility emanating from both sides suggests that far worse is to come as neither party appears prepared to moderate its current position while diplomatic exchanges have been half-hearted and designed to lead nowhere.

The immediate cause of the breakdown is ostensibly President Donald Trump’s demand that an American Protestant minister who has lived in Turkey for twenty-three years be released from detention. Andrew Brunson was arrested 21 months ago and charged with being a supporter of the alleged conspiracy behind the military coup in 2016 that sought to kill or replace President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan has asserted that the coup was directed by former political associate Fetullah Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, but has produced little credible evidence to support that claim. In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Erdogan has had himself voted extraordinary special powers to maintain public order and has arrested 160,000 people, including 20 Americans, who have been imprisoned. More than 170,000 civil servants, teachers, and military personnel have lost their jobs, the judiciary has been hobbled, and senior army officers have been replaced by loyalists.

Gulen is a religious leader who claims to promote a moderate brand of Islam that is compatible with western values. His power base consists of a large number of private schools that educate according to his curriculum, with particular emphasis on math and sciences. Many of the graduates become part of a loose affiliation that has sometimes been described as a cult. Gulen also owns and operates a number of media outlets, all of which have now been shut by Erdogan as part of his clamp down on the press. Turkey currently imprisons more journalists than any other country.

It is widely believed that Erdogan has been offering to release Brunson in exchange for Gulen, but President Donald Trump has instead offered only a Turkish banker currently in a U.S. prison while also turning the heat up in the belief that pressure on Turkey will force it to yield. Washington began the tit-for-tat by imposing sanctions on two cabinet-level officials in Erdogan’s government: Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul. Ankara has now also been on the receiving end of a Trump tweet and tariffs have been placed on a broad range of Turkish products, to include steel and aluminum.

The view that economic pressure will force the Turks to yield could be mistaken and demonstrates that the Administration does not include anyone who knows that Americans have been unpopular in Turkey since the Gulf War. The threats from Washington might actually rally skeptical and normally pro-western Turks around Erdogan but U.S. sanctions have already hit the Turkish economy hard, with the lira having lost 40% of its value this year and continuing to sink rapidly. Foreign investors, who fueled much of Turkey’s recent economic growth, have fled the market, suggesting that a collapse in credit might be on the way. Those European banks that hold Turkish debt are fearing a possible default.

It is a spectacle of one NATO member driving another NATO member’s economy into the ground over a political dispute. Erdogan has responded in his autocratic fashion by condemning “interest rates” and calling for an “economic war” against the U.S., telling his supporters to unload all their liquid valuables, gold and foreign to buy the plummeting lira, a certain recipe for disaster. If they do that, they will likely lose everything.

Other contentious issues involved in the badly damaged bilateral relationship are conflicting views on what to do about Syria, where the Turks have a legitimate interest due to potential Kurdish terrorism and are seeking a buffer zone, as well as Ankara’s interest in buying Russian air defense missile systems, which has prompted the U.S. to suspend sales of the new F-35 fighter. The Turks have also indicated that they have no interest in enforcing the sanctions on Iran that were re-imposed last week and they will continue to buy Iranian oil after the November 4th initiation of a U.S. ban on such purchases. The Trump Administration has warned that it will sanction any country that refuses to comply, setting the stage for a massive confrontation between Washington and Ankara involving the Turkish Central Bank.

In terms of U.S. interests, Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO, is of strategic value because it is Muslim, countering arguments that the alliance is some kind of Christian club working to suppress Islam in the Middle East. And it is also important because of its geographic location close to hot spots where the American military is currently engaged. If the U.S. heeds Trump’s call to cut back on involvement in the region, Turkey will become less valuable, but currently, access to the Incirlik Airbase, near Adana and the Syrian border, is vital.

Indeed, Incirlik has become one of the flashpoints in the argument with Washington. Last week, a group of lawyers connected politically to Erdogan initiated legal action against U.S. officers at Incirlik over claimed ties to “terrorists” linked to Gulen. The “Association for Social Justice and Aid” has called for a temporary halt to all operations at the base to permit a search for evidence. The attorneys are asking for the detention of seven named American Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels. General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command based in Germany is also cited. If the lawyers are successful in court, it will mean a major conflict as Washington asserts the rights of the officers under the Status of Forces Agreement, while Turkey will no doubt insist that the Americans are criminals and have no protection.

Another trial balloon being floated by Erdogan is even more frightening in terms of the demons that it could be unleashing. Abdurrahman Dilipak, an Islamist columnist writing in the pro-government newspaper Yeni Atik, has suggested that there might well be a second terrorist attack on the United States like 9/11. Dilipak threatened that if Trump does nothing to reduce tension “…some people will teach him [to do] that. It must be seen that if internal tensions with the United States continue like this that a September 11 is no unlikely possibility.” Dilipak also warned that presumed Gulenist “U.S. collaborators” inside Turkey would be severely punished if they dared to go out into the streets to protest in support of Washington.

If recent developments in Turkey deteriorate further it might well suggest that Donald Trump’s instinct to disengage from the Middle East was the right call, though it could equally be seen as a rejection of the tactic being employed, i.e. using heavy-handed sanctions and tariffs to compel obedience from governments disinclined to follow Washington’s leadership. Either way, the Turkish-American relationship is in trouble and increasingly a liability for both sides, yet another indication that the NATO alliance forged in 1949 against the Soviet Union is today largely irrelevant.

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Is This The Most Important Geopolitical Deal Of 2018?

After more than 20 years of fraught diplomatic efforts, the five littoral Caspian nations agreed upon a legal framework for sharing the world’s largest inland body of water.

The Duran

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Authored by Olgu Okumus via Oilprice.com:


The two-decade-long dispute on the statute of the Caspian Sea, the world largest water reserve, came to an end last Sunday when five littoral states (Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan) agreed to give it a special legal status – it is now neither a sea, nor a lake. Before the final agreement became public, the BBC wrote that all littoral states will have the freedom of access beyond their territorial waters, but natural resources will be divided up. Russia, for its part, has guaranteed a military presence in the entire basin and won’t accept any NATO forces in the Caspian.

Russian energy companies can explore the Caspian’s 50 billion barrels of oil and its 8.4 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, Turkmenistan can finally start considering linking its gas to the Turkish-Azeri joint project TANAP through a trans-Caspian pipeline, while Iran has gained increased energy supplies for its largest cities in the north of the country (Tehran, Tabriz, and Mashhad) – however, Iran has also put itself under the shadow of Russian ships. This controversy makes one wonder to what degree U.S. sanctions made Iran vulnerable enough to accept what it has always avoided – and how much these U.S. sanctions actually served NATO’s interests.

If the seabed, rich in oil and gas, is divided this means more wealth and energy for the region. From 1970 until the dissolution of the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1991, the Caspian Sea was divided into subsectors for Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – all constituent republics of the USSR. The division was implemented on the basis of the internationally-accepted median line.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the new order required new regulations. The question was over whether the Caspian was a sea or a lake? If it was treated as a sea, then it would have to be covered by international maritime law, namely the United Nations Law of the Sea. But if it is defined as a lake, then it could be divided equally between all five countries. The so-called “lake or sea” dispute revolved over the sovereignty of states, but also touched on some key global issues – exploiting oil and gas reserves in the Caspian Basin, freedom of access, the right to build beyond territorial waters, access to fishing and (last but not least) managing maritime pollution.

The IEA concluded in World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2017 that offshore energy has a promising future. More than a quarter of today’s oil and gas supply is produced offshore, and integrated offshore thinking will extend this beyond traditional sources onwards to renewables and more. Caspian offshore hydrocarbon reserves are around 50 billion barrels of oil equivalent (equivalent to one third of Iraq’s total oil reserves) and 8.4 trillion cubic meters of gas (almost equivalent to the U.S.’ entire proven gas reserves). As if these quantities were not themselves enough to rebalance Eurasian energy demand equations, the agreement will also allow Turkmenistan to build the Trans-Caspian pipeline, connecting Turkmenistan’s resources to the Azeri-Turkish joint project TANAP, and onwards to Europe – this could easily become a counter-balance factor to the growing LNG business in Europe.

Even though we still don’t have firm and total details on the agreement, Iran seems to have gained much less than its neighbors, as it has shortest border on the Caspian. From an energy perspective, Iran would be a natural market for the Caspian basin’s oil and gas, as Iran’s major cities (Tehran, Tabriz, and Mashhad) are closer to the Caspian than they are to Iran’s major oil and gas fields. Purchasing energy from the Caspian would also allow Iran to export more of its own oil and gas, making the country a transit route from the Caspian basin to world markets. For instance, for Turkmenistan (who would like to sell gas to Pakistan) Iran provides a convenient geography. Iran could earn fees for swap arrangements or for providing a transit route and justify its trade with Turkey and Turkmenistan as the swap deal is allowed under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA, or the D’Amato Act).

If the surface water will be in common usage, all littoral states will have access beyond their territorial waters. In practical terms, this represents an increasingly engaged Russian presence in the Basin. It also reduces any room for a NATO presence, as it seems to be understood that only the five littoral states will have a right to military presence in the Caspian. Considering the fact that Russia has already used its warships in the Caspian to launch missile attacks on targets within Syria, this increased Russian presence could potentially turn into a security threat for Iran.

Many questions can now be asked on what Tehran might have received in the swap but one piece of evidence for what might have pushed Iran into agreement in its vulnerable position in the face of increased U.S. sanctions. Given that the result of those sanctions seems to be Iran agreeing to a Caspian deal that allows Russia to place warships on its borders, remove NATO from the Caspian basin equation, and increase non-Western based energy supplies (themselves either directly or indirectly within Russia’s sphere of geopolitical influence) it makes one wonder whose interests those sanctions actually served?

By Olgu Okumus for Oilprice.com

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