sábado, 1 de setembro de 2018

Back in the (Great) Game: The Revenge of Eurasian Land Powers

             What is left roaming our wilderness of mirrors depends on the mood
            swings of the Goddess of the Market. No wonder an effect of Eurasia
            integration will be a death blow to Bretton Woods and “democratic”
            neoliberalism, says Pepe Escobar.

            By Pepe Escobar

            August 31, 2018 "Information Clearing House" -   Get ready for a
             major geopolitical chessboard rumble: from now on, every butterfly
            fluttering its wings and setting off a tornado directly connects to
            the battle between Eurasia integration and Western sanctions as
            foreign policy.
            It is the paradigm shift of China’s New Silk Roads versus America’s
            Our Way or the Highway. We used to be under the illusion that
            history had ended. How did it come to this? 
            Hop in for some essential time travel. For centuries the Ancient
            Silk Road, run by mobile nomads, established the competitiveness
            standard for land-based trade connectivity; a web of trade routes
            linking Eurasia to the – dominant – Chinese market.
            In the early 15th century, based on the tributary system, China had
            already established a Maritime Silk Road along the Indian Ocean all
            the way to the east coast of Africa, led by the legendary Admiral
            Zheng He. Yet it didn’t take much for imperial Beijing to conclude
             that China was self-sufficient enough – and that emphasis should be
            placed on land-based operations.
            Deprived of a trade connection via a land corridor between Europe
            and China, Europeans went all-out for their own maritime silk roads.
            We are all familiar with the spectacular result: half a millennium
            of Western dominance.
            Until quite recently the latest chapters of this Brave New World
            were conceptualized by the Mahan, Mackinder and Spykman trio.
            The Heartland of the World
             Halford Mackinder’s 1904 Heartland Theory – a product of the
            imperial Russia-Britain New Great Game – codified the supreme Anglo,
            and then Anglo-American, fear of a new emerging land power able to
             reconnect Eurasia to the detriment of maritime powers.
             Nicholas Spykman’s 1942 Rimland Theory advocated that mobile
            maritime powers, such as the UK and the U.S., should aim for
             strategic offshore balancing. The key was to control the maritime
            edges of Eurasia—that is, Western Europe, the Middle East and East
             Asia—against any possible Eurasia unifier. When you don’t need to
            maintain a large Eurasia land-based army, you exercise control by
            dominating trade routes along the Eurasian periphery.
            Even before Mackinder and Spykman, U.S. Navy Admiral Alfred Thayer
            Mahan had come up in the 1890s with his Influence of Sea Power Upon
            History – whereby the “island” U.S. should establish itself as a
             seaworthy giant, modeled on the British empire, to maintain a
            balance of power in Europe and Asia.
            It was all about containing the maritime edges of Eurasia.

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            In fact, we lived in a mix of Heartland and Rimland. In 1952, then
            Secretary of State John Foster Dulles adopted the concept of an
            “island chain” (then expanded to three chains) alongside Japan,
            Australia and the Philippines to encircle and contain both China and
            the USSR in the Pacific. (Note the Trump administration’s attempt at
            revival via the  Quad–U.S., Japan, Australia and India).
            George Kennan, the architect of containing the USSR, was drunk on
            Spykman, while, in a parallel track, as late as 1988, President
            Ronald Reagan’s speechwriters were still drunk on Mackinder.
            Referring to U.S. competitors as having a shot at dominating the
            Eurasian landmass, Reagan gave away the plot: “We fought two world
            wars to prevent this from occurring,” he said.
            Eurasia integration and connectivity is taking on many forms. The
            China-driven New Silk Roads, also known as Belt and Road Initiative
            (BRI); the Russia-driven Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU); the Asia
             Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); the International
            North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), and myriad other
             mechanisms, are now leading us to a whole new game.
            How delightful that the very concept of Eurasian “connectivity”
            actually comes from a 2007 World Bank report about competitiveness
            in global supply chains.
            Also delightful is how the late Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard”
            Brzezinski was “inspired” by Mackinder after the fall of the USSR –
            advocating the partition of a then weak Russia into three separate
            regions; European, Siberian and Far Eastern.
            All Nodes Covered
            At the height of the unipolar moment, history did seem to have
            “ended.” Both the western and eastern peripheries of Eurasia were
            under tight Western control – in Germany and Japan, the two critical
            nodes in Europe and East Asia. There was also that extra node in the
            southern periphery of Eurasia, namely the energy-wealthy Middle
            Washington had encouraged the development of a multilateral European
            Union that might eventually rival the U.S. in some tech domains, but
            most of all would enable the U.S. to contain Russia by proxy.
            China was only a delocalized, low-cost manufacture base for the
            expansion of Western capitalism. Japan was not only for all
            practical purposes still occupied, but also instrumentalized via the
            Asian Development Bank (ADB), whose message was: We fund your
            projects only if you are politically correct.
            The primary aim, once again, was to prevent any possible convergence
            of European and East Asian powers as rivals to the US.
            The confluence between communism and the Cold War had been essential
            to prevent Eurasia integration. Washington configured a sort of
            benign tributary system – borrowing from imperial China – designed
            to ensure perpetual unipolarity. It was duly maintained by a
            formidable military, diplomatic, economic, and covert apparatus,
             with a star role for the  Chalmers Johnson-defined Empire of Bases
             encircling, containing and dominating Eurasia.
            Compare this recent idyllic past with Brzezinski’s – and Henry
            Kissinger’s – worst nightmare: what could be defined today as the
            “revenge of history”.
            That features the Russia-China strategic partnership, from energy to
            trade:  interpolating Russia-China geo-economics; the concerted
            drive to bypass the U.S. dollar; the AIIB and the BRICS’s New
             Development Bank involved in infrastructure financing; the tech
            upgrade inbuilt in  Made in China 2025; the push towards an
             alternative banking clearance mechanism (a new SWIFT); massive
            stockpiling of gold reserves; and the expanded politico-economic
             role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
            As Glenn Diesen formulates in his brilliant book,  Russia’s
            Geo-economic Strategy for a Greater Eurasia, “the foundations of an
             Eurasian core can create a gravitational pull to draw the rimland
            towards the centre.”
            If the complex, long-term, multi-vector process of Eurasia
            integration could be resumed by just one formula, it would be
             something like this: the heartland progressively integrating; the
            rimlands mired in myriad battlefields and the power of the hegemon
            irretrievably dissolving. Mahan, Mackinder and Spykman to the
            rescue? It’s not enough.
            Divide and Rule, Revisited
            The same applies for the preeminent post-mod Delphic Oracle, also
            known as Henry Kissinger, simultaneously adorned by hagiography gold
            and despised as a war criminal.
            Before the Trump inauguration, there was much debate in Washington
            about how Kissinger might engineer – for Trump – a “pivot to Russia”
            that he had envisioned 45 years ago. This is how I framed the
             shadow play at the time.
            In the end, it’s always about variations of Divide and Rule – as in
            splitting Russia from China and vice-versa. In theory, Kissinger
            advised Trump to “rebalance” towards Russia to oppose the
            irresistible Chinese ascension. It won’t happen, not only because of
            the strength of the Russia-China strategic partnership, but because
            across the Beltway, neocons and humanitarian imperialists ganged up
            to veto it.
            Brzezinski’s perpetual Cold War mindset still lords over a fuzzy mix
            of the Wolfowitz Doctrine and the Clash of Civilizations. The
            Russophobic Wolfowitz Doctrine – still fully classified – is code
             for Russia as the perennial top existential threat to the U.S. The
            Clash, for its part, codifies another variant of Cold War 2.0: East
            (as in China) vs. West.
            Kissinger is trying some  rebalancing/hedging himself, noting that
             the mistake the West (and NATO) is making “is to think that there
            is a sort of historic evolution that will march across Eurasia – and
            not to understand that somewhere on that march it will encounter
             something very different to a  Westphalian entity.”
            Both Eurasianist Russia and civilization-state China are already on
             post-Westphalian mode. The redesign goes deep. It includes a  key
            treaty signed in 2001, only a few weeks before 9/11, stressing that
            both nations renounce any territorial designs on one another’s
            territory. This happens to concern, crucially, the Primorsky
            Territory in the Russian Far East along the Amur River, which was
            ruled by the Ming and Qing empires.
            Moreover, Russia and China commit never to do deals with any third
            party, or allow a third country to use its territory to harm the
            other’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.
            So much for turning Russia against China. Instead, what will develop
            24/7 are variations of U.S. military and economic containment
            against Russia, China and Iran – the key nodes of Eurasia
            integration – in a geo-strategic spectrum. It will include
             intersections of heartland and rimland across Syria, Ukraine,
            Afghanistan and the South China Sea. That will proceed in parallel
            to the Fed  weaponizing the U.S. dollar at will.
            Heraclitus Defies Voltaire
            Alastair Crooke took a  great shot at deconstructing why Western
             global elites are terrified of the Russian conceptualization of
            Eurasia. It’s because “they ‘scent’…a stealth reversion to the old,
            pre-Socratic values: for the Ancients … the very notion of ‘man’, in
            that way, did not exist. There were only men: Greeks, Romans,
            barbarians, Syrians, and so on. This stands in obvious opposition to
            universal, cosmopolitan ‘man’.”
            So it’s Heraclitus versus Voltaire – even as “humanism” as we
            inherited it from the Enlightenment, is de facto over. Whatever is
             left roaming our wilderness of mirrors depends on the irascible
            mood swings of the Goddess of the Market. No wonder one of the side
            effects of progressive Eurasia integration will be not only a death
            blow to Bretton Woods but also to “democratic” neoliberalism.
            What we have now is also a remastered version of sea power versus
            land powers. Relentless Russophobia is paired with supreme fear of a
            Russia-Germany rapprochement – as Bismarck wanted, and as  Putin and
            Merkel recently hinted at. The supreme nightmare for the U.S. is in
            fact a truly Eurasian Beijing-Berlin-Moscow partnership.
            The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has not even begun; according to
            the official Beijing timetable, we’re still in the planning phase.
            Implementation starts next year. The horizon is 2039.
            This is China playing a long-distance game of go on steroids,
            incrementally making the best strategic decisions (allowing for
            margins of error, of course) to render the opponent powerless as he
            does not even realize he is under attack.
            The New Silk Roads were launched by Xi Jinping five years ago, in
            Astana (the Silk Road Economic Belt) and Jakarta (the Maritime Silk
            Road). It took Washington almost half a decade to come up with a
             response. And that amounts to an avalanche of sanctions and
            tariffs. Not good enough.
            Russia for its part was forced to publicly announce a show of
             mesmerizing weaponry to dissuade the proverbial War Party
            adventurers probably for good – while heralding Moscow’s role as
             co-driver of a brand new game.
            On sprawling, superimposed levels, the Russia-China partnership is
            on a roll; recent examples include summits in  Singapore, Astana and
            St. Petersburg; the  SCO summit in Qingdao; and the  BRICS Plus
            Were the European peninsula of Asia to fully integrate before
            mid-century – via high-speed rail, fiber optics, pipelines – into
            the heart of massive, sprawling Eurasia, it’s game over. No wonder
             Exceptionalistan elites are starting to get the feeling of a silk
            rope drawn ever so softly, squeezing their gentle throats.
            Pepe Escobar is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia
            Times. His latest book is  2030. Follow him on  Facebook.
August 31, 2018

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