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Russian & Iranian Experts Finally Discussed Their Differences Over Syria

Russian & Iranian Experts Finally Discussed Their Differences Over Syria

28 DECEMBER 2020

Russian & Iranian Experts Finally Discussed Their Differences Over Syria

The Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) and the Institute for Iran-Eurasia Studies (IRAS) published a joint report addressing their nations’ differences over Syria which finally breaks the taboo about openly discussing them and will hopefully inspire more regular expert interactions on these important issues.

Breaking The Taboo

It had hitherto been taboo for many in the Alt-Media Community to discuss the differences between Russia and Iran in Syria for fear of unwittingly playing into the West’s divide-and-rule scheme against two of its main rivals, yet the failure to publicly discuss them led to the creation of an alternative reality whereby many people felt pressured by the community’s gatekeepers to imagine that no such differences even exist. This “political correctness” amounted to a de facto policy of censorship that in turn led to the creation of terribly inaccurate analyses about those two’s relations in the Arab Republic. That’s thankfully beginning to change, however, after experts from the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) and the Institute for Iran-Eurasia Studies (IRAS) published a joint report last week titled “Russia and Iran in Syria and Beyond: Challenges Ahead”. This publication sends the message that it’s finally acceptable to publicly discuss their problems in Syria, especially Russia’s close relations with “Israel”, and will hopefully inspire more regular expert interactions on these issues.

Three Main Challenges

The 32-page document is much too detailed to concisely summarize so interested observers should read it in full at their convenience. For those who don’t have the time to do so, then the main point is that Russian-Iranian relations in Syria have thankfully shown more resilience than their critics expected, but some serious divergences remain despite several significant convergences. Both sides for the most part have shared views on multipolarity, anti-terrorism, and regional security, but they don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to Syria’s ultimate political settlement, the countries participating in Syria’s reconstruction, and Russia’s excellent relations with “Israel”. These three issues serve as a major impediment to their closer coordination in that conflict, yet the Russian side seems to underestimate just how uncomfortable the last two issues make Iran feel. This is obvious after reading the report, which is divided into a jointly published introduction followed by a comprehensive elaboration of the Iranian and Russian points of view.

Sidestepping Iran’s Most Serious Concerns

The introduction admittedly acknowledges all three of these issues, including the threats that Iran feels from growing Gulf participation in Syria’s reconstruction process and its very deep suspicions that Russia secretly supports “Israel’s” regular strikes against it and its allies’ forces there, but the Russian experts don’t do much to address these concerns other than repeat the platitude that Russia’s intention to be an “honest broker” stabilizes regional affairs. Iran, meanwhile, didn’t shy away from sharing two particularly blunt assessments about Russian intentions in Syria. Their side wrote that “For Russia, which in some cases ignored Assad in the past, removing Assad and replacing him with a figure who does not have his problems, and yet preserves his legacy, is probably a better option” (than keeping him in office). They also condemned Russia’s close ties with “Israel” as “the only dark point in Iran-Russia relations in Syria.” Moreover, they questioned why Syria still hasn’t been able to use the much-vaunted S-300s that Russia dispatched in 2018 to defend it from “Israel”.

The China Factor

Another interesting point to take note of was Iran’s suggestion to include China in a forthcoming international conference on Syria’s reconstruction, the proposal of which was completely ignored by the Russian side which instead focused on the importance of securing Arab and European support instead. It might just be an innocent omission on Moscow’s part, but it could also possibly signal that the Eurasian Great Power wants to ensure that the People’s Republic doesn’t reap the economic dividends that Russian military power was responsible for creating. Russia might believe that it could “indirectly manage/supervise” Arab and European investments in Syria but might not be able to do so when it comes to Chinese ones, potentially losing control of the reconstruction process. From the Iranian perspective, China is a much more reliable investment partner for the Islamic Republic than Russia is, and Tehran might believe that including Beijing into this framework could lead to the eventual dilution of some of the more “politically unsavory” aspects of Moscow’s policies in Syria.

Quid Pro Quo

This interpretation of the implied messages that Iran seems to be sending through its joint publication with Russia isn’t just the author’s wild speculation like some critics might instinctively claim, but is actually a pretty accurate reflection of the intentions that the Russian side explicitly laid out in the text. Not only did it practically dismiss Iran’s concerns about their country’s relations with “Israel” apart from passively touching upon them in the jointly written introduction, but they also expressed frustration with Damascus over its “inflexibility” in their section on Russia’s viewpoints towards the conflict, thus hinting at a degree of unease over the Syrian leader’s uncompromising position on certain issues. Moreover, a Russian expert unambiguously wrote that “Russia has already made significant investments in Syria, and it needs to reap the economic benefits in the form of different contracts, access to resources, exploration of shale oil and gas off the Syrian coast”, thus making it clear that Moscow feels that it deserves to retain a privileged economic position in the Arab Republic.

The Ball’s In Damascus’ Court

These differences — for as important as they are — don’t seem to be insurmountable though and could be more effectively managed by Syria playing a larger role in balancing between its two top allies. President Assad doesn’t have to politically compromise for anyone, be it Russia or whoever else, no matter how difficult the circumstances have become. Damascus, however, also isn’t in a position to force Moscow to militarily take its side against Tel Aviv, but it can continue to expand its military ties with Tehran through the planned purchase of anti-air and other defense systems in order to boost its deterrence capabilities independently of Russia. Syria, which desperately needs as much reconstruction aid as possible, also probably won’t turn down any Gulf offers so long as there aren’t any political strings attached such as weakening its relations with Iran. What it can do, however, is directly reach out to China to include it in Iran’s proposed international conference on this topic in order to reassure the Islamic Republic that Damascus is listening to its concerns.

Concluding Thoughts

However one personally feels about the several key challenges to Russian-Iranian relations in Syria, the very fact that they’re being so frankly discussed at the highest levels of both countries’ academic communities shows that the prior taboo on publicly talking about them has finally been broken. Whether it’s Iranian experts’ speculation about Russia’s true stance towards President Assad’s political future and the imperfect nature of Moscow’s “balancing” act between their country and “Israel”, or Russia’s efforts “to ensure the actions of Damascus and Tehran are well-coordinated and do not sabotage Moscow’s initiatives” behind its back like one of its experts fears might be happening, everyone in the Alt-Media Community should now feel comfortable talking about these issues in the open. Ignoring these problems won’t make them go away; to the contrary, that previously implied policy of “political correctness” arguably made them much worse. Now that they’re being tackled head-on by Russian and Iranian experts, it’s time for everyone else to address them as well.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, Syria, Iran, Assad, Israel, China, GCC, Balancing.


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Russian Influence In The Mediterranean Is Multipolar, Not Malign

Russian Influence In The Mediterranean Is Multipolar, Not Malign

17 DECEMBER 2020

Russian Influence In The Mediterranean Is Multipolar, Not Malign

US Secretary of State Pompeo’s misportrayal of Russian influence in the Mediterranean as malign is likely due to the fading unipolar hegemon’s fear of the growing multipolar impact that the Eurasian Great Power is having on regional affairs, and it also very conspicuously ignores the de-facto Russian-”Israeli” alliance which voices on both sides of the partisan aisle as well as the vast majority of the Alt-Media Community feel very uncomfortable discussing for vastly different reasons.

Malicious Accusations

America’s top diplomat claimed earlier this week that “Russia continues to threaten Mediterranean stability using a variety of techniques to spread disinformation, undermine national sovereignty, and sow chaos, conflict, and division within countries throughout the [Mediterranean].” Pompeo purported that the Eurasian Great Power’s enormous military support of the Syrian government in its anti-terrorist campaign was proof of this, as well as a diplomatic scandal in Greece a few years back, its diaspora’s financial connections with the region, and its reported mercenary-led intervention in Libya. In reality, however, Russia’s regional role is far from malign but actually represents the embodiment of irreversible multipolar trends, an observation which understandably upsets the fading unipolar hegemon. Moreover, Pompeo also conspicuously ignores the de-facto Russian-”Israeli” alliance which voices on both sides of the partisan aisle as well as the vast majority of the Alt-Media Community feel very uncomfortable discussing for vastly different reasons.

Setting The Record Straight

To briefly address each of his points, Russia’s anti-terrorist military intervention played a decisive role in defeating ISIS. In addition, the author earlier also drew attention two years ago to how “Russia’s Reshaping Syria’s ‘Deep State’ In Its Own Image”, specifically through one of its top think tank’s “recommendations” for security sector “reform” aimed at countering Iranian influence on that country’s armed forces, something which is being pursued independently of US interests but nevertheless dovetails with them. Secondly, the diplomatic scandal that Pompeo touched upon relates to Greece’s expulsion of Russian diplomats for supposedly trying to subvert the so-called “Prespes Agreement”that eventually made Macedonia the world’s first “politically correct” police state exactly as the author predicted, which they never attempted to do. Regarding its diaspora’s financial influence, there’s nothing wrong with this, and it in many ways compares to Western expats’ own. As for Libya, Russia is working closely with Turkey to stabilize the situation despite disagreements.

The Impact Of Multipolarity

The previously unforeseen and subsequently rapid expansion of Russian influence in the Mediterranean — greatly advanced by the newfound Russian-Turkish Strategic Partnership that rose in the wake of their regrettable November 2015 plane incident in Syria — has had the effect of facilitating the spread of multipolarity throughout the region. What’s meant by this is that the US’ unipolar hegemonic designs are being threatened by Russia’s emergence as a credible alternative to it in many respects, thus finally giving regional players someone else to rely upon instead of having to retain their former dependence on America for whatever their needs may be or oppose its aggression almost entirely alone (with Iran’s support to the Resistance being the notable exception). Where Russia doesn’t differ from the US, however, is with its de-facto alliance with “Israel”, which the author elaborated upon at length in his extensively researched piece for Global Research in September 2019 titled “Russia’s Middle East Strategy: ‘Balance’ vs. ‘Betrayal’?”.

Pompeo’s “Politically Correct” Omission

Although some differences still remain between these two strategic partners, notably in terms of the limits to their cooperation in Syria, they’re still largely on the same page in many respects as the cited Global Research analysis explains. This, however, is conspicuously ignored by Pompeo, his partisan opponents, and most of the Alt-Media Community, albeit for their own reasons. Neither America’s top diplomat nor his domestic enemies dare to draw attention to this after spending the past four years defaming Russia since they’re afraid that it would thus make their “Israeli” ally look bad by association. They’re also probably a bit jealous of how close President Putin and Netanyahu have become over the years, the resultant relationship of which the author describes with the portmanteau of “Putinyahu’s Rusrael”. “Israel”, long thought by some to be under the US’ influence, is actually impressively independent as far as cultivating its own strategic relations with Russia goes. These observations make Americans uncomfortable, hence why they choose not to publicly discuss them.

The Alt-Media Community’s Self-Censorship

As for the Alt-Media Community, most are zealously opposed to Zionism, so much so that their beliefs are practically dogmatic at this point. Every member has the right to hold whichever sentiments they want, but they’re unable to reconcile their anti-Zionism and Russophilia like the author explained in his Global Research analysis. This leads to what he described as the “freakish fusion” between the two whereby those who espouse these views cannot accept that President Putin is a proud philo-Semite who’s overseen his country’s de-facto alliance with “Israel”, something that he passionately defended back in September 2019 while speaking before the self-described “preeminent worldwide fundraising organization for Israel” and “fundraising arm of the Jewish People and the Zionist Movement”, the Keren Heyesod Foundation. Instead of supporting Russia on some issues while disagreeing with it on others such as this one for instance, they feel that no such balanced approach is possible, so they simply ignore the Russian-”Israeli” alliance because it’s “politically inconvenient”.

The Jewel In Russia’s Geopolitical Crown

Truth be told, however, this game-changing strategic partnership is actually the jewel in Russia’s geopolitical crown, and no serious discussion of its Mediterranean strategy is possible without focusing the majority of one’s analytical attention on it. However one personally feels about Russia’s extremely close ties with “Israel”, the fact of the matter is Moscow seeks to replace Washington as Tel Aviv’s top regional security partner. There are of course practical limits to how far Russia is willing to go in this regard, but there’s no denying that it successfully pushed Iranian forces back from the occupied Golan Heights in 2018 as publicly acknowledged by Russia’s own Defense Ministry and even passively facilitated “Israel’s” hundreds of strikes against the IRGC and Hezbollah in the Arab Republic by never interfering with them despite receiving advanced notice. These developments — and especially Russia not allowing Syria to use the S-300s to shoot down “Israeli” jets as the author analyzed at length here — helped “Israel’s” security interests much more than the US has in recent years.

Concluding Thoughts

It’s not the author’s intent to argue in support of or against Russia’s de-facto alliance with “Israel” since he respects the reader’s right to arrive at their own conclusions about this sensitive issue, but simply to remind everyone that this strategic partnerships exists and thus raise the “uncomfortable question” of why Pompeo, his domestic opponents, and the Alt-Media Community all fail to mention it when discussing the Eurasian Great Power’s growing influence in the Mediterranean. As it was provocatively described in the article, this is actually the jewel in Russia’s geopolitical crown, and it can also be said that “Israel” regards its privileged relationship with Russia as being a jewel in its own such crown as well. After all, everything that Russia has done for “Israel’s” regional security interests in recent years (particularly with respect to Syria) can’t help but be immensely appreciated by Tel Aviv, especially since it’s much more than its traditional American ally has done for it during the same time. It’s therefore impossible to discuss Mediterranean geopolitics without acknowleding that the de-facto Russian-”Israeli” alliance is one of its most prominent features.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, Mediterranean, Turkey, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Libya, Syria, Iran, Balancing, Putin, Netanyahu, Pompeo, US.


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The US’ Anti-Turkish Sanctions Will Strengthen Its Target’s Sovereignty

The US’ Anti-Turkish Sanctions Will Strengthen Its Target’s Sovereignty

15 DECEMBER 2020

The recently imposed targeted sanctions against Turkey and the impending National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2021 ones mandating similar measures against it for its acquisition of Russia’s S-400 air defense systems, while illegal in terms of international law and a blatant example of unfriendly meddling in its nominal NATO ally’s affairs, will actually strengthen its target’s sovereignty by inspiring it to double down on its independent policies.

Subversive Sanctions

Mideast observers were alarmed but not necessarily surprised to hear that the US recently imposed targeted sanctions against Turkey and that its National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2021 mandates similar ones for its acquisition of Russia’s S-400 air defense systems. The US has long threatened to punish its nominal NATO ally under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), but now it’s finally come to pass and will become law through the NDAA. Although Trump threatened to veto it for not appealing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the Senate has a veto-proof majority so they’ll ultimately be able to override his efforts. Moreover, Monday’s targeted sanctions show that the President certainly supports this policy in principle. Although illegal in terms of international law and a blatant example of unfriendly meddling in its putative partner’s affairs, this development actually strengthens its target’s sovereignty by inspiring it to double down on its independent policies.

Turkey’s “Military Diplomacy” With Russia

The US’ intention is to pressure Turkey into reversing its fast-moving rapprochement with Russia over the past few years which was supercharged after the failed pro-American military coup attempt against President Erdogan in summer 2016. That decisive event showed Turkey the importance of diversifying its strategic partnerships, particularly in the military sphere, ergo its decision to purchase the S-400s. The US argues that these systems are redundant since Turkey has access to American options instead, yet it’s particularly because of the unprecedented distrust between those two countries that Ankara doesn’t feel comfortably relying on its so-called “ally’s” equipment, especially not after the failed military coup. Since then, “military diplomacy” — the use of military means to advance political ends — has been at the core of the emerging Russian-Turkish Strategic Partnership. This has enabled both countries to quickly improve the trust between them, as well more responsibly manage regional conflicts such as those in Syria, Libya, and Azerbaijan.

American Mistakes

American policymakers underestimated President Erdogan’s resolve to diversify Turkey’s strategic partnerships, wrongly thinking that the threat of sanctions would succeed in getting him to step back from his country’s ongoing rapprochement with Russia and possibly even manufacture an unexpected rift between them if Ankara abandoned the S-400 deal. They also failed to understand just how much he distrusts the US after the failed military coup. By arrogantly sanctioning his country, they’re counterproductively confirming his suspicions that the US treats Turkey like a “junior partner” and is still committed to undermining him personally after he invested so much of his political reputation at home into seeing the historic S-400 deal succeed. Even a simple leadership analysis by a casual observer would suggest that threats are the wrong way to deal with someone like President Erdogan since he doesn’t back down and is actually emboldened to stick with his position when pressured for principle’s sake. The US obviously knows this, yet it still sanctioned Turkey.

Three Explanations

There are three primary explanations for why they decided to go through with this policy in spite of that. The first is that the US’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) are deeply divided on the issue and that the pragmatists who understand just how counterproductive this policy is have been beaten by the ideologues who want to send a strong message of displeasure by sanctioning Turkey. The second one is that the “deep state” is united on this issue, perhaps believing that the substance of the forthcoming sanctions will eventually be just as significant as their optics and thus stand a chance of succeeding with their stated goal. And thirdly, it might very well be that the US has resigned itself to the fact that the Russian-Turkish Strategic Partnership is a geopolitical reality that won’t be going anywhere anytime soon and that the best that they can do is show the world that the American-Turkish Strategic Partnership will be irreparably harmed as a result.

The US’ Dual Containment Strategy

The author predicted last month that “Russia & Turkey Stand To Lose The Most From A Biden Presidency”, arguing that the Democrat’s promise of more pragmatic relations with China and a possible return to the Iranian nuclear deal would combine to put immense pressure on those two Great Powers, though with the unintended outcome of naturally driving them even closer together into a deeper relationship of complex strategic interdependence. That likely being the case in such a scenario, the US might want to get a head start on its dual containment of those two, thus finally imposing sanctions on Turkey for its S-400 purchase in order to set the stage for the next four years, during which time its target will either double down on its independent policies or buckle under pressure. The latter scenario is unlikely though since it would amount to Turkey strategically submitting to the US’ fading unipolar hegemony, which would have drastic consequences for the country’s sovereignty, perhaps even accelerating America’s plans to carry out regime change there.

Concluding Thoughts

That’s why the last of the three explanations behind this move — that the US accepts the continued existence of the Russian-Turkish Strategic Partnership but wants to fire off a warning shot signaling its severe displeasure — is the most credible. This observation also reinforces the author’s feelings that Russia and Turkey will be Biden’s top two geopolitical targets, which will in turn lead to them moving much closer together in response. It’ll of course remain to be seen whether more such sanctions will be symbolic or substantive, but this development is still an unquestionably negative one for American-Turkish relations. President Erdogan’s domestic position won’t be weakened either, but will actually improve since the US is showing the Turkish people how responsible their leader’s “military diplomacy” was in diversifying the country’s strategic partnerships out of concern that America couldn’t be trusted. While the future is always difficult to predict, one thing is clear, and it’s that US-Turkish relations will never be the same after these sanctions were imposed.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

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GGN Weekly Geopolitical Summary

GGN WEEKLY GEOPOLITICAL SUMMARY(NOVEMBER 23-27)

MAIN EVENTS: 

(November 23-27)


EURASIA

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  • US slap sanctions on Russian companies and Chinese entities, due to the alleged violation of US non-proliferation legislation in respect of Iran, North Korea and Syria.
  • Russia’s defense ministry claimed that one of its warships had caught a U.S. Navy destroyer operating in Russia’s Pacific territorial waters.
  • Russian Gazprom Neft lays out plans for Arctic block with huge oil and gas potential.
  • Russia and Belarus discussed prospects of interaction in the fuel and energy sector.

ASIA PACIFIC

Sino-Federation

  • The Indonesian Navy announced they will move the headquarters of its combat squad to Natuna islands, located on a crucial passage for commercial shipping, bordering waters believed to have rich reserves of undiscovered oil and gas.
  • Taiwan and the US are moving ahead with a plan to finance infrastructure and energy projects in Asia to counter China’s global BRI
  • China visited South Korea to push forward linking of the Belt and Road Initiative.
  • China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi flew to Japan for talks amid regional tensions.

MIDDLE EAST

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  • Netanyahu visited Saudi Arabia to meet with Bin Salman, showing Riyadh has entered the normalization game.
  • A senior Iranian expert specialized in nuclear technology was assassinated in a terrorist attack in Tehran. Israel is suspected of the assassination.
  • The Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs warned that Daesh has intensified its activities in Iraq in recent months.
  • BP announced it will invest more money in Middle Eastern oil and natural-gas fields.
  • Russian Gazprom Neft said the Middle East remains in the zone of strategic interests of the company.
  • Houthis fired a missile at the oil distribution plant of Saudi Aramco in Jeddah.

EUROPE

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  • Greece has rejected new calls by Turkey to start exploratory talks to settle their maritime differences regarding the eastern Mediterranean.
  • MEPs have adopted an amendment calling on the European Council to impose sanctions on Turkey, after they unanimously voted to condemn its recent behavior in Cyprus and the surrounding territorial waters.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused the United States and several European countries of “gross interference” in the domestic affairs of Belarus.

AFRICA

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  • The EU warned fighting between Ethiopia’s military and regional forces from the northern Tigray region is seriously destabilizing the East African and Horn region.

SOUTH AMERICA

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  • China ratified its cooperation with Venezuela although the United States threatened to sanction countries that do business with the South American country.

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GGN WEEKLY GEOPOLITICAL SUMMARY (November 16-20)

MAIN EVENTS: 

(November 16-20)


EURASIA

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  • China is set to begin construction of a strategic railway line important for implementation of the Chinese plan for Tibet’s governance and national unity and stability in the border areas.
  • Saudi Arabia and Russia continue in a tight race to become China’s top oil supplier.
  • Protests against the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire agreement continue in Armenia, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

CENTRAL ASIA

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  • Central Asian NGOs experts called on their governments to strengthen oversight of Belt and Road Initiative projects in the region, mainly been in infrastructure and extractive industries, attracted by mineral deposits and hydrocarbons.
  • China and Kyrgyzstan are willing to strengthen strategic coordination with in regional and international affairs, opposing to any external forces interfering in Kyrgyzstan’s internal affairs.

ASIA PACIFIC

Sino-Federation

  • Japan and Australia agreed on a breakthrough defence pact, and the navies of India, the United States, Australia and Japan continued holding exercises in the Northern Arabian Sea, as part of a regional initiative to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Another Belt and Road project was canceled in Malaysia, the Melaka Gateway, raising questions about BRI future projects in the country.

SOUTH ASIA

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  • China reaffirmed its support to Pakistan in fighting terrorist forces and stressed that any scheme to sabotage the building of an economic corridor linking the two countries will not succeed.
  • Pakistan claimed to have evidence of India aiding “terrorist” activities from Afghan soil, targeting Chinese interests in its southern province of Balochistan.
  • Afghanistan sought the support of Pakistan to reduce surging violence in the war-torn country, as the Taliban resist calls for a cease-fire, with little headway in the ongoing peace talks.

MIDDLE EAST

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  • Egyptian, Russian Navies carried out drills in Black Sea to contribute to efforts to achieve security and stability in the Middle East
  • Mike Pompeo visits Golan Heights and West Bank settlement, in a provocative act before U.S. President Donald Trump leaves his post.
  • Bahrain’s foreign minister paid a history-making visit to Israel, in the latest sign of warming ties following a series of U.S.-brokered normalization accords between Israel and Arab nations.
  • Iraq and Saudi Arabia have reopened their land border, showing closer ties between the two countries, likely to irk Riyadh’s rival Tehran.
  • US embassy in Baghdad was targeted by rockets, after announcement of troop withdrawal.

EUROPE

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  • US increased its support for the Three Seas Initiative (3SI) to combat Chinese investment through the BRI and the “17 + 1” group.
  • As part of the Belt and Road Initiative, Turkey will build a transit-loan based main container port in the Eastern Mediterranean, which will operate as a gateway to the Middle East and Central Asia.

AFRICA

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  • Nigeria’s energy sector is about to receive a major boost from huge investment decisions from China, which is eyeing key exploration operations in the oil and gas sector in Africa.
  • Major oil companies have asked local authorities to boost surveillance on oil-producing and oil and infrastructure assets in Nigeria amid escalating protests against the government.
  • In Somalia, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a restaurant near a police academy in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.

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GGN WEEKLY GEOPOLITICAL SUMMARY (November 9-13)

MAIN EVENTS: 

(November 9-13)


MIDDLE EAST

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  • United States announced is planning to sell advanced defense capabilities to United Arab Emirates, a longtime vital S. security partner.
  • The United States imposed new sanctions targeting Syria’s oil sector.
  • S has called for greater cooperation among Middle East countries to counter the threat from Iran.
  • Israel and Lebanon resumed US-mediated talks over their disputed Mediterranean Sea border.
  • Iraq has renewed its invitation to Saudi companies to invest in the country’s oil and gas sector.
  • Saudi Arabia and Iraq agreed to continue joint cooperation in confronting terrorism.
  • Saudi Aramco -among China’s largest crude suppliers- announced it wants to sell natural gas to China.
  • In Saudi Arabia, a bomb blast hit a World War I commemoration ceremony attended by Western diplomats, as Saudi Arabia prepares for the G20 leaders’ summit later this month.

EURASIA

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  • Armenia has signed a peace deal with Azerbaijan and Russia, bringing an end to fighting over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Violent protests broke out in the Armenian capital after the announcement, demanding PM’s resignation.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that “attempts to exert foreign pressure” in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova are “unacceptable.”

CENTRAL ASIA

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  • Experts warned that if instability spread through Central Asia – as it seems after Kyrgyzstan´s protests eruption following Kyrgyzstan’s disputed election- “the strategic, energy, political and security interest of China and Russia will be affected”.

EUROPE

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  • Greece and Egypt -that signed a maritime deal setting out respective exclusive economic zones- announced they wanted US President-elect Joe Biden’s to play a more active role in attempting to calm growing tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.
  • Sanctions that would hinder one of Russia’s most important projects in Europe, the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, have been included in the annual U.S. defense policy bill.
  • Thousands of people marched in Tbilisi, Georgia, to reject the result of an election (supposedly fraudulent) that gave the governing party the right to form the country’s next government.

AFRICA

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  • Russia will open a naval base in Sudan, which will be the first for Russia in Africa since the Cold War.
  • US started with Sudan discussions to remove Khartoum from the state sponsor of terrorism list.
  • Attacks by armed groups have increased in Mozambique over the last few weeks.

SOUTH AMERICA

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  • Venezuela government visited Russia to “deepen strategic alliances”.

Tags: geopolitics, geopolitical, geopolitical conflicts, geopolitical facts, conflicts, energy, strategic resources, balancing, growing rivalry, rivalry.

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Russia’s Red Sea Base In Sudan Is A Recalibration Of Its Intra-Ummah Balancing Act

Russia’s Red Sea Base In Sudan Is A Recalibration Of Its Intra-Ummah Balancing Act

16 NOVEMBER 2020

Russia

Russia’s draft deal to open up a Red Sea naval base in Sudan amounts to a strategic recalibration of its careful “balancing” act between the GCC and Turkey after moving more closely to the latter following the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh War, which in turn shows how important Moscow regards its “Ummah Pivot” as being by seeking to maintain equally excellent relations with all majority-Muslim countries without any of its bilateral relations being misperceived as directed against any third country in this civilizational sphere.

A Deal Three Years In The Making

Some observers were surprised by reports late last week that a Russian government website published details of a draft deal pertaining to Moscow’s plans to open up a Red Sea naval base in Sudan, but this was actually something that’s been openly discussed for the past three years already. The author wrote about former President Bashir’s public invitation for Russia to do exactly just that during his visit to the Eurasian Great Power in November 2017 in his piece titled “Here’s Why Russia Might Set Up A Red Sea Base In Sudan”. The geopolitical situation has considerably changed since then following his overthrow last year, which the author also recently analyzed at length in an article about how “The Sudanese-‘Israeli’ Peace Deal Required Lots Of Behind-The-Scenes Maneuvering”, but some of his insight from that time is still relevant.

Russia’s Silk Road & “Democratic Security” Interests

For instance, Russia indeed hopes to gain influence along China’s prospective Sahelian-Saharan Silk Road that he first identified in early 2017 and which is expected to terminate precisely in Port Sudan, which is where Moscow plans to open up its naval base. There are still domestic military dimensions to this draft deal which could be taken advantage of by Sudan, though not necessarily in terms of preventing the country’s further Balkanization considering the recent peace deal between its warring sides. More specifically, they likely relate to the “Democratic Security” strategies that the author summarized in his October 2019 piece written during the first-ever Russia-Africa Summit about how “Africa Needs Russia More Than Ever, And This Week’s Sochi Summit Proves It”, in which some hyperlinks are now broken but can still be accessed via other sites.

The “Ummah Pivot”

The most pertinent point made in his prior topical analysis, however, relates to Russia’s “balancing” act. The hyperlinked piece from the preceding sentence introduced the author’s concept of the “Ummah Pivot”, which he describes as the recent prioritization of Russia’s relations with majority-Muslim countries stimulated by the West’s anti-Russian sanctions of the past six and a half years. Many observers predicted Russia to “pivot eastward” in the face of that economic warfare campaign, but in reality, the country ended up pivoting southward towards the international Muslim community (“Ummah”) in order to optimize its continental “balancing” strategy by incorporating a third element (the Ummah) into this supposedly binary choice between East (China) and West (EU).

The Unofficial Russian-Turkish Alliance

In the present geostrategic conditions, there’s little doubt after the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh War that Russia and Turkey are the new power duo in the “Greater Mideast”, which the author coined “Putogan” in his latest analysis on the topic titled “Analytical Reflections: Learning From The Nagorno-Karabakh Fiasco”. Less than a week prior, he noted that “Russia & Turkey Stand To Lose The Most From A Biden Presidency”, predicting that the simultaneous pressure that might likely be placed upon them in that scenario could result in them being pushed into an unofficial alliance out of pragmatic necessity. That potential outcome would risk giving off the optics that Russia is a partisan player in the cold war between Turkey and the GCC, however, hence the need to preemptively recalibrate that aspect of its “balancing” act within its larger “Ummah Pivot”.

The Unofficial Russian-Emirati Alliance

Post-coup Sudan is practically a GCC protectorate nowadays, and it wouldn’t have been possible for Russia to clinch its draft deal for a Red Sea naval base in Port Sudan without the approval of the North African state’s new Gulf overlords. They seemingly understand the importance of improving military interoperability with Russia through the joint naval drills that they’ll likely carry out in the Red Sea upon this agreement’s conclusion. The UAE in particular is the most important extra-regional player in this strategic waterway as a result of its newly established bases in Eritrea and the de-facto independent Somali and Yemeni regions of Somaliland and South Yemen, as well as its hegemonic influence over Ethiopia after brokering its historic peace deal with Eritrea two years back. Russia has also been seeking to cultivate closer state-to-state military ties with the UAE as well.

The Syrian Convergence

Unofficially allying with the UAE in this trans-regional space could “balance” its unofficial alliance with Turkey elsewhere in the “Greater Mideast”, thus reinforcing the impression that Russia is indeed the neutral partner that it presents itself as being in the Ummah. This in turn preemptively thwarts any misperception about the grand strategic motives behind its “Ummah Pivot”, thus helping it to maintain its careful “balancing” act in this civilizational space. The two halves of its intra-Ummah “balancing” act might ultimately converge in Syria where Turkey and the GCC are intensely competing in this geostrategic state where Russian influence undoubtedly predominates. It would be a diplomatic masterstroke if Moscow was able to leverage its “balancing” act in pursuit of a lasting political solution there, though it’ll still take lots of time and skill to achieve, if ever.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, Sudan, Horn Of Africa, Red Sea, UAE, Turkey, Ummah Pivot, Balancing, China, BRI.


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GGN Weekly Geopolitical Summary

Weekly Geopolitical Summary (November 2-6)

MAIN EVENTS:

(NOVEMBER 2-6)


ASIA PACIFIC

Sino-Federation

  • It was announced that China plans to further increase oil and gas exploration and accelerate the construction of more oil and gas storage infrastructure.
  • The Philippines said oil exploration in the disputed South China Sea can proceed without China, in what could be a further sign of the Southeast Asian nation’s tougher stance against Beijing.
  • Australia sends signal to China as it rejoins US, Japan and India for Malabar naval exercise, near the Malacca Strait, a natural choke point, along some of the world’s busiest trade routes.
  • China condemns U.S decision to drop the al-Qaeda-affiliated East Turkestan Islamic Movement from its list of terrorist organizations, as the ETIM has been engaged in terrorist activities seriously threatening the security and stability of China.

SOUTH ASIA

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  • Iran, Russia, and India hold trilateral meeting to discuss the issue of Afghanistan, expressing concern over the growth of terrorism and extremism in afghan territory.
  • At the beginning of the week, at least 19 people were killed when militants stormed Afghanistan’s biggest university. It was the second attack on an educational institution in the capital in just over a week. Both have been claimed by Islamic State.
  • China, with heavy investments in Pakistan, expressed concern about the security situation of the country, as religious-cum-sectarian attacks has been taking place exactly as the CPEC has been revived.
  • Pakistan calls again upon India to immediately end its illegal and forcible occupation of parts of Jammu & Kashmir.

MIDDLE EAST

Middle_East_(orthographic_projection)

  • United Arab Emirates urged the need to confront Turkey’s expansionist agenda in the region.
  • Egypt and Iraq signed agreements to enhance bilateral ties including oil and water resources.

EUROPE

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  • In Belarus, thousands of Belarusians marched again through Minsk to demand veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko leave power.
  • In Austria, an attacker identified as an Islamist extremist opened fire on a crowd in Vienna’s nightlife district (five people died). ISIS claimed the responsibility.

AFRICA

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  • Ethiopia’s conflict in its powerful Tigray region continued as PM vows further operations. Observers warned the possibility of a civil war, which could destabilize the already turbulent Horn of Africa.
  • Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have once again failed to agree on a new negotiating approach to resolve their years-long dispute over the controversial dam that Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile River.

Tags: geopolitics, geopolitical, geopolitical conflicts, geopolitical facts, conflicts, energy, strategic resources, balancing, growing rivalry, rivalry.

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Expert Analysis

Extreme Pro-US BJP Ideologues Mustn’t Be Allowed To Sabotage Russian-Indian Relations

Extreme Pro-US BJP Ideologues Mustn’t Be Allowed To Sabotage Russian-Indian Relations

2 NOVEMBER 2020

Extreme Pro-US BJP Ideologues Mustn

Influential BJP ideologue Subramanian Swamy published an unprecedentedly vitriolic screed against Russia which spits in the face of their decades-long strategic partnership by arguing that Moscow is an irresponsible imperialist power that’s historically exploited New Delhi’s naive leaders, but the reality is that these two Great Powers are presently enjoying a renaissance in their relations and that Swamy’s twisted depiction of their ties is nothing more than an information warfare narrative which proves the existence of a very powerful pro-American lobby that’s pulling out all the stops to sabotage Russian-Indian relations.

The US-Indian Alliance

Those who’ve followed my work for the past few years should already be well aware of my very critical attitude towards the Hindu nationalist BJP that’s ruled India since Prime Minister Modi’s election in 2014. I’ve consistently argued that the country is manipulating nostalgia in Moscow over their Old Cold War-era relations to dupe Russian decision makers into ignoring India’s pro-American anti-Chinese pivot in recent years. I chronicled this development in two pieces since September about how “It Was Inevitable That India Would Seek To Actively ‘Contain’ China” and “The US’ Alliance With India Is A Bipartisan Issue Of Grand Strategic Importance”. The first article also references my first work on the topic back in May 2016 which later led to me receiving death threats on social media, being defamed as a drug addict by one of India’s top Russia experts, and even being subjected to other intimidation tactics in the real world that I’d prefer not to publicly disclose for the time being, and all because I wouldn’t back down from my assessment which has since been vindicated.

My Professional Intentions

Nevertheless, my intentions always remained sincere and transparent. All that I endeavor to do is warn Russia about India’s duplicity in the hopes that decision makers would wise up to the game being played against them, asymmetrically respond in a plausibly deniable way (such as through the “bait strategy” vis-a-vis Pakistan as I argued in summer 2019), and ultimately restore “balance” to their historical relations. It’s arguably in Russia’s best interests to do so since acquiescing to “junior partner” status with India would contradict Moscow’s publicly proclaimed pro-sovereignty strategy as I wrote over the weekend when insisting that “Russia Must Resist Indian Pressure” to curtail its relations with Pakistan. Becoming India’s “junior partner” could also unintentionally trigger a “security dilemma” with China, which might misinterpret Russian “weakness” in this respect as tacit approval of India’s anti-Chinese alliance with the US, thus compelling Beijing to reconsider the nature of its strategic relations with Moscow in defensive response.

The Russian-Indian Renaissance

As it stands, Russian-Indian relations are presently experiencing a renaissance as I wrote for Pakistan’s Tribune newspaper in September after the two sides supercharged their strategic partnership following Prime Minister Modi’s attendance at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivistok 12 months prior. So excellent are their ties, which have overcome mutual suspicions stemming from Russia’s relations with China and India’s own with the US, that I even co-authored an academic article for the official journal of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO, which is run by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) about “The Prospects Of Russia And India Jointly Leading A New Non-Aligned Movement” with a view towards making their recently improved strategic partnership more globally significant this century. Still, I also warned that Russia mustn’t side too closely with India at China’s perceived expense otherwise it risks provoking the same “security dilemma” that Moscow sought to avoid by not becoming its “junior partner”, ergo the importance of improving Russian-Pakistani relations to “balance” the Kremlin’s delicate “balancing” act between those two Asian Great Powers.

An Unprecedented Infowar Attack

The reason why I spent so much time explaining the gist of my vision for Russian-Indian relations is to dispel any questions about my credibility in addressing the very sensitive subject of the present analysis, which is influential BJP ideologue Subramanian Swamy’s unprecedentedly vitriolic screed against Russia that he published over the weekend at The Sunday Guardian provocatively declaring that “Russia Is Not A Friend Of India”. Looking beyond the factual errors in his article such as stating that the Russian-Chinese border conflict occurred in 1977 (it actually happened in 1969), writing that the Soviet Union broke up into 16 different countries (15 is the real number), and fearmongering that President Putin “recently won a rigged election to be President of Russia till 2036” (only constitutional amendments were passed to enable this possibility after his present term expires in 2024), his general argument of Russia being an irresponsible imperialist power that’s historically exploited India’s naive leaders must be countered head-on in order to prevent him from sabotaging the renaissance of Russian-Indian relations to the benefit of the US’ dangerous divide-and-rule grand strategy.

Who’s Really At Risk Of Becoming Whose “Junior Partner”?

As I argued earlier in my analysis, it’s Russia — not India — that’s at risk of becoming the “junior partner” in this relationship if any party can be described as such. Russia’s “balancing” act between China and India is becoming increasingly “imbalanced” after Moscow supported New Delhi’s annexation and subsequent bifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir in August 2019 despite Beijing’s concerns that this could negatively affect the situation in Aksai Chin (as ultimately happened earlier this year during their ongoing standoff there), opposed China’s efforts to seek meaningfully address the issue at the UN Security Council, and recently fulfilled India’s defense requirements from June at the start of the Himalayan Crisis for wares that will almost certainly be used to “contain” China. It is therefore categorically false for Swamy to misportray India as being at risk of becoming Russia’s “junior partner” when New Delhi’s de-facto military alliance with the US through the so-called “Quad” is proceeding apace despite Moscow’s earlier expressed concerns that it could be exploited to “contain” China.

Political Russophobia Must Urgently Be Suppressed In India

Swamy’s intentions seem to be to influence the ruling party of which he’s a part into jettisoning its historic strategic partnership with Russia for the purpose of doubling down on its pro-American anti-Chinese military alliance, which would actually ironically make India more dependent on the US in parallel with Russia becoming equally dependent on China in response, the scenario of which the Kremlin is eager to avoid and which explains its recent efforts in achieving the Russian-Indian renaissance that I earlier described. There’s no other way to describe Swamy’s malicious writings than as a desire to divide-and-rule Eurasia for destabilizing ends that would ultimately work out to the US’ grand strategic benefit. His article wouldn’t have even warranted any attention from me had he not been the influential ruling party ideologue that he is who directly has access to India’s top decision makers and strategists. It’s completely unprecedented for someone of his stature in India to publish such a hateful text against Russian-Indian relations, which hints at political Russophobia gradually becoming “normalized” at the highest levels of political society if it isn’t suppressed as soon as possible.

The Ridiculous GRU Conspiracy

The proverbial genie already seems to be out of the bottle, however, since The Sunday Guardian — the same outlet that Swamy chose to publish his anti-Russian screed — released a provocative piece the day afterwards about how “US-India Ties Attract Attention Of Russian Intelligence”. The journalist who wrote it very strongly implies that Russian intelligence has infiltrated the highest levels of the Indian leadership, ominously hinting that its military-intelligence agency GRU — of Skripal poisoning infamy according to Western sources at least — is preparing to meddle in Indian affairs in order to sabotage the country’s pro-American military alliance. The article quotes an unnamed Indian official who warned that “Russia, like a few other countries, has a lot of interest in how things move in India. Russia has highly capable infrastructure and units to launch cyber campaigns with deep ramifications. We are aware of the challenges that can come in the near future due to recent developments that we are witnessing between India and the US”.

It’s American Meddling, Not Russian, That India Should Be Worried About

In reality, the only meddling taking place in India is from the American side, not the Russian one, since the latter — with all due respect to them — seems to be so powerfully influenced by the illusion of Soviet-era nostalgia about their relations that they’ve been basically blinded to India’s pro-American pivot of recent years to the extent that they’re now unwittingly risking provoking a “security dilemma” with China by too openly supporting the South Asian state against the People’s Republic. It personally pains me to see the country that I love, Russia, being taken advantage of by its historical strategic partner through these means and having the relationship that it holds so dear spit upon by an influential ideologue such as Swamy and his allies at The Sunday Guardian. I’ve warned about this for nearly the past 4,5 years in literally hundreds of articles about India’s trend of transitioning from a policy of so-called “multipolar multi-alignment” to one of anti-Chinese pro-American alignment which would inevitably harm Russian-Indian relations, and once again I’ve been vindicated.

Neither Russia Nor India Has To Become Anyone’s “Junior Partner”

The path ahead will be a difficult one for both parties, but provided that the political will is present, Russia and India should hopefully be able to surmount what convincingly appears to be a coming crisis in their relations. On the one hand, Russia must ensure that it doesn’t become India’s “junior partner” and thus unwittingly provoke a “security dilemma” with China by doing so, ergo the importance of improving Russian-Pakistani relations in order to restore “balance” to its increasingly imperfect “balancing” act. On the other hand, India must ensure that it doesn’t become the US’ “junior partner” and thus lose its cherished “strategic autonomy”, to which end it mustn’t allow pro-American ideologues such as Swamy to sabotage Russian-Indian relations otherwise New Delhi will lose the only solution to its foreign policy dilemma of attempting to “balance” its “frenemy” relations with China and its newfound allied ones with America. It’s therefore incumbent on the Indian government to either publicly condemn Swamy for his hateful screed or take other measures to unequivocally communicate the message to Moscow that his views aren’t supported by New Delhi.

A Rude Awakening For Russia

The Russian side, considering how “naive” they’ve been about relations with India (once again, with all due respect to them), must certainly have been shocked to discover that such an influential ruling party official — and one of its chief ideologues, no less! — would publish such a vicious rant against their historic relations with India. Just as concerning must have been the observation that the same outlet which released his article followed it up a day later by strongly implying that GRU plans to meddle in Indian affairs, with all the ominous consequences that could follow. As such, there’s shouldn’t be any doubt that a coordinated pro-American anti-Russian information warfare campaign has been unleashed at the highest levels of Indian political society which, if anything, should hopefully serve as a long-overdue and much-needed wake-up call to Russian decision makers about the reality of what’s happening in India nowadays. To reaffirm my personal views, I’m fully in support of the Russian-Indian strategic partnership so long as relations as “balanced” and on an equal footing, but I’m adamantly against Moscow being taken advantage of by New Delhi for pro-American anti-Chinese ends.

Concluding Thoughts

Eurasian geopolitics are on the precipice of profound and pivotal change since it’s impossible to maintain the status quo of Russian-Indian relations due to Chinese security concerns and American pressure respectively. Russia must decide whether to submit to becoming India’s “junior partner” or actively “recalibrate” its “balancing” act between it and China by moving towards a strategic partnership with Pakistan for the purpose of preemptively mitigating the prospect of any “security dilemma” inadvertently popping up with the People’s Republic due to the Kremlin’s extremely close relations with unquestionably pro-American India. As for that South Asian state, there’s little doubt that it’ll continue to ally itself with the US in pursuit of their shared grand strategic goal of “containing” China, but India would lose what little “strategic autonomy” it still has left if it submits to the pressure of pro-American ideologues such as Swamy by jettisoning its strategic relations with Russia and thus fully submitting to becoming the US’ “junior partner”. Eurasia is on the brink of a major divide-and-rule destabilization if either Great Power, let alone both of them at the same time, makes the wrong move, which is why sincere supporters of the Multipolar World Order like me hope that this scenario will be avoided.

EgjymzKXcAEZe3b 

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

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GGN Weekly Geopolitical Summary

Weekly Geopolitical Summary

MAIN EVENTS:

(OCTOBER 26-30)


ASIA PACIFIC

Sino-Federation

  • U.S. finished a tour of Asia in which he has harangued partners and would-be partners to push back against China’s increasing political and military inroads in the region.

SOUTH ASIA

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  • United States warned Sri Lanka against its tightening ties with China, putting a spotlight on the growing rivalry between the S. and China for influence in the region.
  • India and the United States signed a new defense agreement, the so-called Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), to facilitate the exchange of high-end military technology and classified satellite data between their armies.
  • India and the US reiterated in a joint statement their call for Pakistan to take irreversible action to ensure its territory isn’t used for terror attacks.

EURASIA

Eurasia_(orthographic_projection).svg

  • Both Armenia and Azerbaijan reported more fighting relate to Nagorno-Karabakh conflict despite brokered ceasefire facilitated by the United States, after two failed attempts by Russia.

MIDDLE EAST

Middle_East_(orthographic_projection)

  • U.S. unveils more sanctions on Iran, including sanctions for Iranian oil sales. They are part of a maximum pressure campaign that so far has failed to achieve its goal of getting Iran to halt its missile development program and stop supporting militant groups in the region.
  • Chevron announced is staking its natural gas future on the Middle East. The new strategy is seeing the company pitch new gas deals in Egypt, Israel, and Qatar.
  • In Iraq, thousands of people took to the streets against the Government, in demand of changes in the ruling elite.

EUROPE

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  • Turkey is increasing the volume of cooperation with the BRI-related countries in terms of enabling the Middle Corridor, which lies at the heart of the BRI linking Turkey to Georgia and Azerbaijan via rail, crossing the Caspian Sea and reaches China through Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.
  • Ukraine initiates an urgent meeting of the security subgroup of Trilateral Contact Group (TCG, group of representatives from Ukraine, Russia and Europe) due to aggravation in Donbas.
  • Ukraine has urged the United States to expand sanctions aimed at stopping construction of the Kremlin-backed Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would bring gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine.
  • In Belarus, at least 100,000 people marched to give what they called a “people’s ultimatum” to president Lukashenko (it was the 11th consecutive Sunday of protest in the country).

Tags: geopolitics, geopolitical, geopolitical conflicts, geopolitical facts, conflicts, energy, strategic resources, balancing, growing rivalry.