RUSSIA-BELARUS: Russia and Belarus discussed prospects of interaction in the fuel and energy sector in 2021. They started working out the redirection of petroleum products deliveries from Lithuanian to Russian ports.
NATO’s Attempted Infringement Of Russia’s Airspace & Maritime Borders Is Very Dangerous
27 NOVEMBER 2020
Recent attempted infringements of Russia’s airspace and maritime borders by NATO are very dangerous instances of de-facto brinksmanship intended to provoke the Eurasian Great Power into reacting in a way that could then be manipulated as the “plausible pretext” for imposing further pressure upon it.
It seems like almost every week that Russian media reports on NATO’s attempted infringement of Russian airspace and maritime borders, but two ultra-dangerous developments occurred over the past week which signify that this trend will intensify. The Russian Navythreatened to ramthe USS John McCain after it aggressively passed into the country’s territorial waters near Peter the Great Bay off Vladivostok, after which it thankfully reversed its course. The second incident involved the USlaunching rockets into the Black Sea from Romania that are capable of reaching Crimea in a wartime scenario. These two events deserve to be discussed more in detail because of their significance to NATO’s grand strategy.
The transatlantic alliance intends to provoke the Eurasian Great Power into reacting in a way that could then be manipulated as the “plausible pretext” for imposing further pressure upon it. It amounts to de-facto brinksmanship and is therefore incredibly dangerous since both parties are nuclear powers. Furthermore, it’s the definition of unprovoked aggression since Russia doesn’t partake in symmetrical provocations against NATO. If anything, every time that it’s been dishonestly accused of such was just the country carrying out military exercises within its own borders which just so happen to abut several NATO states after the bloc extended its frontiers eastward following the end of the Old Cold War.
It’s the eastern expansion of NATO and the alliance’s recent activities in the Arctic Ocean that represent the greatest threat to peace between the two. On the eastern front, the US is once again provoking Russia in order to craft the false impression among the Japanese that Moscow is a military threat to their interests. Washington is greatly perturbed by their past couple years of technically fruitless but nevertheless highly symbolic talks over signing a peace treaty to end the Second World War and resolve what Tokyo subjectively regards as the “Northern Territories Dispute”. Moscow’s reclamation of control over the Kuril Islands following that conflict was agreed to by the Allies, but then America went back on its word in order to divide and rule the two.
Their mutual intent to enter into a rapprochement with one another could in theory occur in parallel with a similar rapprochement between Japan and China, which might altogether reduce Tokyo’s need to retain as robust of an American military presence on its islands. That in turn would weaken the US’ military posturing and therefore reduce the viability of its grand strategic designs to “contain” both multipolar countries in that theater. As regards the Arctic and Eastern European fronts, these are also part of the same “containment” policy, albeit aimed most directly against Russia and only tangentially against China’s “Polar Silk Road”.
It’s understandable that the US will continue to compete with these two rival Great Powers, but such competition must be responsibly regulated in order to avoid the unintended scenario of a war by miscalculation. It’s for that reason why the world should be alarmed by American brinksmanship against them, especially the latest developments with respect to Russia that were earlier described. All that it takes is one wrong move for everything to spiral out of control and beyond the point of no return. Regrettably, while Biden might ease some pressure on China, he’ll likely compensate by doubling down against Russia.
Trump should also take responsibility for this as well since it’s occurring during his presidency after all, even if it might possibly be in its final months if he isn’t able to thwart the Democrats’ illegal seizure of powerfollowing their large-scale defrauding of this month’s elections. He capitulated to hostile “deep state” pressure early on into this term perhaps out of the mistaken belief that “compromising” with his enemies in the permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies would result in them easing their pressure upon him on other fronts, but this gamble obviously failed since it only emboldened them to pressure him even more.
It’s unfortunate that Trump was never able to actualize his intended rapprochement with Russia for the aforementioned reasons, but he could have rebelliously defied the “deep state” after this month’s fraudulent elections by reversing his currently aggressive policy against Moscow if he truly had the political will to do so. He doesn’t, though, and this might nowadays be due more to his support of the military-industrial complex than any “deep state” pressure like it initially was. After all, war is a very profitable business, and artificially amplifying the so-called “Russia threat” by provoking Moscow into various responses could pay off handsomely.
It’s therefore extremely unlikely that this dangerous trend will change anytime in the coming future. To the contrary, it’ll likely only intensify and get much worse under a possible Biden Administration. Nevertheless, Russia doesn’t lack the resolve to defend its legitimate interests and will always do what’s needed in this respect, albeit responsibly (so long as it’s realistic to react in such a way) in order to avoid falling into the Americans’ trap. The ones who should be the most worried, then, are the US’ NATO and other “allied” vassals who stand to lose the most by getting caught in any potential crossfire for facilitating American aggression.
BELARUS:Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused the United States and several European countries of “gross interference” in the domestic affairs of Belarus. He met AlyaksandrLukashenka, who has faced months of protests over his disputed reelection.
What Kind Of Secretary Of State Might Antony Blinken Be?
25 NOVEMBER 2020
While Pompeo is brash, Blinken is humble, and this key difference might play a leading role in repairing America’s damaged reputation abroad after the past four years of current US President Trump’s bombastic foreign policy statements. Nevertheless, this impression shouldn’t be taken to mean that Blinken isn’t decisive.
Democrat presidential candidate and popularly projected winner of this month’s elections Joe Biden announced that he’ll nominate his close advisor Antony Blinken as the US’ next Secretary of State. Blinken is a veteran Democrat expert in the foreign policy field who comes from a family of diplomats. He previously served as Biden’s National Security Advisor when he was Vice-President as well as Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor and Deputy Secretary of State. The tremendous experience that Blinken will bring to a possible Biden Administration means that the world can expect a return to the US’ Obama-era foreign policy.
Media reports indicate that his personality is the complete opposite of current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. While Pompeo is brash, Blinken is humble, and this key difference might play a leading role in repairing America’s damaged reputation abroad after the past four years of current US President Trump’s bombastic foreign policy statements. Nevertheless, this impression shouldn’t be taken to mean that Blinken isn’t decisive. Other reports claim that he was in favor of former President Obama bombing Syria during the 2013 chemical weapons crisis, and former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul revealed some other interesting details.
According to the Financial Times in their article titled “Biden’s ‘alter ego’ Antony Blinken tipped for top foreign policy job”, McFaul said that Blinken was part of a secretive group of Democrats called the “Phoneix Initiative”. The former ambassador claimed that they began assembling in 2004 after former Democrat presidential candidate Kerry’s loss to incumbent President Bush Jr. Their debates allegedly consisted of passionate arguments in support of more robust national security strategies, including Blinken advocating very strongly for “human rights” according to McFaul.
This correlates with the US’ Obama-era foreign policy of supporting Color Revolutions and so-called “humanitarian interventions” across the world in countries as diverse as Ukraine and Libya respectively under such pretexts. Observers might thus be worried that these policies could repeat themselves under a possible Biden Presidency, which could in turn be destabilizing for Eastern Europe and the Mideast, especially if those aforesaid processes were weaponized for the purpose of geopolitically containing Russia and Iran. It’s too early to tell whether that’ll be the case, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.
Blinken was also critical of Russia over the past few years and even dramatically claimed in 2017 that “The president’s ongoing collusion with Russia’s plans is really striking, intentional or not.” It’s therefore unlikely that he’ll oversee any improvement of relations with Russia, which is worrisome because the two nuclear powers should renegotiate a new strategic weapons treaty after the New START expires early next year. Failing to do so for reasons possibly related to Blinken’s groundless suspicions of then-former President Trump’s relations with Russia (which were never proven despite several years of investigations) would worsen global insecurity.
On the topic of Iran, however, he seems to be much more pragmatic. Blinken supported the 2015 nuclear deal and would likely see the US attempt to return to it under a possible Biden presidency. While that might repair American-Iranian relations, it could also inadvertently worsen the US’ historical ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which are totally against the agreement. Still, it would represent a symbolic return to the UN-enshrined rules-based order if Blinken were to oversee the US’ return to that pact. Thus far, it can be concluded that he’d probably be harder on Russia but more flexible with Iran, but his stance towards China is unclear.
The same earlier cited Financial Times piece reported that Blinken told an interviewer during a recent podcast that “the US had to rebuild alliances to tackle the ‘democratic recession’ enabled by Mr Trump that let ‘autocracies from Russia to China . . . exploit our difficulties’.” This suggests that he might share some of his predecessor’s suspicions of China and thus be less pragmatic towards it than some had initially hoped after first hearing that Biden was projected by the media to be the next President-Elect. His ideological views towards governance hint that he might even try to strengthen the US’ regional alliances on a “democratic” basis.
It can only be hoped that Blinken wouldn’t let his personal opinions blind him to the fact that the US has no choice but to pragmatically cooperate with China despite those two countries’ different governing systems. Seeing the world in black-and-white terms of us-versus-them with respect to democracies versus what he regards as autocracies would be the wrong way to approach relations with the People’s Republic. It might even result in a possible Biden Administration ruining the chance to enter into a comprehensive rapprochement with China towards what some have predicted could even become a New Detente between the two if successful.
Russian-Moldovan Relations Might Become Much More Difficult To Manage
23 NOVEMBER 2020
Pro-Western Maia Sandu’s victory in the second round of the Moldovan presidential elections last week might make bilateral relations with Russia much more difficult to manage than they were under her Russian-friendly predecessor, with the worst-case scenario being a new East-West crisis in the event that Moldova attempts to (re)unify with Romania and/or militarily resolve the frozen Transnistrian Conflict while the “best-case” one might realistically be a “managed decoupling” between the two with time.
Pro-WesternMaia Sandu’svictoryin the second round of the Moldovan presidential elections last week inspires optimism among her domestic supporters and their foreign patrons while raising worries in Russia that bilateral ties might soon become much more difficult to manage. Her Russian-friendly predecessor worked very hard to cultivate excellent ties with his country’s historical partner despite intense resistance from hostile elements of his permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”), but that renaissance in relations might now be over. It’s very difficult to imagine Sandu standing against those same “deep state” forces that she’s presumably a part of. In fact, she might even seek to impose their dual vision of (re)unifying with Romania and militarily resolving the frozen Transnistrian Conflict, which could spark a new East-West crisis in the worst-case scenario. The “best-case” one might then realistically be that a “managed decoupling” occurs between the two with time, but that would of course be less preferred than simply retaining their strategic ties.
For those who aren’t too familiar with the geopolitical dynamics, it’s important to point out that Moldova is a territory historically claimed by Romania but which had been under Russian Imperial and Soviet control for around one and a half centuries from 1812-1991 except for the interwar period when it was controlled by Bucharest. The tiny sliver of land east of the Dniester River (“Transnistria” literally meaning “beyond the Dniester”) remained under Russian control between the two World Wars but sought to secede from Moldova during the late Soviet period in response to Romanian nationalists coming to power in Chisinau, which frightened the region’s many Slavic people who feared for their rights and identity. The brief war that soon followed has yet to officially conclude but saw the introduction ofRussian peacekeepersand subsequent bestowing of citizenship upon some of that area’s people. It presently hosts a Russian base but is completely surrounded by Moldova and Ukraine, which greatly complicates any potential military scenario.
To explain, Moldovans are divided over whether or not to (re)unify with Romania, but since Transnistria is universally recognized as their united country’s sovereign territory, its political future is uncertain in the event that that happens. One possibility for politically resolving this frozen conflict is to asymmetrically federalize the country, but opponents of this outcome argue that it would forever weaken the state. Supporters, meanwhile, insist that this is the only way to avoid more bloodshed and ensure that the locals’ human and cultural rights are protected. The presence of the Russian military base has hitherto served as a deterrent to any reckless NATO-provoked military adventure by Chisinau, but Sandu might gamble just like Saakashvili did before her that the time might soon be coming to strike. Unlike Georgia’s previously unrecognized breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Transnistria isn’t adjacent to Russia and therefore couldn’t be as easily supported as they were if she were to launch a similar midnight attack against its peacekeepers there.
The Russian military is more than capable of holding its own in the opening stages of any possible conflict, but it would certainly need support sooner than later, especially in the event that Ukraine were to join in any potential NATO-provoked Moldovan military operation there. That’s why observers have been warning about the worst-case scenario of a larger war in Transnistria for a while already ever since the 2013-2014 Ukrainian Crisis because the geo-military variables aren’t in Russia’s long-term favor. Moscow would have to pass through Ukrainian airspace to save its soldiers in that scenario, which would probably be closed to them for obvious reasons. Realistically speaking, the odds are against Russia unless it ups the ante by escalating the situation according to what the US — especially under a possible Biden presidency — might likely expect it to do. This means that Sandu’s election might be very dangerous in hindsight if she submits to the neoconservatives’ plans.
The reader must keep in mind that the author is only forecasting a series of scenarios and isn’t making any clear-cut predictions. It might end up being the case that Russian-Moldovan relations remain stable and that there isn’t any effort to (re)unify with Moldova and/or militarily resolve the Transnistrian Conflict. That’s certainly possible, however increasingly unlikely it might become, especially under a Biden presidency which restores the neoconservatives’ influence in Washington. For that reason, the “best-case” scenario should also be discussed whereby a “managed decoupling” is initiated between Russia and Moldova, no matter how economically disastrous this would be for the Moldovan people who depend on the Russian consumer and labor markets. At the very least, it would be preferable to the larger war that might be unleashed in the worst-case scenario even though Moscow would of course wish to retain strategic relations with Chisinau.
So as not to be misunderstood, the author isn’t promoting so-called “defeatism”, but just feels obligated to realistically assess all possible options in the event that indicators suggest that the worst-case scenario is becoming a reality. Russia undoubtedly has contingency plans in place for how to respond to that series of events, but it might nevertheless catch some observers unaware who hadn’t foreseen any of this happening. That’s why the purpose of this analysis is to inform, not advise, for the sake of educating everyone about what might come next. Sandu’s victory could very well be a dark omen for East-West relations, but it might also not be a big deal at all if she realizes that her country’s interests objectively rest in retaining pragmatic relations with Russia and politically resolving the Transnistrian Conflict. Only time will tell which path she chooses to take and a lot will definitely depend on the outcome of the as-yet-undecided US presidential election.
SAUDI ARABIA-RUSSIA-CHINA:Saudi Arabia and Russia are in a tight race to become China’s top oil supplier in 2020, with both countries boosting crude exports to the economic powerhouse even as the coronavirus pandemic hit global demand for oil this year.
Russia’s Red Sea Base In Sudan Is A Recalibration Of Its Intra-Ummah Balancing Act
16 NOVEMBER 2020
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 byreportslate 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.
For instance, Russia indeed hopes to gain influence along China’s prospectiveSahelian-Saharan Silk Roadthat 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 therecent peace dealbetween 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 viaothersites.
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 afterbrokeringits historic peace deal with Eritrea two years back. Russia has also been seeking to cultivatecloserstate-to-statemilitaryties 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 thiscivilizational space. The two halves of its intra-Ummah “balancing” act might ultimately converge inSyriawhere 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.
VENEZUELA: PDVSA visited Russia to “deepen strategic alliances”. Russia has been one of Venezuela’s top commercial allies since Washington sanctioned PDVSA last year as part of its bid to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro.