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Geoeconomics

ASIA PACIFIC:

CHINA:

  • China would accelerate free-trade negotiations with Japan and South Korea, both of which rely on the U.S. for defense, and quickly implement an investment pact reached with the European Union in December. Trump withdrew the U.S. from talks on the trade pact, then known as the TPP, shortly after he took office in January 2021. President Joe Biden’s administration is now seeking to rally what officials are calling “techno-democracies” to stand up to China and other “techno-autocracies.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA


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MIDDLE EAST:

SYRIA:

  • Russia building new permanent military base in Syria. They have started to build a permanent military base in the eastern suburban area of Homs. Russia had backed the Assad regime in an effort to stave off opposition forces which are backed by the US, Turkey, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi.

SOURCE: MIDDLE EAST MONITOR

 


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EURASIA:

RUSSIA:

  • Russia is drawing up “blacklists” of Americans in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russian officials this week by President Joe Biden’s administration. The sanctions were a response to the attempted murder of pro-democracy and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny in August, and his arrest upon voluntary return from Germany to Russia in January.

SOURCE: NEWSWEEK


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Expert Analysis

Tom Cotton’s Anti-Chinese Containment Strategy Is Really Cunning

4 MARCH 2021

Tom Cotton

The office of Republican Senator Tom Cotton published a comprehensive containment strategy against China last month that cunningly proposes a series of complementary coalitions aimed towards this end, including in the technological and institutional spheres, which essentially amounts to the creation of a modern-day Iron Curtain if successfully implemented.

Biden’s “Deep State” Balancing Act

President Biden’s strategy towards China increasingly appears to be predicated on expanding his predecessor’s containment policy, albeit in a more multilateral fashion than former President Trump’s mostly unilateral one. This is evidenced by his keynote speech at the State Department last month which led to my conclusion that “Alliances, Democracy, And Values Will Disguise American Aggression”. This was entirely foreseeable too since I earlier predicted that “An ‘Alliance Of Democracies’ Might Be America’s Next Grand Strategic Move”. The behind-the-scenes decision-making basis for this is that Biden must “balance” between competing “deep state” factions in his country’s permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies that are split between those who embrace Trump’s “America First” international outlook and the liberal-globalists who are more closely connected to former President Obama. I elaborated on the dynamic between them and their possible compromise with respect to more cleverly “containing” China in exchange for cautiously re-engaging with Iran in my related analysis late last year about “Deep State Wars: Trump vs. Biden on China & Iran”.

Targeted Decoupling And The Long Economic War”

Republican Senator Tom Cotton, a notorious anti-China hawk, published a comprehensive containment strategy against China last month that was written by members of his office. It cunningly proposes a series of complementary coalitions aimed towards this end, including in the technological and institutional spheres, which essentially amounts to the creation of a modern-day Iron Curtain if successfully implemented. This might possibly happen considering that it largely aligns with the Biden Administration’s multilateral plans in this respect. The 84-page document is titled “Beat China: Targeted Decoupling And The Long Economic War”, and a summary of it can be read at Breitbart here. To be sure, it’s not all bad, since many of his proposals about diversifying the US’ economic partners and reshoring its businesses are sound in principle, as are his suggestions for stockpiling rare earth minerals, semiconductor chips, and other materials of national security importance. So too are his ideas about modernizing regulations and the tax code, investing more in research and development, and improving the federal government’s efficiency. They all make logical sense.

Cotton’s Anti-Chinese Containment Coalition

The problem, however, is that he also basically wants to wage a global Hybrid War on China. His rationale is that this is the only possible recourse for America after its prior policy of attempting to influence domestic political changes there through decades of economic engagement failed to achieve any tangible dividends. In his own words, “this generational effort at engagement was an experiment to see whether greater economic integration would generate political change in China”, which he rightly argues has been unsuccessful. Instead of abandoning that consistently failed policy of meddling in China’s internal affairs, he wants to double down on it but in a craftier way through the establishment of semiconductor, 5G, and data-sharing blocs as crucial pillars of the larger “American-led, China-excluded trading order with trusted nations in the Indo-Pacific” that he proposes. In parallel with that, he advises that “The United States should launch a similar effort with respect to the United Kingdom and the European Union, America’s top export market.” The grand strategic outcome is therefore the creation of a massive anti-Chinese containment coalition along the Eurasian Rimland.

Color Revolution Catalysts

This isn’t just for prestige’s sake, but is predicated on his expectation that “Chinese citizens willing to accept an increasingly heavy-handed authoritarian state in exchange for a higher standard of living may think twice if growth slows or stagnates. As a result, the CCP fears that declines in exports, growth, and employment could pose political liabilities.” In other words, the interconnected semiconductor, 5G, and data-sharing blocs that he wants to create within his envisioned anti-Chinese Eurasian Rimland containment coalition are supposed to eventually harm China’s economic growth when paired with a more aggression sanctions and tariff policy, which he hopes will in turn create fertile ground for a series of Color Revolutions there that could ultimately make the infamous Tiananmen Square Color Revolution attempt look like child’s play in hindsight. The proposed containment coalition would also prospectively expand worldwide all across the Global South according to his vision of the US “leveraging development finance and foreign aid”. Ironically, this is exactly what the US accuses China of doing against its own interests, so it’s curious that Cotton is embracing this same strategy.

Economic Warfare

According to him, “Mobilizing these powerful institutions can support a U.S. strategy for targeted decoupling by incentivizing foreign countries to resist Chinese entreaties, such as participation in the Belt and Road Initiative, and supporting American companies in strategic sectors.” These efforts will be made all the more effective if US spy agencies follow his advice to expand operations against the People’s Republic. His report importantly suggests that “the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) should expand its collection efforts relating to China’s economy, including IP theft, the corporate and capital structures of Chinese firms, the shareholders of China’s strategic companies, and technological developments within Chinese companies.” Although he claims that this proposal is being made defensively in order to identify possible targets to sanction in response to alleged intellectual property theft, the insight obtained through these operations could very easily be abused for offensive purposes to undercut China’s economic competitiveness and meddle in its many Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) partnerships.

Institutional Intrigue

The aggressive activities of this global anti-Chinese containment coalition are intended to be upheld by the international institutions that Cotton says that the US should either reclaim or replace if the former isn’t possible. According to his proposal, “America must fight to reverse China’s gains in these institutions and build new, separate organizations of willing and like-minded partners when these organizations cannot be reclaimed. With these organizations out of Beijing’s hands, the United States can ensure that international rules and standards are written to support emerging technologies where America is naturally suited to prevail.” Once again, this is the exact same form of Hybrid Warfare that the US accuses China of waging, making one wonder whether it was ever really guilty as charged or if the US invented those accusations in order to justify itself doing the same thing later. Altogether, Cotton’s grand strategy is one where the US leads a Eurasian Rimland coalition that brings together several China-excluding technology blocs, expands through the strategic leveraging of development finance and foreign aid, and is “legitimized” through reclaimed or replaced international institutions.

Concluding Thoughts

Skeptics might immediately dismiss Cotton’s global anti-Chinese containment proposal as politically unrealistic to implement under Biden’s Democrat presidency, but such a stance ignores the fact that the incumbent president convincingly intends to build upon his predecessor’s policy in this respect, albeit in a much more multilateral manner. This insight very strongly suggests that Cotton’s proposal might actually be well received by the Biden Administration since its multilateral vision of a series of complementary coalitions closely aligns with the ruling party’s stated policy of relying more on international alliances to advance American interests abroad. For this reason, it would be a major mistake for observers to dismiss Cotton’s suggestions out of hand since there’s a real chance that at least some of them might be implemented by the US across the next four years. Everything is already moving in that direction without any credible evidence that this trajectory will seriously change in the future. With this in mind, China would do well to consider the most effective strategies for responding to this scenario, ideally in a multilateral manner after closely consulting with its partners.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: US, China, Tech Race, New Cold War, Biden, Deep State.


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MIDDLE EAST:

SYRIA:

  • The United States and Turkey will continue to work together to promote common interests in Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Ankara was ready to launch hostilities in Idlib amid failed Russian-Turkish contacts.

SOURCE: BULGARIA MILITARY


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MIDDLE EAST

IRAQ:

  • France has called for a meeting of the US-led International Coalition over the “revival” of the Islamic State in Iraq. The so-called Coalition against Daesh has not met for a long time, despite France, which is also part of the international coalition, called on new US President Joe Biden to continue fighting ISIS as a priority.

SOURCE: SHAFAQ


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MIDDLE EAST:

IRAN:

  • Iran is reaching out to its old customers in Asia to gauge interest in its crude as the Persian Gulf oil producer ramps up diplomacy in a bid to get U.S. sanctions lifted. Prior to the penalties — put in place to pressure the country into renegotiating a nuclear deal — China and India were Iran’s biggest buyers in Asia, followed by South Korea and Japan. Iran’s crude shipments dwindled to a trickle after sanctions by the former U.S. administration in 2018 and the end of waivers for some countries in 2019, although a number of Chinese refiners continued to take some oil.

SOURCE: BBN BLOOMBERG


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SOUTH ASIA:

MYANMAR:

  • The United States looks to build a coalition to further punish Myanmar’s generals, but it’s not having much success convincing governments in Asia to follow suit. No countries in the region so far have indicated they would support sanctions or any other measures that would hit the military’s finances. Asean, which is based on the principle of nonintervention, was ready “to assist Myanmar in a positive, peaceful and constructive manner”.

SOURCE: STRAIT TIMES


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EURASIA:

RUSSIA:

  • The U.S. Department of the State imposed sanctions on six Russian research institutions, which are known to be involved in the development of chemical weapons program. The decision is made within the case of Alexei Navalny’s poisoning last year. The Western governments have been accusing Russian government with the attempt on the life of the major Russian opposition figure.

SOURCE: 112


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Biden’s Playing Hardball With MBS

2 MARCH 2021

Biden

The promulgation of the US’ so-called “Khashoggi ban” in response to its intelligence agencies determining that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was behind that dissident journalist’s brutal killing shows that the Biden Administration is playing hard ball with the Kingdom’s future ruler, though there’s only so far that it’ll go in this respect since it’s still important for America to still retain some degree of regional strategic “balance” despite its newfound willingness to renegotiate the Iranian nuclear deal.

US-Saudi relations are drastically changing under the Biden Administration as evidenced by its promulgation of the so-called “Khashoggi ban” in response to American intelligence agencies determining that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was behind that dissident journalist’s brutal killing. This shows that the Biden Administration is playing hardball with the Kingdom’s future ruler, though there’s only so far that it’ll go in this respect. As it stands, the pro-Democrat members of the permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) that pull the President’s strings intend to diversify their country’s hitherto regional strategic dependence on Saudi Arabia in line with former President Obama’s vision by improving relations with Iran. Nevertheless, there’s only so far that they’ll go in this respect since it’s still important for them to retain some degree of “balance” so as not to push the Kingdom further into Russia and China’s arms.

On the one hand, the US wants to make it clear that the days of Saudi Arabia calling the shots are over. Washington will no longer allow its regional strategy to be led by Riyadh. This also explains Biden’s pragmatic recalibration of his country’s policy towards Yemen, which was also influenced by the desire to send a goodwill signal to Iran about Washington’s willingness to re-enter into negotiations on the nuclear deal. That arguably went against Saudi regional strategic interests, yet the Kingdom was powerless to stop its patron from implementing this policy reversal, at least for the time being. In parallel with this, American intelligence decided to punish some Saudis for Khashoggi’s murder, which was also intended to further erode the Kingdom’s already damaged reputation, and MBS’ personally. The tangential objective is to put pressure on MBS to comply with the US’ new regional policy instead of opposing it lest he risk the ever-present threat of a palace coup.

On the other hand, however, American strategists are aware that these moves will only encourage the Kingdom to intensify its growing relations with Russia and China. It already cooperates real closely with Moscow on energy issues (OPEC+) and Beijing on military (drones) and investment (Vision 2030) matters. Saudi Arabia also agreed to an arms deal with Russia a few years back during King Salman’s historic visit to Moscow which eventually saw the Eurasian Great Power delivering state-of-the-art rocket launchers to the Kingdom that presumably saw action during the ongoing War on Yemen. The US fears these two Great Power’s multipolar coordination in courting the Kingdom to their side in the New Cold War, especially as it relates to the possibility of Riyadh supporting Beijing’s plans for the “petroyuan”, so it knows that it’ll either have to hold back on playing hardball with MBS or move forward with replacing him in the worst-case scenario.

This “deep state”/geostrategic dynamic explains why American intelligence agencies publicly blamed MBS for Khashoggi’s killing yet Biden backed off from personally punishing him for this. It’s a “good cop/bad cop” type of play, but one which is being made in order to put Saudi Arabia back in place after it ran the former Trump Administration’s regional policy in partnership with its unofficial “Israeli” ally. Those two players stand in the way of the Biden (Obama 2.0) Administration’s risky gambit to restore “balance” to their country’s regional strategy by reaching out to Iran through “nuclear diplomacy” and other means, though all the while retaining pressure on the Islamic Republic as well as can be seen by Biden’s Syria strike last week. If clumsily executed, however, then the US might ultimately end up provoking a so-called “polar reorientation” whereby Saudi Arabia and “Israel” “jump ship” by siding with Russia and China in response to any meaningful US-Iranian rapprochement.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: US, Saudi Arabia, Biden, MBS, Iran, China, Russia, Israel, Balancing.


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