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The future Arctic Sea Route could hand Russia global economic dominance

Russia will have control of a vital shipping lane that will be pivotal to world trade

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(New Eastern Outlook) – In terms of dealing with some of the world’s harshest weather conditions no country comes close compared with Russia. Now Russia has made it a highest priority to develop a Northern Sea Route along the Russian Arctic coast to enable LNG and container freight shipments between Asia and Europe that will cut shipping time almost in half and bypass the increasingly risky Suez Canal. China is fully engaged and has now formally incorporated it into its new Silk Road Belt, Road Initiative infrastructure.

Before attending the Hamburg G20 Summit in July, China’s President Xi Jinping made a stopover in Moscow where he and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed the “China-Russia Joint Declaration on Further Strengthening Comprehensive, Strategic and Cooperative Partnership.” The declaration includes the Northern Sea Route as a strategic area of cooperation between China and Russia, as a formal part of China’s Belt, Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure. For its part, Russia is investing major resources in development of new LNG ports and infrastructure along the route to service a growing maritime traffic passing through its Arctic territorial waters.

The Russian Federation, under the direct supervision of President Putin is building up the economic infrastructure that will create an alternative to the Suez Canal for container and LNG shipping between Europe and Asia. In addition, the developments are opening up huge new undeveloped resources including oil, gas, diamonds and other minerals along the Russian Exclusive Economic Zone,transversing its northernmost Siberian coastline.

Officially Russian legislation defines the Northern Sea Route as the territorial waters along the Russian Arctic coast east of Novaya Zemlya in Russia’s Arkhangelsk Oblast, from the Kara Sea across Siberia, to the Bering Straitthat runs between far eastern Russia and Alaska. The entire route lies in Arctic waters and within Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Preliminary geophysical studies confirm that vast oil and gas reserves exist below the sea floor along the Northern Sea Route of Russia’s EEZ waters, increasing interest of the Chinese government in joint resource development with Russia, in addition to the potentially shorter shipping times to and from Europe.For China, which sees increasing threats to its oil supply lines by sea from the Persian Gulf and via the Straits of Malacca, the Russian Northern Sea Route offers a far more secure alternative, a Plan B, in event of US Naval interdiction of the Malacca Straits.

US Geological Survey estimates are that within the Russian Arctic EEZ some 30% of all Arctic recoverable oil and 66% of its total natural gas is to be found. The USGS estimates total Arctic oil recoverable reserves to be about one-third total Saudi reserves. In short, as Mark Twain might have said, there’s “black gold in them thar’ icy waters…”

The United Nations Convention on Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), to which Russia and China are signatories, but the USA not, defines an exclusive economic zone to be an area “beyond and adjacent” to a state’s territorial waters and provides the state with “sovereign rights…[over] managing the natural resources” within the zone. China does not contest Russia’s EEZ rights, but rather seeks to cooperate in its development now formally within the BRI project.

New Shipping Lanes

The other interest in Russia’s Northern Sea Route is for more economical and faster shipping. In August this year in a test run the Russian LNG tanker, Christophe de Margerie, delivered Norwegian LNGfrom Hammerfest in Norway to Boryeong in South Korea in just 19 days, some 30% faster than the traditional Suez Canal route despite the fact that the vessel was forced to go through ice fields 1.2 meters thick. The Arctic Sea part of the journey was made in a record six and half days. The Christophe de Margerie is the first joint LNG tanker and icebreaker in the world, built to specification for the state-run Sovcomflot for the transportation of LNG from the Yamal LNG project in the Russian Arctic by a South Korean shipbuilder.

Russia is also cooperating with South Korea in development of the shipping capabilities of its Northern Sea Route. On November 6, Russia’s Minister for Development of the Far East, AleksandrGalushka, met South Korea’s Minister of Oceans and Fisheries, Kim Yong-suk. The two countries agreed to pursue joint research into investments for an Arctic container line along the Northern Sea Route. The joint development will include shipping hubs to be created in each end of the Northern Sea Route–Murmansk in the west and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the east. Murmansk, bordering the northern regions of Finland and Norway, has ice-free access to the Barents Sea year around.

Korea’s Hyundai Merchant Marine plans test sailings of container ships along the Northern Sea Route in 2020 with container ships capable of carrying 2,500-3,500 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit, a measure of container size) on the route. In July 2016, an historical shipment of two major industrial components was made from South Korea to the new Russian Arctic port at Sabetta and from there, on the rivers Ob and Irtysh to the South Ural city of Tobolsk.

New Arctic Port Investments

Murmansk itself is site of one of Russia’s largest infrastructure projects. Major construction work is currently on going to complete the so-called Murmansk Transport Hub which includes new roads, railway, ports and other facilities on the west of the Kola Bay. Murmansk is already a key hub for reloading coal, oil, fish, metals and other cargo from the European part of Russia. It will serve as the main western gateway for the Northern Sea Route to Asia.

The Russian Federation is also completing a new port at Sabetta on the Yamal Peninsula. The Yamal Peninsula, bordering the Arctic Kara Sea, is location of Russia’s biggest natural gas reserves with an estimated 55 trillion cubic meters (tcm).By comparison, Qatar gas reserves are calculated at 25 tcm, Iran at 34 tcm. The main developer of the Sabetta Port on Yamal is Novatek, Russia’s largest independent gas producer, together with the Russian government.

Sabetta Port is also site of the major new Yamal LNG Terminal that before end of 2017 will begin transporting Yamal gas via the Northeast Sea Route to China. When at full capacity, Sabetta Port will handle 30 million tons of goods a year making Sabetta the world’s largest port north of the Arctic Circle, surpassing Murmansk. Novatek hasalready pre-sold all its production volumes for Yamal LNG Terminal gas under 15- and 20-year contracts, most to China and other Asian buyers.

Yamal LNG is far from the only area where Russia’s Novatek is cooperating with China. On November 4, Novatek announced it had signed further agreements with Yamal partners China National Petroleum Corporation and China Development Bank for the Arctic LNG 2 project that is potentially larger than the Yamal LNG project. The Arctic LNG 2 project of Novatekon Gydan Peninsula, separated from Yamal by the Gulf of Ob,is to begin construction in 1919.

The Yamal LNG Terminal is a $27 billion project whose lead owner is Russia’s Novatek. When the US Treasury financial warfare targeted Novatek and the Yamal project in 2014 following the Crimea referendum to join the Russian Federation, China lenders stepped in to provide $12 billion to complete the project after China’s state oil company, CNPC bought a 20% interest in the Yamal LNG Terminal project. The China Silk Road Fund holds another 9.9% and France’s Total 20% with Novatek having 50.1%.

Breaking the Ice, Russian-Style

Opening the potentials of Russia’s Northeast Sea Route to full commercial LNG and container freight traffic flow from the west along the Siberian Arctic littoral to South Korea and China and the rest of Asia requires extraordinary technology solutions, above all in the field of ice-breakers and port infrastructure along the deep-frozen Arctic route. Here Russia is unequalled world leader. And Russia is about to expand that leading role significantly.

In early 2016 Russia commissioned a new class of nuclear powered ice-breakers called Arktika-class operated by Atomflot, the ship subsidiary of the giant Russian state Rosatom nuclear group, the world’s largest nuclear power construction company and second largest in terms of uranium deposits producing 40% of the world’s enriched uranium.

The new Arktika icebreakeris at present the world’s most powerful icebreaker of its kind and when ready for sailing in 2019 will be able to break 3 meters of ice. A secondArktika-class nuclear icebreaker is due to sail in 2020. At present Russia has a total of 14 diesel as well as nuclear-powered icebreakers in construction in addition to the just completed Christophe de Margerie.All those 14 new icebreakers are being constructed at shipyards in the St. Petersburg area.

Rosatom to take lead

Now the Russian government is about to dramatically escalate its development of icebreaker technologies with the clear aim of developing the shipping and resources along its Northeast Sea Route passage as a national economic priority.

In 2016 President Putin made a personal priority of overseeing building up of an ultra-modern state-of-the-art shipbuilding center in PrimorskyKrai in the Russian Far East to balance the development of western yards around St. Petersburg and buildup Russia’s economic region around Vladivostok as Russia’s economy, reacting to the incalculable Washington and its sanctions, turns increasingly to self-sufficiency in vital areas.

The Far East shipbuilding is centered ona $4 billion complete reconstruction of the old Zvezda shipyard in BolshoyKamen Bay owned by the Russian state’s United Shipbuilding Corporation. PrimorskyKrai is also home to the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet. When the giant new Zvezda yard is ready in 2020, it will be Russia’s largest most modern civilian shipyard, focusing on large-tonnage ship construction of tankers including LNG tankers, Arctic icebreakers and elements for offshore oil and gas platforms.

On November 18 Russia’s Kommersant business daily announced that Russia’s president Putin wants to turn infrastructure development for the Northern Sea Route over to state nuclear corporation Rosatom. According to the report, Putin approved the idea, which was put to him by his prime minster, Dmitry Medvedev, and which would turn all state services for nautical activities, infrastructure development, as well as state property used along the corridor to Rosatom’s management. Among other implications the decision to make Rosatomsolely responsible for the Northern Sea Route development suggests that nuclear-powered ice-breakers are to play a far larger role in the Northeast Sea Route developments.

According to the report, which has yet to be formally confirmed, the Rosatom role was proposed by Rosatom head Alexei Likhachev and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. Rogozin, sanctioned by Washington,has been Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Defense Industry of Russia since 2011. If the new proposal becomes law, Rosatom will oversee all infrastructure and energy building along the 6,000 kilometers of the route through its arctic division.

According to the source, that will mean Rosatom oversees just about everything, from building ports, to building communications and navigation infrastructure, as well as coordination scientific research. Under the plan a new Arctic Division of Rosatom would centralize ports previously controlled by the Ministry of Transport as well as non-nuclear icebreakers operated by Rosmorport and Russia’s nuclear icebreaker fleet. The NSR Administration, the state institution responsible for safety of navigation, would also become part of this new “Arctic Division” at Rosatom. It would be a move to greatly streamline the present fragmentation of responsibility for different aspects of Russia’s Northeast Sea Route transportation development, one of the highest priorities of Moscow and a key building block in development of the China-Russia collaboration in BRI.

Taking all into account what is very clear is that Russia is developing cutting-edge technology and infrastructure in some of the most extreme climate conditions in the world, in building its economy new, and that it is successfully doing so in collaboration with China, South Korea and even to an extent with Japan, contrary to the hopes of Washington war-addicted neoconservatives and their patrons in the US military industrial complex.

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Patriarch Bartholomew lifts anathemas on schismatics in Ukraine (VIDEO)

Most of the Orthodox world is in strong opposition to this move by Patriarch Bartholomew, whose motivations seem not to be of Christ.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The biggest news in the Eastern Orthodox world in recent times occurred on Thursday, October 11, 2018. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, lifted the anathemas against two schismatic Ukrainian Churches and their leaders, paving the way to the creation of a fully independent Ukrainian national Orthodox Church.

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This announcement was given in English and is shown here in video with the textual transcript following:

“Presided by His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Holy and Sacred Synod convened for its regular session from October 9 to 11, 2018 in order to examine and discuss items on its agenda. The Holy Synod discussed in particular and at length, the ecclesiastical mater of Ukraine in the presence of His Excellency Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon and His Grace Bishp Ilarion of Edmonon, Patriarchal Exarchs to Ukraine, and following extensive deliberations decreed (emphasis added):

First, to renew the decision already made, that the Ecumenical Patriarchate proceed to the granting of autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine;

Second, to re-establish at this moment the stavropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Kiev—one of its many starvorpegion in Ukraine that existed there always;

Third, to accept and review the petitions of appeal of Philaret Denisenko and Makary Maletich and their followers who found themselves in schism not for dogmatic reasons, in accordance with the canonical prerogatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to receive such petitions by hierarchs and other clergy of all the autocephalous Churches. Thus, the above mentioned have been canonically reinstated to their hierarchical or priestly rank, and their faithful have been restored to communion with the Church;

Fourth, to revoke the legal binding of the Synodal letter of the year 1686, issued for the circumstances of that time, which granted the right through economia to the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev elected by the clergy-laity assembly of his eparchy, who would commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch as the first hierarch at any celebration, proclaiming and affirming his canonical dependence to the Mother Church of Constantinople;

Fifth, to appeal to all sides involved that they avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties as well as every other act of violence and retaliation so that he peace and love of Christ may prevail.”

There are a few things that must be said about what this declaration is not before we get to the matter of what the points of actually are. The point of reference is the strict letter of the text above itself.

  • This is not a granting of autocephaly (full independent self-rule status) like the fourteen universally canonical Orthodox jurisdictions in the world. However, it is a huge step towards this status.
  • As far as Constantinople is concerned, Filaret Denisenko, the leader and “Patriarch” of the “Kyiv Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church” and Makary, the “Metropolitan” of the “Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church”, and all their faithful are now restored to communion. The statement says that this applies to “The Church” which may be trying to state that these two men (and all the faithful that they lead), are now in communion with the entirety of canonical Orthodoxy, but more likely, this may be a carefully worded statement to say they now are in communion with Constantinople alone.
  • There is an official call for the cessation of the violence directed against the Moscow Patriarchate parishes and communities, who are the only canonically recognized Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and who are also the largest by far in that country. The Kyiv Patriarchate and Uniate (Roman oriented) Greek Catholics in Ukraine have gone on record for seizing MP church properties, often by force, with neo-Nazi sympathizers and other radical Ukrainian nationalists. So this official call to cease the violence is now a matter of public record.

However, the reaction has been far less civil than the clergy wished for.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko: “Expressing his view of the Moscow Patriarchate, Poroshenko added, “This is a great victory of the God-loving Ukrainian people over the Moscow demons, the victory of Good over Evil, the victory of Light over Darkness.”’

Perhaps this is the reason Metropolitan Onuphry of Ukraine (exarch under the Moscow Patriarchate) has been labeled an enemy of Ukraine and is now receiving death threats. Very civil.

Poroshenko’s statement is all the more bizarre, considering that it has been Ukrainian ultra-nationalists that have been violently attacking Moscow – related parishes in Ukraine. This has been corroborated by news sources eager to pin the blame on Russia, such as the U.K. Guardian.

The Union of Orthodox Journalists, based in Kiev and supportive of the Moscow Patriarchate, has been under intense cyber attack since October 11th, when the EP’s announcement was issued.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) Chancellor, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary: “What happened at the Synod in Istanbul yesterday shocked the entire Orthodox world. It seems the Patriarchate of Constantinople is consciously embarking on a path of schism in world Orthodoxy. Patriarch Bartholomew ignored the calls of the Local Churches to convene a meeting of the primates to work out a common and conciliar solution to the Ukrainian Church issue and unilaterally made very serious but erroneous decisions. I hope the Orthodox world will give this action an objective evaluation… Having received the schismatics into communion, Patriarch Bartholomew did not make them canonical, but has himself embarked on the path of schism. The schismatics remain schismatics. They did not receive any autocephaly or tomos. It seems they have lost even that independence, although non-canonical, that they had and which they always emphasized.”

Metropolitan Rostislav of the Czech Lands and Slovakia:“The Orthodox world recognizes the only canonical primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. This fact was repeatedly mentioned and confirmed by the primate of the Great Church of Christ His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on behalf of all present at the Synaxis of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches that was held in Chambésy (Switzerland) from January 21 to 27, 2016. Therefore, any attempt to legalize the Ukrainian schismatics by the state authorities should be strongly condemned by all the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches.

Patriarch Irinej of Serbia wrote two letters to the Ecumenical Patriarch, advocating that the provision of a new autocephaly is possible only with the consent of all local Orthodox Churches. According to Sedmitza.ru (Translation by Pravoslavie.ru),

“In these letters, it was very clearly stated that the granting of autocephaly cannot be the prerogative the Patriarchate of Constantinople alone, that new autocephalies must be created only with the consent of all the Local Orthodox Churches, as the Holy Synod of Antioch also said in its recent statement.”

Pat. Irinej also warned the Patriarchate of Constantinople against making such major decisions unilaterally, because “it will not bring harmony and peace to the Ukrainian land, but, on the contrary, will cause new divisions and new schisms.”

The Holy Synod of Antioch, the oldest Orthodox Church, and actually the very first place where the disciples of Christ were even called “Christians” weighed in on the issue as well and they had several things to say:

“The fathers examined the general Orthodox situation. They stressed that the Church of Antioch expresses her deep worries about the attempts to change the boundaries of the Orthodox Churches through a new reading of history. She considers that resorting to a unilateral reading of history does not serve Orthodox unity. It rather contributes to the fueling of the dissensions and quarrels within the one Church. Thus, the Church of Antioch refuses the principle of establishing parallel jurisdictions within the canonical boundaries of the Patriarchates and the autocephalous Churches as a way to solve conflicts, or as a de facto situation in the Orthodox world.

To summarize, this move by Constantinople is not being warmly received by many, many people. Most of the local Churches are on record giving their reaction to this process. In brief, here is the list most of the Local Churches and a one or two word summary of their reactions.

Patriarchate of Georgia: Unilateral action is wrong; Constantinople and Moscow must cooperate and find a solution together.

Patriarchate of Jerusalem: recognizes Ukraine as a canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church alone, as do all other local Churches

Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa: The Church does not bow to politicians. Moscow-led church is the only canonical Church in Ukraine.

Archbishop of Cyprus: Decries the Ukrainian situation but offered to mediate a discussion between Moscow and Constantinople

Bulgarian Patriarchate: Interference of the State in Church affairs leads to serious and negative consequences for both.

Polish Orthodox Church: Metropolitan Sawa called for a council of Orthodox ruling hierarchs to discuss this situation.

Estonian Orthodox Church: Condemns Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine.

Greek Archdiocese of America: Supports Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine.

The Orthodox Church of Greece (Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus quoted): “Schismatics, as we know, are not the Church, and communion with them is forbidden by the Divine and holy canons and the Apostolic and Ecumenical Councils. Why then this persistence of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in recognizing schismatics as an autocephalous Church? To provoke schisms and divisions in the one universal and Apostolic Church of Christ?”

Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR): Ceased commemoration of Constantinople, ceased concelebration with Constantinople.

This issue has also rocked the secular geopolitical world.

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S-300 vs. F-35: Stealth and Invincible Are Not Exactly Synonyms

Israel’s high-end F-35I Adir aircraft will be checkmated by this Russian-made, state-of-the-art air-defense system.

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Authored by Andrei Akulov via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


How effective is the S-300 PMU-2 “Favorit” that Russia has just delivered to Syria? Especially when employed against the F-35 stealth fighters that Israel intends to make more use of when attacking targets in Syria? Who has the edge? This is truly a hot topic for the press right now. It would be better, of course, to avoid the military hostilities and leave this as a theoretical, unanswered question, because no definite answer is possible until a real shootout takes place. Stealth technology includes both active and passive measures that reduce visibility and the chance of detection. Some of those are classified, as are the specifications and capabilities of the S-300. This makes it much more complicated to offer predictions or conclusions. But the known facts can be considered impartially and objectively.

Israeli officials play down the significance of the shipment of the S-300 to Syrian government forces. “The operational abilities of the air force are such that those (S-300) batteries really do not constrain the air force’s abilities to act,” said Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s regional cooperation minister. “You know that we have stealth fighters, the best planes in the world. These batteries are not even able to detect them.” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in April that “if anyone attacks us, we will retaliate, regardless of S-300, S-700 or any anything else’s presence there”. The Pentagon has also cast doubt on the S-300’s effectiveness.

Let’s give the devil his due. The F-35 is a fine example of low observable aircraft with extraordinary capabilities. It’s a formidable weapon, but so is the S-300. If the worst happens, Israel’s high-end F-35I Adir aircraft will be checkmated by this Russian-made, state-of-the-art air-defense system.

A stealth aircraft is not invincible. It has its strengths and weaknesses. In Syria, Israeli F-35s will be up against a tight, integrated air-defense network with multiple radars trying to detect and track the target from different directions.

Excessive use of stealth technology restricts the combat capabilities of an aircraft like the F-35. A plane based on stealth technology does not perform exceptionally well in combat. It cannot carry many weapons because everything is hidden inside the body. Its ability to remain invisible is reduced as soon as the radar is turned on. Low frequencies can detect a stealth aircraft. A bomb bay that has been opened to launch weapons will also give the plane away.

The S-300’s 48N6E2 missiles boast single-shot kill probability of 80% to 93% for an aerial target, 40% to 85% for cruise missiles. and 50% to 77% for theater ballistic missiles. The Russian system uses the 96L6 all-altitude detector and acquisition radar, which works in L-band. It has a 300 km range and enhanced resolution. The S-300 PMU-2 version can detect and track 100 targets. The radar is said to be able to detect stealth targets.

Large wavelength radiations are reflected by “invisible” aircraft. Radar that operates in the VHF, UHF, L and S bands can detect and even track the F-35 without transmitting weapons-quality track. It is true that no accurate targeting is possible, but at least you can tell where the plane is.

The S-300’s vertically launched missiles can be re-targeted during flight. The explosion is so powerful that no kinetic kill is needed. Multiple killing elements will strike targets throughout the vicinity.

The IAF F-35s still need to be integrated with other assets in order to enhance their chances of carrying out missions. Just to be on the safe side, they will probably be escorted by electronic warfare aircraft, which are not stealth, thus giving away their position and providing the enemy with enough time to take countermeasures. Israel has only 12 F-35s, with 50 more arriving by 2024. The price tag for each is about $100 million. It’ll be a long time before they are in place and integrated into the Air Force. And twelve are simply not enough.

Besides, the aircraft still needs to be upgraded with the full operational capability of Block 3F and subsequent Block 4 software and hardware configurations.

Once the S-300s are operational, all other Israeli non-stealth planes will face huge risks any time they fly an offensive mission into Syria. It should also be taken into account that Russia will jam the radar, navigation, and communications systems on any aircraft attacking targets in Syria via the Mediterranean Sea, as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu warned on Sept. 24, 2018.

Israel boasts a broad repertoire of standoff weapons, along with highly advanced electronic warfare systems and enhanced cyber capabilities. It also has very experienced and well trained personnel. Nevertheless, the S-300 in Syria is a deterrent to be reckoned with. Hopefully, the peace process in that war-torn country will move forward and there will be no escalation to provoke an S-300 vs. F-35 fight.

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Stephen Cohen calmly DISMANTLES establishment lackeys in debate on Russia (VIDEO)

In New York City on September 20, 2018, the Intelligence Squared hosted a debate of critical importance in helping one understand much of what we are currently seeing on the global scene.

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Via Strategic Culture

The debate developed along three main questions. The first was on the role of NATO (“NATO is no longer fit for purpose”), the second was about Russia (“The Russian threat is overblown”), and the third was on Iran (“It’s time to take a hard line on Iran”).

To discuss these important issues, five very special guests were invited, namely: Derek Chollet, Executive Vice President of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and former US Assistant Secretary of Defense; Stephen F. Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and History, New York University; Reuel Marc Gerecht, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former CIA Analyst; John J. Mearsheimer, American Political Scientist & Professor at the University of Chicago; and Kori Schake, Deputy Director-General at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Looking at the panel, one immediately notices how Cohen and Mearsheimer were invited to bring a realist point of view to the discussion, as opposed to the other three who have an interventionist view of American foreign policy, viewing the United States as the indispensable nation. Cohen and Mearsheimer have worked for years, if not decades, to explain to American and international audiences how Washington’s hegemonic policies have accelerated the end of the US unipolar moment as well as spawned chaos around the world.

Cohen, and especially Mearsheimer, are pure realists. Without going into the merits of the differences between offensive realism, defensive realism and offshore balancers, they both have a coherent vision of why American actions have provoked the results we have seen around the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

For those who follow Cohen and Mearsheimer and see themselves as realists when observing international relations, watching this debate was painful and frustrating, but also immensely useful for understanding today’s divisions. In fact, the other three panelists must be carefully analyzed. Derek Chollet is part of the neoliberal camp, having served in the Obama administration.

Chollet finds himself amongst the field of the imperialists who, following the debacle in Iraq in 2003, opted to subvert sovereign countries using a different set of methodologies, namely, coups d’état organized through such things as color revolutions and the so-called Arab Spring. In the name of spreading democracy, countries like Libya, Ukraine and Syria have suffered unspeakable devastation at the hands of the US and her allies.

In order to represent the full spectrum of US foreign policy, former CIA agent Reuel Marc Gerecht was brought in as a hardliner, repeating the type of neo-conservative arguments reminiscent of the Bush era. Kori Schake, a former adviser to G.W. Bush, completed the lethal neocon-neoliberal offering, representing the position of NATO and the most Russophobic and Iranophobic countries in Europe.

Looking at these guests and at the questions asked, it was obvious that positions that were diametrically opposed would emerge. Cohen and Mearsheimer argued practically in symbiosis, with slightly different perspectives but coming to the same conclusion. The United States, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, found itself the sole superpower facing no direct adversaries.

Washington’s subsequent mission was to remake the world in its own image and likeness, exporting democracy to the four corners of the world and attacking its geopolitical adversaries with soft or hard power. But this course of action, ironically, only served to accelerate the end of this unipolar moment.

Mearsheimer and Cohen tried to reiterate in their every answer how Washington has only managed to damage itself through its own foolish thinking and actions. Regarding the first question concerning NATO, both Mearsheimer and Cohen emphasized that NATO’s eastward expansion following the end of the Cold War was the main cause of instability in Europe.

The three neoliberal-neocons — who for the sake of convenience I will now call “the imperialists” — responded that it was in fact the European countries who demanded America’s presence in Europe for the purposes of protecting them against Russia.

The three imperialists brushed off or ignored Mearsheimer’s simple and straightforward riposte, borrowed from Obama and Trump’s election campaigns, that the European allies only wanted the US in Europe in order to avoid increasing their own military spending. Having apparently not heard what Mearsheimer said, the three insisted that as long as Poland and the Baltic countries demanded a US presence, Washington was obliged to respond. It was also frustrating for Cohen to explain, for the umpteenth time, how NATO’s advance towards Russia’s borders damaged relations between Russia and the US, two countries he believes should be global allies on multiple fronts.

Mearsheimer even urged the three imperialists to think of the Monroe doctrine and of how intolerable it would be for the US to have a foreign power plant itself militarily in the western hemisphere. He also recalled the Cuban missile crisis, brought on by the USSR’s military proximity to the US.

Unfortunately, the three imperialists, even when painted into a corner by Cohen and Mearsheimer’s arguments, simply ignored or glossed over them. The most aggressive imperialist of all was, unsurprisingly, the former CIA agent, who pushed the arrogant line that America’s presence in Europe is necessary not only to keep Russia at bay, but also to prevent the Europeans from descending into a Hobbesian state of nature and tearing each other apart, as happened in two world wars.

Not surprisingly, the arguments used by the former CIA agent regarding NATO in Europe received the full accord of Kori Schake and Derek Chollet. Cohen’s reminder to those present that the coup in Ukraine was organized and financed by the West was dismissed as false and ridiculous. Derek Chollet averred: “the manifestations of the Maidan were spontaneous, invoking a greater proximity to Europe in the face of a dictator in the hands of Moscow.”

The second question was related to the first, discussing Russia and its role in the world. Once again, both Cohen and Mearsheimer had to summon all their patience and explain to the general public how Putin has always acted in reaction to Western provocations. NATO’s eastward expansion (in spite of Bush’s verbal promise to Gorbachev not to extend NATO beyond Germany) was the cause of the war in Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine in 2014.

Of course the three imperialists denied these arguments, accusing Putin of unprovoked aggression, confirming in their mind why the US presence in Europe is needed to oppose Russia as a negative actor on the international scene. Not even Mearsheimer’s echoing of Kissinger’s strategy to divide Russia and China convinced those present that the aggressive attitude towards Moscow and Beijing was only damaging the United States, accelerating the end of the unipolar moment and forging the birth of a multipolar reality that will leave Washington isolated from the other great powers.

The three imperialists affirmed that the cooperation between Russia, China and Iran should not be surprising since dictators always confederate with each other; and besides, they say, this situation should not scare the United States, as it has the capacity to deal with multiple fronts simultaneously.

Fortunately, Cohen’s words, recalling the disasters in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya put paid to such delusional optimism, provoking laughter from the audience. Such moments served to highlight how ridiculous the imperialist arguments are. Two or three such arguments were enough to open the eyes of audience members who may not have been familiar with opposing arguments to the ones presented by the imperialists.

Two such instructive moments stand out. The first was in response to the former CIA agent, who called for a coup d’état in Iran, stating that the United States knows how to conduct these successfully. But Mearsheimer’s rejoinder, recalling the failures in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan, provoked loud applause from the audience. Mearsheimer reminded how these arguments were employed by Obama and Trump during their election campaigns to win office.

The second moment, even more effective, concerned Iran. In response to Kori Schake, who argued for greater pressure on Iran because of its alleged interference in the region in a bid to expand its influence in many neighboring countries (Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen), Mearsheimer pointed out the staggering level of hypocrisy involved, where the United States of America is the world champion of regime change and interference in the internal affairs of other countries. The strong applause that followed testified to the incontestable truth of this observation.

Unfortunately, the debate ended with most of the audience continuing to believe that NATO is of fundamental importance, Russia is an evil actor, and the US needs to place more pressure on Iran. The number of people who changed their minds before and after the debate was important (Mearsheimer and Cohen changed the attitudes of about 10% of those present regarding the first two questions) but still marginal compared to the total.

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As an online spectator, I experienced different feelings. My main frustration lay in the David-and-Goliath nature of the debate, with the arguments of Cohen and Mearsheimer contending against all the accumulated lies of the mainstream media, amplified and repeated by the three imperialists present.

The public was certainly more accustomed to hearing the imperialists’ arguments; Cohen and Mearsheimer hardly had sufficient time to overcome the audience’s conditioning. Yet a part of the public present completely changed its mind following the debate. Some people entered the hall with the conviction that NATO was indispensable and Russia aggressive, but ended up leaving with the belief that NATO is now obsolete and that Russia is not the aggressor here.

What then emerges from this whole debate is the obvious conclusion that Mearsheimer and Cohen are two formidable minds unafraid to confront, dismantle and destroy the received wisdom. Being informed is a fundamental part of our lives today. Without being properly informed we are not properly equipped to vote and elect our representatives. We are thus unable to properly shape and determine the course of events in our putative democracies.

This debate has shown how disconnected the US imperialist world is from the real world, and especially how much damage this neocon-neoliberal way of thinking has actually done, ironically succeeding in producing results opposite to those sought, only serving to accelerate the end of America’s domination over the world. As information spreads and reaches more and more people, there will be an increasing understanding of the disastrous actions of the Euro-American establishment.

Cohen and Mearsheimer are acting in service of their country, warning that the direction in which the United States is headed will only have deleterious consequences for the country’s role in the world.

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