FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Birth of a Eurasian Century?

by

The unipolar model of the world order has failed.

– Vladimir Putin, St Petersburg, May 22

In more ways than one, last week heralded the birth of a Eurasian century. Of course, the US$400 billion Russia-China gas deal was clinched only at the last minute in Shanghai, on Wednesday (a complement to the June 2013, 25-year, $270 billion oil deal between Rosneft and China’s CNPC.)

Then, on Thursday, most of the main players were at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum – the Russian answer to Davos. And on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, fresh from his Shanghai triumph, addressed the participants and brought the house down.

It will take time to appraise last week’s whirlwind in all its complex implications. Here are some of the St Petersburg highlights, in some detail. Were there fewer Western CEOs in town because the Obama administration pressured them – as part of the “isolate Russia” policy? Not many less; Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley may have snubbed it, but Europeans who matter came, saw, talked and pledged to keep doing business.

And most of all, Asians were ubiquitous. Consider this as yet another chapter of China’s counterpunch to US President Barack Obama’s Asian tour in April, which was widely described as the “China containment tour”.

On the first day at the St Petersburg forum I attended this crucial session on Russia-China strategic economic partnership. Pay close attention: the roadmap is all there. As Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao describes it: ”We plan to combine the program for the development of Russia’s Far East and the strategy for the development of Northeast China into an integrated concept.”

That was just one instance of the fast-emerging Eurasia coalition bound to challenge the “indispensable” exceptionalists to the core. Comparisons to the Sino-Soviet pact are infantile. The putsch in Ukraine – part of Washington’s pivot to “contain” Russia – just served to accelerate Russia’s pivot to Asia, which sooner or late would become inevitable.

It all starts in Sichuan

In St Petersburg, from session to session and in selected conversations, what I saw were some crucial building blocks of the Chinese New Silk Road(s), whose ultimate aim is to unite, via trade and commerce, no less than China, Russia and Germany.

For Washington, this is beyond anathema. The response has been to peddle a couple of deals which, in thesis, would guarantee American monopoly of two-thirds of global commerce; the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – which was essentially rebuked by key Asians such as Japan and Malaysia during Obama’s trip – and the even more problematic Trans-Atlantic Partnership with the EU, which average Europeans absolutely abhor (see Breaking bad in southern NATOstan, Asia Times Online, April 15, 2014). Both deals are being negotiated in secret and are profitable essentially for US multinational corporations.

For Asia, China instead proposes a Free Trade Area of Asia-Pacific; after all, it is already the largest trading partner of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

And for Europe, Beijing proposes an extension of the railway that in only 12 days links Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, to Lodz in Poland, crossing Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus. The total deal is the Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe network, with a final stop in Duisburg, Germany. No wonder this is bound to become the most important commercial route in the world.

There’s more. One day before the clinching of the Russia-China gas deal, President Xi Jinping called for no less than a new Asian security cooperation architecture, including of course Russia and Iran and excluding the US. Somehow echoing Putin, Xi described NATO as a Cold War relic.

And guess who was at the announcement in Shanghai, apart from the Central Asian “stans”: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and crucially, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The facts on the ground speak for themselves. China is buying at least half of Iraq’s oil production – and is investing heavily in its energy infrastructure. China has invested heavily in Afghanistan’s mining industry – especially lithium and cobalt. And obviously both China and Russia keep doing business in Iran.

So this is what Washington gets for over a decade of wars, incessant bullying, nasty sanctions and trillions of misspent dollars.

No wonder the most fascinating session I attended in St Petersburg was on the commercial and economic possibilities around the expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), whose guest of honor was none other than Li Yuanchao. I was arguably the only Westerner in the room, surrounded by a sea of Chinese and Central Asians.

The SCO is gearing up to become something way beyond a sort of counterpart to NATO, focusing mostly on terrorism and fighting drug trafficking. It wants to do major business. Iran, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Mongolia are observers, and sooner rather than later will be accepted as full members.

Once again that’s Eurasian integration in action. The branching out of the New Silk Road(s) is inevitable; and that spells out, in practice, closer integration with Afghanistan (minerals) and Iran (energy).

The new Crimea boom

St Petersburg also made it clear how China wants to finance an array of projects in Crimea, whose waters, by the way, boasting untold, still unexplored, energy wealth, are now Russian property. Projects include a crucial bridge across the Kerch Strait to connect Crimea to mainland Russia; expansion of Crimean ports; solar power plants; and even manufacturing special economic zones (SEZs). Moscow could not but interpret it as Beijing’s endorsement of the annexation of Crimea.

As for Ukraine, it might as well, as Putin remarked in St Petersburg, pay its bills.  And as for the European Union, at least outgoing president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso understood the obvious: antagonizing Russia is not exactly a winning strategy.

Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, has been one of those informed few advising the West about it, to no avail: “Russia and China are likely to cooperate even more closely … Such an outcome would certainly benefit China, but it will give Russia a chance to withstand US geopolitical pressure, compensate for the EU’s coming energy re-orientation, develop Siberia and the Far East, and link itself to the Asia-Pacific region.”

On the (silk) road again

The now symbiotic China-Russia strategic alliance – with the possibility of extending towards Iran  – is the fundamental fact on the ground in the young 21st century. It will extrapolate across the BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Non-Aligned Movement.

Of course the usual shills will keep peddling that the only possible future is one led by a “benign” empire.  As if billions of people across the real world – even informed Atlanticists – would be gullible enough to buy it. Still, unipolarity may be dead, but the world, sadly, is encumbered with its corpse. The corpse, according to the new Obama doctrine, is now “empowering partners”.

To paraphrase Dylan (“I left Rome and landed in Brussels”), I left St Petersburg and landed in Rome, to follow yet another episode in the slow decadence of Europe – the parliamentary elections. But before that, I was fortunate to experience an aesthetic illumination. I visited a virtually deserted Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences, where two dedicated, extremely knowledgeable researchers gave me a private tour of some pieces belonging to arguably the most outstanding collection of Asian manuscripts on the planet. As a serial Silk Road traveler fanatic, I had heard about many of those documents, but I had never actually seen them. So there I was, on the banks of the Neva, a kid in a (historical) candy store, immersed in all those marvels from Dunhuang to Mongolia, in Vedic or Sanskrit, dreaming of Silk Roads past and future. I could stay there forever.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com

This column originally appeared in Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).  His latest book is Empire of ChaosHe may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail