An Anti-American Military Confederacy May Loom in Asia - 2007

Russia And Central Asian Allies Conduct War Games in Response to US Threats


Barely acknowledged by the Western media, military exercises organized by Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan under the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, (CSTO) were launched on the 24th of August. These war games, officially tagged as part of a counter terrorism program, are in direct response to US military threats in the region including the planned attacks against Iran. The Rubezh-2006 exercise, is scheduled to take place from August 24-29 near the Kazak port city of Aktau: "It will be the first joint military exercise undertaken by CSTO countries, and will involve 2,500 members drawn from various armed services of member states, with Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan the principal participants. Uzbekistan, which has recently rejoined the CSTO, will send observers, while the two other pact members, Belarus and Armenia, will not be taking part .( IPWR News Briefing Central Asia)

Press reports from the region describe these war games as a response to US military presence and ambitions in Central Asia: "The growing militarisation is connected with mutual mistrust among countries in the region, say analysts. Iranian media have speculated that the United States is using Azerbaijan to create a military counterweight to Iran on the Caspian. It is possible that the exercise conducted by the CSTO – in which Russia is dominant – represents a response to concerns about United States involvement in developing Kazakstan’s navy. Observers say Russia is leaning more and more towards the Iranian view that countries from outside should be banned from having armed forces in the Caspian Sea."

Experts say the US is trying to step up the pressure on Iran, as well as to defend its own investments in Azerbaijan and Kazakstan. It is also trying to guarantee the security of the strategically vital Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. A military presence on the Caspian would give the United States an opportunity to at least partially offset its weakening influence in Central Asia, as seen in the closure of its airbase in Uzbekistan, the increased rent it is having to pay for the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan, and the diplomatic scandal that resulted in the expulsion of two Americans from Kyrgyzstan. According to analysts, genuine security in the region can be achieved only if the military interests of all five Caspian countries are coordinated. At an international conference in Astrakhan in July 2005, Russia proposed the formation of a Caspian naval coordination group, but to date the initiative has not had much of a response.(Ibid)

Iran War Games coincide with those organized by the CSTO

The entire region seems to be on a war footing. These CSTO war games should be seen in relation to those launched barely a week earlier by Iran, in response to continued US military threats. These war games coincide with the showdown at the UN Security Council and the negotiations between permanent members regarding a Security Council resolution pertaining to Iran's nuclear program. "They are taking place within the window of time that has been predicted by analysts for the initiation of an American or an American-led attack against Iran" (see Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Global Research, 21 August 2006): "War games and military exercises are now well underway within Iran and its territory."

The Iranian Armed Forces—the Regular Armed Forces and the Revolutionary Guards Corps—began the first stage of massive nationwide war games along border areas of the province of Sistan and Baluchistan1 in the southeast of Iran bordering the Gulf of Oman, Pakistan, and NATO garrisoned Afghanistan to the east on Saturday, August 19, 2006. These war games that are underway are to unfold and intensify over a five week period and possibly even last longer, meaning they will continue till the end of September and possibly overlap into October, 2006". (Ibid, emphasis added) While Iran is not a member of the CSTO, it has observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), of which China is a member. The SCO has a close relationship to the CSTO. The structure of military alliances is crucial. In case of an attack on Iran, Russia and its CSTO allies will not remain neutral. In April, Iran was invited to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Sofar no concrete timetable for Iran's accession to the SCO has been set. This enlargement of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which also includes observer status for India, Pakistan and Mongolia counters US military and strategic objectives in the broader region. Moreover, China and Russia, which are partners in the SCO also have a longstanding bilateral military cooperation agreement. In August 2005, China and Russia conducted joint militart exercises. The conduct of the CSTO war games must be seen as a signal to Washington that an attack on Iran could lead to a much broader military conflict in which Russia and the member states of the CSTO could potentially be involved, siding with Iran and Syria. Also of significance is the structure of bilateral military cooperation agreements. Russia and China are the main suppliers of advanced weapons systems of Iran and Syria. Russia is contemplating the installation of a Navy base in Syria on the eastern Mediterranean coastline. In turn, the US and Israel have military cooperation agreements with Azerbaijan and Georgia.

China War Games

In recent developments, China and Kazakhstan have initiated war games (August 24, 2006) under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). These war games are being held concurrently with those conducted under the CSTO, which are also being held in Kazakhstan.

India-Russia military Cooperation

India and Russia have signed on August 20th, a farreaching military cooperation agreement. Although not officially directed against the US, the purpose of this agreement is understood. The two countries have "agreed to focus on joint war games in services-to-services interaction, joint development of new weapons systems and training of Indian military personnel", (Press Trust of India, 21 August 2006).


An Anti-American Military Confederacy May Loom in Asia

The members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), an intergovernmental association comprising China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, will recognize the organization’s fifth anniversary in June 2006 with a much anticipated celebration, “Everyone agrees this first jubilee date must be celebrated accordingly,” said Vitally Vorobyev, Russia’s coordinator in the SCO. Washington, however, will not be joining in the festivities. The reason for Washington’s sour mood? Growing anxiety surrounding the ultimate mission of the SCO and its impact on Central Asia and the Middle East. Pictures taken by journalists of Russian President Vladimir Putin during the recent joint Russsian-Chinese Peace Mission 2005 military exercises, showing the president in full military attire and holding a large model warplane were not reassuring. His subsequent flight in a supersonic bomber specifically designed to deliver a nuclear payload did not help either.

This raises an important question: with SCO leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Hu Jintao and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad openly embracing military modernization and improved synergies, is the organization destined to become a military confederacy with the U.S. as its main target? “For the SCO to be turned into a military and political bloc or alliance, the present-day SCO would need to be dissolved. The legislation of some of the SCO member-countries makes this [military confederacy] impossible,” said Vitally Vorobyov. He immediately followed these comments with a contradictory statement, “Cooperation between defense agencies within the SCO framework can and should develop. The SCO makes provision for this, it’s nothing new.” Statements of this type from high-level Russian and SCO officials continue to perplex western intelligence officials, leading some to speculate that it may be only a matter of time before the SCO begins to exert its collective military influence in Central Asia and the Middle East.

Peace Mission 2005

In August, “Peace Mission 2005,” a joint eight-day military exercise involving 10,000 Russian and Chinese troops, was held in Russia’s Far East and China’s Shandong Peninsula. The exercises were led by Russian General Makhmut Gareyev, a veteran of World War II who fought against both Germany and Japan. Requests by Washington to reduce the scope of the exercises were rejected by both Russia and China. The joint exercises involved beach landings, airborne assaults, naval blockades, anti-ship missiles and precision bombing from strategic bombers. To the surprise of western intelligence officials, Russian Tu-95MS Bear and Tu-22M3 Backfire strategic bombers designed to carry nuclear-tipped cruise missiles were deployed during the exercises. The exercises reportedly involved a mock intervention to stabilize an imaginary country driven by ethnic strife. In response, the U.S. launched a week long “Joint Air Sea Exercise 2005” in Okinawa and Guam which included 10,000 troops and 100 warplanes from the USS Kitty Hawk strike group. In addition, the U.S. and South Korea participated in a twelve day “Ulchi Focus Lens 2005” military exercise. Taiwan has already announced that it has scheduled its own invasion defense exercise code named “Yama Sakura” for 2006. Taken collectively, the military exercises send a clear message to Moscow and Beijing that the U.S. is prepared to respond to any collaborative military threat.

Recent Military Exchanges

In September, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov announced his country had agreed to supply China with a total of 40 IL-76 transport and IL-78 refueling planes at a cost of about $1 billion. Later this month, Ivanov is expected to sign contracts to deliver Russian military vehicles to China. The recent plane and vehicle sales continue a trend of Russian military hardware transfers to China which have included: 200 fourth-generation fighter aircraft, several S-300 air defense batteries, guided missile destroyers and sophisticated submarines worth a combined $15 billion over the past ten years. In 2004 alone, Russian arms exports to China totaled $2.3 billion.

According to Konstantin Makiyenko, the deputy director of the Center for Strategic and Technological Analysis, a Moscow-based think tank, China is also interested in purchasing Russian made A-50 Mainstay AWACS planes and a manufacturing license for the Su-30MK2 multi-role fighter. Moreover, Beijing has made it clear that wants to accelerate the purchase of advanced Russian fighters, unmanned aircraft and long and short-range missiles as part of its ongoing modernization program. Not surprisingly, Russian Defense Minister Ivanov announced this month that Russian servicemen would travel to China for training stating, “Russia needs more experts who can speak Chinese.” More than 500 Chinese students already study at Russian military universities. But why the sudden urgency for improved communication between the two militaries? Washington has begun to take notice of the evolving relationship. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack commented in August, “We would hope that anything that they [China and Russia] do is not something that would be disruptive to the current atmosphere in the [Central Asia] region.” Unfortunately, Mr. McCormack may be disappointed.

Future Military Exercises

Immediately after the completion of their historic joint military exercises, Russia and China announced plans to hold additional joint exercises in 2006. Both countries anticipate expanding the exercises to include SCO member states Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as observer states India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan. “It is possible by the time we decide to hold such exercises with China; other SCO countries would be willing to join, like India,” one Russian official said. Russian Defense Minister Ivanov concurred, “I think that future Russia-China military exercises will be held and other members of the SCO will probably take part in them.”

Russia and India are scheduled to hold their first joint army drill next month, with mock raids on terrorist facilities taking place in the Indian province of Rajastahn, on the boarder with Pakistan. Andrei Kokoshin, a former secretary of the Russian Security Council and a member of parliament said the impending follow-up to the Peace Mission 2005 exercises could be part of a Russia-China-India triangle which supports the increased activity of the SCO. “The exercise might focus on maintaining stability in Central Asia and ensuring the security of oil supplies via sea routes,” Kokoshin said. Chinese, Indian and Russian naval assets working in unison to protect oil supplies in the Persian Gulf? This comment shows another disturbing aspect of the emerging confederacy, an increased willingness to use its combined military strength to secure strategic energy reserves located in the Middle East. The mere thought of the Persian Gulf clogged with warships enforcing multilateral allegiances and interests is enough to make any intelligence analyst stay up all night. General Yury Baluyevskiy, Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, further elaborated on the topic of SCO military cooperation, “I do not rule out that, if a decision is made by the SCO, of which Russian and China are members, the armed forces of our countries may be involved in performing certain tasks.” General Baluyevskiy failed to elaborate on what those “certain tasks” would include.

Observer country Pakistan is also becoming more active in the military aspects of the SCO. In September, Chinese General Liang Guanglie, a member of the Central Military Commission and Chief of Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), met with Pakistani General Ehsan Ul Haq, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to strengthen military-to-military ties. During the meeting in Beijing, the two generals exchanged views on issues of common global and regional interest, as well as army building. The most troubling development of the past month related to the SCO is the growing prospect of a nuclear-obsessed Iran joining the organization as a permanent member. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the newly elected conservative President of Iran, is a proven U.S. antagonist and a firm believer in spreading revolutionary Islamist ideology throughout the Muslim world. His recent comments at the U.N. concerning the U.S. show a preparation for confrontation with the U.S. Making matters worse; Iran is planning to build up its military forces. Iran had planned to double its military budget by 2010, but thanks to record oil revenues, that timetable has been adjusted to 2008.

New Thinking Needed

The SCO is a menacing confederacy of powerful nations arising out of the shadows of the Cold War that could cause tremendous global instability and even lead to world war. Geopolitics aside, the SCO has the potential to become the most powerful alliance on earth, combining Russia’s energy, military and technology expertise; China and India’s economic and human capital; and Iran’s enormous energy resources and growing military capabilities. This unique combination makes the SCO a formidable adversary for the U.S. In February, Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) chief of staff General Liang Guanglie said the Peace Mission 2005 exercises would, “protect the peace and stability in our region and the world.” The world? The world has been led to believe that the SCO is a regional alliance designed to address issues of mutual concern such as terrorism, separatism and extremism -- whatever they may mean at the moment for the members of the SCO. With military operations scheduled for 2006 and an expanded list of participating nations, the military threat posed by the SCO is starting to take shape.

At this time, what steps need to be taken by the U.S. to prepare for a possible SCO military threat? First, the U.S. Congress, Department of Defense and U.S. intelligence community must recognize that the continued military modernization and integration involving Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Iran will directly threaten the U.S. and its allies within the next several years. This is an uncomfortable reality, but one which is taking shape right before our eyes. Second, calls by the SCO and others in the international community for an immediate withdraw of U.S. troops from the Middle East and Central Asia should be disregarded, due to the horrific consequences that the inevitable power vacuum would cause. Instead, strategic alliances should be strengthened with countries such as Georgia and the Ukraine to counter any regional threat. Third, recent calls by Iran for a Muslim seat on the UN Security Council should be viewed for what they are; an effort by Tehran to weaken U.S. legitimacy in the international community and diminish its influence in Central Asia and the Middle East. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s announcement that his country will sell “peaceful” nuclear technology to other Islamic countries is too chilling to contemplate.

In short, the SCO is an immature, but potentially dangerous confederacy of countries with a mutual interest to dethrone the U.S. and if necessary, confront it militarily. Under the guise of economic partnership, regional alliances and friendship, China, Russia and the other members of the SCO are rapidly increasing their collective power. Recent Pentagon reports identifying China as a growing threat are indeed accurate, but don’t go far enough. The reports are deficient in that they base their analysis and predictions on countries such as China acting unilaterally. As a result, compulsory discussions concerning the rise of regional and global alliances that threaten the U.S. are not taking place. This could be a fatal mistake, since the SCO has become the perfect vehicle for coordinated military action in the future.

Frederick W. Stakelbeck Jr. is an expert on bilateral and trilateral alliances as they relate to China foreign policy.


Russia's Plans to Build Pipeline to Far East

Energy-rich Russia has proposed piping gas and oil to resource-hungry China. But Russia’s record of using energy exports to promote its foreign policy interests suggests that, if the new pipelines are actually built, supplies could be a source of friction rather than friendship

RUSSIA and China have much in common. The huge countries share a border of 2,700 miles (4,300km) and a history of autocratic rule. And both are enjoying economic booms. But while Russia prospers by exporting oil and gas from its vast reserves, China is a voracious importer. On March 21st Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin went a little way towards keeping both economies bubbling in the long term, while making the most of the mismatch. Mr Putin, in Beijing for talks with China’s leader, Hu Jintao, agreed a number of deals that could partly slake China’s huge thirst for energy. Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled gas monopoly, will construct pipelines from Siberia that should start pumping gas to China in five years. State oil firms from the two countries will run joint-ventures. And, perhaps more importantly, China National Petroleum Corporation agreed to stump up $400m towards an oil pipeline between eastern Siberia and China.

China should not celebrate too soon on the last deal, at least. Mr Putin failed to give any details of the construction or time-scale of the oil pipe, though his energy minister said work would begin this year. Russia has long deliberated about the route the pipe should take, with both China and Japan desperately keen for it to come to them. As usual, final plans will depend upon the conclusions of a “feasibility study”. The environmental impact of such a big project could be enormous. The pipe’s proximity to Lake Baikal, the world’s largest single store of fresh water, and its effect on the haunts of a rare species of leopard apparently trouble Russia’s planners. More pressing, however, are the interests of the Russian state. Lobbying from Japan and China on the route of the pipeline has gone on for some years. Japan wants it to reach the shore of the Sea of Japan, where tankers could distribute the black stuff to Japan and China, and elsewhere in Asia and America. Japan is ready to put a hefty sum towards construction costs to secure a deal. This route would be far longer than one to the proposed terminus in China.

Mr Putin has suggested that the pipe will run to the coast and a spur will supply China with his country’s oil. But his silence on details may be intended to suggest that all options are still open while Russia waits for more concessions. That, at least, is typical of Russia’s use of its oil and gas as instruments of foreign policy. Even the promise of a pipeline is a useful means of wielding influence over neighbours, both to the east and to the west. Russia may hope for a favourable outcome in a territorial dispute with Japan over the Kuriles, a chain of islands linking Japan to Russia. Or, with China, it might expect better co-operation in Central Asia. China’s quest for “energy security” has sent it far and wide. Last year, CNOOC, a state oil firm, even tried to buy America’s Unocal, though Congress stymied the move. Russia previously blocked Chinese firms from buying stakes in its oil firms, so the proposed joint-ventures count as something of a concession. Chinese state-controlled oil firms are also busy picking up assets in various corners of Africa, Venezulea, and most galling to Russia, in the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Keeping a grip

Russia’s grip on the oil and gas of Central Asia and the Caucasus loosened after the break up of the Soviet Union. But through Transneft, the state-run Russian monopoly that owns many pipelines in the region, it retains serious clout. Until recently much of the energy exports from these areas went through Russia. Last year, however, a consortium led by BP opened a huge pipeline between Baku, on the Caspian Sea, and the Turkish port of Ceyhan. When operational it will give the West access to the region’s oil and gas through a pipeline that avoids Russia. Last year a pipeline opened between Kazakhstan and China which may yet extend to the Caspian oil fields. Until then most Kazakh oil was piped through Russia. Mr Putin has responded by consolidating the state’s hold over domestic oil and gas reserves. Last year, Gazprom, the giant state gas company, bought Sibneft, a private Russian oil producer. Earlier, Rosneft, another state-controlled oil firm, acquired the main production operation of Yukos, a private energy company that had been dismembered by Russia’s state. Yukos’s boss, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was also thrown into jail, perhaps partly because he planned to build a private oil pipeline to China (he also meddled in internal Russian politics). Foreign oil companies have also been blocked from making any new investments in Russia.

Such tight control of energy exports lets Russia manipulate relations with its near neighbours. It cut supplies to Ukraine at the start of the year as the two countries rowed about the cost of gas. Many suspect, too, Mr Putin was punishing Ukraine’s pro-western government. Russia subsidises gas exports to Belarus, buying the staunch loyalty of its leader. When Belarus’s leader, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, irked the Kremlin in 2004 Russia turned off the taps, if only briefly. A new pipeline across the Black Sea, carrying gas to Turkey, raises questions over Russia’s influence on that country. And western Europe in general is increasingly reliant on Russian energy exports. Though the dispute in Ukraine was settled quickly, it highlighted doubts over Russia’s reliability as a supplier. At the very least it made clear that—as China and Japan know only too well—the provision of energy supplies has political, as well as economic, ramifications.

Russia, China Looking to Form 'NATO of the East'?
A six-member group, seeking to balance US power, meets in Moscow Wednesday

Russia and China could take a step closer to forming a Eurasian military confederacy to rival NATO at a Moscow meeting of the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Wednesday, experts say. The group, which started in 2001 with limited goals of promoting cooperation in former Soviet Central Asia, has evolved rapidly toward a regional security bloc and could soon induct new members such as India, Pakistan, and Iran. One initiative that core members Russia and China agree on, experts say, is to squeeze US influence - which peaked after 9/11 - out of the SCO's neighborhood. "Four years ago, when the SCO was formed, official Washington pooh-poohed it and declared it was no cause for concern," says Ariel Cohen, senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. "Now they're proven wrong."

Wednesday's meeting is expected to review security cooperation, including a spate of upcoming joint military exercises between SCO members' armed forces. It may also sign off on a new "Contact Group" for Afghanistan. That would help Russia and China - both concerned about increased opium flows and the rise of Islamism - develop direct relations between SCO and the Afghan government. While this will be highly controversial given the presence of NATO troops and Afghans' bitter memories of fighting Russian occupation throughout the 1980s, the Russians have an "in" because they still have longstanding allies in the country. In attendance Wednesday will be prime ministers of member states Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, as well as top officials from several recently added "observer" states, including Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, and Iranian Vice President Parviz Davudi.

The SCO's swift rise has been fueled by deteriorating security conditions in ex-Soviet Central Asia, as well as a hunger in Moscow and Beijing for a vehicle that could counter US influence in the region. "Moscow is seeking options to demonstrate - to Washington in the first place - that Russia is still an important player in this area," says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a partner of the US bimonthly journal Foreign Affairs. "China's ambitions are growing fast, and it also wants to turn the SCO into something bigger and more effective." Russian leaders blame the Bush administration, with its emphasis on democracy-building, for recent unrest, including revolution in Kyrgyzstan and a putative Islamist revolt in Uzbekistan. "Washington wants to expand democracy, which it sees as a panacea for all social and geopolitical evils," says Sergei Karaganov, head of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policies, which advises the Kremlin. "But it is clear to us that any rapid democratization of these countries (in Central Asia) will lead to chaos."

An SCO summit last June demanded that the US set a timetable to remove the bases it put in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan with Moscow's acquiescence in the wake of 9/11. In July, Uzbek leader Islam Karimov ordered the US base at Karshi-Khanabad to evacuate by year's end. But two recent visits to Kyrgyzstan by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appear to have secured the US lease on that country's Manas airbase indefinitely - albeit with a sharp rent increase. "There is nothing to cheer about," says Mr. Cohen. "Washington has signaled to the Russians that we won't be seeking any new bases in Central Asia. Basically, we are doing nothing to counter the moves against us." In joint maneuvers last August, Russian strategic bombers, submarines, and paratroopers staged a mock invasion of a "destabilized" far eastern region with Chinese troops. This month, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov proposed holding the first Indian-Chinese-Russian war games under SCO sponsorship. "In principle, this is possible," he said. "The SCO was formed as an organization to deal with security issues."

Should states like India and Iran join, the SCO's sway could spread into South Asia and the Middle East. "India sees observer status [in the SCO] as a steppingstone to full membership," says a Moscow-based Indian diplomat who asked not to be named. But he added that India, which has recently improved its relations with the US, does not want to send an anti-US message. "We would hope the Americans would understand our desire to be inside the SCO, rather than outside," he says. While the SCO's potential looks vast on paper, experts say internal rivalries would preclude it from evolving into a NATO-like security bloc. "What kind of allies could Russia and China be?" says Akady Dubnov, an expert with the Vremya Novostei newspaper. "The main question for them in Central Asia is who will gain the upper hand." Still, the idea of a unified eastern bloc has strong appeal for some in Moscow. "It's very important that regional powers are showing the will to resolve Eurasian problems without the intrusion of the US," says Alexander Dugin, chair of the International Eurasian Movement, whose members include leading Russian businessmen and politicians. "Step by step we're building a world order not based on the unipolar hegemony of the US." Says Cohen: "Eventually they'll wake up to this challenge in Washington. But will it be too late?"


Russia and China: Joint Military Exercises

Russia and China conducted their first joint military exercises, dubbed “Peace Mission 2005,” last week. Many observers contend that the maneuvers were meant to send a clear message to the United States, Japan, and the rest of the world that the jury is still out over power in Taiwan and Central Asia. TAIPEI — Taiwan Daily (liberal, pro-independence), Aug. 21: “If one wants to analyze why China and Russia want to jointly start such military drills, a relatively more reasonable answer will be that China wants to use this military exercise to make a show of its force to the ‘U.S.-Japan security alliance.’ Russia, on the other hand, is attempting to use this drill to release the strategic pressure it encounters in East Europe and Central Asia. … The situation on the Korean peninsula will be the next [that is worth observation]. Since both China and Russia are participants of the Six Party Talks as well as standing members of the U.N. Security Council, the joint Sino-Russia military drill will not only attempt to place pressure on the ‘U.S.-Japan alliance’ but will also seek to form a new alliance among the participants of the Six Party Talks. China has already [succeeded in] maintaining a close relationship with South Korea. If it could create a new cooperative relationship with Russia following the joint military exercise and apply it on the Korean peninsula, it will be able to form a confrontational situation between the ‘China-Russia-Seoul-Pyongyang’ [force] and the ‘U.S.-Japan alliance’ once the fourth round of Six Party Talks is resumed.”
— Lai I-chung

LONDON — Financial Times (centrist), Aug. 19: “’Peace Mission 2005,’ the first joint military exercise launched yesterday by China and Russia, is not the innocent peacekeeping drill its name suggests. It represents a significant deepening of the military relationship between a former superpower and an emerging one, and therefore will be closely watched by the only current superpower, the U.S. … If these war games were really about peacekeeping, they would not require the mock amphibious assaults, attack submarines and Russian long-range strategic bombers that military analysts say are involved. …”

SINGAPORE — Business Times (pro-government, financial), Aug. 19: “The growing American preoccupation with the Middle East has come with a major cost. Since 9/11 and against the backdrop of the mess in Iraq, the United States has been less engaged in dealing with the core geo-political and geo-economic problems of East Asia. If anything, American approach towards East Asia has been dominated by reactive and ad-hoc policies centered mostly on security issues, and in particular, the North Korean nuclear crisis and Taiwan. Even more troubling has been the failure of the Bush administration to develop a coherent strategy towards China. Instead, U.S. policy towards Beijing is looking more and more like a set of confused responses to the pressures coming from a coalition of protectionists, neoconservative ideologues and China bashers. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the United States is finding itself more and more marginalized in the political and economic changes that are taking place in East Asia as it faces a more diplomatically engaged and energetic China.”

TOKYO — Sankei Shimbun (right-wing), Aug. 19: “The first joint-military exercise between China and Russia, ‘Peace Mission 2005,’ has begun. Both countries say that the exercise ‘is not targeted against a third country.’ However, it appears that it [exercise] is targeting the ‘common strategic goal’ of the Japanese-U.S. alliance, as it includes training based on the supposition of ‘landing in Taiwan,’ among other things. China is definitely accelerating the modernization of its military, and we cannot help but have concerns over it. … Such moves reflect the joint interests of China and Russia of opposing U.S. rule by reinforcing military cooperation. … The primary purpose of the plan for the joint-exercise, which China proposed one year ago, was to ‘train for anti-terrorism.’ However, on the exercise plan this time, it appears that Russia’s intention is to urge the Chinese side to conduct exercises in which the Russia side will mobilize the latest equipment. … Along with its economic development, China has modernized its weapons and equipment. However, in recent years, it is placing emphasis on reinforcing its air and naval power. It [the reinforcement] is on the supposition of a contingency over Taiwan, and it is believed that it is based on a strategy to prevent U.S. military intervention. …”

TAIPEI — Taipei Times (liberal, pro-independence, English language), Aug. 19: “It is not difficult to see what the real target of such an exercise is. … Although Russia’s overall military power still lags behind that of the U.S., it is still more powerful than that of China. … This is an indirect indication of an improvement in Chinese-Russian relations, as both nations share the aim of increasing their influence in the Asia-Pacific region. The Russian government has attached considerable importance to these exercises. … The U.S. has shown interest in both the scope and format of the drills, as well as the effectiveness of the weapons that are employed. Washington is even more interested to learn about their methods of communication, the command and control mechanism, the application of electronic parameters and the exchange of intelligence between the two nations. The exercises are expected to have a significant impact on the balance of power in Asia and are also an opportunity for China and Russia to make the U.S. take note of their growing military strength. …” — Chang Yan-ting


China, Russia Sign Joint Statement

China and Russia signed a joint statement here Tuesday, pledging to tighten their ties by furthering cooperation in politics, energy and regional affairs. Recalling their ten-year-old strategic partnership of coorperation, Chinese President Hu Jintao and visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed that "bilateral relations are at an unprecedented level of development". Putin is on a two-day state visit to China from Tuesday to Wednesday. Apart from the joint statement, the two heads of state also attended the signing of 14 cooperative agreements after their talks in the Great Hall of the People. "The energy cooperation between China and Russia, as an important part of the Sino-Russian Strategic Partnership of Cooperation, is witnessing a high-level development, and is of great significance for further deepening bilateral economic cooperation," says the statement.

The two sides support companies from both nations to invest in the exploration of oil and gas resources and to tap energy potentials of both nations, according to the statement. Russia expressed its strong support for the one - China policy. "The Russian side will continue to adhere to the one - China policy and recognize the government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of the whole of China," the statement says. And "Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory." Russia opposes Taiwan joining the United Nations and other international organizations that only sovereign nations could join,and will not sell weapons to Taiwan, says the statement.China and Russia, sharing a 4,300-km-long border, thoroughly settled their boundary disputes last year after 40 years of negotiations. The completion of delimitation and the smooth implementation ofthe agreement on strengthening military trust and mutual reduction of armed forces on the border areas, as well as the agreement on common economic use of certain islands in the border rivers and surrounding waters during the past ten years, are conducive to peace and friendship on the China-Russia border areas, the statement says.



Sino Russian Trade Soars

A report about the record scale of Sino-Russian trade, which reached $29 billion in 2005 -- a 37.1 percent increase -- came out in December and was supplemented in the first two months of this year. Importantly, during this period bilateral trade has been scrutinized in the context of the upcoming visit of the Russian president to China. The report's conclusion is that during Putin's presidency Sino-Russian trade has more than tripled. The point of departure is 2000, with the volume of trade amounting to $8.3 billion. The Russian economy has also grown, but not to such an extent. In other words, Sino-Russian commerce is surpassing Russia's economic growth as a whole. China is not the only case in point. Trade with France has also almost tripled, reaching $9 billion a year. But these rates have not turned France into Russia's second trade partner after Germany. This place is occupied by China. It is difficult to quote accurate data because Russia and China have always engaged in border trade, which is estimated at several billion dollars on top of the official figure and makes the statistics extremely confusing. It is no surprise that Asia's importance for Russia is rapidly growing. Asia is attracting greater attention from the rest of the world as well.

The question of who it is better to trade with -- East or West -- does not depend on political preferences but is the choice of the market's invisible hand. Otherwise, why was there so much talk under former President Boris Yeltsin about the need to cross the $10 billion mark in Sino-Russian trade, a target which seemed unrealistic and was not achieved at that time? After the year 2000, however, the situation underwent a dramatic change. Bilateral trade virtually doubled between 2003 and 2005, a rare case in world practice. Nevertheless, although China has become Russia's second partner after Germany, the reverse is not true. Russia's share in China's entire trade is a little over 2 percent. In other words, Moscow depends more on Beijing than the other way round. It is not easy to level out this imbalance. Mutual economic dependence is a coveted target in international relations because it makes them stable, peaceful and predictable. Sino-U.S. relations are one example. In theory, the two countries should be extremely tense as many Americans are horrified by the prospect of China replacing the United States as the world's economic leader within the next 25-45 years. But in reality, Beijing and Washington treat each other with care.

Out of China's 863 large commercial airplanes, 534 are Boeings, for which the United States received $40 billion. A considerable portion of Boeing spare parts found all over the world are assembled in China. Moreover, China has already credited the U.S. economy with $300 billion, having bought securities from the U.S. Treasury. Even if the two countries are strategic rivals, this does not prevent them from being locked in a strong economic embrace. Despite its trade record with China, Russia is not as economically important for China as the U.S. But China certainly needs Russia. The latest statistics of bilateral trade show the share of raw materials (oil, timber, fish, metals) in Russia's exports to China is on the upsurge. In 2005, this figure reached almost 90 percent of Russia's overall exports to China. As for oil deliveries, Russia is China's fifth-largest partner after Saudi Arabia, Iran, Oman and Angola.

But China cannot export raw materials because it has none. Instead, it has recently become the world's assembly shop. Both Moscow and Beijing are trying to find out a roundabout way of overcoming this unpleasant trend. Both sides want to make Russia's exports of raw materials more science-intensive. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao agreed to draft a program on bilateral trade and economic cooperation for 2006-2010. Today, the Russian Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and the Chinese Ministry of Trade are working on this program. The document will be practically completed by the time of Putin's forthcoming visit to China. The main goals of the plan are to at least double bilateral trade again to reach $60 billion by 2010, and attract $12 billion worth of Chinese investment to the Russian economy. These objectives require a change in the entire pattern of bilateral trade. Russia will not amend its intention to increase oil supplies to China. The amount, carried by trains alone, will be brought to 15 million tons. But apart from exporting oil, Russia is capable of offering energy generation technologies and these matters are now on the agenda.



U.S. Warships Ply Waters, China on Horizon

Beijing has acquired Russian Sukhoi fighters to control the Taiwan Strait and has deployed 650-730 mobile short-range ballistic missiles on its side of the coastline. Last summer, China conducted a large-scale joint exercise with Russia that focused on a sea blockade and landing operations that were widely regarded as a test-run for military action against the island. The National People's Congress increased pressure on Taipei in March last year by passing the anti-secessionist law, which states Beijing will allow "no interference by outside forces" and shall never let Taiwan secede "under any name or by any means." China's military growth suggests it is looking beyond Taiwan, however. Last June, China test-fired a Ju Lang 2 submarine-launched ballistic missile. An improved version of the Dong Feng 31, China's ICBM, the Ju Lang 2 has an estimated range of about 4,800 miles (8,000 kilometers), putting the continental U.S. within striking distance.

China has no aircraft carriers, but submarines are seen as a good indicator of Beijing's desire to project force beyond its shores. Western military analysts believe the Chinese are significantly improving their submarine fleet through domestic production and procurement from Russia. In a report to Congress in March, Adm. William Fallon, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said the Navy has renewed its focus on anti-submarine warfare "in view of the proliferation and increased capability of submarines in Asia and the Pacific." "While nowhere near U.S. capabilities, the PLA is enhancing a diverse and robust array of military hardware," he said, adding that the United States is strongly encouraging Chinese military leaders to "substantively engage us in a more transparent manner." The Pentagon is putting a larger proportion of its submarine fleet in the Pacific, adding another aircraft carrier battle group and bolstering and reshaping its forces on the tiny island of Guam, a U.S. territory about halfway between Hawaii and Tokyo.

It is also carrying out a sweeping realignment of its troops in Japan. Tokyo and Washington have agreed to improve information-sharing, cooperate on ballistic missile defense and bolster joint contingency planning. The Army, meanwhile, may move the headquarters of I Corps, which focuses on potential conflicts in the Pacific, from Fort Lewis, Wash., to Japan. Japan, which sits like a fence off the shores of China, has been conditioned since Hiroshima to stay out of conflicts, and pacifism is written into its constitution. But its leadership is becoming increasingly aggressive about putting its military to use. Japan already ranks fourth or fifth in military spending behind the United States, Russia, China and possibly Britain. Its air force and navy are among the most powerful in Asia. It has ground troops in Iraq on a non-combat mission and its vessels help refuel coalition warships in the Indian Ocean.

It is alarmed by the perceived threat posed by China and by neighboring North Korea, which shot a ballistic missile over Japan's main island in 1998. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi supports revising the constitution to "normalize" Japan's Self-Defense Forces -- meaning give it the status and powers of any other army -- and has initiated a program that put Japan's first spy satellites in orbit two years ago. "In a highly globalized world, an SDF specializing only in the defense of the homeland can hardly defend Japan's overall security," the National Institute for Defense Studies, the research and policy arm of Japan's Defense Agency, said its 2006 strategic review. "The SDF must expand and deepen international cooperation and deal with regional and global security problems."

After several months of repairs, Kitty Hawk commander Capt. Ed McNamee is eager to take the aircraft carrier back out to sea. Forty-five years in service, it's the oldest active-duty warship in the Navy, and is to be replaced by the nuclear-powered USS George Washington in 2008. "The Navy is committed to keeping it in combat shape until it is time to go home," McNamee said. "But it takes a little more every year to keep her going." Nevertheless, when McNamee leaves port he commands a powerful weapon -- a crew of roughly 5,000, with 75-plus aircraft, including everything from F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters to torpedo-bearing Seahawk helicopters. As an example of how versatile his ship is, he said that in 2001, helicopters launched off Kitty Hawk flew Marine special operations units to landlocked Afghanistan. "We are a very potent force," he said.

And, by design, a very visible one. For about six months of the year, the Kitty Hawk is at sea in the Pacific. Much of that time it is participating in exercises with regional allies. "The nations of Asia make up 50 percent of the world's population, 80 percent of which lives within 500 miles (800 kilometers) of the coast. It is a maritime region," McNamee said. McNamee stressed that U.S. Navy ships played a significant role in assisting victims of the tsunami that deluged south Asia in 2004, and said that role will likely expand in future. He is also keenly aware that his ship -- an aircraft carrier ready to "reach out" and touch countries virtually anywhere -- is a symbol of exactly what China does not yet have. Asked if he considers China a threat, he turns diplomatic, recalling the days, even as the Cold War was being waged, when Soviet naval officers would come aboard U.S. ships to visit. "I look forward to the same kind of opportunity with the Chinese," he said.

Russian, Chinese Spies Saturate U.S., Britain

The legendary MI5 British counterintelligence service is said to be deeply concerned over an increase in spying by Russian and Chinese operatives in the United Kingdom. The United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation has similar concerns with Russian and Chinese agents infiltrating the U.S. military-industrial complex, sometimes in violation of American immigration laws. Although intelligence experts aren't certain how widespread the problem is, they believe the espionage is rampant and a serious consequence of the global economy. MI5 suspects upwards of 15 foreign intelligence services are working within the UK and are a threat to the United Kingdom's interests, and the primary focus of their counterespionage efforts are the Chinese and Russians. Using many of the same methods the Japanese used in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, the Chinese are interested in any and all information that may give them a leg up in the competitive global economy. In spite of repeated warnings to businesses, companies in the UK and U.S. continue to hire Chinese workers without conducting thorough background investigations including verifying previous employment or immigration status.

Chinese government officials and businessmen are proven aggressive in their attempts to find out everything about how Western companies operate and how they are structured. It is old-fashioned human intelligence gathering -- it's thousands of years old and it works. Taking a page out of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War," they believe intelligence operations will give them the victory they seek, whether in terms of military prowess or industrial success. Using stealth tactics such as sending visiting delegations of Chinese businessmen, the spies are able to penetrate what little security companies employ to thwart theft of information. One British firm eager to develop its business with China recently invited a delegation to visit its UK factory, according to The Guardian. The Chinese authorities sent a delegation, but only a few of them turned up. The rest were believed to have traveled around Britain inviting themselves to defense and research establishments. Again, they were able to penetrate the security measures in place at these facilities.

According to several business leaders in the UK, if a British company creates a fuss about visitors who fail to turn up, the Chinese threaten to cancel the company's license to trade. As with the Japanese spies in the U.S., the Chinese spies are specifically interested in scientific and high-tech developments. Their economy is said to be booming while at the same time there is a serious shortage in information technology and modern processing, manufacturing and design skills. MI5 is also concerned over the loyalties of Chinese who are UK citizens. Intelligence officers claim these workers may have mixed loyalties and strong ties to China. In Britain, the Chinese and Russians appear to focus on high-tech production, such as security and surveillance systems, conventional weapons systems, and especially dual use equipment -- materials that can be used by the private sector or by the military.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also alarmed about the impact of foreign spies within the United States, especially Chinese and Russian operatives. As with businesses in the United Kingdom, American companies seem to pay little attention to corporate espionage, putting most of their security budget into protection against terrorist attacks. The FBI are suspicious of Russia, Iran, and North Korea but have focused mostly on the Chinese. The feds estimate that the are over 2,600 Chinese front companies in the U.S. U.S. and UK security experts believe that when nations such as China and Russia saw the speed and effectiveness with which the U.S. conducted the Iraq invasion, they decided widespread espionage operations were necessary to keep up with the world's sole superpower.

Sources: Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Security Institute, American Society for Industrial Security, National Association of Chiefs of Police Private Security Committee, The Guardian

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Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

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