Archive for ‘The new power cartography’

February 3, 2015

The shifting world system

Here is a very interesting piece by World Systems Theory guru Immanuel Wallerstein on Putin’s politics in a multi-polar world.

April 24, 2014

Some links on Ukraine

 

Ukraine oil pipelines

China/Russia pipelines: Reuters on the fossil fuel geopolitics behind the Ukraine conflict

MOSCOW/BEIJING, April 23 (Reuters) – Europe’s plans to reduce its dependence on Russian energy as the Ukraine crisis threatens supplies are spurring efforts by Russia’s top producer, Gazprom, to sign a deal next month to pump gas to China, industry sources say.

The elusive deal, slated to be signed next month when Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to visit China and seen as vital if Russia is to be a big player in Asian gas markets, would wrap up a decade of talks in which price has been the main obstacle.

“Judging by the speed of work which is under way in Gazprom, I would say that the possibility that the deal would be signed is 98 percent,” a Gazprom source said, adding agreement on what China would pay for the gas was close. [READ THE REST.]

Cutting off Ukraine: The FT on Russia’s risk of killing its golden goose

Arseniy Yatseniuk, Ukraine’s beleaguered premier, claims his country is facing not just military aggression from neighbouring Russia, but “another kind of aggression – aggression through its gas supplies”.

Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine is all too real. President Vladimir Putin admitted last week that gunmen who helped Moscow annex Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea last month were Russian. Few western leaders doubt that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine also include Russian soldiers.

Yet while it is difficult to disentangle the gas dispute from the geopolitical crisis, the accusation of “energy aggression” by Russia and its natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, is less clear cut.

By cutting off gas to Ukraine in 2006 and 2009 amid pricing disputes, Gazprom has hardly endeared itself to Kiev, or to European customers further west – which experienced disruptions to Russian supplies through the massive transit pipelines that run across Ukraine.

Now, paradoxically, Russia seems to be putting maximum pressure on its neighbour’s struggling government, while doing its best to avoid cutting off supplies. [READ THE REST]

Send a message to Putin: WSJ on why a trans-Atlantic energy partnership makes geostrategic sense

Energy has always been central to creating a trade and investment bloc through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. If a TTIP agreement can reduce wide differences in energy prices between Europe and the U.S., Europeans will pay less for energy, while American energy producers will finally be able to profit from the recent energy boom by selling at competitive market prices. Trying to artificially hold down prices has heavy costs for domestic producers, encourages consumption, and dampens energy production over…  [READ THE REST]

November 8, 2013

Could Israel Become a Cultural Superpower?

Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli was painted onto a Southwest Airlines plane to promote the 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Photo: Christopher Ebdon / flickr

You don’t have to have a huge army or a major global economy to have influence way beyond your size.

By Benjamin Kerstein in The Tower:

Despite its high international profile, Israel has always been a somewhat provincial county, with a domestic culture largely unknown to outsiders. The classic pieces of Israeli pop culture, such as the comedy group Ha’Gashash Ha’Hiver, Eretz Israel and Mizrahi music, and the classic bourekas movies, remain ubiquitous in Israel—most Israelis can quote lines from them at will—but almost nowhere else. Everyone in the world knows who Brad Pitt is, but no one outside of Israel knows Yehuda Levi, his rough Israeli equivalent. Indeed, when Yair Lapid suddenly emerged as Israel’s newest political star, the global media proved completely ignorant of a man who had been one of Israel’s most famous media personalities for decades. [READ THE REST]

July 23, 2013

Soft power: Qatar’s Foreign Policy Adventurism

John Kerry with the Emir of Qatar in Doha, Foreign Policy of Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani

John Kerry with the Emir of Qatar in Doha, June 2013 (Jacquelyn Martin/Courtesy Reuters)

Earlier this month, the Taliban opened an official office in Doha, landing Qatar once more in Western headlines. That might have been part of Qatar’s plan: the decision to host such a controversial office is symptomatic of a desire to play a central role in a wide array of important diplomatic issues. Yet the debacle of the office’s first 36 hours shows just how far Qatar still has to go.

[READ THE REST]

July 4, 2011

Israel In A Multipolar World

 

A very important post. I think the diagnosis is correct, but the prescription is wrong. Israel does need to develop good relations with democratic rising powers like India, Brazil and China. But it would be re-playing its damaging alliances with South Africa to consider allying with brutal authoritarian states like China, purely for the sake of realpolitik.

By Liam Hoare:

Netanyahu’s “speech of his life” may have been damaging for an already weakened peace process, but it did hit the mark in its analysis of the special relationship between Israel and the United States – two exceptional nations that compliment each other like gin and tonic. As Netanyahu put it in his speech to Congress: “We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism”.

Their relationship has been beneficial for both parties, for indeed the United States has been able to rely on Israel as the “one anchor of stability in a region of shifting alliances”. American presidents haven’t had to nation-build or construct democracy in Israel – these are things the Jewish people achieved for themselves, along with the capacity to fight their own battles in a region flush with nations none too pleased at their presence.

Going the other way, and as Netanyahu recognised in his speech, the United States has always been “very generous” in giving them the “tools to do the job of defending Israel” on their own. The most recent deal of note came when economic aid came to an end in 2007; President Bush signed a ten-year deal which gave Israel $30 billion in military assistance.

This past of unwavering fiscal support during a time of (to a minimal degree) American economic expansion is now a forgotten season, as the nation turns inward to confront its crippling national debt (at a level of, as near as makes no difference, 100pc of GDP). The rise of the Tea Party would indicate that, when the time comes for the budget to be slashed, foreign aid and the Defence Department might have to bear the brunt. The spirit might be willing in most quarters, but the body will be weakened to a point where Washington can no longer afford to be so charitable to even its best of friends.

The consequences of relative American decline are clear, and will have very real consequences for the State of Israel. For, by decade’s end, it is evident that the world will no longer be unipolar, with the United States at its axis. Rather, it will almost certainly be bi- if not multipolar – the direct result of the economic rise and neo-colonial expansion of China, and other nouveau riche nations like India and Brazil. Over the course of the next ten years, the power of America and Israel’s eternal bond as a mechanism for dictating the nature of globalpolitics will evidently diminish.

Therefore it seems clear that, in order to secure Israel’s continuation not only as a player on the world stage but as a nation-state in and of itself, she must continue to nurture its ties with China on one level, whilst maintaining its unique marriage with United States on another.

read more »

July 1, 2011

Chinese imperialism and American technology

In previous posts, I have highlighted the power of Arab oil money in the British and American academy. In this post, we turn to China. The website China Threat has some interesting, if somewhat hysterical, information about some of the ways in which Chinese soft power is exploiting US corporate and academic technology development.

University Tech:

Michigan Professor Questions University’s Ties with China

A professor of aeronautics engineering at the University of Michigan says his university is engaged in transferring sensitive military technologies to China and that the practice is encouraged by the university’s faculty and administrators.
“We are transferring every bit of knowledge and know how that we have to the People’s Republic of China,”   MORE

University of Michigan’s Role in Transferring Anti-Satellite Weapons Technology

Picture

Dr. Daniel Scheeres studies how to rendezvous objects in space such as landing a spacecraft on an asteroid. However, the same technology can be used to shoot down a satellite or rendezvous a hunter killer satellite with a target satellite in orbit. MORE

Corruption

Is China Becoming a Mafia State?

John Garnaut is the China correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age newspapers. He goes into incredible detail about the operations of organized crime in China and the relationship between government officials and organized crime figures.     MORE

Rampant Fraud Threat to China’s Brisk Ascent

 By ANDREW JACOBS Published: October 6, 2010

BEIJING — No one disputes Zhang Wuben’s talents as a salesman. Through television shows, DVDs and a best-selling book, he convinced millions of people that raw eggplant and immense quantities of mung beans could cure lupus, diabetes, depression and cancer.  MORE

Is America at war with China?

WikiLeaks: US vs China in battle of the anti-satellite space weapons

On the night of Feb 20, 2008, Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, was on a plane to Hawaii when his telephone rang. They told him the conditions were “ripe” to launch what can now be disclosed was a secret test of America’s anti-satellite weapons, Washington’s first such strike in space for 23 years. That night, the US navy’s Ticonderoga-class cruiser, USS Lake Erie, scored a direct hit on an American spy satellite, known as USA 193. The missile used, a highly sophisticated SM-3, took about three minutes to climb 150 miles above the Earth, where it flew past the satellite before turning back and destroying the target at an impact speed of 22,000mph.
The strike came about a year after the Chinese government had launched its own satellite attack, which started a secret “space war”…                       MORE

China Navy Reaches Far,  Unsettling the Region

New York Times By EDWARD WONG Published: June 14, 2011 photo by Andy Wong
QINGDAO, China — The photographs of Chinese warships speeding between Japanese islands in the Pacific for drills circulated quickly last week, raising what Japan’s defense minister called “serious concern.”MORE
April 4, 2011

Multipolar world

Juan Cole points out one of the positive dimensions to living in a mulitpolar world.

Our multilateral world has more spaces in it for successful change and defiance of totalitarianism than did the old bipolar world of the Cold War, where the US and the USSR often deferred to each other’s sphere of influence.

March 28, 2011

Real imperialism – the new power cartography remaps Africa

Modernity writes:

Stealing land is not new, but this particular fashion of buying up chunks of African land can only be called imperialism, the Guardian reports:

“Gambella has offered investors 1.1 million hectares, nearly a quarter of its best farmland, and 896 companies have come to the region in the last three years. They range from Saudi billionaire Al Amoudi, who is constructing a 20-mile canal to irrigate 10,000 hectares to grow rice, to Ethiopian businessmen who have plots of less than 200 hectares.

This month the concessions are being worked at a breakneck pace, with giant tractors and heavy machinery clearing trees, draining swamps and ploughing the land in time to catch the next growing season.

Forests across hundreds of square km are being clear-felled and burned to the dismay of locals and environmentalists concerned about the fate of the region’s rich wildlife.

Local government officers have denied claims that people are being forcibly moved to make way for foreign companies.[…]

Ashwin Parulkar writes:

Al Amoudi is not alone in seeing the vast Ethiopian plains as cheap, fertile property ripe for investment. During the past six years, as global food and oil price increases made it more expensive to import food, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states began investing in earnest in Ethiopia and Sudan—in excess of $75 billion from 2005 to 2009, according to the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development. The largest land investor among the Gulf States, the United Arab Emirates, now controls over 1,100 square miles of farmland in Sudan.

India has also emerged as a major player in African agriculture. Last year, Ethiopia’s Minister of Agriculture, Tefera Deribew, visited India to announce his government’s intention to offer 4.4 million acres of farmland to Indian agro-enterprises. According to the government of India, the country’s private sector has already invested more than $4 billion in farmland located in other countries. The first to do so in Ethiopia was Karuturi Global, an Indian-based agri-business known primarily for producing cut roses. In 2010, it acquired a lease for 740,000 acres in Gambella to farm wheat, maize, and rice. Groups of Punjabi farmers are currently negotiating a deal with the Ethiopian government to lease 250,000 acres at astonishingly low rates—$3.60 per acre per year, for 25 to 40 years, with the first five years rent-free.

These deals are part of a land grab taking place all across Africa, a transfer of control unprecedented in the post-colonial era. According to a World Bank report released in January, 48 percent of all land deals struck worldwide between October 2008 and August 2009 involved land in sub-Saharan African countries.

The pace of acquisitions has been stunning. September, a World Bank report revealed that in 2009, some 111 million acres of farmland was acquired globally by foreign investors—nearly 75 percent of it in sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to 2008, foreign investors only acquired an average of 10 million acres per year.

India’s minister of commerce has said:

“While the current volume of India-Africa trade stands at $45 billion, we have set a target of $70 billion for 2015. I am confident we will achieve that,” he added.

Modernity continues:

The Torygraph reported on this phenomena in 2009:

“Indian farming companies have bought hundreds of thousands of hectares in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal and Mozambique, where they are growing rice, sugar cane, maize and lentils for their own domestic market back in India.

Its government has given soft loans as aid to support the overseas ventures in what has been described as a challenge to China and Saudi Arabia in the new scramble for Africa. China, South Korea, and a several Arab countries have led the way in creating new African mega-farms to outsource domestic food production and use cheaper labour.

Critics have described the development as modern “piracy” and “land grabbing” from countries that have in the past been blighted by famine and severe food shortages.

South Korea has bought just under 700,000 hectares in Sudan, while Saudi Arabia has signed a deal for 500,000 hectares in Tanzania.”

Among the drivers for the new scramble for Africa are food commodity price rises and the related economics of monoculture agribusiness around foods like palm oil, which is an increasingly ubiquitous ingredient in the world’s diet, despite the ecological devastation it causes. Here’s The Ecologist reporting on one example:

Indonesia’s move to bring in a two-year moratorium on new palm oil plantations to protect its remaining rainforests has seen agribusiness giants like Sime Darby switch expansion plans to Cameroon, Ghana and Liberia

The sudden upsurge in land deals by palm oil companies in Africa could lead to large-scale deforestation and loss of farmland by local communities, NGOs and environmental groups in Africa have told the Ecologist.

The world’s largest palm oil producer Indonesia is due to implement a two-year ban on granting new concessions of land to plantation companies in forest areas. There are also restrictions on the availability of land in Malaysia. This has led companies like Sime Darby, which has more than half a million hectares of palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia, to look elsewhere.

Sime Darby – reported to be the largest palm oil producer in the world – has leased 220,000 hectares of land in Liberia and is considering buying a further 300,000 hectares for palm oil plantations in Cameroon. Despite the Indonesian ban, it still wants to acquire 1 million hectares of plantation land worldwide by 2015. Other rival palm oil giants like Sinar Mar, Olam International and Wilmar International are also tying up land deals in Liberia, Gabon and Ghana.

Another driver is the massive growing biofuel market. Here’s an example from Kenya:

An Italian company has asked the authorities for permission to lease 50,000 hectares there to grow jatropha, whose seeds are rich in oil that can be turned into bio-diesel.

This plant, originally from South America, has long been grown in Africa as a hedge to keep out animals – goats stay well away as it is poisonous. The area affected is community land which is being held in trust by the local council.

Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd is 100%-owned by the Milan-based Nuove Iniziative Industriali SRL. It has leased almost a million hectares in Africa; jatropha oil from a plantation in Senegal is being supplied to the Swedish furniture retailer Ikea. Other companies have leased land for the same purpose in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Ghana, as well as in India.

March 24, 2011

The new arms race in a multipolar world

RIYADH. King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdu...

Image via Wikipedia

In the bi-polar world, the two superpowers raced against each other for bigger, more and more deadly weapons. In today’s multipolar world, the race is one which anybody can join. Here are a couple of reports from the side of the track.

  • China has new powerful Dong Feng 16 (DF-16) missiles aimed at Taiwan, according to the island state’s National Security Bureau Director-General, Tsai Der-sheng.
  • Russia has claimed that it will inject USD100 billion into the development of its defence industries during the next decade.
  • General Dynamics Land Systems, a business unit of Ohio, USA-based, General Dynamics, was recently awarded two contracts worth $44 million for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia‘s tank program. The contracts were awarded by the U.S. Army TACOM Lifecycle Management Command on behalf of the Royal Saudi Land Forces. This work is part of a plan by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to upgrade its entire fleet of 314 tanks. The first contract of $37.1 million is to provide materials and labor for the conversion of 42 M1A2 tanks to an M1A2S configuration for the Kingdom. The M1A2S will possess defined capabilities that “increase lethality while limiting obsolescence”. Saudi Arabia is the biggest defence spender in the region, and its tanks are currently being deployed in Bahrain to suppress the pro-democracy movement there.
  • Iran is rapidly and significantly expanding capabilities to accommodate larger missiles and satellite launch vehicles (SLVs), including the Simorgh 3 SLV in construction at Semnan space centre, according to Jane’s analysis of satellite imagery of the site. Tehran spends around $9.3-9.5 billion annually on defence, putting it at no.5 in the region.

Finally, check out this fantastic photo essay from IDEX, the global arms expo in Abu Dhabi.


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March 4, 2011

Who owns the US?

Federal_Debt-VS-Taxes

Image via Wikipedia

By Greg Bocquet, here:

Regardless of how much closer Obama’s budget brings our economy into a balance of payments not seen since 2001, we will continue to run deficits for the next decade, and the national debt will keep growing every year that happens.

While most of the country’s $14 trillion debt is held by private banks in the U.S., the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Board estimate that, as of December, about $4.4 trillion of it was held by foreign governments that purchase our treasury securities much as an investor buys shares in a company and comes to own his or her little chunk of the organization.

Looking at the list of our top international creditors, a few overall characteristics show some interesting trends: Three of the top 10 spots are held by China and its constituent parts, and while two of our biggest creditors are fellow English-speaking democracies, a considerable share of our debt is held by oil exporters that tend to be decidedly less friendly in other areas of international relations.

Here we break down the top 10 foreign holders of U.S. debt, comparing each creditor’s holdings with the equivalent chunk of the United States they “own,” represented by the latest (2009) state gross domestic product data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Obviously, these creditors won’t actually take states from us as payment on our debts, but it’s fun to imagine what states and national monuments they could assert a claim to.

foreigndebt-flags.jpg
©Radar Communication

1. Mainland China

Amount of U.S. debt: $891.6 billion

Share of total foreign debt: 20.4%

Building on the holdings of its associated territories, China is the undisputed largest holder of U.S. foreign debt in the world. Accounting for 20.4% of the total, mainland China’s $891.6 billion in U.S. treasury securities is almost equal to the combined 2009 GDP of Illinois ($630.4 billion) and Indiana ($262.6 billion) in 2009, a shade higher at a combined $893 billion. As President Obama — who is from Chicago — wrangles over his proposed budget with Congress he may be wise to remember that his home city may be at stake in the deal.

[…]

4. Oil Exporters

Amount of U.S. debt: $218 billion

Share of total foreign debt: 5%

Another grouped entry, the oil exporters form another international bloc with money to burn. The group includes 15 countries as diverse as the regions they represent: Ecuador, Venezuela, Indonesia, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Gabon, Libya, and Nigeria. As a group they hold 5% of all American foreign debt, with a combined $218 billion of U.S. treasury securities in their own treasuries. That’s roughly equivalent to the combined 2009 GDP of Nebraska ($86.4 billion) and Kansas ($124.9 billion), which seems to be an equal trade: The two states produce a bunch of grain for export, which many of the arid oil producers tend to trade for oil.

[…]

6. Caribbean Banking Centers

Amount of U.S. debt: $155.6 billion

Share of total foreign debt: 3.6%

You have to have cash on hand to buy up U.S. government debt, and offshore banking has given six countries the combined capital needed to make the Caribbean Banking Centers our sixth-largest foreign creditor. The Treasury Department counts the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Netherlands Antilles, Panama and the British Virgin Islands in this designation, which as a group holds $155.6 billion in U.S. treasury securities. That’s equivalent to the GDP of landlocked Kentucky ($156.6 billion), whose residents may not actually mind if they were ever to become an extension of some Caribbean island paradise.

7. Hong Kong

Amount of U.S. debt: $138.2 billion

Share of total foreign debt: 3.2%

At No. 7 on the list of our foreign creditors is Hong Kong, a formerly British part of China that maintains a separate government and economic ties than the communist mainland. With $138.2 billion in U.S. treasury securities, the capitalist enclave could lay claim to Yellowstone Park and our nation’s capital: The combined GDP of Wyoming ($37.5 billion) and Washington D.C. ($99.1 billion) totaled $136.6 billion in 2009.

[…]

10. Russia

Amount of U.S. debt: $106.2 billion

Share of total foreign debt: 2.4%

Starting off the list of our major foreign creditors is Russia, which holds about 2.4% of the U.S. debt pie that sits on the international dinner table. Its $106.2 billion in treasury securities is equivalent to the 2009 GDP of our sparsely populated North: The combined output of North Dakota ($31.9 billion), South Dakota ($38.3 billion) and Montana ($36 billion) matches up nicely with the Russian holdings, at $106.2 billion.

Let’s hope Russian president Dmitry Medvedev doesn’t come to collect.