THE KAISERREICH AS HISTORICAL PRECURSOR TO THE PRESENT-DAY PEOPLES REPUBLIC OF CHINA
"As we also know from the onset of the first world war, seemingly minor events can quickly escalate to catastrophic proportions. Europe never recovered from the disasters of that war, and the even worse one it spawned 25 years later. Today, with China under the leadership of Xi Jinping, an assertive nationalist, Japan under the leadership of Shinzo Abe, a no less assertive nationalist, and the US committed by treaty to defending Japan against attack, the risk of a ruinous conflict again exists. Such an event is far from inevitable. It is not even likely. But it is not impossible and it is more likely than it was a month ago.
Again, there are parallels with the rise of Germany. In the early 20th century, that nation launched a naval arms race with the UK. In 1911, Germany sent a gunboat to Morocco in response to French intervention in that country. The aim was, in part, to test relations between France and the UK. In the event, it cemented that alliance, just as China’s action is likely to cement the alliances between Japan and South Korea, on the one hand, and the US on the other. And, as was the case for the UK then, the US of today is increasingly troubled by the challenge presented by China’s desire to assert its rising regional power."
Martin Wolf, "China must not copy the Kaiser’s errors." The Financial Times
. December 3, 2013, in www.ft.com
"Martin Wolf is only partially correct in citing the historical parallel to Imperial Germany’s foreign policy (“China must not copy the Kaiser’s errors”, December 4). Specifically, while Mr Wolf is correct that one of the motivations for German behaviour in the second Moroccan crisis of 1911 was (as he puts it) to “test relations between France and the UK”, there was also a domestic political angle as well. In a nutshell, like contemporary China, Kaiserreich Germany was an authoritarian regime that endeavoured to maintain popular support by having a robust and at times aggressive foreign policy (what was known at the time as Weltpolitik). It is precisely this aspect of internal Chinese decision-making, the need to project to its own population a particularly aggressive foreign policy, in order to shore up its political legitimacy, that makes Mr Wolf’s pleas for rational decision-making from the Chinese leadership so utopian. From the perspective of China’s rulers, even the dangerous consequences of their current foreign policy pales when the threat of any undermining of their ruling position vis a vis their own population comes into play".
Charles Coutinho, "Letters: Domestic fears kill Chinese rationality." The Financial Times
. 5 December 2013, in www.ft.com
For quite awhile now, going back at least half a dozen years or so if not more, the German Kaiserreich
has been seen as the historical precursor to the present-day Peoples Republic 1. Particularly (pace Martin Wolf
) its foreign policy. However, to my mind, it is the internal, aspect of present-day PRC domestic political structure which is the most acutely similar to Imperial Germany (pace my own response to Martin Wolf's piece in yesterday's Financial Times
). Specifically, it is self-evident to my mind, that just as the policies of Weltpolitik
and the Naval Laws of 1898 and 1900, were the fruit of a political leadership aiming to shore up its
domestic political legitimacy by engaging in what one may post-facto
label a forceful, if not (at times) aggressive foreign policy; similarly, a strong current of Peking's policies vis-`a-vis
its neighbors is au fond
a result of precisely the very same variable. What the Weimar-period, iconoclastic historian, Ekart Kehr
, labeled (per contra
to the formulations of the founder of modern, scientific history, Leopold von Ranke) 'primat der Innenpolitik'
. And, it was indeed the domestic influences on Kaiserreich
foreign policy (specifically the domestic political imperatives behind the build-up of the German Navy
from 1897 onwards), that formed the basis of Kehr's thesis 2. In the case of the Peoples Republic, it is self-evident that fostering on a national scale, public support for an aggressive foreign policy in general, and one vis-`a-vis
Japan in particular is purely a means of enabling the corrupt and self-selecting ruling clique who runs the country to pass off as 'patriotic' leaders. With the allegedly popular anti-Japanese feelings being strongly aided, if not indeed invented by government policies. Particularly in the educational institutions up and down the age ladder. Not to speak of course of the state controlled media. In short, to expect of itself, that the rulers of China will listen to the voice of sweet reason as it relates to the PRC's disputes with Japan and its other neighbors (`a la
Martin Wolf) is (to quote Neville Chamberlain) 'the very mid-summer of madness'
. I am afraid indeed that the only logic that they will take cognizance of is the logic of brute force. Id. est., a firm policy of diplomatic and indeed military containment by the Western powers and its local allies such as Vietnam and the Philippines. Anything else will merely result in a policy of appeasement pur et simple.
1. For my own citing of this parallel, back in 2010, see: Charles Coutinho, "China no clone of Bismarck’s Reich." The Financial Times
. 23 April 2010, www.ft.com
2. See in particular: Battleship Building and party politics in Germany, 1894-1901: A cross-section of the political, social and ideological preconditions of German imperialism
. (1973). See also for a recent discussion of the concept among contemporary diplomatic historians: Leslie Rogne Schumacher, "Primat der Innenpolitik: Promoting “New” Diplomatic History." British Scholar Society
. 30 June 2012, in www.britishscholar.org
EYELESS IN THE ORIENT OR BIDEN IN JAPAN?
"Joe Biden, the US vice-president, on Tuesday sharply criticised China’s declaration of a new air defence zone over the East China Sea, but stopped short of joining Japanese leaders in demanding that the zone be scrapped.
In Tokyo at the start of an Asian tour that will take him to Beijing on Wednesday, Mr Biden sought to reassure Japan, the US’s most important military ally in Asia, that it would defend the country against any overt aggression from an increasingly assertive China.
But even as he reiterated that the US was “deeply concerned” that China’s declaration of a wide air defence identification zone in November risked “accidents and miscalculations”, he did not demand that the perimeter be formally withdrawn – something Japan has said it wants but to which analysts say Beijing is extremely unlikely to agree.
“I told the prime minister that we will remain steadfast in our alliance commitments,” Mr Biden told a joint news conference after a meeting with Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister. He also urged Japan and China to improve communication and crisis management procedures to avoid any escalation of military tensions".
Jonathan Soble, Demetri Sevastopulo and Geoff Dyer, "Biden fails to back Japan on call to scrap China's new air defence zone." The Financial Times
. 4 December 2013, in www.ft.com
. [Nota bene
: the online edition has a revised headline].
"Much of the coverage of China’s November 23 announcement of a new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over waters claimed by Japan and South Korea has focused on the reactive and blundering nature of Chinese diplomacy. China’s sudden insistence on its right to take defensive action against foreign aircraft in this zone, the argument goes, was either an attempt to play to domestic nationalism or else to respond to Japan’s own increasing assertiveness in the region. Either way, the coverage concludes, China underestimated how quickly and vigorously other countries in the region would respond, including with flights directly into that airspace.
The implication of this analysis, which may be tempting to the overstretched Obama administration, is that Beijing made a hasty move that the region will now correct with a little help from Washington. Unfortunately for the administration, however, this was not just an ill-conceived slap by Beijing against a testy Japan. The reality is that the new ADIZ is part of a longer-term attempt by Beijing to chip away at the regional status quo and assert greater control over the East and South China Seas."
Michael J. Green, "Safeguarding the Seas: How to Defend Against China's New Air Defense Zone." Foreign Affairs
. 2 December 2013, in www.foreignaffairs.com
"Promise was that I Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver; Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him eyeless in Gaza at the Mill with slaves."
John Milton. Samson Agonistes
There are few choice mots
which one may employ in describing American Vice-President Biden's performance in the Far East so far this week. Maladroit and wrongheaded seem to me to be at the head of the list. As the Michael Green correctly notes, Peking's aim in its dispute with Japan over the Senkuku Islands is to change the status quo ante. Pur et simple
there are no other words to describe what Peking's aims are in this matter. And to reiterate what I have already stated on a number of occasions in this journal, the only realpolitik
and indeed machtpolitik
policy by the Western Powers is to indicate both directly and indirectly that any endeavor by Peking to change the territorial status quo ante will be resisted, by if need be the ultima ratio
: force. It is that, and not disgustingly servile and craven appeasement policies `a la British Prime Minister, David Cameron which are now truly needed in this affair 1.
1. Jonathan Mirsky, "David Cameron’s craven surrender to China follows a pattern." The Spectator
. 3 December 2013, in www.spectator.co.uk
. See also in particular, a very harsh and indeed needed attack by the usually bien pensant
, Phillip Stephens, in the Financial Times: "A painful lesson in how not to deal with China." The Financial Times
. 5 December 2013, in www.ft.com
THE EVENTS IN UKRAINE: A COMMENT
"An estimated 350,000 people from all over Ukraine had come to Kiev for what was supposed to be a peaceful opposition rally calling on President Yanukovych’s government to stand down and for new elections to be held. Dozens were injured when riot police used tear gas and truncheons to repel several hundred protesters who tried to storm the presidential administration building with a bulldozer.
Tensions had been building in the capital all week following his refusal to sign a free trade and political integration agreement with the EU. The Association Agreement would have seen Ukraine take a historic step closer to the West and away from Russia. It was due to be signed at a crucial summit in Vilnius on Friday, but the Ukraine backed out at the last minute after what EU leaders described as “Russian pressure”....
Authorities had already cleared peaceful pro-European protesters from Kiev’s central Independence Square, also known as Maidan, in the early hours of Saturday morning. Riot police sealed off Maidan with metal barricades, but hastily abandoned them on Sunday in the face of overwhelming odds. As protesters reclaimed the square, others stormed the mayor’s office. Chants of “revolution” resounded across a sea of yellow and blue Ukrainian and EU flags on the square. The crowd was by far the largest since the protests began more than a week ago. Many of the demonstrators had travelled to Kiev from western Ukraine, where pro-EU sentiment is particularly strong.
Speaking at the demonstration from the roof of a bus, opposition leaders called for a nationwide strike to begin today in a bid to advance a “peaceful revolution”.
“Our plan is clear: It’s not a demonstration, it’s not a reaction. It’s a revolution,” said Yuri Lutsenko, one of the leaders of Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, former Minister of Internal Affairs and political prisoner".
Maxim Tucker, "Ukraine pro-EU protests: ‘It’s not a rally, it’s a revolution'". The Independent
. 1st December 2013, in http://www.independent.co.uk
"The official name for this people [Ukrainians] both in Hungary and in Galicia was 'Ruthene', but Ruthene is only dog Latin for 'Rusin'. A later attempt to differentiate them from Russia led to the invention of a 'Ukrainian' nationality: but the Ukraine is merely Russian for the frontier---equivalent to the Welsh and Border Marches---and Ukrainian means the people of the frontier. The Russians use the term Great Russians for the inhabitants of central Russia, and Little Russians for the men of the frontier; both are Russians."
Alan John Percivale Taylor. The Habsburg Monarchy, 1815-1918
. (1942), p. 158.
"If the ruling class has lost its consensus, i.e., is no longer 'leading' but only 'dominant', exercising coercive force alone, this means that the great masses have become detached from their traditional ideologies, and no longer believe what they used to believe previously, etc. The crisis consists of precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear."
Antonio Gramsci. Selections from the Prison Notebooks
. Edited & translated by Quintin Hoare & Geoffrey Nowell Smith. (1971), pp. 275-276.
The demonstrations and related activity, first in Lviv and then in Kiev, are manifestations of the fact that Ukrainian President Yanukovych’s regime is crumbling. And his own personal political project: to create a Ukrainian version of Putinism
has singularly failed. The fact that over three-hundred thousand people were able to show-up for demonstrations in Kiev from all over the country shows this quite clearly. Since the ne plus ultra
character of Putinism is the fact that the population is supposed to be almost completely apolitical and politically inactive. Mass demonstrations apropos of government decisions only recently made are the very negation of Putinism. Which is not the gainsay the fact that Yanukovych may luck out temporarily and not be toppled to-morrow. Regardless the fact is that his time in power is numbered. Indeed, it could very well be the case that if he does indeed proceed on his trip to Peking, he might not be able to return to Kiev. The other result of the recent events in Ukraine is that they threatened to become the ultimate cauchemar
of Grazhdanin Putin
. Even worse from Putin's perspective than the fact that Ukraine might finally become a fully sovereign and independent state by joining the European Union's Partnership programme, is the example supplied to all and sundry in Matushka Russia
, by the events in Kiev. As the Financial Times
diplomatic correspondent cogently notes:
"The demonstrations in Ukraine are both a humiliation and a threat to Mr. Putin. While the Russian president may laud the deep cultural and historical ties between Ukraine and Russia, he is discovering that tens of thousands of Ukrainians would prefer to brave freezing temperatures and flying truncheons rather than be drawn closer into the Russian sphere of influence. What is more, if a popular uprising can once again threaten to topple a corrupt and intermittently despotic government in Ukraine, then the potential lesson for Russia is clear. After all, it is less than two years ago that demonstrators filled the streets of Moscow to protest against the Putin restoration and to label his United Russia party as the 'party of crooks and thieves' " 1.
In retrospect, it does indeed appear as Yevgeny Kiselyov notes in to-day's Moscow Times
, that Putin's initial victory in forcing Yanukovych to forgo the European Union tie-up, is becoming: "more Pyrrhic with each passing day"
2. And we all know what ultimately became of Pyrrhus...
1. Gideon Rachman, "How Putin miscalculated in the struggle for Ukraine." The Financial Times
. 2 December 2013, in www.ft.com
2. Yevgeny Kiselyov, "Putin's Pyrrhic Victory in Ukraine." The Moscow Times
. 2 December 2013, in www.moscowtimes.com
CHINA'S WAR-LIKE MOVES IN THE EAST CHINA SEAS AND THE ALLIED RESPONSE: A COMMENT
"China has attempted to stamp its sovereignty on the airspace over islands that Japan also claims, a move that threatens to escalate a longstanding territorial dispute between the two Asian powers.
The Chinese defence ministry on Saturday announced that it would establish an “air defence identification zone” over the uninhabited islets in the East China Sea known in Japan as the Senkaku and in China as the Diaoyu. It added that in order to protect its territorial rights, China would take “defensive emergency measures” against aircraft that entered the zone without identifying themselves.
The Japanese foreign ministry lodged an immediate protest with the Chinese embassy in Tokyo, saying it was a “very dangerous” action.
A spokesperson for the ministry said China’s unilateral action was “totally unacceptable and completely invalid” and could lead to “an unexpected occurrence of accidents in the area because it tries to restrict flights over high seas”.
The US issued a sharply worded condemnation of China’s move. “We view this development as a destabilising attempt to alter the status quo in the region,” said defence secretary Chuck Hagel.
China’s defence ministry on Monday said it had lodged protests with both the US and Japan over the weekend after they criticised Beijing’s move.
In an early test of China’s new zone, which Beijing said went into force on Saturday, the Chinese air force sent early warning aircraft and fighter jets on a sweep of the area later in the day. Japan’s defence ministry said it scrambled fighter jets after detecting Chinese reconnaissance planes near its airspace.
Over the past year tensions between the two counties have ratcheted up over the East China Sea. China has routinely flown aircraft over and sent surveillance ships into the territorial waters surrounding the disputed islands, challenging Tokyo’s effective control of a group that Beijing says Japan stole in the late 19th century. Japan has started to take a more assertive stance in response to the Chinese actions, stepping up its coastguard presence and its air defence.
Experts warn that the risk of miscalculation has risen alongside the increased frequency of the two militaries’ near-encounters on the East China Sea.
Yang Yujun, spokesman of the Chinese defence ministry, said the air identification zone was based on international law. “This is a necessary measure China has taken to exercise its right to self defence,” he said. “It is not directed against any specific country or target. It does not affect the freedom of flights in the airspace.”
Junichi Ihara, director-general of the Japanese foreign ministry’s Asian and Oceanic affairs bureau, lodged a protest by phone to Han Zhiqiang, China’s acting ambassador to Japan".
Simon Rabinovitch & Ben McLannahan, "Japan rejects China claim on airspace over disputed islands." The Financial Times
. 24 November 2013, in www.ft.com
"Two unarmed U.S. B-52 bombers flew over disputed islands on a training mission in the East China Sea without informing Beijing while Japan's main airlines ignored Chinese authorities when their planes passed through a new airspace defense zone on Wednesday.
The defiance from Japan and its ally the United States over China's new identification rules raises the stakes in a territorial standoff between Beijing and Tokyo over the islands and challenges China to make the next move.
China published coordinates for an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone over the weekend and warned it would take "defensive emergency measures" against aircraft that failed to identify themselves properly. The zone is about two thirds the size of Britain.
"If the United States conducts two or three more flights like this, China will be forced to respond. If China can only respond verbally it would be humiliating," said Sun Zhe, a professor at the Center for U.S.-China Relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
"The concept of the paper tiger is very important. All sides face it."
China's Defense Ministry said it had monitored the entire progress of the U.S. bombers through the zone on Tuesday Asian time. A Pentagon spokesman said the planes had neither been observed nor contacted by Chinese aircraft.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, when asked how China would respond to future infractions of the zone, said the country would "make an appropriate response" that depended on the "situation and degree of threat".
Qin added that China had informed "relevant countries" before setting up the zone. He would not elaborate.
Following a request from the Japanese government, Japan Airlines and ANA Holdings said they stopped giving flight plans and other information to Chinese authorities on Wednesday. Neither airline had experienced any problems when passing through the zone, they added.
Japan's aviation industry association said it had concluded there was no threat to passenger safety by ignoring the Chinese demands, JAL said. Both JAL and ANA posted notices on their websites informing its passengers of their decision.
The flight by the B-52 bombers was part of a long-planned exercise, a U.S. military official said.
Some experts have said the Chinese move was aimed at chipping away at Tokyo's claim to administrative control over the area, including the tiny uninhabited islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
The action might have backfired, said Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Honolulu-based Pacific Forum CSIS.
"This is confirming the darker view of China in Asia," Glosserman said. "The Chinese once again are proving to be their own worst enemy ... driving the U.S. closer to Japan and (South) Korea closer to the position of Tokyo as well."
U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, in her first speech since assuming her post earlier this month, criticized China's "unilateral action" as undermining regional security.
Kennedy also said Japan had shown "great restraint this past year" and urged Tokyo to continue to do so. "We
encourage Japan to increase communication with its neighbors and continue to respond to regional challenges in a measured way."
Tim Kelly and Phil Stewart, "Defying China, U.S. bombers and Japanese planes fly through new air zone." Reuters
. 27 November 2013, in www.reuters.com
The Chinese government's attempted coup de main, and the allied (Japanese-American) response is one of the more refreshing and happier response and counter-response in International Relations for quite some time. It is by definition the case that Peking is endeavoring, by hook or by crook, to unilaterally change the territorial status quo ante bellum
in the Far East. The dispute over the Senkaku is merely the first step in a larger project by Peking towards territorial revisionist project vis-`a-vis
most of its neighbors. If left unchallenged, Peking would surely press on each of its neighbors going forward in a similar fashion that it has so far shown towards Japan. The joint Japanese-American response to Peking's bullying tactics is in fact the only response possible. Anything else would merely confirm the PRC that it can increase the pressure on Japan and soon other powers for similar attempted gains. As the usually bien-pensant
Financial Times, for once correctly points out in its leader on Monday of this week:
"If Beijing is so convinced that international law is on its side it should seek to take the dispute to international arbitration. Tokyo probably would not agree but – equally convinced of its claim – just might if it could be assured that Beijing would abide by the result. Short of that, the two sides need to move to the status quo ante, by setting the dispute aside for wiser heads to resolve in future. In the meantime, they should seek to share resources, including fishing and oil exploration rights.
The suspicion must be that Beijing does not want that. Instead it may see the islands as a way of driving a wedge between the US and Japan. It is an irresponsible game" 1.
1. Leader, "An irresponsible game in the Pacific." The Financial Times
. 25 November 2013, in www.ft.com.
PUTIN'S DIPLOMATIC TRIUMPH: A COMMENT
"Vladimir Putin’s schedule had made Thursday look rather uneventful. But while the Russian president was meeting a group of literary figures he was served a foreign-policy triumph: Ukraine shrank back from an association agreement with the EU, stopping the crumbling of an alliance that Moscow sees as a cornerstone of its fragile empire.
“Our government has stressed our trade security risk, but honestly, this is an all-out political fight between Russia and the EU over Ukraine,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russian in Global Affairs, a Moscow-based foreign policy journal.
For now, Mr Putin has scored a victory. The decision by Kiev to break off talks with the EU makes Ukraine the second of four “eastern partnership” members that had been expected to reach an agreement with Brussels at next week’s Vilnius summit to be peeled off by Mr Putin.
In September, Armenia stunned EU leaders by abruptly announcing it would scrap a similar EU “association agreement” it was to initial at the summit and instead join the fledgling Moscow-led Eurasian customs union. Only Georgia and Moldova are now expected to sign their deals in Vilnius.
“The comfortable life of sitting in two chairs is coming to an end,” said Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the EU. “We’re just offering the real picture of what they should expect. The EU has never promised Ukraine or any of the other ‘eastern partners’ full membership.”
EU officials, who thought the deal could still be signed until the moment Kiev announced the freezing of bilateral talks on Thursday, pointed the finger squarely at the Kremlin for pressuring Mr Yanukovich into ditching the deal.
“There has been extremely enormous pressure in the last 36 hours,” said one senior EU official briefed on the talks. “That is obvious.”
Any attempt to rebuild a deal to link Ukraine to the EU now appears to require Russia at the table. Mr Putin on Thursday said he was ready for tripartite talks on the issue."
Kathrin Hille, Peter Spiegel and James Fontanella-Khan, "Ukraine serves Vladimir Putin a foreign policy triumph." The Financial Times.
21 November 2013, in www.ft.com
"Notwithstanding the fact that in some sense, Moskva had some cards to play with, in its endeavors since 2004 to keep Ukraine out of the EU-NATO-Western orbit, the domineering style of Russian diplomacy, with all sticks and very little by way of carrots, appears to have backfired tremendously. With the initial diplomatic success that Putin enjoyed with the current Ukrainian President (viz the agreement on basing Russia's Black Seas Fleet), Viktor Yanukovych being wasted by his inability to modulate his demands upon Kiev. In that respect Putin is a worthy heir of those individuals who historians have assigned the chief role in the Russian debacle in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905: the Bezobrazovschina."
Charles Coutinho, Ph. D. "THE PUTIN REGIME AND UKRAINE: THE FOREIGN POLICY OF STUPIDITY." Diplomat of the Future
. 8 November 2013, in www.diplomatofthefuture.blogspot.com
It would appear that for those like myself who a few weeks back were counting out Grazhdanin Putin and his assertive style of foreign policy, were quite mistaken. While of course there were primat der Innenpolitik
reasons for Ukrainian President Yanukovich to reject the proposed agreement with the European Union, one has to hand it to Putin that he was able to utilize those reasons in conjunction with his own mixture of diplomatic pressure points to obtain Kiev's apparent concurrence in his own proposed
tri-partite customs agreement and forgo the proposed tie-up with Brussels 1. While not perhaps very 'pretty', Russian diplomacy managed to obtain the results it would appear that it was looking for in this particular matter. And, au fond
, the tools that Putin did employ in this case, were a world away from say the tools that someone like Skryabin-Molotov
would employ in Sovietskaya Vlast
2. In fact, while perhaps excessively one-sided and lacking in very attractive 'carrots', id. est., so-called 'soft power', the tools in Putin's diplomatic toolbox do appear to have been enough. With this undoubted diplomatic triumph under his belt, the second in the past six months, one has to reassess, those (like myself) who were prematurely dismissing the durability and the strength of Russian diplomacy and statecraft under Putinism. The episode with Kiev merely proving that even in our contemporary world, there is still something to be said for the diplomacy of brass tacks `a la Friedrich von Holstein
. I will merely conclude, that it is mores the pity that Putin singularly so far has failed to employ such pressure tactics vis-`a-vis Matushka
Russia's true enemies in Peking.
1. On the internal reasons that Yanukovich was reluctant to sign the agreement with the European Union, see: Yulia Tymoshenko, "Tymoshenko to Yanukovych: ‘Your fear is so evident." KyivPost
. 22 November 2013, in www.kyivpost.com
See also the Russian-based analyst, Dmtiri Trenin 'twitter' comments: "Kiev's suspension of AA talks shows that Yanukovych is above all focused on his own future", in Dmitri Trenin @DmitriTrenin.
2. For a vivid example of real Sovietskaya Vlast
tactics in action, see: Molotov remembers: inside Kremlin politics : conversations with Felix Chuev.
THE PUTIN REGIME AND UKRAINE: THE FOREIGN POLICY OF STUPIDITY.
"Ukraine on Tuesday signed a deal worth up to $10bn with Chevron to exploit its shale gas reserves – one of the biggest such agreements in Europe to date – as it steps up efforts to break free from its reliance on Russian gas.
In what is Ukraine’s second such deal this year, Chevron will gain the rights to explore and eventually produce hydrocarbons in two western Ukrainian regions. They hold an estimated 2.98tn cubic metres of gas reserves, making them among the largest in Europe.
Ukraine’s president Viktor Yanukovich said the Chevron agreement, on top of a similar one with Royal Dutch Shell in January, “will allow us by 2020 to become self-sufficient in gas, and, under an optimistic scenario, to become an exporter”.
The deal could increase tensions with Russia, which have flared as Ukraine prepares to sign a far-reaching trade and political association agreement with the European Union later this month. Russia has banned Ukrainian products from steel to chocolates and temporarily stepped up border customs controls ahead of the EU agreement....
Ukraine’s efforts to boost domestic gas production follow years of wrangling with Russia’s Gazprom – of which Ukraine is one of the biggest customers.
The Russian gas monopoly has twice cut off supplies to Ukraine in midwinter, in 2006 and 2009, amid pricing disputes. Gazprom last week raised the prospect of a new winter shut-off this year when it warned that Ukraine’s cash-strapped state gas monopoly had fallen behind on $882m of payments for gas.
Ukraine’s energy minister has said he expects the arrears issue to be settled shortly.
Gazprom responded to Ukraine’s deal with Shell in January by sending a $7bn bill for gas which Ukraine was contracted to buy from Gazprom in 2012 but did not use, on which negotiations are continuing.
Mark Rachkevych & Neil Buckley, "Ukraine signs shale gas deal with Chevron." The Financial Times
. 5 November 2013, in www.ft.com
"It was the Kremlin with its impudence and intimidation that has succeeded in consolidating the conflicting Ukrainian elite clans on a pro-European basis. The recent Moscow trade war with Kiev was a perfect illustration of how the Law of Unintended Consequences works! Ukrainians have to build a monument to Putin surrounded by his team, with Sergey Glazyev at the forefront, acknowledging their input into helping the Ukrainian elite to overcome their doubts as to their country’s trajectory.
For Putin the growing readiness of Ukraine to turn to Europe despite the formidable costs of this decision is a real disaster. Putin’s Eurasian Union cannot be a serious entity without the second large Slavic state limping along. It needs Ukraine as an anchor. Eurasia simply cannot exist without Ukraine. And without the Eurasian Union the Kremlin cannot reenergize the system of personalized power which needs satellite states. The new Putin’s Doctrine that he offered the world recently at Valdai is based on the linkage between the Russian “state-civilization” and the Eurasian Union, which is supposed to be like a galaxy with Russia as the pole. The galaxy will be a pathetic one without Ukraine. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Ukraine running away from Moscow will mean a devastating blow to the resilience of the Russian “state-civilization” that Putin tries to build".
Lilia Shevtsova, "How Ukraine Ruins Putin’s Dream." Carnegie Moscow Center
. 8 October 2013, in www.http://carnegie.ru/eurasiaoutlook/
"Our agreement with Japan, dated April 13, 1898, sanctioned
the dominating position of that country in Korea. If we had faithfully adhered to
the spirit of this agreement, there is no doubt but that more or less permanent
peaceful relations would have been established between Japan and Russia. We would have
quietly kept the Kwantung Peninsula while Japan would have completely dominated Korea, and this situation could
have lasted indefinitely, without giving occasion to a clash....
On the day when the news of the rebellion reached the capital, Minister of War Kuropatkin came to see me at my
office in the Ministry of Finances. He was beaming with joy. I called his attention to the fact that the insurrection
was the result of our seizure of the Kwantung Peninsula. "On my part," he replied, "I am very glad. This will give
us an excuse for seizing Manchuria." I was curious to know what my visitor intended to do with Manchuria, once
it was occupied. "We will turn Manchuria," he informed me, "into a second Bokhara."
Count Witte. The Memoirs of Count Witte
. (1920). pp. 106-107.
The maladroit and bullying nature of Russian diplomacy under Grazhdanin
Putin, would appear to be about to
have it just rewards with Ukraine's imminent signing of a partnership agreement with the European Union. As Lilia
has correctly pointed out, sans Ukraine, Putin's idea of a resurrected Sovietskaya Vlast
in economic form
would have little or no substance. Not only would Kiev's failure to adhere to Putin's customs association call into
question the significance of the former, but Kiev's tie-up with Brussels would inevitably bring into train a liberalization
of the internal political regime in Ukraine as well. And an ongoing democratizing project in Kiev would inevitably call
into question the nature of the regime in Russia itself. In short, notwithstanding the fact that in some sense, Moskva
some cards to play with, in its endeavors since 2004 to keep Ukraine out of the EU-NATO-Western orbit, the domineering
style of Russian diplomacy, with all sticks and very little by way of carrots, appears to have backfired tremendously. With the initial diplomatic success that Putin enjoyed with the current Ukrainian President (viz the agreement on basing Russia's Black Seas Fleet), Viktor Yanukovych being wasted by his inability to modulate his demands upon Kiev. In that respect Putin is a worthy heir of those individuals who historians have assigned the chief role in the Russian debacle
in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905: the Bezobrazovschina
SAUDI-AMERICAN RELATIONS: IS THE 'RIFT' FOR REAL?
"The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia is many things, and I am particularly grateful for the comments that His Royal Highness has just made about some media speculation versus the reality of the friendship that we share. Our relationship is strategic, it is enduring, and it covers a wide range of bilateral and regional issues. I want to remind everyone of President Obama’s statement at the United Nations. The President said that he will use all elements of U.S. power, including force, to secure the core interests of the United States in the Middle East. He said the United States will confront external aggression against our partners, as we did for Kuwait in the Gulf War. We will ensure the free flow of energy from this region to the world. We will dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our people. We will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction. These are core U.S. interests, and we share these interests with Saudi Arabia, and we intend to work on these with Saudi Arabia.
We also pursue together – Saudi Arabia and the United States have an incredible deep relationship. It goes way beyond one or two countries and one or two efforts. We do joint work in military planning; in enhancing renewable energy supplies; in energy stability and security; in counterterrorism; in critical infrastructure protection; in trade and investment; in science and technology; in enhancing and dealing with and addressing the medical attention to health pandemics; in agriculture and food security; in education and student exchanges. This is a deep relationship and it has endured now for more than 70 years and it will endure well into the future".
American Secretary of State John Forbes Kerry in Riyadh, "Remarks with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal." U.S. Department of State
. 4 November 2013, in www.state.gov
It is difficult to not read into the remarks made by the American Secretary of State Senator Kerry on the tarmac in Saudi Arabia that there is a rift in the relations between the two powers. I do believe that the words of welcome made by the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal can sotto voce
, be read in that sense:
"A true relationship between friends is based on sincerity, candor, and frankness rather than mere courtesy. Within this perspective, it’s only natural that our policies and views might see agreement in some areas and disagreement in others. That’s perfectly normal in any serious relationship that spans a wide range of issues" 1.
And of course looking at matters from a unbiased perspective, it is not altogether unusual that the Saudis would view their relations with the American Administration in not the very best light. Indeed, the Financial Times
correspondent David Gardner speaks of:
"the near apoplexy with which Saudi Arabia and Israel, Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East, greeted Mr Obama’s decision not to punish the Assad regime for the chemical attack and to pursue detente with Tehran
Given the rather incoherent state of American diplomacy in the area, this disenchantment by Riyadh is hardly unexpected. The very same can of course be said of the Israelis as well. However, notwithstanding these evident signs of discontent by these two close American allies, the fact of the matter is that neither power should be allowed or granted a veto
over American policy vis-`a-vis
Persia and on the ongoing civil war in Syria. Au fond
, neither Saudi Arabia or Israel has the best perspective on the danger or lack thereof as per Persia's nuclear programme. Similarly Riyadh's evident eagerness to over-throw the Assad Regime, should not blind anyone to the fact that the forces that Riyadh and its fellow Gulf Monarchies in Syria are backing are (to put it very mildly indeed) no improvement at all on Bashar Assad. Indeed, one can very well believe that in Syria, the Saudis are making the same erratum
, that they committed in Afghanistan in the 1980's and 1990's: supporting extremist forces for reason of internal Saudi politics 3. Simply put: the endemic blindness of Saudi domestic policy, inevitably results in a similar blindness in Saudi foreign policy 4. And while as per Secretary Kerry's recent statement on Egypt seems to show that the two powers are now much more aligned as per policy towards that country, there is a 'rift' indeed insofar as on the other matters discussed above. However, this rift, while indeed 'real' is not substantive or indeed very important in the context of the overall relationship. Since, faute de mieux
, Riyadh, like Tel Aviv has no place to go as per regional or indeed supra-regional allies or alliances. Certainly not for example Moskva or for that matter Peking. However much both powers might like to complain about the maladroit
style of American diplomacy in the past ten years or so, neither power is willing to go it alone without the benefit of American backing.
1. Department of State
, op. cit.
2. David Gardner, "Middle East balance of power tilts back in Iran’s favour." The Financial Times
. 31 October 2013, in www.ft.com
3. On this aspect of Saudi policy, see: Frederic Wehrey, "What to Make of Saudi Hand-Wringing." The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
. 15 October 2013, in http://carnegieendowment.org
4. Frederic Wehrey, "The Eastern Province: A Bellwether for the Kingdom." The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
15 August 2013, in www.http://carnegieendowment.org