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The Putin-Modi Summit Was A Global Geostrategic Game-Changer

The Putin-Modi Summit Was A Global Geostrategic Game-Changer

9 DECEMBER 2021

The Putin-Modi Summit Was A Global Geostrategic Game-Changer

The de facto Russian-Indian hemispheric-wide “balancing” alliance that was agreed to during this week’s Putin-Modi Summit is one of the most significant diplomatic developments this century thus far. It’s truly a global geostrategic game-changer because of the irreplaceable role that it aims to play in the ongoing US-Chinese New Cold War.

The Globally Significant Summit

Russian President Putin’s visit to New Delhi to meet with Indian Prime Minister Modi was a geostrategically game-changing development in the context of the ongoing New Cold War. The “Partnership for Peace, Progress, and Prosperity” that both sides agreed to amounts to a de facto alliance in all but name and builds upon their 1971 “Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation” from exactly half a century ago. This 99-point document aims to align both Great Powers’ Eastern Hemispheric-wide “balancing” acts in order to maximally optimize their impact on shaping the dynamics of the emerging Multipolar World Order. It can be regarded as among the most important diplomatic developments of this century thus far and will likely remain relevant for decades.

Background Briefing

The author outlined the contours of their complementary grand strategies in the following pieces:

* 16 May 2020: “The Prospects Of Russia And India Jointly Leading A New Non-Aligned Movement

* 17 February 2021: “Why Structural Realists Are Wrong To Predict That Russia Will Help The US Against China

* 7 October 2021: “Towards Bi-Multipolarity

What comes next is an oversimplified summary of the insight shared above.

Complementary “Balancing” Acts

Basically, Russia and India both aspire to “balance” the consequences of the primarily US-Chinese New Cold War, though they’ve thus far been going about it in different ways: Russia aligned closer to China while India did the same to the US. The mutual suspicions of each other’s grand strategic intent that this prompted were finally resolved earlier this year. Russia and India realized that they can do more if they coordinate their policies. This explains clause 93 of their reaffirmed partnership pact which declares that “The sides agreed to explore mutually acceptable and beneficial areas of cooperation in third countries especially in the Central Asia, South East Asia and Africa.”

The ”Neo-NAM”

That policy informally amounts to an attempt to organize a hemispheric-wide network of “non-aligned” states that share Russia’s and India’s interest in “balancing” between the US and China. In other words, it’s the prototype of the “Neo-NAM” that the author wrote about in May 2020 for the official journal of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO, which is run by the Russian Foreign Ministry). As he explained in the Indian military publication Force two months ago, this is aimed at enabling both Great Powers to flexibly adapting to the constantly changing geostrategic circumstances of the New Cold War through what’s described as their “bi-multipolarity” vision.

Russia’s Indo-Sino “Balancing” Act

It’s crucial to clarify that Russia has no intentions of infringing on China’s interests even if some in India might secretly wish that it would or could at least be tricked into doing so. Rather, the Eurasian Great Power understands that it has the responsibility to play an irreplaceable role in pragmatically managing tensions between its fellow BRICS and SCO partners in order to counteract the US’ incessant attempts to divide and rule them. Moscow appears to have accepted that if this rivalry won’t go away for some time, then the Kremlin must seek to ensure that it doesn’t lead to another Galwan-like conflict which could escalate into an all-out conventional war in the worst-case scenario.

“Military Diplomacy”

With this in mind, Russia is practicing what can be described as “military diplomacy”, or the use of military means to achieve political ends. In this case, it’s exporting equally strategic and high-quality arms to rivals China and India in order to maintain the balance of power between them with a view towards subsequently encouraging them to settle their disputes through political means instead of military ones. This contrasts with the American practice of “military diplomacy”, which attempts to give its preferred partner in any pair of rivals the military edge in order to encourage aggressive attempts to resolve existing disputes in a unilateral way instead of via a series of political compromises.

RIC

The Kremlin’s calculation is that if India is going to arm itself to the teeth anyhow, then it’s better for it to do so with Russian arms than American ones. While China might understandably feel uncomfortable with India’s massive military buildup, it seems to quietly prefer for this to be aided by Russia than the US if it’s seemingly inevitable. That could in turn enable Moscow to more effectively manage Washington’s pernicious divide-and-rule influence over New Delhi and thus hopefully stabilize Eurasian affairs. Proof of this concept in practice was seen late last month during the Russia-India-China (RIC) Foreign Ministers meeting that went ahead despite existing Chinese-Indian tensions likely due to Russia’s mediating role.

New Cold War Dynamics

China doesn’t believe in posing zero-sum choices upon its partners like the US does, but it’ll increasingly be compelled by the New Cold War’s American-influenced hyper-competitive dynamics into accepting that third countries are being pressured to choose between Beijing and Washington. This could place those states in very challenging positions since their cooperation with China is mutually beneficial yet they also fear the US’ Hybrid War wrath if they don’t submit to America’s demands to distance themselves from the People’s Republic as evidenced by the high-profile example that Washington is trying to make out of Ethiopia after its principled refusal to do so.  

The Geopolitical “Pressure Valve”

What’s urgently needed is a “pressure valve” for providing such countries with a so-called “third choice” whereby they can hopefully strike a balance between both superpowers without inadvertently offending one or the other. Therein lies the grand strategic significance of the Neo-NAM that the author proposed be jointly led by Russia and India. The first-mentioned is perceived as close to China while the second is seen as closer to the US, yet they’ve nevertheless proven their strategic autonomy through the latest Putin-Modi Summit. Russia continues to arm India to the teeth despite China’s concerns while India continues purchasing Russian arms despite the US’ sanctions threats for doing so.

Hemispheric Reach

Their declaration of intent to cooperate in third countries across Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa significantly involves the greatest theaters of rivalry in the US-Chinese New Cold War and can thus enable these two Great Powers to maximally optimize their complementary hemispheric-wide “balancing” acts. There’s also the chance that they’ll expand their cooperation to include West Asia considering the close relations that they each enjoy with Iran, “Israel”, and the UAE. When one remembers that they also pledged to work closer together in the Russian Arctic and Far East regions, it can be seen that their de facto “balancing” alliance truly encompasses the entire Eastern Hemisphere.

The European Dimension

While it might not have much of a direct impact on Europe in Western Eurasia, it does indeed have a very influential one when it comes to its indirect consequences. The North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) between them through Iran and Azerbaijan aims to facilitate EU-Indian trade via Russia while the possible expansion of the Vladivostok-Chennai Maritime Corridor (VCMC) to include the Northern Sea Route (NSR) through the Arctic for connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans could achieve this economic end through maritime means for complementing the NSTC’s mainland component.

Towards A Russian-American “Non-Aggression Pact”

Some skeptics might question the political viability of Russia facilitating EU-Indian trade (whether through mainland or maritime means) considering the heightened tensions between Moscow and the West, but it’s here where they should contemplate the intention behind the last two Putin-Biden Summits. They’re aimed at responsibly regulating their rivalry so that they can ultimately reach a so-called “non-aggression pact”. This outcome would be mutually beneficial since it would enable the US to redirect more of its military and other resources to the “Indo-Pacific” for more aggressively “containing” China while restoring EU-Russian relations for improving one another’s struggling economies.

The US’ Anti-Russian “Deep State” Faction

This scenario remains dependent on the Biden Administration’s ability to manage the anti-Russian faction of the US’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) that’s trying to sabotage those two’s hoped-for “non-aggression pact” by leveraging its network of influence in the Baltic States, Poland, and Ukraine in order to provoke another East-West crisis. Right now, its anti-Chinese rival is predominant with respect to formulating the US’ grand strategy as evidenced by the last two Putin-Biden Summits. This change in the US’ “deep state” dynamics was former US President Trump’s most enduring legacy and was inherited by Biden as was just argued.

Concluding Thoughts

Back to the topic of this analysis, the de facto Russian-Indian hemispheric-wide “balancing” alliance that was agreed to during this week’s Putin-Modi Summit is one of the most significant diplomatic developments this century thus far. It’s truly a global geostrategic game-changer because of the irreplaceable role that it aims to play in the ongoing US-Chinese New Cold War. It’s of the highest importance that observers acknowledge this emerging reality in order to formulate the most effective policies for their countries to adapt to it. The Russian-Indian axis is now one of the most important in the world and will likely remain so for decades, perhaps even for the rest of the 21st century.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, India, China, US, Balancing, Multipolarity, Neo-NAM.


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Asia Pacific

Stop Making A Big Deal Out Of Russia’s Support Of Beijing’s Sovereignty Over Taiwan

Stop Making A Big Deal Out Of Russia’s Support Of Beijing’s Sovereignty Over Taiwan

19 OCTOBER 2021

Stop Making A Big Deal Out Of Russia

Reaffirming this reality isn’t a sign that Russia is ‘aligning’ with China ‘against’ the US, but is simply a statement of legal fact.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov reaffirmed his country’s support of Beijing’s sovereignty over Taiwan last week. According to the Eurasian Great Power’s top diplomat:

Just like the overwhelming majority of other countries, Russia views Taiwan as part of the People’s Republic of China. This is the premise we proceed from and will continue to proceed from in our policy.”

This prompted Newsweek to headline a piece titled “Russia Says Taiwan is Part of China as Two Powers Further Align Against U.S.”, which presented this policy declaration as some kind of anti-American move.

It’s nothing of the sort though, and Moscow’s motivations deserve to be elaborated upon to clarify matters. Russia is firmly in support of the UN-centric world order, not the US’ subjectively defined so-called “rules-based order” which selectively imposes double standards in a desperate attempt to indefinitely stave off its fading unipolar hegemony. According to international law, Taiwan is a rogue province of the People’s Republic of China over which Beijing has formal sovereignty. Reaffirming this reality isn’t a sign that Russia is “aligning” with China “against” the US, but is simply a statement of legal fact.

Making a bigger deal out of this than it is implies ulterior perception management motives. To explain, those that are hostile to both multipolar Great Powers hope to promote the false impression that they’re “allies”, which is misleading. While they closely cooperate with one another and are indeed strategic partners, neither will go to war in support of the either, not over Taiwan or Crimea, among other potential flashpoints. Nevertheless, implying that this scenario is possible is meant to justify the US-led West’s escalations against them on the manipulated pretext that such aggressive moves are supposedly “defensive” in nature.

Some in the Alt-Media Community (AMC) push this warped perception of reality for ideological reasons since they wishfully believe that such a false interpretation of their partnership is true. It seemingly serves the purpose of rallying their supporters, though it carries with it the immense risk of backfiring once reality sets in and these same supporters might become disappointed to the point where their emotional reactions are exploited to make them susceptible to hostile narratives such as claiming that one of them sold the other out. After all, Russia is actively “balancing” China, though in a “friendly/gentle” manner that few dare to talk about.

I explained this in three prior pieces titled “Why Structural Realists Are Wrong To Predict That Russia Will Help The US Contain China”, “Russian Scholar Karaganov Articulated Russia’s Balancing Act With China”, and “Towards Bi-Multipolarity”. They’re of varying lengths and detail but should at the very least be skimmed by those who are interested in this topic. The purpose in referencing them is to show that exaggerated claims of their strategic partnership don’t reflect the reality of their relations. President Putin even declined to support China’s claims in the South China Sea just last week, which speaks to his country’s balanced position.

It’s crucial to clarify all of this in order to simultaneously discredit the manipulation of these false perceptions to put more pressure on both of them as well as preemptively avert the exploitation of well-intended but naive individuals’ disappointment with the facts once they inevitably become more self-evident due to these strategic dynamics. Both the Mainstream Media and AMC may find it “politically inconvenient” for their own reasons to accept the strategic insight that was shared in this analysis, but honest observers should appreciate this since it’s intended to make it much less likely that they’ll be misled by either of those two in the future.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, China, US, Taiwan, Balancing, Multipolarity, New Cold War, Alt-Media.


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Is Russia Recalibrating Its De Facto Alliance With Israel In Syria?

Is Russia Recalibrating Its De Facto Alliance With Israel In Syria?

2 AUGUST 2021

Is Russia Recalibrating Its De Facto Alliance With Israel In Syria?

Last month’s revelation by a representative of the Russian Armed Forces that the Syrian-manned anti-air systems that his country dispatched to the Arab Republic successfully downed most “Israeli” missiles during a recent strike suggest that the Eurasian Great Power might be recalibrating its de facto alliance with the self-professed “Jewish State”.

Russia and “Israel” have been de facto allies in Syria for over the past half-decade as I argued at length over the years, especially in my top four analyses on the subject herehere (which lists 15 other pertinent ones), here, and here. To summarize, Russia sought to actively “balance” Iranian influence in Syria which it regards as regionally destabilizing due to its reported role in organizing attacks against the self-professed “Jewish State” from the Arab Republic’s territory. Moscow was motivated by the desire to comprehensively expand its ties with Tel Aviv, which it also expected would improve its geostrategic positioning vis-a-vis Washington by gradually becoming “Israel’s” most significant regional security partner.

It advanced this aim by “passively facilitating” literally hundreds of “Israeli” strikes against the IRGC and Hezbollah there, which importantly were never thwarted by Syria’s Russian-supplied S-300s from a few years back due to what some believe is the Kremlin’s continued refusal to transfer full operational control over these systems to Damascus. The thinking goes that if Syria succeeded in downing any more “Israeli” jets in self-defense, then Tel Aviv would be triggered into launching a disproportionate response against its neighbor that could completely cripple its military and therefore inadvertently reverse Russia’s recent anti-terrorist gains in the country. The Kremlin calculated that it’s better to give “Israel” freedom of the skies than risk that scenario.

This strategy seems to be changing though as evidenced by a Russian Armed Forces representative revealing late last month that the Syrian-manned anti-air systems that his country dispatched to the Arab Republic successfully downed most “Israeli” missiles during a recent strike. This suggests that the Eurasian Great Power might be recalibrating its de facto alliance with the self-professed “Jewish State”. It’s unclear exactly what Moscow’s motivations may be, but some educated hypotheses might suffice for pointing sincere observers in the right direction. These are the recent removal of President Putin’s close friend Netanyahu from power; the ongoing efforts to clinch a “New Detente” with the US; and restoring regional geostrategic balance.

In the order that they were mentioned, the first development might have resulted in the coming to power of influential forces that don’t share Netanyahu’s vision of a de facto Russian-”Israeli” alliance. Those individuals can speculatively be described as more pro-American than pro-”Israeli” in the sense that they’d prefer to put their traditional patron’s interests before their own polity’s. To explain, regardless of however one feels about Netanyahu’s legacy, he was nevertheless very successful in comprehensively improving relations with Russia, which in turn made “Israel” less dependent on the US’ regional security services for defending his polity’s interests. His successor and that man’s team might feel more comfortable returning under the US umbrella.

The second point is pertinent insofar as it’s increasingly clear that the US and Russia are attempting to negotiate a series of “mutual compromises” across a wide array of spheres following June’s Biden-Putin Summit in Geneva. Russia wants to relieve American pressure along its western flank in order to focus more on its “Ummah Pivot” for reducing potentially disproportionate dependence on China in the future while the US wants to refocus the bulk of its strategic efforts on more aggressively “containing” China in the “Indo-Pacific”. “Israel”, which is important to both of their interests, might have come to be treated as little more than a piece to be traded by Russia on this “Great Power Chessboard” in exchange for US “compromises” elsewhere.

Finally, this might simply be due to Russia realizing that “Israel” is now far too strong and must therefore be “gently” balanced through increased military (and specifically anti-air) assistance to Syria. After all, one of the primary reasons why Russia de facto allied with “Israel” in the first place is because Iran was becoming too strong in the region and thus had to be balanced according to the Kremlin’s geostrategic calculations. It would therefore be natural for Russia to temporarily recalibrate its balancing strategy in light of succeeding so well with its earlier motivation. This suggests that Russia might eventually oscillate back towards “Israel” if/once Iran regains its momentum, and so on and so forth in accordance with the Kremlin’s Eurasian balancing strategy.

While a lot still remains unclear at the moment, all that can be known for sure is that Russia wanted the world to know that it credibly bolstered Syria’s air defense capabilities, which certainly hints that it’s actively recalibrating its balancing act and in particular the “Israeli” dimension thereof. It’s unknown exactly how far it’ll go and whether it’ll ever cross the Rubicon that many Non-Russian Pro-Russians (NRPRs) have been practically begging for with respect to letting Syria finally use the S-300s to shoot down attacking “Israeli” jets, but it’s obvious that something has changed even though the reasons for this perceptible shift are debatable and could even potentially be a combination of each of the three earlier described hypotheses.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, Israel, Syria, US, Iran, New Cold War, New Detente, Balancing.


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Franco-Russo Competition In The Central African Republic Doesn’t Have To Be Zero-Sum

Franco-Russo Competition In The Central African Republic Doesn’t Have To Be Zero-Sum

23 JUNE 2021

Franco-Russo Competition In The Central African Republic Doesn

France seems to regard its competition with Russia in the Central African Republic as a zero-sum game, but it doesn’t have to be like that since both Great Powers can contribute in their own way to that country’s development.

The French Foreign Minister dramatically claimed last week that “In the Central African Republic, there is a form of a seizure of power, and in particular of military power, by Russian mercenaries.” This came shortly after Paris suspended military and budgetary support to Bangui in response to accusations that the Central African Republic’s (CAR) government was complicit in an information warfare campaign against France that allegedly also involves Russia. That decision was preceded by French President Macron provocatively describing his CAR counterpart as a so-called “hostage” of Russian private military contractors (PMCs). These developments strongly suggest that France views its competition with Russia there as a zero-sum game, but it doesn’t have to be like that since both Great Powers can contribute in their own way to that country’s development.

For those readers who haven’t closely followed events in the CAR over the past few years, Russia has recently emerged as a major force there after providing military assistance to Bangui in full compliance with relevant UNSC Resolutions on the matter. I hyperlinked to 18 of my prior pieces over the years about this dimension of Moscow’s geostrategic “balancing” act in my article two months ago asking “Is Khodorkovsky Behind The Claims Of Russian Death Squads In The Central African Republic?” The one from June 2019 about how “Russia’s ‘Pivot To Africa’ Encroaches On France’s Traditional ‘Sphere Of Influence’” is the most topical to this particular analysis. It described how Russia’s “military diplomacy” through arms sales and PMC deployments in the name of “Democratic Security” (counter-Hybrid War tactics and strategies) is increasing its appeal throughout Africa.

This model was first practiced in the CAR where it’s currently being perfected. France practically abandoned its resource-rich but chronically impoverished former colony due to its seemingly intractable civil war, which created the opportunity for Russia to come to its assistance a couple of years ago and surprisingly make progress on stabilizing parts of the country. France fears the growing attractiveness of Russia’s “Democratic Security” model in its African “sphere of influence” since Moscow has proven that it’s more than capable of replacing some of the security assistance that Paris used to provide to its partners. The crucial difference between the two, however, is that Russia doesn’t make political demands of those countries. Nevertheless, there do seem to be some quid pro quos involved such as obtaining preferential access to certain resources.

Even so, Russia’s “Democratic Security” model is very flexible and tailored to meet the needs of its many partners across the continent. Moscow also has an interest in comprehensively strengthening ties with those countries too beyond the military and resource spheres in order to cultivate reliable allies. This is evidenced by its investments in the CAR’s social sphere and the emphasis on improving people-to-people ties. Russia knows that it can’t rely on inter-elite relationships indefinitely if it seriously aspires to become a meaningful geopolitical “balancing” force in Africa, hence its focus on improving the lives of its partners’ people for soft power’s sake. France has mostly neglected to do this since it took its partners for granted by doing for decades exactly what it dishonestly accuses Russia of nowadays, which is simply relying on elite patronage networks.

This explains why France is so furious with Russia’s strategic inroads in the CAR. The Eurasian Great Power is handling its African outreaches a lot better than the Western European one which has a centuries-long “sphere of influence” there stretching back to the colonial era. France will have to step its game up if it doesn’t want to lose more hearts and minds to Russia’s much more pragmatic approach across this strategic space. Alas, instead of learning these long-overdue lessons, France decided to punish the CAR by suspending military and budgetary assistance, which is speculated to have prompted a change in government there after the Prime Minister was replaced with someone who media reports claim is more acceptable to Paris. This observation can be seen as a pragmatic move on Bangui’s part since it doesn’t consider Franco-Russo competition to be a zero-sum game.

Ideally, France and Russia would contribute in their own way to developing and stabilizing their shared partner. For instance, France is still an impressive economic force to be reckoned with there, while Russia is the country’s newest and most reliable security provider. The legacy of French influence won’t be erased anytime soon so it’s fitting for the two countries to repair their relations, though not at the expense of Russian-CAR relations like some in Paris might hope. Russia doesn’t impose any ultimatums on its partners nor does it ever pressure them to reduce their ties with others so France should hopefully learn from this pragmatic policy if it truly aspires to retain and even expand its influence there. Punishing the CAR is counterproductive and confirms that Paris is behaving in a very condescending manner which implies a hierarchy between the two.

France will inevitably have to incorporate Russia into its newfound “Lead From Behind” stratagem across its “sphere of influence” that I wrote about last week when describing the evolution of its Operation Barkhane in the Sahel. The Western European Great Power’s prior model of hegemonic dominance over its partners is coming to an end as the world transitions to multipolarity. The ongoing New Cold War between the US and China is compelling the Global South countries in which they compete to actively search for third-party “balancing” forces like Russia. Their traditional partners, in this case France, don’t sufficiently meet their increasingly independent strategic needs. France still has a chance to retain its “sphere of influence”, but it must lean to “share” it with others like Russia otherwise it’ll lose its influence a lot faster than if it doesn’t.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, France, Central African Republic, Democratic Security, Balancing, Lead From Behind, New Cold War.


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Korybko Interview To Italian Media About Russia’s Evolving Geostrategic Vision

Korybko Interview To Italian Media About Russia’s Evolving Geostrategic Vision

16 JUNE 2021

Korybko Interview To Italian Media About Russia

OneWorld is publishing the original English version of the interview that Andrew Korybko recently gave to Italy’s Mittdolcino about Russia’s evolving geostrategic vision.

1. China and Russia do not have symmetrical interests –other than the US and Western opposition– that support natural cooperation (especially since the disparity between Russia’s low economic complexity, compared to China’s diversified and modern economy, is becoming increasingly apparent. Not to mention Russia’s concern about China’s prominence in Central Asia and even the Balkans). Would the de facto alliance between the two countries hold up, therefore, in the face of an agreement of Russia with the United States, according to what would seem to be the new “Biden doctrine”, with clear reference to the green light to the North Stream 2 gas pipeline?

I don’t agree with that assessment and responded to the famous International Relations theorist John Mearsheimer’s similar claim earlier in the year in my article explaining “Why Structural Realists Are Wrong To Predict That Russia Will Help The US Against China”. To summarize, the first point to make is that Russia and China are not “allies”, and both their leaders have confirmed this. They instead regard themselves as being strategic partners with a wider scope for cooperation than conventional allies while having none of the controversial military commitments that come with the latter relationship. Secondly, despite the economic and military asymmetries between them, they have shared interests in accelerating the emergence of the multipolar world order, which explains their close cooperation in practically all spheres that’s expected to continue for the indefinite future.

To the question of what effect an improvement (however mild) in US-Russian relations would have on Russian-Chinese relations, there’s no credible reason to doubt that the latter will remain strong and enduring. Their diplomats have recently confirmed this and there’s no chance that Russia would ever be co-opted to turn against China. Rather, the most that could happen is that the US redirects some of the pressure that it’s put on Russia’s Western flank towards China’s Southern one in the event that relations between those two improve. This wouldn’t be any fault of Russia’s own though since it’s understandable why it would want to relieve such pressure along its borders with NATO, though it won’t undertake any unilateral concessions to achieve this nor jump on the US’ anti-Chinese bandwagon. The opposite is true as the US seems to be the one undertaking such unilateral concessions with respect to the decision to waive most sanctions on Nord Stream II.

The reason why America decided to do this is that its permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) seemingly realized the futility of attempting to simultaneously contain Russia and China. Not only has that only pushed those two closer together, but that very outcome has served China’s grand strategic interests vis-a-vis the New Cold War that it’s in with the US. From the American strategic standpoint, China is a global competitor on the structural level whereas Russia is a trans-regional one mostly operating within its neighboring regions (Central & Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, West Asia, Central Asia), though with a growing strategic presence in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and most recently Africa. Nevertheless, Russia lacks the economic might to make meaningful changes to the international order, unlike China, ergo the American need to redirect its strategic focus from Moscow towards Beijing by de-escalating with the former.

2. Since the beginning of the Cold War, interactions between the US, China and Russia/Soviet Union have always played a predominant role in international relations. Whether in the years of Sino-Soviet alignment or the historic ‘Nixon in China’ moment, this game has always seen two sides aligned against the third. But is the game still relevant today? According to The Diplomat, it would appear that Russia very much enjoys the cross-courtship of the other two countries and is cynically thinking of exploiting the situation to gain more advantages. Are you aware of this possible development?

Officially speaking, Russia would prefer for there to be no New Cold War between the US and China, but since it’s powerless to stop it, Moscow seemingly intends to take maximum advantage of it in pursuit of its own interests. This takes the form of the Eurasian Great Power’s ambitions to serve as the supreme “balancing” force in Eurasia across the 21st century, to which end it aspires to present itself as a pragmatic alternative to those many countries that are increasingly compelled to choose between the US and China. In other words, just as Russia hopes to “balance” between the US and China (with the first-mentioned being dependent on the outcome of the upcoming Putin-Biden Summit though that event’s been preceded by some positive progress as of late), so too does it hope to help its partners across Eurasia do the same.

In practice, this can result in Russia playing a larger economic role in those countries, particularly when it comes to certain types of infrastructure such as energy and railroads. In addition, those countries that are most susceptible to certain Hybrid War threats can make use of Russia’s wide range of customized “Democratic Security” solutions just like Syria and the Central African Republic presently are doing. Moscow hopes to use these means to expand its influence within their “deep states”, thereby setting the stage for more comprehensive relations between them, especially in the political and commercial sense. Another avenue for achieving this is through its “vaccine diplomacy” of selling its effective Sputnik V to anyone who wants it, which also improves its soft power within each of the recipient societies.

Russia realizes that it lacks the economic capabilities to compete with China and the US, hence why it must carve out certain niches for itself, all of which enhance its partners’ “balancing” capabilities too. This is a very unique role that only Russia is poised to fulfill since its other Great Power peers like some of the EU nations or Japan don’t have the reputation for independent decision-making that Moscow does. Their attempts to replicate Russia’s model would only be superficial in the sense of de facto advancing American strategic interests vis-a-vis China without improving their partners’ “balancing” capabilities. Since Russia and China enjoy very close relations like was previously explained, Beijing isn’t expected to react negatively to Moscow’s moves since they advance their shared vision of multipolarity, unlike whatever Washington and its allies might do.

3. Will the China-European links, whether by sea through the Bering Strait or by rail through Russia, significantly alter the Silk and Belt Road by sea, i.e. the route through the Suez Canal? If so, what are the repercussions for Mediterranean Europe and the balance in the Middle East?

Most Chinese-EU trade is carried out through the high seas, though Beijing wants to increase the amount that occurs through overland routes for reasons of strategic security related to countering any scenario wherein the powerful US Navy could cut off its trade lines in the event of a crisis. There are presently several alternative East-West corridors that are either presently in service and are expected to scale up in the coming future or are seriously planned. From north to south, these are the “Polar Silk Road” through the Arctic, the Eurasian Land Bridge across Russia, the “Middle Corridor” with Turkey via Central Asia-Caspian Sea-South Caucasus, the China-Central Asia-West Asia economic corridor (“Central Asian Silk Road”), and the western expansion of the Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (W-CPEC+) through Iran, Turkey, and thenceforth to the EU.

The consequences of these various Silk Roads on the Suez Canal won’t be felt for some time since that choke point will remain important for at least the next decade or two. Furthermore, Israel is considering something called the “Red-Med Corridor”, which is a high-speed railway connecting those two seas. It could function as a complement, if not alternative, to the Suez Canal considering the unexpected blockage that occurred earlier this year. Either way, Mediterranean Europe doesn’t have much to worry about because China will always continue to use that maritime route. This is proven by its hefty investments in the Greek port of Pireaus, as well as its plans to build a high-speed railway from there to Budapest and potentially as far north as Warsaw and maybe even Helsinki. China’s investment in north-south connectivity within Central & Eastern Europe (CEE) speaks to how seriously committed it is to continuing maritime trade with the EU via the Suez Canal.

4. In Israel, a considerable portion of the population is of Russian origin and, after all, there have always been talks between the leaders of the two countries. Considering that the United States, to use Tom Luongo’s words, has left Israel twisting in the wind, could new spaces open up for some form of cooperation between Russians and Israelis?

New spaces for cooperation have already opened up, this isn’t anything new, but is purposely ignored by most of the Mainstream and Alternative Media though for different reasons. I hyperlinked to 15 of my relevant analyses on this topic from the past few years in my article earlier this year asking, “Why Isn’t Alt-Media Asking About The S-300s After Biden’s Latest Strike in Syria?”, that should be reviewed by any readers that are interested in learning more about the reality of their de facto alliance that I describe through the portmanteau of “Rusrael”. In fact, it’s arguably one of the most consequential factors in contemporary West Asian geopolitics. The Mainstream Media doesn’t talk about it because Russia is seen as the ultimate evil whereas Israel is the ultimate good in their eyes, while the reverse is true for Alt-Media. Reporting the facts about their very close strategic coordination in West Asia would therefore undermine both of their narratives.

Russia “passively facilitated” literally hundreds of Israeli strikes against the IRGC and Hezbollah since the onset of its anti-terrorist intervention in the Arab Republic in September 2015. Just days prior to its commencement, former Prime Minister Netanyahu met President Putin in Moscow where they agreed to a so-called “deconfliction agreement” for coordinating these strikes. Furthermore, Russia acknowledged after the September 2018 mid-air incident that it pushed Iran and its allied forces away from the occupied Golan Heights at Israel’s request. It also revealed that its special forces are searching for the long-lost IDF remains in Syria, including in the middle of firefights between the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and ISIS according to RT. In fact, it was through these efforts that Russia found Zachary Baumel’s remains a few years ago and gave them back to Israel.

Bilateral trade and investment is also on the rise, as are people-to-people ties, the latter of which President Putin regularly praises whenever discussing Russia’s ties with Israel. Earlier this year, the two sides also agreed to cooperate on a wide range of internal security matters according to The Times Of Israel, which importantly includes anti-terrorism as well. None of this is a secret either but is openly reported upon in both Russian and Israeli media, yet most Mainstream and Alternative Media still refuse to draw much attention to this for the earlier mentioned reasons of what essentially boil down to their respective “politically correct” narratives that they push on their audiences. The former can’t afford to present Russia in a positive light, the same as the latter can’t do the same for Israel, but curious folks can do their own research to confirm what I’ve just shared.

5. Are Russia and China in favour of the Iranian atomic bomb? What would be their reaction to an Israeli attack on Iran?

Neither of them are in favor of an Iranian atomic bomb, nor of an Israeli attack on Iran, though they don’t have much influence over either of these two scenarios. They won’t take any meaningful action to prevent either except for perhaps agreeing to UNSC sanctions against the Islamic Republic in the worst-case scenario like they previously did around a decade ago. Even so, they’re very unlikely to do so again, let alone anytime soon, since they each have plans to invest more in the Islamic Republic and therefore won’t proverbially “cut their nose to spite their face” so to speak. As for the second scenario about an Israeli strike on Iran, the most that they might do is sell air-defense systems to Tehran, but they won’t consider any sanctions against the self-professed “Jewish State”. Simply put, they intend to “balance” between those two regional rivals.

6. The American Conservative, among many others, wrote that Putin’s nightmare is called Erdogan. How will he deal with his brazen activism in the Caucasus, Turkic-speaking Asia, Ukraine and even Poland? In this sense, is an agreement with the United States, resulting from a possible appeasement between the two countries, conceivable in order to punish President Erdogan and his neo-Ottomanism?

The Russian and Turkish leaders are doing their utmost to responsibly manage their “friendly competition” with one another but this will inevitably require more than just personal diplomacy at the highest level. Part of the solution rests in strengthening trade and connectivity between them in order to serve as a deterrent to either side undertaking any unilateral action that could seriously harm the other’s interests. In practice, it can already be observed that this is occurring, which also includes Russia’s construction of Turkish nuclear reactors. Azerbaijan’s victory in last year’s Karabakh War could turn the South Caucasus into a platform for expanding connectivity between them and Iran as well per President Aliyev’s proposal for a six-country regional integration platform.

The long-term solution is for Russia and Turkey to coordinate their bilateral relations and each of their ties with the countries within their overlapping “spheres of influence” in the South Caucasus and Central Asia through the establishment of a new institutional framework or the inclusion of Ankara into existing ones that include those regions. The former could involve some sort of symbolic synergy between the “Russian World” and the “Turkic World”, while the latter might lead to Turkey joining the Eurasian Economic Union and/or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO, which is much more multilateral though and therefore less capable of focusing on those two Great Powers’ most pressing needs). Either way, the basis for sustainably regulating their “friendly competition” across this broad space must be more than just personal diplomacy and trade.

As for the US potentially co-opting Turkey in order to encourage it to disrupt the situation in the regions where it’s engaged in a now-manageable “friendly competition” with Russia, that’s always possible in theory but it’s unclear whether Ankara would agree to behave in such an irresponsible way. After all, it too benefits from stability in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Russia also doesn’t serve as an obstacle to the expansion of Turkey’s soft power and economic influence there. Moscow might feel somewhat uncomfortable with the long-term strategic consequences if Ankara’s influence uncontrollably spreads through those strategic spaces, but it’s unlikely to result in any zero-sum outcome since most of the Central Asian states are in a mutual defense pact with Russia through the CSTO. Turkey is therefore unlikely to pose any latent security threat to Russia there.

7. Despite the fact that Russia’s assertive policy is expanding all over the world, including in the so-called backyard of the United States, in your opinion its greatest political interest will continue to be Europe, not just Eastern Europe?

I’d like to clarify any potential innuendo contained in the present question which might imply that Russia’s expansion of influence across the world and especially in Europe is somewhat aggressive or destabilizing. All of Russia’s partners there, which include EU and NATO states like Hungary, voluntarily cooperate with it and aren’t doing so under any sort of duress or due to corruption. They recognize the benefits inherent in cooperating with Moscow since they rightly regard relations with Russia as a means for enhancing their respective “balancing” acts. The same is true for Germany vis-a-vis Nord Stream II since it has a shared interest with Russia in this megaproject. Unlike the US, Russia doesn’t make ultimatums of its partners nor meddles in their relations with others such as America. This is a crucial difference which explains Russia’s recent appeal to them.

To address the question after having clarified any misunderstanding that readers might have from the question that was asked, Europe as a whole will always remain very important for Russia since the country is an historical part of that civilization which is also its top trade partner. Furthermore, its economies are comparatively more developed than in most other parts of the world except North America and East Asia so there will always be an interest in expanding relations with them regardless of however dismal their current ties might be as a result of external (American) pressure on their governments. Nevertheless, Russia has begun to broaden its strategic horizons ever since 2014 in response to the sanctions that the EU imposed against it at the US’ behest. This has seen Russia diversifying its strategic focus to the Global South.

While most observers tend to concentrate on its ties with China, there’s much more to it than just that. Russia retains excellent relations with India, which it regards as a “friendly” means for “balancing” China, especially within the BRICS and SCO groups that all three of them participate in. Turkey is another important partner for Russia, especially in recent years as Ankara has sought to take advantage of its newfound ties with Moscow in order to enhance its own “balancing” act vis-a-vis the US following very serious disagreements with its NATO ally over Washington’s arming of Kurdish fighters in Syria that Turkey regards as terrorists. What’s most worthwhile paying attention to isn’t Russia’s so-called “Pivot to Asia” (or “Turn to Asia” as many in Russia describe it as), but what I’ve previously claimed is its “Ummah Pivot” of comprehensively engaging with the Muslim-majority countries along its southern periphery and beyond.

As part of its 21st-century grand strategic ambition to become the supreme “balancing” force in Eurasia, Russia has recently sought to cultivate strategic relations with non-traditional partners such as Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE as well as Turkey of course. These rapidly expanding partnerships have sometimes caused concern among some of Russia’s traditional partners such as Armenia, India, and Syria, but Moscow continues to do its utmost to “balance” between various pairs of rivals by ensuring that none of its moves towards one of them occurs at the other’s actual expense (even if it’s perceived otherwise by some). Altogether, the international Muslim community (“Ummah”), especially those countries located within West and South Asia, has suddenly emerged as an important focus of Russian strategy.

For instance, the earlier mentioned six-nation regional integration platform in the South Caucasus will serve to expand Russia’s connectivity with Turkey and Iran. The North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) with Azerbaijan, Iran, and India will place the Islamic Republic smack dab in the middle of this transregional trade route. The plans for de facto expanding CPEC northwards (N-CPEC+) through the recently agreed trilateral railway between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) will complement the NSTC by giving Russia another route to the Indian Ocean that it’s historically wanted to reach. These three north-south corridors will facilitate Russia’s economic outreaches with Africa, which has also recently emerged as a strategic focus, albeit nowhere near as important as the Ummah is. The ASEAN states are also promising partners as well, which Russia plans to engage with more through the Vladivostok-Chennai Maritime Corridor (VCMC) that it announced in 2019 with India.

What all of this means is that while Europe might remain Russia’s preferred partner for economic, geographic, and historical reasons, it’s no longer Moscow’s primary focus ever since 2014. China, India, and the Ummah are increasingly important to its grand strategic calculus, with each of these three now occupying complementary roles within its envisioned Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP). In fact, successful integration with those Global South states could help compensate for the recent worsening of Russian-EU relations as well as provide Moscow with the leverage needed to perhaps broker a breakthrough in relations with Europe. After all, the EU previously thought that Russia needs it more than the reverse, but actually neither “needs” the other anymore. This might inspire more pragmatic policies by the European countries towards Russia with time, especially in the possible context of gradually improving Russian-American relations.

8. Can you give us your opinion on the abolition of the Open Skies Treaty, and your prediction on the outcome of the forthcoming meeting between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin?

The Treaty’s abolition is an unfortunate casualty of worsened Russian-American relations, and international security will undoubtedly be adversely affected by it. As for the outcome of the forthcoming meeting between the Russian and American leaders, I predict that there won’t be any dramatic outcome but that it’ll nevertheless be a pragmatic step in the direction of responsibly regulating their comprehensive competition. This will in turn relieve pressure upon Russia’s Western flank while simultaneously freeing up the US to devote more of its resources towards “containing” China. I elaborated more on the strategic consequences of this prediction in my latest expert column for the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) titled “Towards Increasingly Complex Multipolarity: Scenario For The Future”.

In a nutshell, I foresee Russia, Turkey, India, and China continuing to expand their influence across Eurasia, both cooperating with and “balancing” against one another in various ways, most of them “friendly”. Nevertheless, these strategic dynamics are ripe for external exploitation by the US in advance of its ambition to divide and rule the supercontinent, though they also present plenty of opportunities for those countries to more sustainably stabilize it provided that they have the political will to do so, including by making some tough mutual compromises where needed. The so-called “Age of Complexity” is upon us wherein everything is evolving at an unprecedented pace, accelerated by the full-spectrum paradigm-changing processes catalyzed by the world’s uncoordinated attempts to contain COVID-19, or World War C as I call it.

Three of my most relevant analyses on this concept are about how “The Connection Between World War C & Psychological Processes Is Seriously Concerning”, “Russia’s Five Most Important Tasks For Surviving World War C”, and how “President Putin’s Davos Speech Defined The World War C Era”. It’s within this transformative context that all of the previously described processes are unfolding, which makes everything all the more uncertain and therefore complex. In my view, it’s only by obtaining a deeper understanding of everything that World War C entails that one can produce an accurate forecast nowadays considering how radically everything is changing, to say nothing about how fast the said changes are occurring. I therefore encourage everyone to publish their own thoughts about World War C in order to contribute to the literature and enrich our insight.

The interview was originally published in Italian at Mittdolcino.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, Putin, US, EU, China, India, Ummah Pivot, Africa, Balancing, New Cold War.


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How Serious Are Poland’s Grand Strategic Disagreements With The US?

How Serious Are Poland’s Grand Strategic Disagreements With The US?

15 JUNE 2021

How Serious Are Poland

Few could have expected that one of America’s top allies anywhere in the world would so seriously disagree with its patron, but that’s exactly what happened after Polish officials publicly expressed deep concern over the US’ recent recalibration of relations with Russia, prompting observers to wonder exactly how far everything will go and towards what ultimate ends.

Poland is widely regarded as one of America’s top allies anywhere in the world and with good reason considering that it’s marched in lockstep with its patron ever since the end of communism in 1989 with only a single exception. That was the Obama-era “Reset” with Russia, which Poland regarded as a betrayal of its national security interests even though that policy eventually failed. History is once again repeating itself, however, after Polish officials publicly expressed deep concern over the Biden Administration’s recent recalibration of relations with Russia which some fear might be even more disastrous for their country’s national security than Obama’s plans to change the nature of the US’ missile defense shield in this geostrategically positioned Central & Eastern European (CEE) country.

Poland was surprised by the Biden Administration’s decision to waive most Nord Stream II sanctions last month, with different officials describing this move as a “threat” to energy security and even a “gas bomb placed under European integration”. Prime Minister Morawiecki very loudly condemned what he called the US’ “180-degree change of policy” towards Russia in an exclusive interview that he recently gave to Newsweek, which was followed by his Foreign Minister expressing deep “regret” over Biden’s refusal to meet with CEE leaders ahead of his summit with President Putin. The end result is that Poland is presently in a very serious geostrategic predicament after proverbially putting all of its eggs into the basket of Trump’s re-election. This was the culmination of a series of counterproductive policy calculations that I elaborated upon earlier in the month.

In summary, Poland’s practically pathological expression of “negative nationalism” vis-a-vis Russia was responsible for it obsessively doing everything in its power to undermine its Great Power neighbor in the contested “sphere of influence” between them in Belarus and Ukraine ever since 2013. This absolutely ruined relations with Russia and therefore made it impossible for Poland to take advantage of the opportunity to “balance” between East and West in pursuit of better deals from both of its neighbors. Instead, it eagerly submitted itself to the US’ regional strategic designs, only to have Biden pull the rug out from under its leaders’ feet in recent weeks as America once again pursued its own interests at Poland’s expense. I forecast the larger consequences of this for Eurasia in my latest analysis for the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC).

It also deserves mentioning that the Polish leadership’s conservative-nationalist worldview is the ideological opposite of the present American’s liberal-globalist one, a point that was further emphasized in Morawiecki’s interview where he envisioned a “Europe of homelands” instead of the “United States of Europe” that the US is nowadays more in favor of. Although this prompted an RT contributor to wonder whether a “Polexit” might be in the cards sometime later this decade if the ideological contradiction between Warsaw and EU-leader Berlin isn’t resolved soon enough, it’s highly unlikely that anything of the sort will ever transpire because the CEE leader immensely benefits from the bloc’s free movement of goods, services, and people. Rather, it’s much more likely that Poland might seek to turn its “Three Seas Initiative” into less of a complement to the European project like Morawiecki told Newsweek that it is and more of an intra-organizational ideological competitor.

It’s too early to say whether that’ll happen, but it’s already undeniable that Poland has suddenly become much more isolated on the European stage due both to its deliberately counterproductive policies towards Russia as well as the bloc’s leading members like Germany supporting the US’ pragmatic recalibration of relations with Moscow. Morawiecki also mentioned in his earlier cited interview that while he’s concerned about some of China’s growing influence, he nevertheless “believe(s) that competition is good and some competition coming from China—not the sort that is subsidized or where there is price dumping or industrial output via slave labor, but outside those abuses, competition is not bad for us. And we are open for the Chinese investments strengthening our intelligence competitive capacities and our abilities to defend vis-à-vis their attacks.” This suggests a possible economic pivot towards China if relations with the US can’t be repaired.

That said, the US probably isn’t going to ever abandon Poland and thus open up the possibility of it economically pivoting towards the People’s Republic. Biden will probably retain his country’s recently bolstered military presence in Poland or at the very least ensure that some robust NATO presence remains in order to symbolically reassure its leadership that the US hasn’t “sold it out to Russia” like they increasingly fear. At the same time, however, American pressure on Poland might increase, including through more covert US support for the German Hybrid War on Poland that’s seen Berlin back a rolling Color Revolution over the past few years which aims to replace its target’s conservative-nationalist government with liberal-globalist puppets.

With any improvement of relations with Russia being politically impossible especially in light of recent so-called “spy scandals” (one of which is arguably paranoid persecution of a genuine human rights activist), the only realistic policy option for Poland in the event of worsening ties with America (or at the very least growing mistrust and associated suspicion of its “ally’s” grand strategic motives vis-a-vis Russia) is to focus on accelerating the comprehensive expansion of ties with China. Poland is already China’s top partner in CEE by virtue of its enormous population, strong economy, and geostrategic position, so it wouldn’t be difficult in principle for Warsaw to strategically partner with Beijing if the political will is present.

It should also be remembered that China is pioneering a high-speed railway from the Hungarian capital of Budapest to the Greek port of Pireaus which could even expand as far northwards as Warsaw and Helsinki by the end of the decade so the People’s Republic certainly has an interest in cultivating more strategic partnerships in CEE, especially with Poland. If Poland already believes (whether rightly or wrongly) that the US “sold it out to Russia” and that Washington might even soon throw more of its covert weight behind Berlin’s ongoing Hybrid War, then Warsaw wouldn’t really have anything to lose by at the very least beginning to seriously explore this policy proposal.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Biden, Putin, New Cold War, Poland, US, Russia, China, Three Seas Initiative, 3SI, Belt & Road Initiative, BRI, Balancing.


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China’s Promise Of Full Support To Syria Might Be A Geopolitical Game-Changer

China’s Promise Of Full Support To Syria Might Be A Geopolitical Game-Changer

4 JUNE 2021

China

President Xi’s telegrammed promise of full support to Syria after its latest elections could be a geopolitical game-changer if his rhetoric presages a new reality wherein the People’s Republic assists its Arab counterpart with perfecting its tricky balancing act between various powers.

Syria’s Balancing Act

Syria’s been mired in a geopolitical dilemma for quite a few years already whereby it’s been pressured by friendly and hostile powers alike to implement political reforms so as to advance its struggling peace process. This has taken the from of both of the Russian-written “draft constitution” of 2017 which was a much more gentle form of such pressure aimed at encouraging mutual compromises between all legitimate sides of the conflict as well as America’s much more aggressive efforts to force Damascus into unilateral political concessions. Caught between these two rival parties that are in essence pushing for very similar structural outcomes, Syria cleverly deflected by comprehensively strengthening its relations with Iran so as to improve its strategic position and thus buy it more time until a possible breakthrough can occur.

Iranian Risks

The Iranian vector of Syrian grand strategy isn’t without its challenges though since Russia and the US would both prefer for the Islamic Republic’s military forces to leave the Arab one, albeit for different reasons, despite them being invited to legally operate there by Damascus. Russia envisions a prospectively dignified but phased Iranian withdrawal as providing the impetus for a larger series of diplomatic deals aimed at securing a long-term peace in West Asia whereas the US is always simply against the expansion of Iran’s regional influence in principle. Both Great Powers are also allied with “Israel” to differing extents, which regards the Iranian military presence in neighboring Syria as a serious threat to its national security. Nevertheless, Syria remained loyal to Iran and refused to request its departure despite literally hundreds of “Israeli” bombings over they ears.

Background Reading

The background context is much more complex than described above, but intrepid readers can review the author’s prior analyses on these complicated dynamics if they’re interested in learning more about the particular details and dynamics:

* 3 February 2017: “Syria: Digging Into The Details Of The Russian-Written ‘Draft Constitution’

* 22 August 2018: “Chaos Theory, Hybrid War, And The Future Of Syria

* 3 February 2021: “Korybko Interview With Iran’s Farhikhtegan Newspaper

* 7 February 2021: “Syria Should Talk With The US Since Its Iranian & Russian Allies Are Already Doing So

* 8 February 2021: “Balancing Regional Interests In Syria Is The Only Way To Reach A Compromise Solution

* 26 February 2021: “Why Isn’t Alt-Media Asking About The S-300s After Biden’s Latest Strike In Syria?

* 17 March 2021: “Should Iran Be Worried About Russia’s Coordination With ‘Israel’ & The US In Syria?

* 25 May 2021: “The Strategic Significance Of The Syrian Elections

To sum it all up, Syria basically seemed destined to inevitably implement some form of political concessions aimed at decentralization together with requesting Iran’s dignified but phased withdrawal of the country in order to stand any serious chance at removing the US’ unilateral sanctions and thus finally rebuilding.

The Chinese Game-Changer

All the above-mentioned insight was relevant for years but might soon become outdated depending upon whether China’s latest rhetoric presages a new reality. President Xi promised in the telegram that he sent to his Syrian counterpart after the latter’s latest elections that the People’s Republic “will provide all possible assistance…in revitalizing the country’s economy and improving the lives of the population”, among other things such as COVID-19 aid and enhancing bilateral relations. This was always an emerging scenario though one whose likelihood greatly increased over the past half-year as evidenced by the author’s relevant analyses:

* 13 November 2020: “China’s Belt & Road Initiative Can Help Syria Rebuild After The War

* 15 December 2020: “Korybko: Complementary Role Of Iran, China, Russia In Syria’s Reconstruction

* 4 April 2021: “Korybko: 25-Year Deal Is A Message To The US: Iran & China Won’t Be ‘Contained’

In short, the recently clinched 25-year Chinese-Iranian Strategic Partnership enables the People’s Republic to connect with the Islamic one via Pakistan by expanding the Belt & Road Initiative’s flagship project of CPEC westward through the W-CPEC+ vision. This emerging corridor can then expand further westward to Syria. Furthermore, Iran’s deeply entrenched influence and the unquestionable trust that its representatives have with their Syrian counterparts can open up important doors for China there. The end result is that Damascus might not have to implement any compromises if Beijing’s BRI assistance helps reliably rebuild the country.

Strategic Consequences

Up until this point, Russia seemingly took it for granted that China wouldn’t seriously invest in Syria anytime soon owing to the unresolved political-military situation there which could endanger its BRI projects. Nevertheless, the People’s Republic apparently interpreted the latest elections’ successful conclusion as a strong message to the world conveying the fact that everything in the Arab Republic is finally getting back on track enough that China can now consider more comprehensively investing there. Should that transpire as planned, then Russia’s strategic leverage in Syria would comparatively decline as Damascus wouldn’t have any incentive to carry out the compromises that Moscow’s gently encouraged for the past few years, including the one related to requesting Iran’s dignified but phased withdrawal from the country.

Russian Calculations

Russia’s regional balancing act might therefore become comparatively less balanced if Moscow is no longer able to deliver on the grand diplomatic deals that it envisioned and presumably also at the very least intuited to its new partners like “Israel” and Turkey. In addition, Russia’s previously dominant economic position in Syria might soon be challenged through China’s “friendly competition” there. Syria of course stands to benefit by playing these two Great Powers off against one another in pursuit of the best reconstruction deals possible, but Russia might still be silently displeased at losing some of its strategic leverage over the country. Russia can always indirectly facilitate “Israel’s” bombing campaigns against Iran to reduce the latter’s influence there, but it can’t do anything to counter China’s. This observation suggests that the Kremlin’s Syrian policy might soon change.

From “Monopolization” To “Accommodation”

Russia’s “strategic culture” has a centuries-long tradition of influencing policymakers to “monopolize” the foreign regions in which they operate whereby Moscow becomes the unquestionably dominant power in those places. That started changing after the end of the Old Cold War, especially in areas where Russia used to hold the greatest sway. NATO’s eastward march saw Russia begrudgingly “accommodating” the military bloc in Central & Eastern Europe while BRI’s expansion into Central Asia saw the Eurasian Great Power more enthusiastically do the same there with its top strategic partner. As a result of last year’s Karabakh War, Russia was compelled to pragmatically “accommodate” Turkey in the South Caucasus, just as it’s seemingly about to do with China in Syria, the crown jewel of Moscow’s Mideast grand strategy, following President Xi’s telegram.

The New Reality

The overarching trend is that Russia is flexibly adapting to the emerging Multipolar World Order, including in the evolving context of World War C, which resulted in it transitioning from its “monopolization” model to its newfound “accommodation” one. In the Syrian case, this will likely see Russia lessening some of the “friendly pressure” that it’s previously put upon Damascus to implement Moscow’s envisioned compromises, including the request for Iran to commence a dignified but phased withdrawal. The Eurasian Great Power might soon realize that Syria could simply replace it with China as the Arab Republic’s preferred strategic partner, understanding that Moscow will militarily remain in the country as previously agreed but won’t be economically rewarded with profitable reconstruction contracts if it doesn’t fully “accommodate” Damascus related interests.

Concluding Thoughts

Provided that China carries through on President Xi’s promise and that Iran hasn’t already clinched a secret deal with the US to gradually withdraw from Syria as part of a larger compromise on its nuclear program (which doesn’t seem too likely and would probably become impossible if principalists/conservatives win the upcoming elections later this month), then there’s a very high chance that the geopolitical game has suddenly changed in Syria. Russian-Syrian relations will remain excellent, but their exact nature might somewhat change if Damascus more confidently plays the Chinese card to protect its political and military interests connected with its refusal to implement various compromises as well as request Iran’s dignified but phased withdrawal. The US surely won’t be happy with such a development, but there’s little that it can realistically do to reverse this trend.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: China, Syria, Russia, Iran, Turkey, US, Israel, Balancing.


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Poland’s Counterproductive Foreign Policy Is Responsible For Its Present Predicament

Poland’s Counterproductive Foreign Policy Is Responsible For Its Present Predicament

2 JUNE 2021

Poland

Poland’s counterproductive foreign policy of depending so much on former US President Trump’s re-election, ruining relations with Russia, and openly opposing Moscow’s Nord Stream II gas pipeline with Germany are responsible for its present predicament wherein the leading Central European country now finds itself in an extremely disadvantageous geopolitical position.

No country is more upset than Poland is at US President Biden for passively allowing the Nord Stream II gas pipeline to finish construction with only the most superficial of sanctions. Its representatives have described the project as both a threat to energy security and also most recently “a gas bomb placed under European integration” due to Warsaw’s belief that Moscow will capriciously cut off the tap to its Western customers. The Eurasian Great Power would never do such a thing since it’s arguably just as dependent on its customers as they are on Russia, if not more considering its disproportionate budgetary dependence on such energy sales, which Poland is well aware of.

What worries Warsaw the most, however, is that Moscow and Berlin might “collude” with one another to jointly “manage” the geostrategic Central & Eastern European (CEE) space across which Poland envisions itself becoming the regional leader through the “Three Seas Initiative” (3SI) that it leads as well as that structure’s “Lublin Triangle” core. Poland had hitherto based almost the entirety of its recent foreign policy on former US President Trump’s re-election due to his desire to stop Nord Stream II in order to compel Europe to purchase more expensive US LNG. It also appreciated his support of the 3SI, which irked Germany because Berlin is adamantly against Poland flexing its geopolitical muscles in CEE.

In pursuit of its goal to stop Poland from regaining its historical regional hegemonic status and perhaps even expanding it beyond its prior “sphere of influence”, Germany has been waging an ongoing Hybrid War on Poland intended to overthrow its conservative-nationalist government. The Biden Administration also seems unsupportive of Poland’s current authorities at the very least, if not silently hostile even if only for simple ideological reasons. Nevertheless, both Germany and the US appreciate Poland for playing a leading role in the West’s Hybrid War on neighboring Belarus, which advances very important anti-Russian foreign policy goals. Warsaw isn’t just doing this to please them, but as part of its hegemonic ambitions through the 3SI.

The problem for Poland is that it already burned all of its bridges with Russia so it’s incapable of realistically balancing with Moscow against an increasingly hostile Berlin and perhaps soon even an equally hostile Washington, the latter two of which behave as “frenemies” by being “cordial” for the most part in public but extremely pernicious behind the scenes. Germany’s Hybrid War on Poland through its support of the liberal-globalist Color Revolution opposition pairs perfectly with what Poland regards as the US’ so-called “betrayal” through Nord Stream II and Warsaw’s suspicions of Washington’s grand strategic motives ahead of the upcoming Putin-Biden Summit to put Poland in a very disadvantageous position.

The country’s “negative nationalism”, which builds a large part of its contemporary nationalism solely around its differences (whether real, imagined, or exaggerated) with Russia, blinded it to the strategic shortcomings of its prior policies and resulted in Poland counterproductively burning its bridges with Moscow with passion. Poland recently enhanced its military cooperation with Turkey through a combat drone deal which might in the future provide some pragmatic balancing options considering Ankara’s problems with both Berlin and Washington, but the West Asian country could never repair Warsaw’s balancing act like a rapprochement with Moscow could. That latter option is unlikely though for the earlier mentioned reasons, but it remains the most optimal.

Should Poland ever be able to muster up the political will to stop meddling in Russia’s “Near Abroad” (Belarus & Ukraine), then a breakthrough might in theory be achieved, but this is regrettably unrealistic to expect from the country since it’s convinced itself that its national security is dependent on countering Russian-friendly forces in those two neighboring nations between them. Poland as a state is simply too psychologically traumatized by its history with Russia to ever trust Moscow’s strategic intentions, which was exploited by Germany and the US in order to take advantage of this leading CEE country without its leaders even realizing it until it was too late. This leads to the worst-case scenario from its perspective.

Poland now might have to confront the prospect of being compelled by circumstances to pragmatically deal with Russia if Biden makes progress on advancing a so-called “New Detente” during his upcoming summit with President Putin. Moscow would hold more cards in this case than Warsaw could since the latter couldn’t rely as much on Berlin or Washington to support its regionally destabilizing Russophobic foreign policy to the same extent as before considering the perceived consequences of Nord Stream II’s impending completion. At the same time though, Germany and the US might continue pushing Poland to meddle in Russia’s “Near Abroad”, hoping that if anything goes wrong, then Warsaw can just take the fall for it instead of them.

To put it bluntly, Poland is damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t, and this dilemma vexes its strategists. They riskily bet everything on former US President Trump’s re-election, only to have their entire grand strategy suddenly sabotaged by Biden. They’re too deep into their regional Russophobic destabilization operations in Belarus and Ukraine to pull back now, at least without “losing face” among their people, yet even a pragmatic recalibration of their politics could be seen by their citizens as having been done under so-called “geopolitical duress”, which might reduce the ruling party’s domestic support among certain nationalist forces. Although the ruling party is still pretty popular, its coalition might crack in the future under such foreign pressures.

These considerations make it very difficult to suggest the optimal course of action for Poland since there might be some heavy costs for it either way. All told, though, it would objectively be best if Poland began exploring the options for an incipient rapprochement with Russia even if only for pragmatism’s sake, perhaps seeking solely to agree to so-called “rules of engagement” for “managing” their competition in Belarus and Ukraine. In any case, Poland should seriously consider taking the initiative in independently engaging Russia without Germany or the US’ approval since neither of those two sought Poland’s in doing what they recently did. If Poland aspires for regional leadership, then it’s about time that it starts acting more like a leader and less like a follower.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Poland, Germany, Russia, US, Nord Stream II, Balancing, Three Seas Initiative, 3SI, Lublin Triangle.


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Turkey’s Military Engagement With The Lublin Triangle Aims To Balance Russia

Turkey’s Military Engagement With The Lublin Triangle Aims To Balance Russia

27 MAY 2021

Turkey

Poland’s agreement to purchase Turkish attack drones speaks to Ankara’s desire to enhance military engagement with the Warsaw-led “Lublin Triangle” in order to balance Russia’s recent geostrategic gains in the Black and Mediterranean Sea regions that the West Asian country might have suspiciously considered to be an unstated attempt by Moscow to contain it.

Russian-Turkish relations are incredibly complex, but can nowadays be characterized as a “friendly competition” between historic rivals whose leaders ultimately decided to responsibly regulate this dynamic for the sake of stability within their overlapping “spheres of influence”. I explained this more at length in an analysis that I wrote for Azerbaijan’s Axar in early April asking “Will Turkey’s Partnership With Ukraine Worsen Its Relations With Russia?” Generally speaking, this model of “friendly competition” is sustainable, though only so long as neither side does anything to decisively upset the military balance between the other and any of their rivals. That’s why Russia is so concerned about Turkey’s sale of combat drones to Ukraine since these could shift the military dynamics in Donbass. Foreign Minister Lavrov also warned Turkey against “fueling Kiev’s militaristic sentiment” earlier this week, but it’s Turkish-Polish military cooperation that might be much more dangerous.

Polish President Duda agreed to purchase 24 Turkish attack drones during his latest trip to the country in Ankara’s first such sale to an EU or NATO state. What’s so disturbing about this development is that Poland previously lost the war games that it staged earlier this year related to a speculative conflict with Russia, one in which neighboring Kaliningrad would play a major role for both sides. In that scenario, Russia would either attack Poland from that region or be attacked by Poland there. Either way, the point is that Kaliningrad is in Poland’s military crosshairs and represents the only realistic target for the Central European country’s new Turkish drones other than Belarus, the latter of which is part of the Russian-led CSTO mutual defense pact so any Polish attack against it could in theory be treated as an attack against Russia itself. Considering the intensity of Poland’s “negative nationalism” vis-a-vis Russia, a drone attack against either can’t be discounted.

It’s one thing for the US to bolster its Polish regional proxy’s offensive military capabilities and another for Turkey to do the same, especially considering the sensitive nature of contemporary Russian-Turkish relations and associated need to not disrupt the fragile balance between them. By selling drones to both Ukraine and Poland, Turkey is essentially enhancing its military engagement with the Polish-led “Lublin Triangle” which aims to “contain” Russian influence in Central & Eastern Europe (CEE) both at Poland’s independent prerogative but also America’s indirect behest. Poland aspires for regional hegemonic status through this platform, the core of the “Three Seas Initiative”, which could also help it reduce Germany’s influence in this strategic space as an asymmetrical response to its neighbor’s ongoing Hybrid War against it and especially against the backdrop of the US pragmatically allowing the Nord Stream II pipeline that Warsaw is so suspicious of to be completed.

It’s unclear exactly why Turkey would so provocatively bolster the Lublin Triangle’s military capabilities through attack drone sales to both the bloc’s Polish leader and its Ukrainian partner, but it might be the case that Ankara believes that this is a symmetrical response of sorts to recent Russian geostrategic gains in the Black and Mediterranean Seas that the West Asian country might have suspiciously considered to be an unstated attempt by Moscow to contain it. To explain, Russia’s victory in the 2008 peace enforcement operation against Georgia secured Abkhazia within its “sphere of influence”, while Crimea’s 2014 democratic reunification with Russia further expanded Moscow’s influence in the Black Sea that it shares with Turkey. On the southern front, Russia’s decisive 2015 anti-terrorist intervention in Syria placed the country’s military forces squarely within Turkey’s soft underbelly.

Although Russia has no intention whatsoever to attack Turkey, both due to their leaders’ pragmatic agreement to regulate their “friendly competition” within their overlapping “spheres of influence” and also to avoid an apocalyptic World War III scenario with NATO, Ankara might have nevertheless feared such a scenario no matter how unlikely it is in reality. This might especially have been the case ever since the agreement to deploy Russian peacekeepers to part of Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region as part of last November’s Moscow-mediated ceasefire between that country and Armenia. Although Turkish troops are there too, this still might not have dampened suspicious of the containment scenario. In response, Turkey might have thought it necessary to enhance its military engagement with the Polish-led Lublin Triangle, ergo its drone sales to Ukraine and most recently Poland.

What’s so concerning about these possible calculations is that Russia probably hadn’t ever thought that CEE would become a theater of “friendly competition” with Turkey. Unlike Turkish moves in the South Caucasus (Azerbaijan), Levant (Syria), and North Africa (Libya), its attack drone sales to those two Lublin Triangle states directly affect Russia’s national security. By contrast, Russian moves in the South Caucasus (Abkhazia and Azerbaijan’s Karabakh), Black Sea (Crimea), and Levant (Syria) don’t pose any such threat to Turkey’s national security since Moscow remains in full control of its forces there and isn’t building up its partners’ military capabilities as anti-Turkish proxies. With these observations in mind, Russia might need to review the nature of its “friendly competition” with Turkey, perhaps even as high as the leadership level due to the fact that the very close ties between their Presidents is largely responsible for managing these dynamics.

Some frank discussions between their leaders could be forthcoming if Russia believes that Turkey’s attack drone sales to those Lublin Triangle states could adversely affect the military balance between it and those two recipient countries. Turkey must clarify the reasons behind its enhanced military engagement with this unquestionably anti-Russian bloc that’s forming before Moscow’s eyes right on its very borders. It would still be concerning if Turkey is just doing it for the sake of business, but even worse if it’s for some larger strategic purpose. In either case, the move can be interpreted as unfriendly but perhaps also as a sly means for Turkey to restore the balance between it and Russia if some of its decision makers (whether rightly or wrongly) regard it as having recently tilted in Moscow’s favor, especially after last year’s peacekeeper deployment in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh. Regardless of its ultimate intent, the situation must be clarified soon in order to preserve their pragmatic ties.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Turkey, Poland, Ukraine, Drones, Lublin Triangle, Three Seas Initiative, 3SI, US, Russia, Balancing.


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Russia Should Consider Partnering With The UAE In The Horn Of Africa

20 MAY 2021

Russia Should Consider Partnering With The UAE In The Horn Of Africa

The Horn of Africa is arguably the most geostrategic part of the continent for the rest of the world at large so it’s only fitting that Russia crafts a comprehensive strategy for advancing its interests there, one which would become much more viable if it seriously considered partnering with the region’s de facto Emirati hegemon

The Horn Of Africa

Africa’s geostrategic significance is rising as Great Powers resume their historical scramble for influence, resources, and prestige there, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the Horn of Africa. This region is arguably the most geostrategic part of the continent for the rest of the world at large given its position astride the Gulf of Aden-Red Sea (GARS) waterway connecting the Eastern Hemipshere’s maritime trade routes. It’s therefore only fitting that Russia crafts a comprehensive strategy for advancing its interests there which aligns with the model that it’s begun to experiment with across Africa, albeit of course custom tailored for the Horn of Africa’s specific context.

Background Briefing

My recent piece asking “Is Khodorkovsky Behind Claims Of Russian Death Squads In The Central African Republic” chronologically lists my 18 prior analysis over the years on Russia’s new African outreach strategy, which should be referenced by those with an interest in the topic. In particular, attention should be paid to the one about how “The Improvement Of Russian-Togolese Relations Is A Multipolar Masterstroke” since it summarizes most of what’s been going on recently. To be brief, Russia is employing a combination of “Democratic Security” programs (counter-Hybrid War tactics and strategies), strategic economic deals, and political support to bolster the viability of so-called “fragile states” and strengthen their nation-building efforts.

Challenges & Opportunities

The Horn of Africa though already has a panoply of very confident nations, most of which which live within the centrally positioned cosmopolitan state of Ethiopia that’s recently been under severe strain as a result of the incipient “Balkanization” processes inadvertently catalyzed by its new leader’s “glasnost” and “perestroika” attempts. They therefore don’t require, nor have requested, any of Russia’s “nation-building” support, though the several states comprising this region (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan) are still attractive destinations for Russian investment though provided that the Horn of Africa eventually stabilizes. That might not happen anytime soon though, yet Russia can’t wait much longer to more actively engage the region.

Russia’s Regional Entry Point

Moscow’s entry point appears to be the naval base that it plans to open in Sudan despite recent speculation about its future. With or without a military presence there though, Russia can still utilize this location to benefit from the prospective Sahelian-Saharan Silk Road that China might eventually advance as part of its worldwide Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) upon the end of the global economic crisis brought about by the world’s uncoordinated attempts to contain COVID-19 (“World War C”). Chad’s recent security challenges following the unexpected killing of its long-serving leader at the front lines of its latest war with rebel groups might further delay this project’s implementation, hence the need for Russia to diversify its regional economic outreaches.

The Prospects For Ethiopian Engagement

Ethiopia is therefore an exciting prospect and close historical ties support this possible direction of Russian policy, but there’s immense competition with China and the GCC so Moscow would need to find a suitable niche from which to establish its influence there. Interest exists on both sides since each aspires to improve their respective balancing acts via the other, but not much of tangible significance has occurred. Statements of intent are positive signs, but they aren’t anything substantive. Both sides should therefore urgently set up working groups at the intergovernmental and entrepreneurial levels to explore this more seriously. If successful, then more trade, security, and closer political ties would be mutually beneficial and also help the larger region.

Relegating The Rest Of The Region

Speaking of which, Russian engagement with the other three countries – Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia – remains minimal, which is unfortunate. They, too, are under a lot of external influence and have recently become scenes of intense rivalry between various powers, especially Somalia which is the scene of competition between Turkey and Qatar on one side and the UAE on the other. The latter engages mostly with the breakaway region of Somaliland, among the most stable and successful places on the continent despite its de facto independence being unrecognized. Closer Russian-Emirati coordination in recent years might in theory provide some openings to Moscow in that region, but it still remains to be seen whether it has the political will to engage Somaliland.

The (South) Yemeni Dimension

Regarding the UAE, Russia could also utilize its newfound ties with that country to expand its influence in Yemen, which can unofficially be regarded as a Horn of Africa country for strategic purposes. More specifically, Russia might revive its historical ties with the UAE-backed South Yemeni separatist movement, not necessarily in support of their independence agenda, but for practical reasons related to Moscow’s broader interests in the Horn of Africa region. Again, this would require political will to risk provoking the ire of its internationally recognized government just like it would Somalia’s in the event of engaging UAE-backed Somaliland, but this possible vector should be more closely studied by Russian strategists to assess the range of its pros and cons.

The Pros & Cons Of Engaging With The Emirates

Upon contemplating this, an intriguing possibility begins to emerge, and that’s of Russia partnering more closely with the UAE in the Horn of Africa in order to proverbially “piggyback” off of its recent strategic successes there. Observers have positivenegative, and neutral views of the UAE’s grand strategic vision, particularly in the Horn of Africa, which should also be considered by Russian experts before deciding whether to move ahead with this or not. Should they end up doing so, then it might be a game-changing development since the impact of a prospective Russian-Emirati Strategic Partnership in the Horn of Africa region could improve the viability of both players’ comprehensive engagement there.

From Mutual To Multilateral Benefits

For example, they’re each formidable military players in their own right, whether with respect to their conventional or unconventional (i.e. “mercenary”) forces, and each could entrench themselves in different economic niches in select countries like Ethiopia or their subregions such as Somaliland and South Yemen. Russia and the UAE also have different networks of partnerships across the world and particularly in Africa, so coming closer together could end up being multilaterally beneficial as well provided that they coordinate their respective visions. Nevertheless, closer Russian-Emirati ties might upset Turkey, which is expanding its influence in the Horn of Africa (specifically Somalia) and the rest of Africa more broadly, but should be manageable.

Concluding Thoughts

What’s basically needed is a breakthrough for accelerating and expanding Russia’s outreaches in the Horn of Africa region. Bilateral efforts with certain countries like Sudan and Ethiopia have failed to reap thus far apart from a possible naval base deal in Port Sudan, hence the proposal for considering a strategic partnership with the UAE, one that would imply closer engagement with the Emirates’ partners in Somaliland and South Yemen. Russia needs to objectively assess its capabilities and realize that closer ties with the Horn of Africa require regional modifications to the strategy that it’s presently employing in other parts of the continent. Moscow might not be able to do much on its own, but together with Abu Dhabi, they might make a major impact.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, UAE, Horn Of Africa, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Somaliland, Yemen, South Yemen, Balancing.


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