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Why the ‘Geo’ in Geopolitics Still Matters

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Geopolitics is one of the most difficult sciences to have a single—and precise—definition, as it can have a wide array of interpretations.

A political analyst could perceive geopolitics as the exercise and distribution of power within the legislative branch of a government, analyzing the power dynamics—within a congress—of who and which party will support a new foreign policy towards another country (e.g. United States and Cuba); an ambassador may interpret geopolitics as the status of his native country’s relations with his assigned country, the conflicts that may unfold and what interests to uphold; and a hedge fund manager may perceive geopolitics in terms of what events could impact international commodity markets, therefore affecting international investments and his clients’ portfolios. In general the concept is often contextualized, reported, and thought of in terms of international conflicts, risks, and vulnerabilities between one country and another, or multiple parties fighting for influence in a specific part of a territory—i.e. ISIS/ISIL, Crimea, Syria, Korean peninsula. Yet this overlooks the root meaning of the word and the fact that physical geography — if not completely determines — still heavily influences the dynamics of many conflicts, whether military, resource-driven, ethnic, political and so on.

To understand the different meanings of the word, we must first grasp the rationale behind the two leading schools in the realm of geopolitics, which are the classical geopolitics and the more academically-based critical geopolitics schools. The former stems from late nineteenth and early twentieth century writings, primarily those of Sir. Halford Mackinder, Friedrich Ratzel, Alfred Mahan, and Nicholas Spykman, whose work, to this day, is still taken into account in contemporary analysis (the Eurasian landmass as the holy grail of natural resources, the state as a living organism, the paramount importance of controlling the seas, and the importance of littoral/rimland territories in the Asian continent). The critical geopolitics school, championed by prominent scholars such as Simon Dalby, John Agnew, Gerard Toal, and Klaus Dodds, has advocated another point of view within the field of geopolitical studies: that geopolitics is the spatialization of international politics, generally portrayed via words and images by an elite, the media, or academia itself.

Both schools are valid when discussing contemporary geopolitics. However, do they leave any room for the inclusion of physical geography when analyzing a nascent geopolitical conflict? Unfortunately, the theory of environmental determinism – the limits of human development owing to geography and environment – is automatically discarded and viewed pejoratively, as if it were an archaic interpretation of a particular human occurrence. My response to those who would automatically discard such matters: The ‘geo’ in geopolitics still matters.
Which climate type is the most ecumene for human living conditions? Which climatic conditions are most favorable to produce an adequate amount of food and water? Could physiographic conditions isolate certain types of groups that could eventually become guerrillas or terrorists? For example, stretching from Oregon to the Midwest, the United States is blessed with a favorable, temperate climate, balanced enough to have the right quantity of rain, temperature, and soil fertility, which as a result produces enough potable water, rich farmlands, and temperate forests to aid – not determine – the geopolitical condition of the United States as a whole. In Europe, if you are a farmer in the north European plain or in the lowlands of the British Isles, well, most likely you will not have much to worry about planting and harvesting cash crops, since the temperate climate provides similar climatic features to that of United States, thus providing a stable and moderate temperature that is perfect for farming.

Now what if you are a born in the central highlands of Afghanistan, with an unfavorable soil type for planting and harvesting, obligating you to become a pastoral nomad by raising cattle in the foothills of the mountains? What type of life and behavior do you think these herders would have after generations in the harsh, indomitable, fluctuating weather of the unforgiving central Afghan highlands? Most likely it would not be the community-oriented attitude of a farmer living in the Corn Belt region of United States. Possibly your comportment would evolve into a protective, reserved, distrustful-of-others variety, for in animal grazing you most prevent the theft of your only resource to provide a living for your family: your cattle. Thus, honor and reputation would be your dearest, most sacred elements to prevent others from trying to steal from you. As a result, you would rather be feared than loved, for the only respect and honor comes that from your kinship and clan. This is how Afghanistan has been for hundreds of years, given the numerous feuds the country has had amongst tribes and clans.

What if your cattle and your fellow tribesman live in a disconnected and inaccessible mountainous region where hunting, grazing cattle, and felling trees is imperative for the survival of your clan? Possibly, you would develop a separate identity given the isolation of your group over time, forming a different concept of what governance is and how you should be governed according to your own codes and laws. Now, this has been the social structure of the Russian North Caucasus nations—from Karachay-Cherkessia to Dagestan—as well as northern Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Iraqi and Turkish Kurdistan, the Basque region of Spain, northern Greece, the highlands of Guatemala, southern Mexico, and parts of southern Italy, particularly Calabria and Sicily. These regions have been fashioned by a ‘pastoral/mountain culture’- protecting your resources, your kinship and honor – which in turn affects the cultural character of their contemporary societies.
Now to the formula of geopolitical analysis, please add culture, religious beliefs, political concepts of governance, ethnic affiliation, and production means – all the elements of what make a geographic entity ‘unique.’

Nigeria, like many countries in the tropics, enjoys substantial levels of precipitation in the south, consistently up to Nassarawa state in central Nigeria. And as in many tropical/equatorial climates, there are favorable climatic conditions to animal and plant life in the southern lowlands of Nigeria. Yet this is not the case for Borno state – the symbolic hub of Boko Haram. Northern Nigeria is affected by what a physical geographer would call ‘the rain shadow effect,’ originating in the humid waters of the Gulf of Guinea, which, to put it simply, means that it rains more on one side of a mountain (windward side) or plateau range than the other (leeward side). This produces the arid and dry, Sahel-like climate that exists in most of Nigeria’s Islamic north—Kano, Sokoto and Borno. As a result, this type of geographic phenomena has given the local population in the north—the leeward side of Nigeria—a less favorable climatic condition than in the predominantly Christian south, providing both populations with different means of production and different conditions to manage their local economies, in great extent influencing their behavior and shared experience given the uniqueness of each group’s territory.

It’s worth noting that the insurgency problem of northern Nigeria is not exclusively a consequence of climate and agricultural productivity. Borno state lies right in the middle of the African Transition Zone — the cultural border dividing North Africa from Sub-Saharan Africa (different climatic conditions alongside religious and cultural dynamics). Now add the political history of Borno: a part of Nigeria that was not entirely penetrated by the British colonial apparatus; was deeply affected by trade routes vis-à-vis other Muslim tribal-polities; was marginalized prior the birth of Boko Haram; and is a part of Nigeria with poor arable land that mostly depends on animal grazing. As a result—and begging the question—how do these physiographic effects shape the cultural and religious dynamics that, in turn, influence the character and behavior of northern Nigerians, more precisely Borno state villagers? What are the cultural legacies of their villages and tribes? By analyzing Borno villagers’ ecosystem—arid climate and dry savannah/grasslands—alongside productivity means and cultural legacies, could it help us to understand the rise of a group such as Boko Haram and its growing geopolitical impact in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger?

As initially mentioned, physiographic conditions do not determine our destiny as humans, but it would be fallacy not to think that some nations are simply more favored than others in terms of physical geography. Would it be helpful to break the taboo on the importance of analyzing the climatic and topographic characteristics of a particular territory for a particular population? For instance, one thinks of human possibilism when thinking of Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. Yet, arguably, these ports are located in some of the most geostrategic hubs of maritime commerce, without forgetting the fact that a country like the U.A.E.—thanks in great part to their natural resources, political institutions, and migrant communities—has taken advantage of its strategic location to become the global city it is. Now could the Central African Republic have the same level of geostrategic importance as Djibouti or Crimea? Most likely not. Some territories are simply more strategic than others—mobility, location, geographic chokepoints, maritime commerce, agriculture, natural resources, and so forth.
Perhaps the secret to further understanding geopolitical events and insurgencies lies in the notion of biogeography in combination with cultural legacies. For instance, Professor Jarred Diamond points out that the main reason why Australia remained the biggest territory inhabited by hunters and gatherers for thousands of years prior to British colonization was mainly biogeographic: a very small number of plants could be domesticated. Thus it was only after the British arrived with domesticable animals and crops that Australia was put on the path of becoming the world exporter of wool and food it is today. Additionally, if you wonder in what type of climate the major Australian cities are located? Well, you guessed correctly: in the temperate climate zone—Brisbane to Adelaide and also a small regional area that circulates the city of Perth—where the most favorable climatic living and agricultural conditions occur.

Yes, political institutions and reforms were paramount in the socioeconomic transformation of countries like United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and, a most recent example, Israel (prior to massive migration from Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews, it was generally a semi-arid, deserted space). Yes, human decisions, opportunities and implementation of new technologies have made other polities more competitive than others; yes, technology, social media networks and the Internet, have shortened time and space across the globe; yes, theories like environmental/geographic determinism were written by racist, bigot-type geographers and anthropologists; and yes, it is extremely difficult to scientifically prove how climatic and biogeographic conditions may influence our behavior and political identity as human beings. Yet, human possibilism still has limits, as Professor Diamond once again argues: “the human spirit won’t keep you warm north of the Artic Circle if you are nearly naked, as are equatorial lowland peoples. Nor will the human spirit enable you to herd kangaroos, whose social structure is different from that of the dozen species of herdable Old World large domestic mammals.” Were the Australian aborigines – before the British settlement – less competitive because of environmental determinism and/or geographic limitations? If no, well, how could human possibilism have made the aborigines more competitive without domesticable plants and animals? This is why I still think environmental determinism should not be discarded automatically; instead one should ponder the more undeniable physiographic, climatic, and biogeographic conditions that can shape the character of the inhabitants in a particular ‘place,’ allowing them to become more competitive than other ‘places.’

In the science and interpretation of geopolitics, it should be paramount to comprehend how different biomes (e.g. grasslands, highlands, coastal regions, deserts, lowlands, basins, valleys, and so on) and climatic conditions (e.g. tropical/equatorial, arid/dry, moderate/temperate, continental/cold, polar/extreme, and highland) could have an effect on a given communities’ political and social behavior, especially and more specifically in the Global South, where many conflicts are arising, and which is why scholars, policymakers, journalists, business leaders, and all of those interested—like myself—in the realm of geopolitics, should break the environmental determinism taboo by simply asking ourselves: Could climatic and biogeographic conditions further helps us in our understanding, analysis, and forecasting of geopolitical events?
As a last remark, in his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell brilliantly expresses the fact that “each of us has his or her own distinct personality. But overlaid on top of that are tendencies and assumptions and reflexes handed down to us by the history of the community we grew up in, and those differences are extraordinarily specific. Why is the fact that each of us comes from a culture with its own distinctive mix of strengths and weaknesses, tendencies and pre-dispositions, so difficult to acknowledge? Who we are cannot be separated from where we’re from”…

First published by the Geopolitical Monitor

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The Secret U.S. & UK War Against Europe

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The secret U.S.-and-UK war against Europe is well documented but little known, and some conceptual and historical background is pre-requisite in order to understand that documentation.

Historically, nations which share the same currency don’t go to war against one-another unless one of them is a colony of the other and is (like America’s colonies were in 1776) in a revolution to establish its independence against the imperialist one of them. Having a common currency is therefore a strong factor — but not a decisive one — toward peace between nations.

UK (Britain) has its pound, EU (the European Union) has its euro, and U.S. (America) has its dollar. U.S. (its dollar) and UK (its pound) are now in a war against EU (its euro), so as to help to extend into the future the dollar’s (America’s) existing dominance as the main global reserve currency — the future political and financial dominance by America, heading ultimately to control over all nations by America’s Government, practically obviating the United Nations and its (crippled) role till now as the authoritative source of international law: the laws that govern not within nations but instead between nations — replacing that existing body of international laws, by “the international rules based order,” in which America’s Government will be setting those “rules.” It’s an international struggle to replace the U.N. and all international laws, by a global dictatorship either by the U.S. and the UK, or else by the U.S. and the EU. All three of those currencies are, however, agreed together, to prevent there ever being control over international laws by the U.N. and its agencies, or by anything OTHER THAN the nations that are in America’s fundamental military alliance, which is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization: NATO. NATO is to be expanded in order to increase the U.S. Government’s (and the U.S. dollar’s) dominance, and thereby weaken the U.N.’s authority and its already-crippled and ever-weakening power. 

UK’s aristocracy took control of American foreign policies on 25 July 1945, when, at the Potsdam Conference, America’s Anglophile General Dwight Eisenhower seconded Winston Churchill’s hostility against Joseph Stalin by telling the naive new U.S. President Harry Truman (who practically worshipped Eisenhower) that either the U.S. would ultimately conquer the Soviet Union, or else the Soviet Union would conquer America; and, so, the Cold War was then born, on that date, in Truman’s head, by his decision to agree with Eisenhower’s viewpoint and commence what became called “the Cold War” so as ultimately to conquer Russia. Truman then backed General George Marshall’s plan, The Marshall Plan, in 1948, to provide billions of dollars in U.S. reconstruction aid to any European country that would side with America against the Soviet Union in order to establish the planned future all-encompassing U.S. global dictatorship (control of the world by America’s billionaires and their corporations, especially granting them access to all countries’ natural resources).

America’s NATO military alliance was then created in 1949 to assist in the intended ‘anti-communist’ (actually anti-U.S.S.R) ultimate conquest (which would be the crowning achievement of America’s conquest over the entire world). Subsequently, America’s CIA brought America’s European allies together into what ultimately became the European Union, so that European nations would be controlled from Washington both militarily and economically. However, whereas formerly, the European Union was controlled by the U.S. Government almost as much as America’s NATO anti-Russian military alliance is, that is no longer the case; and, therefore, UK’s aristocracy, during 2016-2020, led a secret campaign, to remove UK altogether from the EU, and to install at 10 Downing Street, Prime Minister Boris Johnson to do Brexit — British exit from the EU — in what Britain’s billionaires saw as being the right way, keeping “the Anglosphere” (U.S. and UK) in control over the world, as opposed to the way in which UK’s then Prime Minister Theresa May was negotiating with the EU, which would have weakened not only America’s control over Europe, but also UK’s control over Europe, which latter (control over Europe) the UK controls only indirectly by virtue of its “Special Relationship” with the U.S. Government, which controls Europe. (For UK to lose its voting privilege in the EU was puny in comparison to UK’s increased power over the EU through being uniquely allied with America’s Government, which controls the EU.) That constitutes the necessary conceptual and historical background, in order to understand the following:

On May 15th, Kit Klarenberg at The Gray Zone bannered “Operation Surprise: leaked emails expose secret intelligence coup to install Boris Johnson”, and demonstrated from leaked private documents, that an authentic conspiracy by a clique of supremely well-connected individuals within Britain — Britain’s Deep State, answerable only to Britain’s billionaires and hereditary aristocracy — had actually engineered Theresa May’s downfall as Prime Minister and her replacement by Boris Johnson, so that UK would no longer be allied with EU except as being EU’s superior, because of Britain’s unique bonding with its former colony, America.

Here is how the leader of that cabal or conspiracy explained, on 4 October 2019, his strategy to a small group of followers — students, perhaps — which fortunately still remains on youtube:

However, his jargon in that stunningly revealing video (which now must be understood in light of Klarenberg’s 15 May 2022 revelations) requires some additional important historical and terminological background. 

“The five-eyes alliance,” that speaker said, “keeps the free world free,” but what does this mean? His “free” is actually a lie; really, it’s the opposite of free; it is the voting and taxpaying publics’ enslavement to the U.S. and British Military-Industrial Complexes (or “MICs”), after the 1991 termination of the U.S.S.R and of its communism and of its Warsaw Pact military alliance that mirrored America’s NATO, and it now means only the U.S. regime’s rule of the world by its aristocracy, who are psychopathic and who control and profit from their armaments-makers while their publics pay for it in taxes and destructions and corpses. It means precisely what the originator of this conspiracy, Cecil Rhodes, had first stated in 1877, and it does constitute the “Special Relationship” that UK and U.S. have had ever since this “Special Relationship” was finally and fully in place and fully functioning, starting on 25 July 1945, when Truman set America onto this fateful path, of conquering the entire world — Rhodes’s vision of the world’s future, and of how Rhodes would create the organization to bring it about. Here is from that historic 1877 statement, by Rhodes (which the speaker in that video was actually — and very skiilfully — representing: this is the original statement of that viewpoint):

I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. …

Why should we not form a secret society with but one object the furtherance of the British Empire and the bringing of the whole uncivilised world under British rule for the recovery of the United States for the making the Anglo-Saxon race but one Empire. …

What has been the main cause of the success of the Romish Church? The fact that every enthusiast, call it if you like every madman finds employment in it. Let us form the same kind of society a Church for the extension of the British Empire. …

To and for the establishment, promotion and development of a Secret Society, the true aim and object whereof shall be for the extension of British rule throughout the world, the perfecting of a system of emigration from the United Kingdom, and of colonisation by British subjects of all lands where the means of livelihood are attainable by energy, labour and enterprise, and especially the occupation by British settlers of the entire Continent of Africa, the Holy Land, the Valley of the Euphrates, the Islands of Cyprus and Candia, the whole of South America, the Islands of the Pacific not heretofore possessed by Great Britain, the whole of the Malay Archipelago, the seaboard of China and Japan, the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of the British Empire, the inauguration of a system of Colonial representation in the Imperial Parliament which may tend to weld together the disjointed members of the Empire and, finally, the foundation of so great a Power as to render wars impossible and promote the best interests of humanity.

This was to be, and is, the foundation-stone of the renewed British Empire’s Deep State. (Here is its full document.)

Rhodses’s phrase “the best interests of humanity” expressed actually his racist-cultural viewpoint. It is, ultimately, an allegation that Her Majesty’s Government will be better to rule over international relations than any alternative, such as FDR’s intention for an armed United Nations, could ever be. Though Rhodes wanted international relations to be ruled by Britain’s aristocracy, FDR wanted it to be ruled by a U.N. which would be an armed democracy (federation) of nations. Hitler had his vision of a “Thousand-Year Reich,” but Churchill, who was an ardent Rhodesist, and who had been a protégé of Rhodes, favored, instead, Britain’s version of such an all-encompassing global empire, and this was/is to be achieved by harnessing Britain’s empire to the back of the far stronger American horse. Rhodes knew, even in 1877, that this would be the only way that the British Empire could successfully continue into future centuries.

Right now, the EU is sinking because by adhering to America’s demand to halt importation of gas and oil from the EU’s main supplier, which is Russia, energy-costs throughout the EU will soar and destroy their economy. And this is the strategy of Biden, and of Johnson. Biden, too, is a Rhodesist — just as Obama and Trump and Bush I & 2 and Clinton and Reagan were. The Governments of both U.S. and UK are Rhodesist. This doesn’t mean that in each and every matter, the two dictatorships agree, but that almost always they do; and, that when they don’t, UK’s Government doesn’t prod its American horse to buck and throw off its British rider, because those Brits know that this — riding on the American horse — is the ONLY way that they can continue the British empire to the extent that they have been allowed to do after WW II. The Rhodesists, and their “Five-Eyes Alliance” (Prins also refers to it as “the Anglosphere”, which is yet another phrase for what Rhodes was advocating for) are realists, who are trying to extend for as long as possible into the future their joint and collective aristocratic exploitation of the entire world. This means: keep Europe down, and all other countries out. It’s especially the case with regards to Germany, which is the EU’s industrial giant. As the New York Times reported on 5 April 2022:

Already Germany has reduced its dependence on gas from Russia [from 55%] by 15 percent, bringing it down to 40 percent in the first three months of the year, the energy ministry said.

But industry leaders have pushed back against imposing sanctions on Russian natural gas. Turning off the taps would cause “irreversible damage,” warned Martin Brudermüller, the chief executive of BASF, the chemical producer based in southwestern Germany. Making the transition from Russian natural gas to other suppliers or moving to alternative energy sources would require four to five years, not weeks, he said.

“Do we want to blindly destroy our entire national economy? What we have built up over decades?” Mr. Brudermüller said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung last week.

Already, due to pressure from the Biden Administration, and against German popular opinion and the pleas by German businesses of all sizes not to do it, Germany recently cancelled the recently completed Nord Stream II mammoth gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, which would have reduced gas prices in Europe. Instead, those prices are expected soon to double. And almost all of the EU will be taking a big hit from such decisions by Germany and other EU nations. It is a U.S./UK war against not only Russia but also Europe.

That is what Gwythian Prins, the leader of their cabal or conspiracy, who speaks in that youtube video, was actually talking about. (Klarenberg’s article says nothing about Rhodes, but what Prins says in this yotube video of him is likewise totally in keeping with Rhodes’s plan, about which the article by Klarenberg reveals lots of private evidence.) And America’s European stooges are doing everything they can to impose American rule, despite the fact that in certain details, UK’s aristocracy are profoundly dissatisfied with the extent to which the EU is not doing everything that UK’s aristocrats want them to do. UK’s aristocrats know that bucking the American horse would cause them to be thrown off of it. So, they choose, instead, to stay on it, and to merely nudge it whenever they want a minor change in its direction. And that is what Prins is advocating for, against the EU, upon his colleagues and students.

And that explains the documentation linked-to here regarding the U.S.-and-UK war against Europe. It is their war to keep Europe down, and all the rest of the world out, and only Britain still in the saddle riding the American horse to permanent victory, against the publics everywhere. It is for continuation of “the Washington Consensus.”

Klarenberg’s article includes lots of fascinating documentation, such as this photo of Prins’s email dated “September 22, 2018 at 4:53 AM” to a certain “Julian Blackwell, addressing his chum as ‘Trooper,’ a reference to the publisher’s SAS special forces background, and thanking him for his ‘hugely welcome and generous willingness to cover my foregone income for effectively the first half of this FY [financial year] [so that Prins would be able to engineer Boris Johnson’s replacing Theresa May].’” It would all be highly incriminating, if UK weren’t a dictatorship and Prins himself weren’t one of that dictatorship’s key agents. Interestingly, the organization at which Prins was speaking, “Veterans for Britain” (of which Prins is a board-member) was revealed on 5 December 2017 to be a “Dark Money” group fronting for Conservative Party UK and for Republican Party U.S. financial backers; and the group which revealed that was “Open Democracy,” which itself is funded by mainly Labour Party UK, and Democratic Party U.S., financial backers, but also by some middle-of-the-road (i.e., anti-Trump) U.S. Republican Party financial backers — in other words: “Open Democracy” is funded by billionaires in both America and Britain. In both countries, membership in the dictatorship class (the nation’s aristocracy) requires being a billionaire, or else close to that. The public are merely their suckers, to be manipulated (via propaganda from their media) however at least some of the billionaires want them to be suckered. There is consequently a constant contest between conservative and liberal billionaires, in order to s‘elect’ into national office only politicians who are backed by at least SOME of the billionaires. And one of the things that all of the billionaires are funding is propaganda in favor of keeping U.S. and UK on top, ruling the rest of “The Anglosphere,” and keeping Europe down, and all other countries out.

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A U.S.-ASEAN summit—a face or a farce

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Photo credit: The White House

Inherited from the classic diplomacy of Europe, summit is a globally recognized instrument of highest-level meeting for common interests among nations. It has been practiced from time to time until now. Ad hoc summit principally aims to promote symbolic purpose rather than specific negotiations, therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that though controversial over its essential functions, summit is better suited to the promotion of friendly relations with an emphasis on ceremonial functions. Due to this, the U.S.-ASEAN summit held on May 12-13 is no exception.

At the end of the summit, the United States and ASEAN member states reiterated in the joint vision statement the importance of adhering to key principles, shared values and norms enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, the ASEAN Charter, the Declaration on Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN), the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ). In addition, they committed to strengthen and build more comprehensive ASEAN-U.S. Dialogue Relations, which have been seen indispensable to bilateral ties as well as the broader region and the international community.

It is clear that the U.S. officials had entertained the design to make the case that Russia’s invasion demonstrated the fragility of the international system while China’s tacit support for the invasion equally made a contrast with the United States’ principled stance. Yet, ASEAN members in general kept their heads down and avoided the issue rather than getting in the middle of a dispute between major powers. Rather than clearly denouncing the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the U.S. has acted globally, the joint vision statement called on an immediate cessation of hostilities and creating an enabling environment for peaceful resolution, and genuine respect for sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity in line with the U.N. Charter and international law. As a result, it is inevitable that the geostrategic hawks in Washington were disappointed their unsuccessful persuasion of ten Asian countries to take side with the United States and its allies and partners. Because of this, the U.S. aid package to the ASEAN was seen as a joke because it agreed to offer $150,000,000 for peace in a sharp contrast to the multiple-billions dollars for supporting a long war to weaken its geopolitical rival Russia, as U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said.

ASEAN is a regional economic community founded in 1967, yet it has been seen as the most dynamic economic powerhouse in the 21st century. With its hugely rich natural resources and technological innovation capacities, ASEAN has committed to preserve the Southeast Asian region as a Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone and free of all other weapons of mass destruction, as enshrined in the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ Treaty). Therefore, ASEAN vow to fully comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, taking into account the international community’s call for diplomacy as the instrument to maintain peace and security in the region.

It is understandable that amid the Ukraine war, Washington was highly motivated to hold this special summit to demonstrate its leading role in the world affairs including Asia. As the Biden administration has said that it was the high time to show its enduring commitment to ASEAN and that the Indo-Pacific region is a U.S. national security priority. Yet, although China’s power projection in Southeast Asia figures prominently into the summit, the two-day meeting did not touch the question openly and collectively. Instead, the summit primarily discussed a host of other critical issues — from COVID to climate change to the uncertain scenario in Myanmar. Actually, as Brian Harding explained prior to the summit that considering the Biden administration’s geostrategic design, Washington as the host was sure to address how ASEAN factors into Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific Strategy and how the nations showed their supports to Ukraine during the ongoing war with Russia. Essentially, while competition with China is at the heart of the United States’ regional strategy, support for a cohesive and resilient ASEAN is one of the critical means for success in advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific alongside modernized alliances like the Quad (i.e., the U.S., Australia, India and Japan). However, it is not easy to achieve since ASEAN is an extremely diverse group of 10 countries that operates by consensus, meaning it is rarely nimble nor bold, even on its best day.

It is self-evident that ASEAN countries are highly alert to the fact that relations between the United States and China have important implications for themselves. Accordingly, they all want an engaged and present multiple players including United States, China, Japan, India, Australia and the EU member states to be involved into the regional equilibrium. As former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has called it more positively, a dynamic equilibrium. Yet, what they do not want is to be forced to choose between the United States and China.

China and ASEAN approved the comprehensive strategic partnership in 2021, and now it stands ready to strengthen coordination and collaboration with ASEAN countries to update the action plan and to deepen cooperation in fields such as digital connectivity, green economy, public health, and industrial and supply chains. More sensible is that China hopes that the consultations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea will maintain the positive momentum and reach a consensus since Beijing has openly declared that the South China Sea is common asset of all the countries in the region.

From a geostrategic perspective, China opines that the ASEAN-centered regional cooperation architecture has formed in East Asia, which is the key to maintaining peace and stability in the region. Consider that the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy moves toward against the common and long-term interests of regional countries, China has to react against the U.S. to advocate the Cold War mentality and the relevant approaches such as establishing QUAD, a typical of bloc confrontation in the region, and promoting AUKUS which is essentially provoking an arms race in the region. Although China welcomes any countries outside the region to play a constructive role in the peace and development in the region, but it does not accept any actions that undermine peace, stability, solidarity and cooperation in the region. In brief, no matter what regional strategy is proposed by one country, the purpose should be mutual benefit and win-win results rather than a zero-sum game.

Despite all these arguments, there is no reasons for the world to underestimate the close and comprehensive cooperation between the United States and ASEAN. This summit agenda were primarily focused on apolitical areas cooperation, such as clean energy, health security, the digital economy and the deteriorating situation in Myanmar. President Biden was aware of the wisdom of not making his ASEAN guests to be as frustrated with the situation as himself since there was deep divisions among ASEAN member states on the issues and challenges they have to face. Accordingly, it is fair to say that the U.S.-ASEAN summit recently held in Washington was good enough in public relations but insufficient in tackling the real global issues from poverty, climate change and illegal change of regime by “color revolution”.

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Peace and Punishment: “Saving” Ukraine or Embarrassing Putin?

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Official White House Photo by Carlos Fyfe

As we near 100 days of the special military operation in Ukraine it would be good to take a strategic-analytical step back and see where the current situation is in real terms. Unfortunately, despite all sides and all parties giving extensive and continuous rhetoric to the interests of peace and the cessation of violence, the reality is the Ukraine conflict does not seem to be close to ending and instead seems more poised to hunker down into an old-fashioned military quagmire. Unlike quagmires of the past, where historians and political scientists tend to examine missed opportunities and strategic missteps that made said conflicts almost inevitable devolutions into non-progressive stalemates, the Ukraine conflict today does not seem to structurally mimic those previous lessons. As such, the question that needs to be asked is not whether this is about striving for peace and peace alone as much as it might be about how one side is striving for peace AND punishment.

On May 9, President Biden signed a new Lend-Lease Act which would facilitate the easier transfer of weapons systems and other military aid to Ukraine in its defense against Russia. The US Senate passed the bill unanimously, a rare act of unity given the current state of domestic politics in America. Unfortunately, this bipartisanship is no signal of new-found friendship across both aisles between Republicans and Democrats. They still mistrust each other as much as they ever did. But, interestingly, the bipartisan unanimity of the bill does show that despite their differences and animosity for each other, the desire to “send a message” to President Vladimir Putin and the overall desire to continue to cause problems for the Russian military within Ukraine is a “single-issue unification” factor for the United States Senate. No matter what President Biden says publicly on the microphone, this military aid and the delivery of major weapons systems is not aimed at solely achieving peace. At least, not a constructive peace in which both sides are able to walk away with a semblance of dignity and self-respect (which is truly the only way this conflict will end and stay ended). Aid like the Lease-Lend Act is quite literally the opposite of the wiser intention of trying to create a “Gentleman’s Exit” that would be enticing for Putin. Rather, the peace Biden is really talking about with this measure (but never explicitly explained to the American people) is a peace in which Putin is first embarrassed and Russia is humiliated. THIS is the real goal. So, in this way, the so-called peace measure instead adds fuel to the fire because President Putin is neither naïve nor blind. It will not be difficult for him to see the real essence of the maneuver. Consequently, it will quite possibly force a reaction in which there is no capitulation but instead a ratcheting up of conflict.

Why else would all of these declarations of new military aid take place on “Victory Day” in Russia? Do not forget the Lend-Lease bill is reviving a form of military aid from WWII, where the US was helping the UK fight Germany more readily. Thus, in a humorlessly ironic way, the US is sending a signal that Putin is the Hitler-like figure, exactly on the day when Russia celebrates its own victory against actual Nazis in WWII. It is without doubt a vicious message. The West says it had to be sent because they were more worried Putin would officially declare a formal war against Ukraine on this day. But one must ask: logically speaking, does it make sense to say America is worried about Putin going deeper into war with Ukraine so therefore it must send even more weapons and deadly munitions into Ukraine? In other words, more weapons will make it “less” of a war??? It is almost laughable if not so tragic.

If one is relying on the acute intuition of the American people to see through these contradictions and put a stop to such counter-intuitive “peace” initiatives, then frustration can be expected. Unfortunately, the American public attention span has held true to form in that most people are no longer really paying that much attention to Ukraine. Unquestionably, they still generally support Ukraine as Americans always love supporting and rooting for the underdog. Especially when cheering for the underdog in this case not only comes without any physical risk to American soldiers but also adds on the benefit of getting to humiliate your rival while assisting the lesser power. That is a “win-win” in American public eyes.

But the fevered following of the news and exhaustive social media blasts garnering endorsement for Ukraine’s efforts do not, to me, seem as intense or as comprehensive as they did just two months ago. Thus, the frustration: this lack of attention to conflict details means no one can expect any kind of pressure from the American people seeking an end to the conflict. They will simply follow, sheep-like, the narratives being provided. Ergo, providing more weapons is the way to “peace.” Embarrassing Putin is the only way to “save Ukraine.” Humiliating the Russian military is what brings “greater security.” If there was even a modicum of greater introspection by the American people, there would be more questions about whether or not this is really the most efficient and best way to achieve peace. You would think after America’s own travails this century in Afghanistan, it would understand that quagmires benefit no one except the military-industrial complex and the many powerful corporations that feed into it. While not trying to be overly cynical, this is really the only side that truly and most obviously benefits from an extended and protracted military stalemate in Ukraine.

As for reports and rumors that the United States was actually considering the Lend-Lease Act back in January, that is, before the actual Russian declaration of a special military operation, I would not put too much conspiracy theory into the idea that this proves the United States was already intending to foment violence itself in Ukraine with Russia. The reality is tension between the US and Russia has existed over Ukraine for quite a long time and the United States Intelligence Community is extremely good at its job, ie, acquiring data and collecting information that gives it insights into the future maneuvers of other countries. I have no doubt the USIC had an inkling of suspicion that the special military operation was coming or at least quite likely. And as soon as this suspicion emerged, it would have instantly begun preparing responses and counteractions to undermine said operation. More importantly, this isn’t even the right question to focus on for the global community. The right question is this: are we truly convinced these American initiatives are aimed only at achieving the quickest and most efficient end to the conflict and establishing peace or is it aimed more than anything at using Ukraine as a field of play to ensure that Russia is damaged and weakened for decades after the conflict is finished?

The US and UK have made it rather clear that peace alone is not enough. Tranquility in Ukraine is not the only goal. Peace AND punishment is. Which is without a doubt the most depressing and dangerous aspect to the whole affair. The United States currently is trying to deftly balance itself on a knife edge of military and psychological speculation: how far can it go in helping Ukraine inflict damage on Russian military units? How much weakening of Russian power can occur before the situation becomes desperately untenable and the Russian side might be inclined to enact “more reckless” initiatives? It is not coincidence that American mainstream media pushes out daily reports about the worries and concerns NATO and the West have about Putin intending to utilize chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons as the conflict in Ukraine gets ever murkier and more unclear for his side. What the media leaves out, however, in this lament is the fact that it is not Ukraine creating the murkiness: it is the weapons systems being pumped into Ukraine and the Western “advisors” on the ground and embedded within Ukrainian units, teaching them how to use the systems with deadly efficiency, that potentially push Russia toward a so-called reckless edge. In short, the Americans declare concerns over dilemmas that are their own creation. And that, again, is because what is transpiring today in Ukraine has nothing to do with peace exclusively. The West does not want peace as soon as possible and by any means necessary. It wants peace with a lesson attached, with a weakening of power that places Russia back into a docile and less assertive state.

In which case, if true, perhaps everyone in this conflict is focusing on the wrong Germany. On both sides, the imagery constantly being invoked is of Nazi Germany, the Germany of WWII. In reality, the country everyone should be worried about is WWI Germany, the one that simply had to be humiliated and laid low for its hubris and aggression. The country that everyone had to make sure would never be in a position to threaten the world again. It was that Germany that directly led to the insanity and atrocity of WWII. We would be well-warned to remember the lessons of one hundred years ago when pride in the punishment was a higher priority than peace itself. When security was thought better established through humiliation and emasculation rather than through diplomacy and enhanced collaborative communication. Hopefully, the West remembers eventually that even an imperfect peace is preferable to peace through punishment. The former allows for development and evolution. The latter brings only destruction and devolution.

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