Tag Archives: Russia

The U.S. Must Stop Chinese, Russian And Cuban Spy Threats

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STRATFOR[PODCAST LINK BELOW]

In TO CATCH A SPY, James Olson, the former chief of CIA counterintelligence, calls on the United States to do a better job stopping threats from Chinese, Russian, and Cuban spy services.

Olson shared some of his own spy secrets with Stratfor’s Chief Security Officer Fred Burton.”

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“What does it take to spot a spy? Not the old trenchcoat-wearing, cloak-and-dagger caricature of a Cold War-era secret agent, but the modern spy — the insider, perhaps — who can take down a business or betray a government with a digital weapon.

We hear a lot about how global corporations and modern governments are vulnerable to intrusion, even from their own employees. But what does a spy look like and how can he or she be caught?

In To Catch a Spy, The Art of Counterintelligence, James Olson, a former chief of counterintelligence at the CIA, says the United States needs to do a better job at stopping threats from Chinese, Russian and Cuban spy services. Olson shared some of his own spy secrets with Stratfor Chief Security Officer Fred Burton.”

https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/catch-spy-author-james-m-olson-counterintelligence-cia

The Ever-Shifting ‘Strategic Triangle’ Between Russia, China and the U.S.

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“STRATFOR” – On Geopoltics

Russia and China are on a trajectory to increase ties across the economic, energy and security realms, but this path is by no means set.

The evolving relationship between Russia and China will inherently be shaped by each country’s links to — and contention with — the United States as part of a “strategic triangle” of relations.

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“The U.S. trade war with China and Washington’s prolonged standoff with Russia — over matters from Iran to Venezuela to arms control — are increasingly driving Moscow and Beijing toward each other. Chinese President Xi Jinping is attending the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum June 6-7, but not before meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow earlier in the week. China and Russia have signed economic deals that span everything from 5G networks to hydropower plant construction to establishing a joint research and technology innovation fund. The deals come in the wake of Moscow’s recently indicated desire to collaborate with China in the Arctic’s Northern Sea Route as part of Beijing’s Maritime Silk Road initiative, while the massive Power of Siberia pipeline is completing the final phase of construction and is set to begin pumping ever-larger volumes of Russian natural gas to China by the end of this year.

These developments are simply the latest in a broader trend of Russia and China strengthening political, economic and security ties. Such developments raise the question of how deep an alignment between Russia and China can go, and to what extent their relationship is forming in direct opposition to and competition with the United States. To begin to answer this question, it is important first to frame it in the appropriate strategic context, and then to look at how ties between Russia, China and the United States have evolved within this context. Doing so points to many more constraints than opportunities in a sustained elevation of the Russia-China relationship, one that will be shaped heavily by the United States.

The Postwar Evolution of the ‘Strategic Triangle’

The end of World War II marked the emergence of the United States and the Soviet Union as the two primary global powers, while also marking the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. This development ushered in an inherent “strategic triangle” relationship among the three countries, meaning that relations between any two of these powers would necessarily shape and be shaped by the strategic interests of the third power. These strategic interests include neutralizing and dominating their respective peripheries while projecting outward and pushing their own respective vision of global order, producing inherent contradictions and driving the so-called great power competition between them.

In the initial years of the postwar era, China was the weakest of the three powers from an economic and military standpoint. Nevertheless, under Mao Zedong, China was able to use its size and political and diplomatic heft to maintain independence and balance between the United States and the Soviet Union. In the early years of the People’s Republic, Beijing aligned with the Soviet Union, partly because of their shared communist ideology but just as importantly because of their shared interest in rivaling U.S. power and influence. However, this alignment almost immediately became strained over issues such as the Korean War, border disputes and the succession from Josef Stalin to Nikita Khrushchev, with the latter pursuing policies like “peaceful coexistence” with the United States that Mao deemed as dangerous to China’s interests.

These differences ultimately led to the Sino-Soviet split, which in turn paved the way for a strategic rapprochement between the United States and China beginning in the early 1970s, as both countries shared an interest in limiting the power and influence of the Soviet Union. But the U.S.-China rapprochement also proved to have its limits once Soviet power was effectively constrained and began weakening by the 1980s.

The end of the Cold War fostered a new phase in the strategic triangle by effectively marginalizing the Soviet Union (now Russia) as a global player. The United States became the only global superpower, while China entered a period of economic and geopolitical ascension. Though Russia experienced internal turmoil and its global power projection weakened substantially, it was never fully removed as a regional power, as demonstrated by the emergence of the Commonwealth of Independent States and its continued engagement in former Soviet politics and security affairs.

These developments recalibrated the power dynamics between the three countries, with the United States expanding its power projection globally, while China and Russia began to improve bilateral relations as the former ascended and the latter began to recover after the chaotic 1990s. China’s rise as a global power has put it in greater competition with the United States over a wide range of issues, from trade disputes to the South China Sea to the Belt and Road Initiative. Meanwhile, Russia’s regional resurgence in the mid- to late 2000s on the back of high global energy prices and a domestic political consolidation by Vladimir Putin also put it in greater contention with the United States and the West, culminating in the 2008 Russia-Georgia War and the 2014 Euromaidan uprising in Ukraine and leading to the standoff between Moscow and the West currently in play.

The Limits of a Russia-China Alignment

At this point, the United States remains the strongest global power, but one whose position — whether political, economic or military — is increasingly challenged by China and Russia in various ways. U.S. tensions with China and its standoff with Russia have pushed Moscow and Beijing closer together to recalibrate the strategic triangle once again. Russia and China have in recent years expanded economic ties and political coordination, and their level of military cooperation is at the highest level since the end of the Cold War.

However, this rising cooperation between Russia and China has both challenges and limitations. While economic ties between Russia and China have indeed grown significantly in relative terms — witnessing double-digit growth every year since 2011 — they are still quite limited in absolute terms. And despite the recent trade dispute between the United States and China, overall U.S.-China trade ($737 billion in 2018) is still much higher than overall Russia-China trade ($108 billion).

The limitations of economic ties between Russia and China were also relayed to me on recent visits to both countries. For example, a financial journalist at a leading business paper in Moscow said that China is not seen as a major partner for Russia, adding that a lot of the large economic deals the two countries agree to don’t pan out, with significant economic ties mostly limited to the energy sector. In the same vein, a businessman from St. Petersburg said there is not a lot of economic activity between Russia and China besides energy and raw materials, claiming that only 5-10 percent of deals previously signed between the two countries at the St Petersburg economic forum actually materialized — and that the same is true for the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. Indeed, information from the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East shows that less than half of priority projects in the region enter the implementation phase, making the announced agreements at this week’s St. Petersburg forum a much less important indicator of ties than the concrete results they will — or will not — produce.

Similar skepticism was raised on security cooperation between Russia and China. A retired Russian diplomat in Moscow explicitly said that he doesn’t trust the Chinese, claiming that they are after Russian land and noting that there are more Chinese spies operating in Russia than there are Western spies. In the meantime, a Chinese foreign policy expert noted that while Beijing feels the need to cooperate with Moscow on certain issues like trade, China’s support for Russia goes only so far on security matters, such as the conflict in Ukraine. For example, China hasn’t supported Russia’s claim to sovereignty over Crimea, and Beijing generally views Russia’s military deployments abroad with skepticism. While security ties have indeed grown between Russia and China in recent years, such concerns could explain why their cooperation has largely been limited to joint military exercises and Russian weapons sales, the latter of which have been curtailed by China’s own advancements in weapons technology and manufacturing.

In general, it is important to consider that the public view of China within Russia is positive, especially compared to that of the United States: A survey taken by the independent Levada Center at the end of 2018 found that 75 percent of those polled viewed China in a positive light, while 54 percent viewed the United States negatively. However, when it comes to the specific issue of China’s rise as a power, a different picture emerges. Nearly 60 percent of Russians living in Eastern Siberia polled in another survey considered China’s ascent as a threat to Russia’s interests, and more than half opposed a visa-free regime with China.

This dichotomy is important when considering the general level of cooperative relations between Russia and China and a deeper sense of concern and mistrust that lurks beneath the surface. As one analyst with a government-affiliated think tank in Russia put it, China doesn’t challenge Russia’s political model in the manner that the West does in terms of promoting democracy and human rights, but China does challenge Russia’s survival in a way the West does not. Another Russian working in the tech sector in Beijing (and who formerly had worked at the Huawei offices in Moscow) recounted a conversation with a former professor at a well-respected university in Moscow who said there is a secret agreement with Beijing in which China gets a small piece of Russian land every year. Such impressions are anecdotal, of course; nevertheless, these kinds of conspiratorial perceptions among educated Russians in the private and education sectors show that there are deep concerns about China’s rise at the social level and signal the potential pushback that strengthening ties between Russia and China could face at the political level.

Looking Ahead

So, what does all this spell for Russia-China relations down the line? Relations between Moscow and Beijing have been on an upward trajectory in recent years, and Russia and China have until now been careful to downplay their differences while emphasizing the shared opportunities of their cooperation. However, from the standpoint of the strategic triangle, it can be deduced that as China continues to grow as an economic and military power, tensions will likely increase between Russia and China and undermine the trajectory of cooperation that the two countries are currently on. Thus, while increased Chinese economic involvement in areas such as the Arctic, Eastern Siberia and Central Asia can produce economic benefits for Russia for now, at a certain point this involvement can pose a more direct strategic threat to Moscow, whether in the form of increasing Chinese control over key infrastructure and shipping lanes, having greater access to Russia’s remote regions or overwhelming Russia from an economic and demographic standpoint.

A map of Arctic sea routes, showing past minimum extents of Arctic sea ice and modeled future minimum extents by year.

China has been careful to downplay any notion that its rise presents a threat to Russia, and it was often emphasized to me in China that Beijing wants peaceful coexistence with its neighbors. However, as Henry Kissinger writes: “Strategists rely on the intentions of the presumed adversary only to a limited extent. For intentions are subject to change. And the essence of sovereignty is the right to make decisions not subject to another authority. A certain amount of threat based on capabilities is therefore inseparable from the relations of sovereign states.” This means that China, like other powers, must be judged by its capabilities rather than its current intentions when it comes to projecting power.

Such capabilities have clearly served as a concern for the United States, but they may be even more worrisome for Russia — which has a tenth of the population of China (147 million people vs. 1.4 billion) and an economy that is a tenth of its size ($1.6 trillion vs. $12.2 trillion) while sharing a long and direct border with China. This is where Russian fears over Chinese expansionism come from. While the two countries have been able to manage and mitigate tensions over such matters, for now at least, the underlying issues are likely to grow more contentious. China seems likely to increase its economic, political and (potentially) security involvement in areas that matter to Russia — with signs of this already taking place in the border areas near Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

Because of this, there may be room down the line for Russia and the United States to find common ground on selective issues, which in turn could pave the way for the United States and Russia to pursue a rapprochement of their own to curb China’s power. But like the U.S.-China outreach in the 1970s, such an effort would be limited even as their deeper competition endures. Thus, the growing alignment between Russia and China is part of a fluid global power competition dynamic, with further shifts in the strategic triangle inevitably to come in the years ahead.”

https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/ever-shifting-strategic-triangle-between-russia-china-and-us

American Identity and the Threats of Tomorrow

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STRATFOR Risk Final

“STRATFOR”

“Americans are tired of war. They want to go home and shut the world out, and with the death of al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011, they feel that they have the opportunity to do so.

Second, the American military is battle-weary. It needs to rest, recuperate and digest the lessons of the wars it has just fought, and American politicians are in a mood to allow it to do just that.”

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“Editor’s Note

This installment on the United States, presented in two parts, is the 16th in a series of Stratfor monographs on the geopolitics of countries influential in world affairs.Click here for part one.

We have already discussed in the first part of this analysis how the American geography dooms whoever controls the territory to being a global power, but there are a number of other outcomes that shape what that power will be like. The first and most critical is the impact of that geography on the American mindset.

The formative period of the American experience began with the opening of the Ohio River Valley by the National Road. For the next century Americans moved from the coastal states inland, finding more and better lands linked together with more and better rivers. Rains were reliable. Soil quality was reliable. Rivers were reliable. Success and wealth were assured. The trickle of settlers became a flood, and yet there was still more than enough well-watered, naturally connected lands for all.
And this happened in isolation. With the notable exception of the War of 1812, the United States did not face any significant foreign incursions in the 19th century. It contained the threat from both Canada and Mexico with a minimum of disruption to American life and in so doing ended the risk of local military conflicts with other countries. North America was viewed as a remarkably safe place.
Even the American Civil War did not disrupt this belief. The massive industrial and demographic imbalance between North and South meant that the war’s outcome was never in doubt. The North’s population was four times the size of the population of free Southerners while its industrial base was 10 times that of the South. As soon as the North’s military strategy started to leverage those advantages the South was crushed. Additionally, most of the settlers of the Midwest and West Coast were from the North (Southern settlers moved into what would become Texas and New Mexico), so the dominant American culture was only strengthened by the limits placed on the South during Reconstruction.
As a result, life for this dominant “Northern” culture got measurably better every single year for more than five generations. Americans became convinced that such a state of affairs — that things can, will and should improve every day — was normal. Americans came to believe that their wealth and security is a result of a Manifest Destiny that reflects something different about Americans compared to the rest of humanity. The sense is that Americans are somehow better — destined for greatness — rather than simply being very lucky to live where they do. It is an unbalanced and inaccurate belief, but it is at the root of American mania and arrogance.
Many Americans do not understand that the Russian wheat belt is the steppe, which has hotter summers, colder winters and less rain than even the relatively arid Great Plains. There is not a common understanding that the histories of China and Europe are replete with genocidal conflicts because different nationalities were located too close together, or that the African plateaus hinder economic development. Instead there is a general understanding that the United States has been successful for more than two centuries and that the rest of the world has been less so. Americans do not treasure the “good times” because they see growth and security as the normal state of affairs, and Americans are more than a little puzzled as to why the rest of the world always seems to be struggling. And so what Americans see as normal day-to-day activities the rest of the world sees as American hubris.
But not everything goes right all the time. What happens when something goes wrong, when the rest of the world reaches out and touches the Americans on something other than America’s terms? When one is convinced that things can, will and should continually improve, the shock of negative developments or foreign interaction is palpable. Mania becomes depression and arrogance turns into panic.
An excellent example is the Japanese attack on American forces at Pearl Harbor. Seventy years on, Americans still think of the event as a massive betrayal underlining the barbaric nature of the Japanese that justified the launching of a total war and the incineration of major cities. This despite the fact that the Americans had systemically shut off East Asia from Japanese traders, complete with a de facto energy embargo, and that the American mainland — much less its core — was never threatened.
Such panic and overreaction is a wellspring of modern American power. The United States is a large, physically secure, economically diverse and vibrant entity. When it acts, it can alter developments on a global scale fairly easily. But when it panics, it throws all of its ample strength at the problem at hand, and in doing so reshapes the world.
Other examples of American overreaction include the response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik and the Vietnam War. In the former, the Americans were far ahead of the Soviets in terms of chemistry, electronics and metallurgy — the core skills needed in the space race. But because the Soviets managed to hurl something into space first the result was a nationwide American panic resulting in the re-fabrication of the country’s educational system and industrial plant. The American defeat in the Vietnam conflict similarly triggered a complete military overhaul, including the introduction of information technology into weapon systems, despite the war’s never having touched American shores. This paranoia was the true source of satellite communications and precision-guided weapons.
This mindset — and the panic that comes from it — is not limited to military events. In the 1980s the Americans became convinced that the Japanese would soon overtake them as the pre-eminent global power even though there were twice as many Americans sitting on more than 100 times as much arable land. Wall Street launched its own restructuring program, which refashioned the American business world, laying the foundation of the growth surge of the 1990s.
In World War II, this panic and overreaction landed the United States with control of Western Europe and the world’s oceans, while the response to Sputnik laid the groundwork for a military and economic expansion that won the Cold War. From the Vietnam effort came technology that allows U.S. military aircraft to bomb a target half a world away. Japanophobia made the American economy radically more efficient, so that when the Cold War ended and the United States took Japan to task for its trade policies, the Americans enjoyed the 1990s boom while direct competition with leaner and meaner American firms triggered Japan’s post-Cold War economic collapse.

Land, Labor and Capital

All economic activity is fueled — and limited — by the availability of three things: land, labor and capital. All three factors indicate that the United States has decades of growth ahead of it, especially when compared to other powers.
Land
The United States is the least densely populated of the major global economies in terms of population per unit of usable land (Russia, Canada and Australia may be less densely populated, but most of Siberia, the Canadian Shield and the Outback is useless). The cost of land — one of the three ingredients of any economic undertaking — is relatively low for Americans. Even ignoring lands that are either too cold or too mountainous to develop, the average population density of the United States is only 76 people per square kilometer, one-third less than Mexico and about one-quarter that of Germany or China.

 

And it is not as if the space available is clustered in one part of the country, as is the case with Brazil’s southern interior region. Of the major American urban centers, only New Orleans and San Diego cannot expand in any direction. In fact, more than half of the 60 largest American metropolitan centers by population face expansion constraints in no direction: Dallas-Fort Worth, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Phoenix, Minneapolis-St. Paul, St. Louis, Denver, Sacramento, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Orlando, Portland, San Antonio, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Columbus, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Austin, Providence, Nashville, Jacksonville, Memphis, Richmond, Hartford, Oklahoma City, Birmingham, Raleigh, Tulsa, Fresno and Omaha-Council Bluffs. Most of the remaining cities in the top 60 — such as Chicago or Baltimore — face only growth restrictions in the direction of the coast. The point is that the United States has considerable room to grow and American land values reflect that.
Labor
Demographically, the United States is the youngest and fastest growing of the major industrialized economies. At 37.1 years of age, the average American is younger than his German (43.1) or Russian (38.6) counterparts. While he is still older than the average Chinese (34.3), the margin is narrowing rapidly. The Chinese are aging faster than the population of any country in the world save Japan (the average Japanese is now 44.3 years old), and by 2020 the average Chinese will be only 18 months younger than the average American. The result within a generation will be massive qualitative and quantitative labor shortages everywhere in the developed world (and in some parts of the developing world) except the United States.
The relative youth of Americans has three causes, two of which have their roots in the United States’ history as a settler state and one of which is based solely on the United States’ proximity to Mexico. First, since the founding populations of the United States are from somewhere else, they tended to arrive younger than the average age of populations of the rest of the developed world. This gave the United States — and the other settler states — a demographic advantage from the very beginning.
Second, settler societies have relatively malleable identities, which are considerably more open to redefinition and extension to new groups than their Old World counterparts. In most nation-states, the dominant ethnicity must choose to accept someone as one of the group, with birth in the state itself — and even multi-generational citizenship — not necessarily serving as sufficient basis for inclusion. France is an excellent case in point, where North Africans who have been living in the Paris region for generations still are not considered fully “French.” Settler societies approach the problem from the opposite direction. Identity is chosen rather than granted, so someone who relocates to a settler state and declares himself a national is for the most part allowed to do so. This hardly means that racism does not exist, but for the most part there is a national acceptance of the multicultural nature of the population, if not the polity. Consequently, settler states are able to integrate far larger immigrant populations more quickly than more established nationalities.
Yet Canada and Australia — two other settler states — do not boast as young a population as the United States. The reason lies entirely within the American geography. Australia shares no land borders with immigrant sources. Canada’s sole land border is with the United States, a destination for immigrants rather than a large-scale source.
But the United States has Mexico, and through it Central America. Any immigrants who arrive in Australia must arrive by aircraft or boat, a process that requires more capital to undertake in the first place and allows for more screening at the point of destination — making such immigrants older and fewer. In contrast, even with recent upgrades, the Mexican border is very porous. While estimates vary greatly, roughly half a million immigrants legally cross the United States’ southern border every year, and up to twice as many cross illegally. There are substantial benefits that make such immigration a net gain for the United States. The continual influx of labor keeps inflation tame at a time when labor shortages are increasingly the norm in the developed world (and are even beginning to be felt in China). The cost of American labor per unit of output has increased by a factor of 4.5 since 1970; in the United Kingdom the factor is 12.8.
The influx of younger workers also helps stabilize the American tax base. Legal immigrants collectively generate half a trillion dollars in income and pay taxes in proportion to it. Yet they will not draw upon the biggest line item in the U.S. federal budget — Social Security — unless they become citizens. Even then they will pay into the system for an average of 41 years, considering that the average Mexican immigrant is only 21 years old (according to the University of California) when he or she arrives. By comparison, the average legal immigrant — Mexican and otherwise — is 37 years old.
Even illegal immigrants are a considerable net gain to the system, despite the deleterious effects regarding crime and social-services costs. The impact on labor costs is similar to that of legal immigrants, but there is more. While the Mexican educational system obviously cannot compare to the American system, most Mexican immigrants do have at least some schooling. Educating a generation of workers is among the more expensive tasks in which a government can engage. Mexican immigrants have been at least partially pre-educated — a cost borne by the Mexican government — and yet the United States is the economy that reaps the benefits in terms of their labor output.
Taken together, all of these demographic and geographic factors give the United States not only the healthiest and most sustainable labor market in the developed world but also the ability to attract and assimilate even more workers.

Capital

As discussed previously, the United States is the most capital-rich location in the world, courtesy of its large concentration of useful waterways. However, it also boasts one of the lowest demands for capital. Its waterways lessen the need for artificial infrastructure, and North America’s benign security environment frees it of the need to maintain large standing militaries on its frontiers. A high supply of capital plus a low demand for capital has allowed the government to take a relatively hands-off approach to economic planning, or, in the parlance of economists, the United States has a laissez-faire economic system. The United States is the only one of the world’s major economies to have such a “natural” system regarding the use of capital — all others must take a far more hands-on approach.
  • Germany sits on the middle of the North European Plain and has no meaningful barriers separating it from the major powers to its east and west. It also has a split coastline that exposes it to different naval powers. So Germany developed a corporatist economic model that directly injects government planning into the boardroom, particularly where infrastructure is concerned.
  • France has three coasts to defend in addition to its exposure to Germany. So France has a mixed economic system in which the state has primacy over private enterprise, ensuring that the central government has sufficient resources to deal with the multitude of threats. An additional outcome of what has traditionally been a threat-heavy environment is that France has been forced to develop a diversely talented intelligence apparatus. As such, France’s intelligence network regularly steals technology — even from allies — to bolster its state-affiliated companies.
  • China’s heartland on the Yellow River is exposed to both the Eurasian steppe and the rugged subtropical zones of southern China, making the economic unification of the region dubious and exposing it to any power that can exercise naval domination of its shores. China captures all of its citizens’ savings to grant all its firms access to subsidized capital, in essence bribing its southern regions to be part of China.
In contrast, the concept of national planning is somewhat alien to Americans. Instead, financial resources are allowed largely to flow wherever the market decides they should go. In the mid-1800s, while the French were redirecting massive resources to internal defenses and Prussia was organizing the various German regional private-rail systems into a transnational whole, a leading economic debate in the United States was whether the federal government should build spurs off the National Road, a small project in comparison. The result of such a hands-off attitude was not simply low taxes but no standard income taxes until the 16th Amendment was adopted in 1913.
Such an attitude had a number of effects on the developing American economic system. First, because the resources of the federal government were traditionally so low, government did not engage in much corporate activity. The United States never developed the “state champions” that the Europeans and Asians developed as a matter of course with state assistance. So instead of a singular national champion in each industry, the Americans have several competing firms. As a result, American companies have tended to be much more efficient and productive than their foreign counterparts, which has facilitated not only more capital generation but also higher employment over the long term.
Consequently, Americans tend to be less comfortable with bailouts (if there are no state companies, then the state has less of an interest in, and means of, keeping troubled companies afloat). This makes surviving firms that much more efficient in the long run. It hardly means that bailouts do not happen, but they happen rarely, typically only at the nadir of economic cycles, and it is considered quite normal for businesses — even entire sectors — to close their doors.
Another effect of the hands-off attitude is that the United States has more of a business culture of smaller companies than larger ones. Because of the lack of state champions, there are few employers who are critical specifically because of their size. A large number of small firms tends to result in a more stable economic system because a few firms here and there can go out of business without overly damaging the economy as a whole. The best example of turnover in the American system is the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA). The DJIA has always been composed of the largest blue-chip corporations that, collectively, have been most representative of the American economic structure. The DJIA’s specific makeup changes as the U.S. economy changes. As of 2011, only one of its component corporations has been in the DJIA for the entirety of its 115-year history. In contrast, German majors such as Deutsche Bank, Siemens and Bayer have been at the pinnacle of the German corporate world since the mid-19th century, despite the massive devastation of Europe’s major wars.
Because the American river systems keep the costs of transport low and the supply of capital high, there are few barriers to entry for small firms, which was particularly the case during the United States’ formative period. Anyone from the East Coast who could afford a plow and some animals could head west and — via the maritime network — export their goods to the wider world. In more modern times, the disruption caused by the regular turnover of major firms produces many workers-turned-entrepreneurs who start their own businesses. American workers are about one-third as likely to work for a top 20 U.S. firm as a French worker is to work for a top 20 French firm.
The largest American private employer — Wal-Mart — is the exception to this rule. It employs 1.36 percent of U.S. workers, a proportion similar to the largest firms of other advanced industrial states. But the second largest private employer — UPS — employs only 0.268 percent of the American work force. To reach an equivalent proportion in France, one must go down the list to the country’s 32nd largest firm.
The U.S. laissez-faire economic model also results in a boom-and-bust economic cycle to a much greater degree than a planned system. When nothing but the market makes economic apportionment decisions, at the height of the cycle resources are often applied to projects that should have been avoided. (This may sound bad, but in a planned system such misapplication can happen at any point in the cycle.) During recessions, capital rigor is applied anew and the surviving firms become healthier while poorly run firms crash, resulting in spurts of unemployment. Such cyclical downturns are built into the American system. Consequently, Americans are more tolerant of economic change than many of their peers elsewhere, lowering the government’s need to intervene in market activity and encouraging the American workforce to retool and retrain itself for different pursuits. The result is high levels of social stability — even in bad times — and an increasingly more capable workforce.
Despite the boom/bust problems, the greatest advantage of a liberal capital model is that the market is far more efficient at allocating resources over the long term than any government. The result is a much greater — and more stable — rate of growth over time than any other economic model. While many of the East Asian economies have indeed outgrown the United States in relative terms, there are two factors that must be kept in mind. First, growth in East Asia is fast, but it is also a recent development. Over the course of its history, the United States has maintained a far faster growth rate than any country in East Asia. Second, the Asian growth period coincides with the Asian states gaining access to the U.S. market (largely via Bretton Woods) after U.S. security policy had removed the local hegemon — Japan — from military competition. In short, the growth of East Asian states — China included — has been dependent upon a economic and security framework that is not only far beyond their control, but wholly dependent upon how the Americans currently craft their strategic policy. Should the Americans change their minds, that framework — and the economic growth that comes from it — could well dissolve overnight.
The laissez-faire economic system is not the only way in which the American geography shapes the American economy. The United States also has a much more disassociated population structure than most of the rest of the world, developed and developing states both. As wealth expanded along American rivers, smallholders banded together to form small towns. The capital they jointly generated sowed the seeds of industrialization, typically on a local level. Population rapidly spread beyond the major port cities of the East Coast and developed multiple economic and political power centers throughout the country whose development was often funded with local capital. As large and powerful as New York, Baltimore and Boston were (and still are), they are balanced by Chicago, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Minneapolis.
Today, the United States has no fewer than 20 metropolitan areas with an excess of 2.5 million people, and only four of them — New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington-Baltimore — are in the East Coast core. In contrast, most major countries have a single, primary political and economic hub such as London, Tokyo, Moscow or Paris. In the United States, economic and political diversification has occurred within a greater whole, creating a system that has grown organically into a consumer market larger than the consumer markets of the rest of the world combined.
And despite its European origins, the United States is a creature of Asia as well. The United States is the only major country in the world that boasts not only significant port infrastructure on both the Atlantic and the Pacific but also uninterrupted infrastructure linking the two. This allows the United States to benefit from growth in and trade with both Pacific and Atlantic regions and partially insulates the United States when one or the other suffers a regional crash. At such times, not only can the United States engage in economic activity with the other region, but the pre-existing links ensure that the United States is the first choice for capital seeking a safe haven. Ironically, the United States benefits when these regions are growing and when they are struggling.
When all these factors are put together, it is clear how geography has nudged the United States toward a laissez-faire system that rewards efficiency and a political culture that encourages entrepreneurship. It is also clear how geography has created distributed economic centers, transportation corridors and a massive internal market and provided easy access to both of the world’s great trading basins. Byproducts of this are a culture that responds well to change and an economy characterized by stable, long-term growth without being dependent on external support. In short, there is a geographic basis for U.S. prosperity and power, and there is no geographic basis to expect this condition to change in the foreseeable future.

Current Context: Threats to the Imperatives

Normally, Stratfor closes its geopolitical monographs with a discussion of the major challenges the country in question faces. The United States is the only truly global power in the modern age, but there are a number of potential threats to American power (as Stratfor founder George Friedman outlined in his book “The Next 100 Years”). Indeed, over the next century, any number of regional powers — a reunified Germany, a reawakened Turkey, a revitalized Japan, a rising Brazil, a newly confident Mexico — may well attempt to challenge American power.
But rather than dwell on the far future, it is more instructive to focus on the challenges of today and the next few years. Stratfor now turns to challenges to the United States in the current global context, beginning with the least serious challenges and working toward the most vexing.
Afghanistan
The war in Afghanistan is not one that can be won in the conventional sense. A “victory” as Americans define it requires not only the military defeat of the opposing force but also the reshaping of the region so that it cannot threaten the United States again. This is impossible in Afghanistan because Afghanistan is more accurately perceived as a geographic region than a country. The middle of the region is a mountainous knot that extends east into the Himalayas. There are no navigable rivers and little arable land. The remaining U-shaped ring of flat land is not only arid but also split among multiple ethnic groups into eight population zones that, while somewhat discrete, have no firm geographic barriers separating them. This combination of factors predisposes the area to poverty and conflict, and that has been the region’s condition for nearly all of recorded history.
The United States launched the war in late 2001 to dislodge al Qaeda and prevent the region from being used as a base and recruitment center for it and similar jihadist groups. But since geography precludes the formation of any stable, unified or capable government in Afghanistan, these objectives can be met and maintained only so long as the United States stations tens of thousands of troops in the country.
Afghanistan indeed poses an indirect threat to the United States. Central control is so weak that non-state actors like al Qaeda will continue to use it as an operational center, and some of these groups undoubtedly hope to inflict harm upon the United States. But the United States is a long way away from Afghanistan, and such ideology does not often translate into intent and intent does not often translate into capacity. Even more important, Afghanistan’s labor, material and financial resources are so low that no power based in Afghanistan could ever directly challenge much less overthrow American power.
The American withdrawal strategy, therefore, is a simple one. Afghanistan cannot be beaten into shape, so the United States must maintain the ability to monitor the region and engage in occasional manhunts to protect its interests. This requires maintaining a base or two, not reinventing Afghanistan in America’s image as an advanced multiethnic democracy.
China
Most Americans perceive China as the single greatest threat to the American way of life, believing that with its large population and the size of its territory it is destined to overcome the United States first economically and then militarily. This perception is an echo of the Japanophobia of the 1980s and it has a very similar cause. Japan utterly lacked material resources. Economic growth for it meant bringing in resources from abroad, adding value to them, and exporting the resulting products to the wider world. Yet because very little of the process actually happened in Japan, the Japanese government had to find a means of making the country globally competitive.
Japan’s solution was to rework the country’s financial sector so that loans would be available at below-market rates for any firm willing to import raw materials, build products, export products and employ citizens. It did not matter if any of the activities were actually profitable, because the state ensured that such operations were indirectly subsidized by the financial system. More loans could always be attained. The system is not sustainable (eventually the ever-mounting tower of debt consumes all available capital), and in 1990 the Japanese economy finally collapsed under the weight of trillions of dollars of non-performing loans. The Japanese economy never recovered and in 2011 is roughly the same size as it was at the time of the crash 20 years before.
China, which faces regional and ethnic splits Japan does not, has copied the Japanese finance/export strategy as a means of both powering its development and holding a rather disparate country together. But the Chinese application of the strategy faces the same bad-debt problem that Japan’s did. Because of those regional and ethnic splits, however, when China’s command of this system fails as Japan’s did in the 1990s, China will face a societal breakdown in addition to an economic meltdown. Making matters worse, China’s largely unnavigable rivers and relatively poor natural ports mean that China lacks Japan’s natural capital-generation advantages and is saddled with the economic dead weight of its vast interior, home to some 800 million impoverished people. Consequently, China largely lacks the capacity to generate its own capital and its own technology on a large scale.
None of this is a surprise to Chinese leaders. They realize that China depends on the American-dominated seas for both receiving raw materials and shipping their products to global markets and are keenly aware that the most important of those markets is the United States. As such, they are willing to compromise on most issues, so long as the United States continues to allow freedom of the seas and an open market. China may bluster — seeing nationalism as a useful means of holding the regions of the country together — but it is not seeking a conflict with the United States. After all, the United States utterly controls the seas and the American market, and American security policy prevents the remilitarization of Japan. The pillars of recent Chinese success are made in America.
Iran
Iran is the world’s only successful mountain country. As such it is nearly impossible to invade and impossible for a foreign occupier to hold. Iran’s religious identity allows it considerable links to its Shiite co-religionists across the region, granting it significant influence in a number of sensitive locations. It also has sufficient military capacity to threaten (at least briefly) shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, through which roughly 40 percent of global maritime oil exports flow. All of this grants Iran considerable heft not just in regional but in international politics as well.
However, many of these factors work against Iran. Being a mountainous state means that a large infantry is required to keep the country’s various non-Persian ethnicities under control. Such a lopsided military structure has denied Iran the skill sets necessary to develop large armored or air arms in its military. So while Iran’s mountains and legions of infantry make it difficult to attack, the need for massive supplies for those infantry and their slow movement makes it extremely difficult for the Iranian military to operate beyond Iran’s core territories. Any invasion of Iraq, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia while American forces are in theater would require such forces — and their highly vulnerable supply convoys — to march across mostly open ground. In the parlance of the U.S. military, it would be a turkey shoot.
Mountainous regions also have painfully low capital-generation capacities, since there are no rivers to stimulate trade or large arable zones to generate food surpluses or encourage the development of cities, and any patches of land that are useful are separated from each other, so few economies of scale can be generated. This means that Iran, despite its vast energy complex, is one of the world’s poorer states, with a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of only $4,500. It remains a net importer of nearly every good imaginable, most notably food and gasoline. There is a positive in this for Iran — its paucity of economic development means that it does not participate in the Bretton Woods structure and can resist American economic pressure. But the fact remains that, with the exception of oil and the Shiite threat, Iran cannot reliably project power beyond its borders except in one place.
Unfortunately for the Americans, that place is Iraq, and it is not a location where Iran feels particularly pressured to compromise. Iran’s Shiite card allows Tehran to wield substantial influence with fully 60 percent of the Iraqi population. And since the intelligence apparatus that Iran uses to police its own population is equally good at penetrating its Shiite co-religionists in Iraq, Iran has long enjoyed better information on the Iraqis than the Americans have — even after eight years of American occupation.
It is in Iran’s interest for Iraq to be kept down. Once oil is removed from the equation, Mesopotamia is the most capital-rich location in the Middle East. While its two rivers are broadly unnavigable, they do reliably hydrate the land between them, making it the region’s traditional breadbasket. Historically, however, Iraq has proved time and again to be indefensible. Hostile powers dominate the mountains to the north and east, while the open land to the west allows powers in the Levant to penetrate its territory. The only solution that any power in Mesopotamia has ever developed that provided a modicum of security is to establish a national security state with as large a military as possible and then invade neighbors who may have designs upon it. More often than not, Persia has been the target of this strategy, and its most recent application resulted in the Iraq-Iran War of 1980-1988.
Simply put, Iran sees a historic opportunity to prevent Iraq from ever doing this to it again, while the United States is attempting to restore the regional balance of power so that Iraq can continue threatening Iran. It is not a dispute that leaves a great deal of room for compromise. Iran and the United States have been discussing for five years how they might reshape Iraq into a form that both can live with, likely one with just enough military heft to resist Iran but not so much that it could threaten Iran. If the two powers cannot agree, then the Americans will have an unpalatable choice to make: either remain responsible for Iraq’s security so long as Persian Gulf oil is an issue in international economic affairs or leave and risk Iran’s influence no longer stopping at the Iraq-Saudi Arabia border.
At the time of this writing, the Americans are attempting to disengage from Iraq while leaving a residual force of 10,000 to 25,000 troops in-country in order to hold Iran at bay. Iran’s influence in Iraq is very deep, however, and Tehran is pushing — perhaps successfully — to deny the Americans basing rights in an “independent” Iraq. If the Americans are forced out completely, then there will be little reason for the Iranians not to push their influence farther south into the Arabian Peninsula, at which point the Americans will have to decide whether control of so much of the world’s oil production in the hands of a single hostile power can be tolerated.
Russia
Russia faces no shortage of geographic obstacles to success — its wide-open borders invite invasion, its vast open spaces prevent it from achieving economies of scale, its lack of navigable rivers makes it poor, and its arid and cold climate reduces crop yields. Over the years, however, Russia has managed to turn many weaknesses into strengths.
It has consolidated political and economic forces to serve as tools of the central state, so that all of the nation’s power may be applied to whatever tasks may be at hand. This may be woefully inefficient and trigger periods of immense instability, but it is the only method Russia has yet experimented with that has granted it any security. Russia has even turned its lack of defensible borders to its advantage. Russia’s vast spaces mean that the only way it can secure its borders is to extend them, which puts Russia in command of numerous minorities well-aware that they are being used as speed bumps. To manage these peoples, Russia has developed the world’s most intrusive intelligence apparatus.
This centralization, combined with Russia’s physical location in the middle of the flat regions of northern Eurasia, makes the country a natural counterbalance to the United States and the state most likely to participate in an anti-American coalition. Not only does Russia’s location in the flatlands of Eurasia require it to expand outward to achieve security (thus making it a somewhat “continent-sized” power), its natural inclination is to dominate or ally with any major power it comes across. Due to its geographic disadvantages, Russia is not a country that can ever rest on its laurels, and its strategic need to expand makes it a natural American rival.
Unfortunately for the Americans, Russia is extremely resistant to American influence, whether that influence takes the form of enticement or pressure.
  • Russia’s lack of a merchant or maritime culture makes any Bretton Woods-related offers fall flat (even today Russia remains outside of the WTO).
  • Russia is the biggest state in its region, making it rather nonsensical (at least in the current context) for the United States to offer Russia any kind of military alliance, since there would be no one for Russia to ally against.
  • Russia’s maritime exposure is extremely truncated, with its populated regions adjacent only to the geographically pinched Baltic and Black seas. This insulates it from American naval power projection.
  • Even the traditional American strategy of using third parties to hem in foes does not work as well against Russia as it does against many others, since Russia’s intelligence network is more than up to the task of crippling or overthrowing hostile governments in its region (vividly demonstrated in Russia’s overturning of the Kremlin-opposed governments in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan in recent years).
This means that the only reliable American option for limiting Russian power is the same strategy that was used during the Cold War: direct emplacement of American military forces on the Russian periphery. But this is an option that has simply been unavailable for the past eight years. From mid-2003 until the beginning of 2011, the entirety of the U.S. military’s deployable land forces have been rotating into and out of Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving no flexibility to deal with a resurgence of Russian power. The American preoccupation with the Islamic world has allowed Russia a window of opportunity to recover from the Soviet collapse. Russia’s resurgence is an excellent lesson in the regenerative capacities of major states.
Merely 12 years ago, Russia was not even in complete control of its own territory, with an insurgency raging in Chechnya and many other regions exercising de facto sovereignty. National savings had either disappeared in the August 1998 ruble crisis or been looted by the oligarchs. During the American wars in the Islamic world, however, the Russians reorganized, recentralized and earned prodigious volumes of cash from commodity sales. Russia now has a stable budget and more than half a trillion dollars in the bank. Its internal wars have been smothered and it has re-assimilated, broken or at least cowed all of the former Soviet states. At present, Russia is even reaching out to Germany as a means of neutralizing American military partnerships with NATO states such as Poland and Romania, and it continues to bolster Iran as a means of keeping the United States bogged down in the Middle East.
Put simply, Russia is by far the country with the greatest capacity — and interest — to challenge American foreign policy goals. And considering its indefensible borders, its masses of subjugated non-Russian ethnicities and the American preference for hobbling large competitors, it is certainly the state with the most to lose.
The United States
The greatest threat to the United States is its own tendency to retreat from international events. America’s Founding Fathers warned the young country to not become entangled in foreign affairs — specifically European affairs — and such guidance served the United States well for the first 140 years of its existence.
But that advice has not been relevant to the American condition since 1916. Human history from roughly 1500 through 1898 revolved around the European experience and the struggle for dominance among European powers. In the collective minds of the founders, no good could come from the United States participating in those struggles. The distances were too long and the problems too intractable. A young United States could not hope to tip the balance of power, and besides, America’s interests — and challenges and problems — were much closer to home. The United States involved itself in European affairs only when European affairs involved themselves in the United States. Aside from events such as the Louisiana Purchase, the War of 1812 and small-scale executions of the Monroe Doctrine, Washington’s relations with Europe were cool and distant.
But in 1898 the Americans went to war with a European state, Spain, and consequently gained most of its overseas territories. Those territories were not limited to the Western Hemisphere, with the largest piece being the Philippines. From there the Americans participated in the age of imperialism just as enthusiastically as any European state. Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet steamed around the world, forcing Japan to open itself up to foreign influence and announcing to the world that the Americans were emerging as a major force. Once that happened, the United States lost the luxury of isolationism. The United States not only was emerging as the predominant military and economy of the Western Hemisphere, but its reach was going global. Its participation in World War I prevented a German victory, and by the end of World War II it was clear that the United States was one of only two powers that could appreciably impact events beyond its borders.
Such power did not — and often still does not — sit well with Americans. The formative settler experience ingrained in the American psyche that life should get better with every passing year and that military force plays little role in that improvement. After every major conflict from the American Revolution through World War I, the Americans largely decommissioned their military, seeing it as an unnecessary, morally distasteful expense; the thinking was that Americans did not need a major military to become who they were and that they should have one only when the need was dire. So after each conflict the Americans, for the most part, go home. The post-World War II era — the Cold War — is the only period in American history when disarmament did not happen after the conflict, largely because the Americans still saw themselves locked into a competition with the Soviet Union. And when that competition ended, the Americans did what they have done after every other conflict in their history: They started recalling their forces en masse.
At the time of this writing, the American wars in the Islamic world are nearly over. After 10 years of conflict, the United States is in the final stages of withdrawal from Iraq, and the Afghan drawdown has begun as well. While a small residual force may be left in one or both locations, by 2014 there will be at most one-tenth the number of American forces in the two locations combined as there were as recently as 2008.
This has two implications for the Americans and the wider world. First, the Americans are tired of war. They want to go home and shut the world out, and with the death of al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011, they feel that they have the opportunity to do so. Second, the American military is battle-weary. It needs to rest, recuperate and digest the lessons of the wars it has just fought, and American politicians are in a mood to allow it to do just that. But while the U.S. military is battle-weary, it is also battle-hardened, and alone among the world’s militaries it remains easily deployable. Three years from now the U.S. military will be ready once again to take on the world, but that is a topic to revisit three years from now.
Between now and then, potential American rivals will not be able to do anything they wish — American power is not evaporating — but they will have a relatively free hand to shape their neighborhoods. American air and sea power is no small consideration, but inveterate land powers can truly be countered and contained only by ground forces.
  • Russian power will consolidate and deepen its penetration into the borderlands of the Caucasus and Central Europe. While the Americans have been busy in the Islamic world, it has become readily apparent what the Russians can achieve when they are left alone for a few years. A U.S. isolationist impulse would allow the Russians to continue reworking their neighborhood and re-anchor themselves near the old Soviet empire’s external borders, places like the Carpathians, the Tian Shan Mountains and the Caucasus, and perhaps even excise NATO influence from the Baltic states. While the chances of a hot war are relatively low, Stratfor still lists Russia’s regeneration as the most problematic to the long-term American position because of the combination of Russia’s sheer size and the fact that it is — and will remain — fully nuclear armed.
  • Iranian power will seek to weaken the American position in the Persian Gulf. A full U.S. pullout would leave Iran the undisputed major power of the region, forcing other regional players to refigure their political calculus in dealing with Iran. Should that result in Iran achieving de facto control over the Gulf states — either by force or diplomacy — the United States would have little choice but to go back in and fight a much larger war than the one it just extracted itself from. Here the American impulse to shut out the world would have imminent, obvious and potentially profound consequences.
  • Stratfor does not see Chinese power continuing to expand in the economic sphere on a global scale. China suffers under an unstable financial and economic system that will collapse under its own weight regardless of what the United States does, so the United States turning introverted is not going to save China. But America’s desire to retreat behind the oceans will allow the Chinese drama to play itself out without any American nudging. China will collapse on its own — not America’s — schedule.
  • German power will creep back into the world as Berlin attempts to grow its economic domination of Europe into a political structure that will last for decades. The European debt crisis is a catastrophe by all definitions save one: It is enabling the Germans to use their superior financial position to force the various euro nations to surrender sovereignty to a centralized authority that Germany controls. Unlike the Russian regeneration, the German return is not nearly as robust, multi-vectored or certain. Nonetheless, the Germans are manipulating the debt crisis to achieve the European supremacy by diplomacy and the checkbook that they failed to secure during three centuries of military competition.
The Americans will resist gains made by these powers (and others), but so long as they are loath to re-commit ground forces, their efforts will be half-hearted. Unless a power directly threatens core U.S. interests — for example, an Iranian annexation of Iraq — American responses will be lackluster. By the time the Americans feel ready to re-engage, many of the processes will have been well established, raising the cost and lengthening the duration of the next round of American conflict with the rest of the world.”

 

Central Asia’s Economic Evolution From Russia To China

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central-asia-snow Russia to China

“STRATFOR”

“Central Asia has restructured its economic links over the past decade, as China has outpaced Russia in the region on trade, investment and infrastructure development.

Russia maintains its influence in Central Asia, however, and China so far has been careful to make sure its economic initiatives in the region largely complement Moscow’s interests.”


“Central Asia has undergone a significant economic transformation in recent years as trade and investment in the region have shifted away from Russia and toward China. Russia remains a major economic force in Central Asia, and China’s rise in the region complements its interests in many ways — or at least doesn’t directly contradict them. But Central Asia’s growing economic dependence on China and Beijing’s increasing political and security influence in the region could foster increased tensions between the two powers.

The Traditional Player: Russia

Russia has been the dominant external player in Central Asia since the 19th century, when the Russian Empire conquered the region to protect itself from foreign rivals and establish a defensive anchor in the Tian Shan mountain range and Karakum desert. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, Central Asia became part of the Soviet Union, which dramatically reshaped the region. The Soviet government redrew Central Asia’s borders to create five republics, largely sealing the region off from the outside world. Central Asia’s republics incorporated top-down, centralized political systems and adopted the Russian language as a lingua franca.

At the same time, they underwent a process of industrialization and collectivization familiar to the rest of the Soviet Union. The process developed large-scale industry and agricultural production in the region and integrated the republics into the Soviet economy and military-industrial complex. Central Asia’s abundant resources — including oil, natural gas, minerals and cotton — went toward sustaining the Soviet economic machine, and road, railway and pipeline networks linked the region to Russia.

Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Central Asia kept many of its connections to Russia. The country remained the largest trade partner for each of the Central Asian states for the first two decades following their independence, importing energy resources and other goods from the region while exporting goods such as refined fuels. Over the past decade, however, Russia’s trade and investment ties with Central Asia have diminished. China has been a big factor in the decline.

Central Asian Trade With China and Russia

The Influential Newcomer: China

Central Asian independence in the 1990s coincided with the beginning of China’s economic rise. Beijing’s growing appetite for commodities to fuel its burgeoning manufacturing sector spurred a major push into Central Asia, one that really took off in the 2000s as China began to invest in infrastructure projects to access the region’s resources, particularly oil and natural gas. Among these were the Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline, the first section of which opened in 2003, and the Central Asia-China natural gas pipeline, which began operating in 2009. Both pipelines have expanded significantly over the years. In 2017, the Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline transported 12.3 million tons of oil and 44 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas in 2017, while the Central Asia-China natural gas pipeline sent 34 bcm of natural gas in 2016.

Just as China was ramping up its energy imports from Central Asia, Russia was decreasing its own. Russia, a major oil and natural gas producer, didn’t need Central Asian energy to fuel its economy. Instead, it would send the energy it imported from Central Asia to Europe to sell at a premium. An energy glut in Europe in the late 2000s removed the incentive driving Russia’s energy imports from Central Asia and created a substantial shift in the region’s energy ties — and by extension its economic ties.

Turkmenistan offers a case in point. Before 2009, the country sent around 90 percent of its natural gas supplies to Russia. But after a pipeline explosion in 2009 — caused by a rise in pressure resulting from Russia’s failure to tell Turkmenistan that it had decreased its imports — Turkmen exports to Russia declined precipitously, from more than 40 bcm in 2008 to zero by 2017. Turkmenistan subsequently began exporting much of its natural gas to China instead, sending nearly 30 bcm by 2017, up from about 4 bcm in 2010. A price dispute with Iran, in fact, has made China Turkmenistan’s only natural gas customer. And because natural gas accounts for 80 percent of the government’s revenue and 35 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, the Turkmen economy now depends overwhelmingly on Beijing.

The restructuring of Central Asia’s energy ties is apparent in the region’s broader trade levels, too. In the 1990s, total trade between China and Central Asia was less than $1 billion annually. By 2017, the figure had reached $30 billion, compared with $18.6 billion in total trade between Russia and Central Asia. China outpaces Russia in total trade with all Central Asian countries except for Kazakhstan, and in certain cases like Turkmenistan — where China accounts for 44 percent of the country’s total trade while Russia makes up only 7 percent — the discrepancy is large.

Key Connectivity Projects in Central Asia

China also has invested billions of dollars to develop transport infrastructure, as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, and manufacturing facilities. The infrastructure projects include a freight railway linking the Chinese port of Lianyungang with the Kazakh city of Almaty, and plans for two rail corridors between southern China and Central Asia. In terms of industry, meanwhile, China has built a metallurgical plant in Tajikistan that opened in November 2017, and Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE Corp. have established assembly plants in Uzbekistan. Beijing also plans to develop the Kazakh city of Khorgos into a logistics and manufacturing hub.

Economic Overlap and Common Interests

In trade and investment in Central Asia, China has surpassed Russia in recent years. That doesn’t mean, however, that China is entirely superseding Russia in the region. Remittances, for example, are still a mainstay of Russian economic influence in Central Asia. Russia is the primary destination for Central Asian migrants working abroad, and remittances from the more than 3 million Central Asians who currently live and work in Russia make up a substantial part of the region’s economies. In smaller countries that don’t export energy, such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, this source of revenue is especially important.

Kyrgyzstan received more than $2.2 billion in remittances from Russia in 2017, according to data from Russia’s central bank. The sum exceeds China’s trade with Kyrgyzstan and accounts for more than 30 percent of the Central Asian state’s GDP. Similarly, Tajikistan received over $2.5 billion in remittances from Russia last year — more than its total trade with China. Given that nearly every family in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan has a member working in Russia, remittances give Moscow an important means of influencing these countries.

China’s rise as a trade and investment partner in Central Asia does not necessarily conflict with Russia’s interests and strategy in the region. Since the end of the Soviet Union, Russia hasn’t been a major investor in infrastructure in Central Asia, nor does it have the kind of capital that Beijing has to develop such projects. In addition, Russia doesn’t need Central Asia’s raw materials the way China does, and China doesn’t need the region’s low-wage labor force the way Russia does. The two countries’ different economic structures and imperatives in Central Asia are in many ways compatible.

China’s rise as a trade and investment partner in Central Asia does not necessarily conflict with Russia’s interests and strategy in the region.

Furthermore, both countries have an overlapping interest in trying to stabilize Central Asia to protect their interests there and to keep militancy from reaching their borders. China’s growing economic presence in the region has alleviated some of the pressures the region has faced because of low global energy prices, decreased trade with Russia and rapidly growing populations. And Beijing has been careful to coordinate or consult with Moscow on the economic initiatives it pursues in Central Asia, including the Belt and Road Initiative. Consequently, Russia welcomes Chinese influence in the region, which not only has helped stabilize Central Asia, but has also benefited Moscow in its own relationship with Beijing. China, after all, has become a key trade partner and investor in Russia since sanctions from the European Union and United States have reduced its economic ties with the West.

Potential Friction Points

Even so, as China’s profile in Central Asia continues to rise, and as Russia faces increasing economic challenges, several factors in the region could cause strife between Moscow and Beijing. China’s stronger economic presence in Central Asia, for example, inevitably will lead to a stronger security presence so that Beijing can safeguard its interests. In fact, Beijing already is taking on a more prominent role in counterterrorism initiatives with Central Asian states, and reports suggest that its security presence is growing in countries such as Tajikistan. These measures so far have taken place in coordination with Russia. But if and when China starts to pursue measures unilaterally or to build military bases in the region, relations between Moscow and Beijing could take a turn.

Their institutional ties to Central Asia could also prove to be a sticking point for Russia and China. Most Central Asian states are members of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, blocs designed to entrench Russia’s influence in the member states at the expense of other foreign powers. If China’s Belt and Road Initiative were to become more formal and exclusive, it could conflict with Russia’s interests in the Eurasian Economic Union. China’s attempt to involve Central Asia in its international integration plans will further test Moscow’s role as the leading external power in the region.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), likewise, could become a source of contention. China views the bloc, of which it and Russia are both members, as an important platform for regional integration on economic issues with Central Asia. Russia, on the other hand, has preferred to keep the bloc focused solely on security matters. This difference is likely a driving force behind Moscow’s efforts to include India and Pakistan in the SCO as counterweights to China. As the bloc continues to evolve and perhaps expand, it will serve as an indicator of how the relationship between Moscow and Beijing is changing.

These factors could test the balance of power that Russia and China have maintained up to this point. If signs of Moscow and Beijing working against each other in Central Asia begin to emerge, they could spell the start of a strategic shift in the region and in the Russia-China relationship.”

China and Russia

A Russia/China Marriage of Convenience – The Rise of a Not-So-New World Order

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China and Russia

“STRATFOR”   By Sarang Shidore  Senior Global Analyst

“For decades the United States has sat atop a unipolar world, unrivaled in its influence over the rest of the globe. 

And as the Earth’s sole superpower turns inward, [Russia and China] will seek to carve out bigger backyards for themselves.”


“An Informal Alliance Emerges

First, a few observations about the Cold War. The multidecade conflict was much like the classical great-power contests that have taken place since the advent of the modern nation-state: Two blocs of roughly equal power (NATO and the Warsaw Pact) participated in a continuous arms race, waged proxy wars and engaged in the politics of securing spheres of influence.

But the Cold War also contained some striking new elements. Chief among them were the feud’s pervasive reach into most sovereign states, the presence of nuclear weapons, the two participants’ radically different economic and political systems, and the missionary zeal each superpower had for exporting its ideology worldwide. Moreover, membership within each alliance was sizable and stable, though developing countries occasionally shifted their loyalties after a revolution or military intervention by the United States or the Soviet Union.

On their face, any parallels between today and the Cold War of decades past seem overblown. The United States leads most formal alliance structures; Russia and China have no obvious ideology to export; and variations of capitalism have won out worldwide, leading to a deeply integrated global economy. Furthermore, Russia and China appear to have too many conflicts of interest to form an enduring partnership.

A closer look at recent events, however, suggests otherwise. Despite lacking an official alliance, Russia and China have acted virtually in lockstep on many major security issues. Both were first neutral, then opposed to, NATO’s intervention in Libya in 2011. Both have taken nearly identical positions on the Syrian conflict and cybergovernanceat the United Nations. Both have issued a joint proposal to resolve the crisis on the Korean Peninsula by freezing North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs in exchange for halting joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States. Both are firmly opposed to undermining the Iranian nuclear deal. And both have lobbied against U.S. missile defenses in Central Europe and Asia, as well as the Western doctrine of intervention known as “responsibility to protect.” Meanwhile China — a well-known defender of the principle of national sovereignty — has been noticeably silent on Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

At the same time, Beijing and Moscow have symbolically demonstrated their compact in the realm of defense. They have conducted joint military exercises in unprecedented locales, including the Mediterranean Ocean and the Baltic Sea, as well as in disputed territories, such as the Sea of Japan and the South China Sea. Weapons deals between them are likewise on the rise. Russian arm sales to China skyrocketed in 2002. After temporarily dropping off between 2006 and 2013 amid suspicion that China was reverse-engineering Russian platforms, Russia’s sales to China resumed. Moscow agreed to sell its most sophisticated systems, the Su-35 aircraft and the S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, to its Asian neighbor.

The two great powers have signed several major energy deals of late, too. Russian oil has made up a steadily growing share of China’s energy portfolio for years, and in 2016 Russia became the country’s biggest oil supplier. China, for its part, has begun to substantially invest in Russia’s upstream industry while its state-run banks have heavily bankrolled pipelines connecting the two countries. Beijing, for instance, recently acquired a large stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft. Russian exports of natural gas, including liquefied natural gas, to China are climbing as well. These moves are rooted in grand strategy: Russia and China are privileging each other in energy trade and investment to reduce their dependence on locations where the United States is dominant.

With their robust indigenous defense industries and vast energy reserves alone, China and Russia satisfy the basic requirements of presenting an enduring challenge to the United States. But both have also begun pushing for greater financial and monetary autonomy by distancing themselves from the dollar-dominated order of international trade and finance. China has already partially seceded from the SWIFT system of global banking transactions by creating its own system, CIPS. Russia is following suit, and it too has started to build an alternative network. Moreover, the Chinese yuan recently entered the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights currency basket. Now most Asian currencies track far more closely with the yuan than the dollar in value. China plans to introduce an oil futures contract in yuan that can be fully converted to gold as well. This, along with Beijing and Moscow’s decision to boost their gold reserves, suggests that they may be preparing to switch to a gold standard someday. (The convertibility of gold is an important intermediate step toward boosting investor confidence in an up-and-coming currency like the yuan, which still suffers from many constraints such as illiquidity and significant risk in its country of origin.) The seriousness of their effort indicates their determination to move away from a system ruled by the U.S. currency.

Of course, China and Russia still suffer huge deficits with respect to the United States in technology, innovation and global force projection. But the gap may be closing as China makes substantial investments into sunrise technologies such as renewable energy, biotechnology and artificial intelligence. Plus, the projection of power to every corner of the globe probably isn’t their immediate goal. Rather, the two powers seem to be aiming for maximum autonomy and a proximate sphere of influence that encompasses Eastern Europe and parts of the Middle East and Asia. They also seek to overhaul international rule-making with the intention of gaining greater influence in multilateral institutions, securing vetoes over military interventions, increasing global governance of the internet (albeit for their own self-interest), ending U.S. pressure regarding democracy and human rights, dethroning the reigning dollar and accounting for their interests in the design of the global security order.

A Durable Marriage of Convenience

China and Russia are not natural allies. They have a long history of discord and at least three areas of conflicting interests: overlapping backyards in Central Asia, competition in arms sales and a growing asymmetry in power that favors Beijing.

Over the years, the two countries have taken on somewhat distinct roles in Central Asia. Russia has become the leading security guarantor in the region by founding the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a formal alliance with a mutual self-defense clause, and by building military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Russia has also integrated Kazakhstan into its air defense system. By comparison, China is rapidly emerging as the leading energy and infrastructure partner in the region. The country’s Belt and Road Initiative is well underway, and several oil and natural gas pipelines connecting China to its Central Asian neighbors are already functional. That said, both powers have a stake in the region’s security and economic integration, as evidenced by the presence of the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union and the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization there.

Despite their dependence on China and Russia, Central Asian states still enjoy considerable autonomy and cannot be deemed satellites of either great power. The recent resistance of Kazakhstan, a CSTO member, to Russian pressure to deploy troops to Syria is a case in point. Of the five Central Asian countries, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan are most closely intertwined with China and Russia; Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have kept a greater distance.

The dynamic Chinese economy’s steady outpacing of its Russian counterpart would ordinarily cause deep consternation in Moscow. However, Russia seems to have largely accepted the reality of China’s rising power — an acceptance that is key to the formation of a compact between them. Beijing, for its part, has tactfully walked back from its historical claims to Outer Manchuria, paving the way for the settlement of its long-standing border dispute with Moscow. China has also worked to keep its economic competition with Russia from degenerating into political antagonism.

Russia is still wary of China, though. Against the wishes of Beijing, which has a long-standing competition with New Delhi, Moscow supported and facilitated India’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The Kremlin also keeps close ties to Vietnam and maintains an ongoing dialog with Japan. However, Russia has also compromised with China on some of these matters, including by agreeing to Pakistan’s simultaneous admission to the bloc. It has also limited its cooperation with Tokyo, dragging its feet in settling its Kuril Islands dispute with Japan.

These concessions indicate Moscow’s pursuit of a hedging strategy, not a balancing one. If Russia were truly trying to balance China, their rivalry in Central Asia would take on a security dimension, resulting in factionalization or, in the worst-case scenario, wars between their local proxies. So while some structural tension certainly exists between China and Russia and could lead to a security rivalry in the long run, their leaders have actively managed and largely contained it thus far. This marriage of convenience will likely prove lasting, given its goals for dramatically transforming the international system. And even if a formal Russia-China alliance never comes to pass, the durability of their partnership already makes it feel like one in many ways. That the two countries feel no need to formalize their alliance, moreover, indicates that informality will increasingly serve as a template for strategic partnerships in the future.

The Resurgence of the Middle

Could an alignment between Russia and China expand to new states? The country most likely to join their compact is Iran. A revolutionary state with deep enmity for the United States and its allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iran has a strong desire to rewrite the rules of the current global order. As China’s Belt and Road Initiative has taken off, Chinese investment in Iran has started to rise. And though Iran and Russia have their differences, their security interests have recently aligned. In the Syrian civil war, for instance, they have closely coordinated their air and ground operations over the past two years. Iran, meanwhile, would add to the two great powers’ energy heft and welcome any attempt to shift global energy markets away from the dollar. Under the current circumstances, Iran has every reason to strengthen its strategic ties with Russia and China, even as it woos global investors.

Iran isn’t the only core state candidate that may join the Sino-Russian compact. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a formidable gambit, partly intended to draw several states into its orbit. Among them are Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Turkey, Sri Lanka and Thailand. All of these nations, in theory, could join the Sino-Russian core. Still, it is doubtful whether most will. Turkey, a member of NATO, has worked more closely with Russia and Iran in the past few months to manage the Syrian conflict, and it is heavily reliant on Russian energy supplies. But Turkey will find it difficult to abandon its commitments to NATO; instead it will most likely play a transactional game with all three powers.

On the Asian continent, it is in Sri Lanka’s and Bangladesh’s best interests not to antagonize their next-door neighbor, India, by tilting too far toward China. Moreover, Myanmar has a complex history with China, while Thailand is a U.S. treaty ally that lately has sought a middle ground between Washington and Beijing. Pakistan has been close to China for decades while maintaining an intense (if transactional) security relationship with the United States and complicated ties with Iran. If relations between Islamabad and Washington as well as New Delhi and Beijing deteriorate sharply, Pakistan may find that aligning with Russia and China brings more benefits than costs. But when all is said and done, any attempt to transform the Sino-Russian compact into an expansive, international alliance would encounter massive roadblocks.

Meanwhile, all is not going as planned within the United States’ own bloc. Washington’s treaty ally, South Korea, staunchly opposes any U.S. military action against North Korea. The United States’ ties with another major partner, Turkey, are deteriorating. The Philippines is trying to balance between the United States and China, as is Thailand. Australia is increasingly torn between its deep economic dependence on China and its commitments to the United States. Wide rifts have opened between the United States and Europe over trade, climate action and Iran. Hungary has moved closer to Russia as populist nationalism — in some cases laced with support for Russian President Vladimir Putin — rises across the Continent. Then there is Germany, which the United States has long worried is less than fully committed to balancing against Russia. On top of all this, a nationalist upswing in U.S. politics has made the superpower more hostile to trade agreements and foreign entanglements.

On the other hand, the United States is bolstering its security relationship with India and Vietnam, finding ready partners against China and Russia in Japan and Poland, respectively, and enjoying the prospect of a post-Brexit United Kingdom that is more beholden to Washington than ever before. With a population of more than a billion people, India’s future is particularly consequential to the global order — but only if it can transcend its many domestic challenges. And though India could become a core member of the U.S.-led bloc in the future, its historical autonomy and deep defense ties with Russia could limit just how close New Delhi can get to Washington and Tokyo.

Added to these factors are the non-state challenges to state power that have emerged since the 1990s and now show no sign of going away. Giant technology corporations, criminal networks, transnational terrorist groups, global civil society and growing environmental threats often weaken the system of sovereign nation-states, and they will continue to do so in the years to come.

Two Poles, Much Smaller Than Before

The upshot of these changes is that bipolarity, though not inevitable, is likely a foundational feature of the future. But it would be much diminished, compared with that of the Cold War — a “bipolarity-minus” of sorts. Each side in such a world would boast a much smaller set of core members: Russia, China, probably Iran and plausibly Pakistan, on one side, and the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, probably Japan and plausibly India and Australia on the other.

Though all other powers may lean in one direction or another, they would have more malleable relationships with each bloc and with each other. At the same time, there would be ample space for non-state actors and fluid minor coalitions to try to maximize their own freedom by, among other things, limiting the intensity of bipolarity among the great powers. Core states would have to work that much harder to win over the many swing states scattered across the globe, and alignment based on specific issues will become the norm. Existing institutions of global governance will either become moribund or will shrink as competing institutions with different approaches form and gain traction.

The Cold War years offered a faint preview of this world. The Non-Aligned Movement and the G-77 influenced issues such as decolonization, foreign aid and disarmament, while OPEC briefly shook the world with an oil embargo. Core bloc members occasionally demonstrated radical autonomy — the Sino-Soviet split of 1959, “goulash communism” in Hungary and Ostpolitik in West Germany are only a few examples. Still, these deviations never seriously undermined the global system, dominated as it was by two superpowers.

Today a new constraint on the emergence of true bipolarity exists: the intertwining of the U.S. and Chinese economies. Interdependence determinists will argue that such ties are incompatible with bipolarity and will ultimately prevent it. However, the limited nature of a bipolarity-minus world may allow the phenomena to coexist, albeit uneasily, as they did in a highly interdependent Europe before World War I. Alternatively, the United States and China may reorder their supply chains to reduce this interdependence over time. Technological advances are already shrinking these supply chains, a trend that could accelerate if the United States becomes far more protectionist.

If the future does indeed hold a bipolar-minus world, the United States may not be ready for it. To be prepared, Washington would have to recalibrate its strategy. In a world in which many major powers are uncommitted and have large degrees of freedom, tools like open-ended military interventions, unilateral sanctions, extraterritoriality and hostility to trade will likely yield diminishing returns. By comparison, incentivization, integration, innovation and adroit agenda-setting can be smarter and more effective options. The United States historically has been a pioneer of these approaches, and it may prove able to wield them persuasively once again. But perhaps most important, the superpower will have to resolve its internal polarization if it hopes to position itself as a cohesive leader of the international community. Only then will it once again become, as former U.S. President Ronald Reagan so eloquently put it, “a shining city upon a hill.”

https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/rise-not-so-new-world-order?utm_campaign=B2C_LL_Push&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=58572026&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_XbbfHHCRcKVb8gnGQXQzik66opSVx-3Rj7irxs19xA1VWLSoNzI6X7QdVMRvvaSibJQPpGL_RrgvI5QxCChs5M0saUg&_hsmi=58588349

 

 

Untangling the Web of Russia’s Cyber Operations

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“STRATFOR”

“The Kremlin has every incentive to exploit its access to some of the world’s most sophisticated hackers.

Though investigators in the United States and France will keep working to dismantle Moscow’s hacker networks and arrest the architects behind them, digital interference in foreign elections will be a hallmark of Russian intelligence operations for years to come.”


“Forecast Highlights
  • If the Russian state falls into another period of crisis, the cyber operatives working for the Kremlin could turn against it, much as Moscow’s criminal contacts have in the past.
  • Still, the benefits of hiring criminal hackers to conduct cyber operations abroad will continue to outweigh the risks for the Russian government.
  • As investigators around the world keep working to dismantle Moscow’s hacking networks, digital meddling in foreign elections will remain a mainstay of Russian intelligence operations.

Russia’s interest in foreign elections didn’t end with the U.S. presidential race. Two days after the first round of the French presidential election on April 23, a cybersecurity firm based in Japan reported that Russian hackers had targeted Emmanuel Macron’s campaign in the runup to the vote. Macron, one of two candidates who advanced to the runoff slated for May 7, had accused the Kremlin of discrediting his campaign, and his staff complained of constant, sophisticated phishing attempts throughout the race. Phishing, though not the most advanced technique, has proved highly effective for conducting criminal activity and espionage; the Kremlin allegedly used the same tactic to interfere in the U.S. vote. Recent developments have shed light on the apparent ties between Russia’s state security apparatus and the world’s most sophisticated cybercriminals.

Laying Out the System

On April 12, Russian media published a letter from Ruslan Stoyanov, a former security expert at Kaspersky Lab who is currently in prison in Russia on charges of treason. Stoyanov alleged in his letter that the Kremlin had recruited hackers to help with its various cyber campaigns in exchange for immunity from prosecution for their criminal exploits abroad. Allegations like Stoyanov’s are difficult to confirm, but the pattern of activity outlined in his letter conforms to previous suspicions over Moscow’s cyber strategy.

About a month before Stoyanov’s letter surfaced, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted four individuals for their alleged involvement in stealing credentials from 500 million Yahoo accounts. Two of the four defendants are agents with Russia’s Federal Security Services (FSB) who, according to the indictment, used their offices to protect two “hackers for hire” — Alexsey Belan and Karim Baratov. The hackers profited off the breach, incorporating it into their existing spamming campaign. Cooperating with the Kremlin, moreover, afforded the cybercriminals protection, just as Stoyanov later described; the circumstances surrounding Belan’s escape from arrest in Europe in 2013 suggest he had official help. For the FSB, meanwhile, the intrusion offered access to information on figures of interest, including Russian journalists, government officials and high-profile businesspeople. One can imagine that this kind of intelligence collection may have also proved useful in Russia’s efforts to influence the U.S. election, although no evidence has linked the two incidents.

A Symbiotic Relationship

Moscow’s ties to the world of cybercrime are just the latest manifestation of a well-established trend. The Russian state has been entwined in crime since long before the dawn of the internet, often in a kind of symbiosis with criminal organizations. Under Soviet rule, for example, Russian officials generally turned a blind eye to smugglers, who then sold them contraband luxury goods. The black market was the closest thing to a free market for most of the Soviet era, and it offered the Kremlin a way to relieve pressure on the Soviet people and economy. But even after the liberal reforms of the late 1980s and the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Russian capitalism struggled to break free of its corrupt roots. The early post-Soviet years were a period of plunder. Criminals took advantage of the state’s weakness to line their pockets. Then, as Russia regained its footing, the country’s gangsters and bandits began to cooperate with the government — a pattern that has played out in several countries over the years.

Many of the most successful criminals to emerge during the 1990s were themselves a part of the crumbling Soviet system. Military personnel and KGB agents stationed around the world capitalized on their access to valuable arms and intelligence to keep themselves afloat as their government imploded. Soldiers and intelligence officers made the most of their precarious position by selling off state property — including, in at least one instance, a submarine — for their own profit. Viktor Bout, a former army linguist and officer in Russia’s Military Intelligence Directorate (GRU), offers perhaps the most infamous example. Before his arrest in 2008, Bout had become one of the world’s most prolific arms dealer, alternately preying on and working with the Kremlin to suit his business.

Today, Russia is enjoying a period of strength relative to the chaos of the 1990s. If history is any guide, however, its fortunes could easily change, and with them, the criminal class’s allegiances. Stoyanov’s letter warned of the danger that the hackers currently in the Kremlin’s employ could turn against it one day.

U.S. Indictments of Russian Hackers

No Risk, No Reward

Notwithstanding the risks of hiring criminals, the ends of such an arrangement often justify the means. Relying on agents for hire to carry out certain operations may be an economic necessity for cash-strapped governments. As states vie for primacy — or at least strategic advantages — in the cyber realm, they have to compete to recruit the best people in the field. And they don’t come cheap. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security suffers from high turnover in its cybersecurity leadership roles, in part because it can’t keep up with the private sector’s salary offerings. Peter Levashov, another Russian spammer arrested earlier this month, purportedly charged $500 dollars for every 1 million messages he sent, a rate that could have earned him up to $750,000 a day. The Russian government can never hope to match that pay. It can, however, offer other incentives to draw in experts like Levashov, including legal immunity.

Keeping cyber operatives off the books also affords governments a degree of plausible deniability. After all, listing one of the world’s most notorious spammers on its payroll would reflect poorly on Russia’s image, and on its tradecraft. Most countries with advanced intelligence capabilities maintain operatives under non-official cover. These agents don’t receive the same protections that registered foreign officials enjoy, but by the same token, they don’t attract the same scrutiny. Consequently, they have much more latitude to conduct sensitive operations. Creating and maintaining non-official cover is a daunting task, though, especially in the age of social media. An even safer bet for governments is to avoid establishing an official relationship with cyber mercenaries in the first place.

Common Practice

Russia isn’t the only country reaping the economic and practical benefits of working with unofficial agents. China’s intelligence services routinely recruit Chinese nationals living abroad and working in strategic sectors to conduct operations on their behalf. In January 2016, for example, U.S. authorities uncovered an industrial espionage scheme in which Chinese operatives apparently tried to poach Chinese-American scientists from GlaxoSmithKline PLC to start a rival company. The intelligence officials set up their recruits with their own firm in China, and in exchange, they received exfiltrated proprietary information — all without adding anyone to their payroll.

The Kremlin has every incentive to exploit its access to some of the world’s most sophisticated hackers. And despite the damning allegations in Stoyanov’s letter, the Russian government has so far maintained its plausible deniability, offering its word against that of a man in prison for treason. Though investigators in the United States and France will keep working to dismantle Moscow’s hacker networks and arrest the architects behind them, digital interference in foreign elections will be a hallmark of Russian intelligence operations for years to come.”

https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/untangling-web-russias-cyber-operations?utm_campaign=LL_Content_Digest&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=51350628&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–6uKnrLm-s4to9ibk2czWajY9Jj2mMF4KofjC5qpmP0zUEBgS7U-WJ7PbKV451sYgdr7CPJwirsV6uHeVpHa91ddOD0w&_hsmi=51351201

 

Russia, China, and Cyber Espionage

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“THE CIPHER BRIEF”

“One needs to only review the most high-profile breaches to see that many of them are believed to be the work of one of these countries.

In the wake of a series of hacks against government and private networks, it is clear that Russia and China are among the most active and proficient nations in regards to cyber operations.

China is thought to be behind the OPM hack and has been hacking a large number of American businesses to steal trade secrets and intellectual property. Russia almost certainly hacked the DNC and has breached networks at both the White House and the State Department. Clearly, both China and Russia are finding value in cyber operations as a means of achieving their foreign policy goals, and this is likely to create a more perilous cyber environment moving forward.

Simply put, cyber-operations provide too many advantages for either Russia or China to decrease their reliance upon them. As The Cipher Brief has previously reported, cyber-operations are very difficult to conclusively attribute to any given nation. Even in the cases of the OPM hack and the DNC hack, most experts will only say that the code was developed by Chinese or Russian speakers, and that the attacks were launched from within their territory. However, that is not enough in and of itself for formal charges of blame to be levied against either country.

Cyber operations are also an essentially asymmetric tool, in that they level the playing field between nations that may have wide disparities in terms of the effectiveness of their conventional forces. However, this cuts both ways, as the United States also conducts a considerable number of cyber operations in support of intelligence collection. This leads into the third primary advantage of cyber as it relates to espionage, which is that cyber-capabilities make exfiltrating large volumes of information much, much easier than would be the case otherwise.

These advantages translate directly into gains towards foreign policy goals for both Russia and China. Leo Taddeo, Chief Security Officer at Cryptzone, told The Cipher Breif that “while both of them are engaged in both types of activity, I think the emphasis by the Russians is on diplomatic and military information and the emphasis for the Chinese is on business information.” Russia wants access to military and diplomatic information in order to influence events in Europe in a way that is advantageous to its interests.

In contrast, China needs access to foreign intellectual property in order to keep their economy going. According to Justin Harvey, Chief Security Officer at Fidelis Cybersecurity, the Chinese “have reached a point with technology and their economy where it’s been boosted and injected full of our commercial intellectual property, but to sustain that technological advancement requires a lot more infrastructure, education, and people that they don’t have yet.”

Cyber operations have proven to be an extremely subtle and flexible tool that nations can use to pursue their objectives while minimizing the chances of any given action escalating tensions into outright war.  For this reason, it is reasonable to assume that Russia will continue to exploit cyber vulnerabilities to aid in intelligence collection and battlefield preparation efforts. There is no incentive for Russia to stop doing either, as both support their goal of countering the United States’ ability to challenge them in Europe.

Likewise, the Chinese will continue to use cyber to gain advantage in terms of economic growth. While there is evidence that China has backed off from cyber-enabled economic espionage against the United States, it has plenty of other targets to pick from in Europe and Asia. And, despite their focus on meeting economic objectives, China will likely continue to engage in traditional espionage as well.

Both nations will almost certainly continue to grow in sophistication and will work to make their actions even harder to attribute, as this will expand the usefulness of their cyber operations. The United States will need to work to keep pace in terms of detection and cyber-forensics if there is to be any hope of establishing credible deterrence against these adversaries. ”

https://www.thecipherbrief.com/article/tech/russia-china-and-cyber-espionage-1092

Russia Is Destroying Its Food

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“STRATFOR”

“On Aug. 7, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a crackdown on violations of the Kremlin’s food sanctions against the European Union and the United States, during which some illegally imported food was destroyed. The move was very unpopular among Russian officials and the public.

Since food imports to Russia fell by more than half within a single day of Putin’s order, many criticized the Kremlin for destroying food at a time when Russians are under increased financial and economic pressure. If the Kremlin continues to crack down on those who violate the order, protests will only grow louder.

Flouting Countersanctions

Russia enacted sanctions on many high-end Western food products on Aug. 5, 2014, in response to sanctions placed on Russia by most Western states because of Russian actions in Ukraine. Even though only certain foods were banned, the sanctions — not to mention currency fluctuations — contributed to an average increase in food costs of 20 percent over the past year. The price of some staple goods, such as cabbage, rose more than 60 percent in early 2015.

The Kremlin initially pledged to stem price hikes, increase domestic production and import food from new sources. Fruit and vegetable imports from European countries outside the European Union, such as Serbia and Macedonia, indeed grew by between 35 and 200 percent over the past year.

It was the black market, however, that really cushioned the sanctions blow. To bypass the ban, countries barred from exporting to Russia began shipping through Belarus and Kazakhstan. The European Fresh Produce Association reported that EU produce exports to Belarus increased by 141 percent and to Kazakhstan by 108 percent within the first six months of the sanctions’ passage; both countries then turned around and re-exported much of that produce to Russia.

In early 2015, when Russia finally closed this loophole, re-exporters simply started falsifying countries of origin on their illegal shipments. The Russian government is aware of the false documentation, and the country’s agricultural import watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, has been particularly adamant in opposing it. The organization recently confiscated 73 tons of peaches with false Turkish certificates that were actually from the European Union. On Aug. 6, the same group in St. Petersburg burned 20 tons of German cheese mislabeled as a product of Russia. Since Putin ordered the crackdown, Rosselkhoznadzor has destroyed thousands of kilograms of food imported in violation of Russian sanctions.

Yet that is only a fraction of what has been illegally imported. According to the head of Rosselkhoznadzor, Sergei Dankvert, his organization has only been able to intercept an estimated 10 percent of illegal imports over the past year. In an effort to make a bigger impact, Rosselkhoznadzor has over the past two days whittled down daily food imports across Russia’s western border by more than half, subjecting each shipment to more intense scrutiny. The Smolensk border post, for example, processed only 70 shipments on Aug. 7, compared with its usual 170. However, to fully carry out Putin’s Aug. 7 order, Rosselkhoznadzor will have to expand its personnel.

Backlash

Perhaps because of these successes, the public crackdown on illicit food imports has generated — and will continue to generate — opposition across the Russian political spectrum. More than 285,000 people have signed an online petition urging the Kremlin to give the food to the poor instead of destroying it, while Russian lawmaker Andrei Krutov proposed to donate all the confiscated food to the war-torn separatist regions in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, opposition heavyweight and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov sarcastically called the food policy “some real triumph of humanism,” pointing out the sheer wastefulness of the order as 20 million Russian citizens remain below the poverty line.

The criticism is not limited to those among the opposition. Even pro-Kremlin TV anchor Vladimir Solovyov has publicly criticized Rosselkhoznadzor’s actions. “I don’t understand how food can be destroyed, ” Solovyov said, “in a country that lived through the horrible hunger during the war and tough years that followed.” One Russian Orthodox priest and Putin backer expressed similar frustrations when he posted his own critique of the food policy on a religious website: “My grandmother always told me that throwing away food is a sin. This idea is insane, stupid and vile,” he wrote.

These strong reactions seem to have taken the Kremlin somewhat by surprise. Until now, the government has come under little criticism for its countersanctions over the past year. In fact, when the food ban was first put in place, nationalist Russian citizens went so far as to publicly destroy food themselves in support of the government’s decision. (Of course, Russia’s economy was much healthier then than it is now.)

A History of Food Insecurity

In Russia, millions perished between the 1920 and 1940s from hunger. In 1921, 6 million died when drought and food confiscations during World War I and the Russian Revolution led to a famine across the Volga and Ural regions. Then, as many as 7 million more died between 1932 and 1933, when the Soviet Union’s forced collectivization policies saddled Kazakhstan, Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus, the Volga region, the southern Urals and western Siberia with major food shortages. And the country’s final major famine of 1947 and 1948, brought about by more droughts and the devastation of World War II, killed an estimated 1.5 million more Russians.

The relative prosperity that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union saw Western foods flood the Russian market. When Putin first took power, he gained legitimacy among his people in part by ensuring reliable food sources and by upgrading and expanding the types of food available.

But now, Russia’s standard of living is being tested by Moscow’s attempt to prove a point to the West. Despite the rampant criticism, the Russian government is standing behind its move to limit illegal food imports. Putin spokesman Dmitri Peskov repeated Aug. 10 that the situation should not be blown out of proportion. But the controversy may aggravate existing social unrest over economic malaise, and the Kremlin is worried that that unrest could lead to more protests. For that reason, Moscow may moderate its response to countersanctions violations by opting for forceful but sporadic crackdowns rather than systematic crackdowns.”

https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/russia-destroying-its-food?utm_source=freelist-f&utm_medium=email&utm_term=article&utm_campaign=20150813&mc_cid=d15af04ad2&mc_eid=84db5f029e#

A Net Assessment of the Middle East

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“STRATFOR – GEOPOLITICAL WEEKLY” – George Friedman

“The collapse of the Soviet Union energized Islam, both because the mujahideen defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan and because the alternative to Islam was left in tatters. Moreover, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait took place in parallel with the last days of the Soviet Union. Both countries are remnants of British diplomacy. The United States, having inherited the British role in the region, intervened to protect another British invention — Saudi Arabia — and to liberate Kuwait from Iraq.

The radicals reached back to the Christian Crusades for historical context, and the United States — seen as the major Christian power after its crusade in Kuwait — became the target. Second, the pan-Islamists needed to demonstrate that the United States was both vulnerable and the enemy of Islam.

This led to 9/11.The United States reacted massively to the attacks, but no uprising occurred in the region, no regimes were toppled, and many Muslim regimes collaborated with the Americans. During this time, the Americans were able to wage an aggressive war against al Qaeda and its Taliban allies. In this first phase, the United States succeeded. But in the second phase, the United States, in its desire to reshape Iraq and Afghanistan — and other countries — internally, became caught up in the subnational conflicts. The Americans got involved in creating tactical solutions rather than confronting the strategic problem, which was that waging the war was causing national institutions in the region to collapse.

In destroying al Qaeda, the Americans created a bigger problem in three parts: First, they unleashed the subnational groups. Second, where they fought they created a vacuum that they couldn’t fill. Finally, in weakening the governments and empowering the subnational groups, they made a compelling argument for the caliphate as the only institution that could govern the Muslim world effectively and the only basis for resisting the United States and its allies. In other words, where al Qaeda failed to trigger a rising against corrupt governments, the United States managed to destroy or compromise a range of the same governments, opening the door to transnational Islam.

The Arab Spring was mistaken for a liberal democratic rising like 1989 in Eastern Europe. More than anything else, it was a rising by a pan-Islamic movement that largely failed to topple regimes and embroiled one, Syria, in a prolonged civil war. That conflict has a subnational component — various factions divided against each other that give the al Qaeda-derived Islamic State room to maneuver. It also provided a second impetus to the ideal of a caliphate. Not only were the pan-Islamists struggling against the American crusader, but they were fighting Shiite heretics — in service of the Sunni caliphate — as well. The Islamic State put into place the outcome that al Qaeda wanted in 2001, nearly 15 years later and, in addition to Syria and Iraq, with movements capable of sustained combat in other Islamic countries.

The Islamic State represents a logical continuation of al Qaeda, which triggered both a sense of Islamic power and shaped the United States into a threat to Islam. The Islamic State created a military and political framework to exploit the situation al Qaeda created. Its military operations have been impressive, ranging from the seizure of Mosul to the taking of Ramadi and Palmyra. Islamic State fighters’ flexibility on the battlefield and ability to supply large numbers of forces in combat raises the question of where they got the resources and the training.

However, the bulk of Islamic State fighters are still trapped within their cauldron, surrounded by three hostile powers and an enigma. The hostile powers collaborate, but they also compete. The Israelis and the Saudis are talking. This is not new, but for both sides there is an urgency that wasn’t there in the past. The Iranian nuclear program is less important to the Americans than collaboration with Iran against the Islamic State. And the Saudis and other Gulf countries have forged an air capability used in Yemen that might be used elsewhere if needed.

It is likely that the cauldron will hold, so long as the Saudis are able to sustain their internal political stability. But the Islamic State has already spread beyond the cauldron — operating in Libya, for example. Many assume that these forces are Islamic State in name only — franchises, if you will. But the Islamic State does not behave like al Qaeda. It explicitly wants to create a caliphate, and that wish should not be dismissed. At the very least, it is operating with the kind of centralized command and control, on the strategic level, that makes it far more effective than other non-state forces we have seen.

Secularism in the Muslim world appears to be in terminal retreat. The two levels of struggle within that world are, at the top, Sunni versus Shiite, and at the base, complex and interacting factions. The Western world accepted domination of the region from the Ottomans and exercised it for almost a century. Now, the leading Western power lacks the force to pacify the Islamic world. Pacifying a billion people is beyond anyone’s capability. The Islamic State has taken al Qaeda’s ideology and is attempting to institutionalize it. The surrounding nations have limited options and a limited desire to collaborate. The global power lacks the resources to both defeat the Islamic State and control the insurgency that would follow. Other nations, such as Russia, are alarmed by the Islamic State’s spread among their own Muslim populations.

It is interesting to note that the fall of the Soviet Union set in motion the events we are seeing here. It is also interesting to note that the apparent defeat of al Qaeda opened the door for its logical successor, the Islamic State. The question at hand, then, is whether the four regional powers can and want to control the Islamic State. And at the heart of that question is the mystery of what Turkey has in mind, particularly as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s power appears to be declining.”

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A Net Assessment of the World – Geopolitical Analysis by STRATFOR

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“To put it simply, a vast swath of the Eurasian landmass (understood to be Europe and Asia together) is in political, military and economic disarray. Drawing on the recollection of Desert Storm [after 911} it was assumed that American power could reshape the Islamic world at will.

All power has limits, but the limits of American power were not visible until later in the 2000s. At that point two other events intervened. The first was the re-emergence of Russia as at least a regional power when it invaded Georgia in 2008. The other was, of course, the financial crisis. Both combined to define the current situation.

The United States is, by far, the world’s most powerful nation. That does not mean that the United States can — or has an interest to — solve the problems of the world, contain the forces that are at work or stand in front of those forces and compel them to stop. Even the toughest guy in the bar can’t take on the entire bar and win.”

George-Friedman

George Friedman


A Net Assessment of the World

“STRATFOR”

Europe and China are struggling with the consequences of the 2008 crisis, which left not only economic but institutional challenges. Russia is undergoing a geopolitical crisis in Ukraine and an economic problem at home. The Arab world, from the Levant to Iran, from the Turkish border through the Arabian Peninsula, is embroiled in politically destabilizing warfare. The Western Hemisphere is relatively stable, as is the Asian Archipelago. But Eurasia is destabilizing in multiple dimensions.

We can do an infinite regression to try to understand the cause, but let’s begin with the last systemic shift the world experienced: the end of the Cold War.

The Repercussions of the Soviet Collapse

The Cold War was a frozen conflict in one sense: The Soviet Union was contained in a line running from the North Cape of Norway to Pakistan. There was some movement, but relatively little. When the Soviet Union fell, two important things happened. First, a massive devolution occurred, freeing some formally independent states from domination by the Soviets and creating independent states within the former Soviet Union. As a result, a potentially unstable belt emerged between the Baltic and Black seas.

Meanwhile, along the southwestern border of the former Soviet Union, the demarcation line of the Cold War that generally cut through the Islamic world disappeared. Countries that were locked into place by the Cold War suddenly were able to move, and internal forces were set into motion that would, in due course, challenge the nation-states created after World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire that had been frozen by the Cold War.

Two emblematic events immediately occurred. In 1990, even before the collapse of the Soviet Union was complete, Iraq invaded Kuwait and seemed to threaten Saudi Arabia. This followed an extended war with Iran from which Iraq emerged in a more favorable position than Tehran, and Baghdad seemed to be claiming Kuwait as its prize. The United States mobilized not only its Cold War coalition, but also states from the former Soviet bloc and the Arab world, to reverse this. The unintended consequence was to focus at least some Sunnis both on the possibilities created by the end of the Cold War and on the American role as regional hegemon, which in turn led to 9/11 and is still being played out now, both to the south and north of the old Cold War dividing line.

The second event was the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Serbian-Croatian-Bosnian war that left about 100,000 people dead. It was a war of old grudges and new fears. It seemed to represent a unique situation that was not applicable to the rest of the region, but it in fact defined the new world system in two ways. First, Yugoslavia was the southern extension of the borderland between the Soviet Union and Western Europe. What happened in Yugoslavia raised questions that most people ignored, about what the long-term reality in this borderland would be. Second, among other things, the war centered on an east-west schism between Christians and Muslims, and the worst of the bloodletting occurred in this context. The United States and NATO interceded in Kosovo against Serbia despite Russian protests, and Moscow was ultimately sidelined from the peacekeeping mission that defused the war. The explosion in the Balkans foreshadowed much of what was to come later.

While Russia weakened and declined, the two ends of Eurasia flourished. The decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany ushered in a period of significant prosperity that had two results. The European Union, created through the Maastricht Treaty the same year the Soviet Union disintegrated, expanded its influence eastward into the former Soviet sphere and southward, incorporating disparate states whose differences were hidden by the prosperous period. And China, after the end of the Japanese economic miracle, became the global low-wage, high-growth country, powered by the appetite for its exports in prosperous Europe and North America.

The forces at work in Eurasia were hidden. The fragility of peripheral nations in Europe relative to German economic power was not fully visible. The cyclical nature of China’s growth, similar in many ways to the dynamics of Japan in the previous generation, was also invisible. The consequences of the end of the Cold War Islamic world, the forces that were unleashed beneath the surface and the fragility of the states that were containing them were hidden beneath the illusion of American power after the victory in Kuwait. Only in Russia was weakness visible, and one of two erroneous conclusions was reached: Either Russia was permanently impotent, or its misery would cause it to evolve into a liberal democracy. All seemed right with Eurasia.

Signs of Destabilization

The first indication of trouble was, of course, 9/11. It was the American attack that was critical. Drawing on the recollection of Desert Storm, it was assumed that American power could reshape the Islamic world at will. All power has limits, but the limits of American power were not visible until later in the 2000s. At that point two other events intervened. The first was the re-emergence of Russia as at least a regional power when it invaded Georgia in 2008. The other was, of course, the financial crisis. Both combined to define the current situation.

The financial crisis transformed Chinese behavior. Although China was already reaching the end of its economic cycle, the decline in appetites for Chinese exports changed the dynamic of China’s economy. Not only did the decline suppress growth, but Beijing’s attempts to shift growth to domestic consumption created inflation that made its exports even less competitive. The result was a political crisis as the Chinese government became increasingly concerned about instability and therefore increasingly oppressive in an attempt to control the situation.

At the other end of Eurasia, the differences between the interests of Germany — Europe’s major exporter — and those of Southern Europe’s developing economies exposed the underlying contradiction in the European Union. Germany had to export. The weaker countries had to develop their economies. The two collided first in the sovereign debt crisis, and again in the austerity policies imposed on Southern Europe and the resulting economic crisis. As a result, Europe became increasingly fragmented.

In a reversal of roles, Russia took advantage of the fragmentation of Europe, using its status as a natural gas supplier to shape Europe’s policies toward Russia. Russia was no longer the cripple of Europe but a significant regional power, influencing events not only on the Continent but also in the Middle East.

It was at this point that Russia encountered the United States. The United States has an elective relationship with the rest of the world. Except when a regional hegemon is trying to dominate Europe, the United States limits its global exposure. It exports relatively little, and almost half of what it does export goes to Canada and Mexico. But as Russia became more assertive, and particularly as it tried to recoup its losses after the fall of the Ukrainian government and the ensuing installation of a pro-Western government, the United States began to increase its focus on Ukraine and the borderlands between Europe and Russia.

At the same time that Washington felt it had to respond to Russia, the United States sought to minimize its exposure in the Middle East. Recognizing the limits of its power, the United States came to see the four indigenous powers in the region — Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel — as bearing the primary responsibility for regional stability and as counterbalances to each other’s power.

The Current State of Play

This brings us to the contemporary world. There is general economic malaise around the globe. That malaise has forced China to control social forces by repression. It has created an existential crisis in Europe that goes far beyond Greece but is being acted out in a Greek-German relationship. The Russians have reached for regional power but have fallen short, for the moment. The nation-states of the Middle East are fraying, and the four major powers are maneuvering in various ways to contain the situation.

The United States remains the world’s leading power, but at the same time, the institutions that it used during the Cold War have become ineffective. Even though NATO is increasing deployments and training in Eastern Europe, it is a military alliance that lacks a substantial military. The International Monetary Fund has become, in many cases, the problem and not the solution to economic difficulties. The United States has avoided entanglement in the economic problems in Europe and China and has limited its exposure in the Middle East. Yet it is becoming more directly involved with Russia, with its primordial fear of a European hegemon aroused, however far-fetched the prospect.

After every systemic war, there is an illusion that the victorious coalition will continue to be cohesive and govern as effectively as it fought. After the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna sought to meld the alliance against France into an entity that could manage the peace. After World War I, the Allies (absent the United States) created the League of Nations. After World War II, it was the United Nations. After the Cold War ended, it was assumed that the United Nations, NATO, IMF, World Bank and other multinational institutions could manage the global system. In each case, the victorious powers sought to use wartime alliance structures to manage the post-war world. In each case, they failed, because the thing that bound them together — the enemy — no longer existed. Therefore, the institutions became powerless and the illusion of unity dissolved.

This is what has happened here. The collapse of the Soviet Union put into motion processes that the Cold War institutions could not manage. The net assessment, therefore, is that the Cold War delayed the emergence of realities that were buried under its weight, and the prosperity of the 1990s hid the limits of Eurasia as a whole. What we are seeing now are fundamental re-emerging realities that were already there. Europe is a highly fragmented collection of nation-states. China contains its centrifugal forces through a powerful and repressive government in Beijing. Russia is neither an equal of the United States nor a helpless cripple to be ignored or tutored. And the map of the Middle East, created by the Ottomans and the Europeans, has hidden underlying forces that are rearing their heads.”

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