The Russia-China strategic partnership, uniting the Pentagon’s avowed top two “existential” threats to America, didn’t come with a formal treaty signed with pomp, circumstance… and a military parade. Enveloped in layers of subtle sophistication, there’s no way to know the deeper terms Beijing and Moscow agreed upon behind those innumerable Putin-Xi high-level meetings. Off the record, diplomats occasionally let it slip there might’ve been a coded message delivered to NATO to the effect that if it seriously harassed one of the strategic members… be it in the Ukraine or in the South China Sea… NATO would have to deal with both. For now, let’s concentrate on two instances of how the partnership works in practice, and why Washington is clueless on how to deal with it.
Exhibit A is the imminent visit to Moscow by the Director of the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Li Zhanshu, invited by the head of the Presidential Administration in the Kremlin, A E Vaino. Beijing stressed the talks will revolve around… what else… the Russia-China strategic partnership, “as previously agreed on by the countries’ leaders”. This happens just after President Putin received China’s First Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, one of the top seven in the Politburo and one of the drivers of China’s economic policies, in Moscow. They discussed Chinese investments in Russia and the key energy angle of the partnership. However, most of all they prepared Putin’s next visit to Beijing, which will be particularly momentous, for the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) summit on 14-15 May, steered by Xi Jinping. The General Office of the CCP… directly subordinate to Xi… only holds this kind of ultra-high-level annual consultations with Moscow and no other player. Needless to add, Li reports directly to Xi as much as Vaino reports directly to Putin. That’s as highly strategic as it gets.
That also happens to tie directly to one of the latest episodes featuring The Hollow (Trump) Men, in this case, Trump’s bumbling/bombastic National Security Advisor Lieutenant-General H R McMaster. In a nutshell, McMaster’s spin, loyally regurgitated by US corporate media, is that Trump developed such a “special chemistry” with Xi after their Tomahawks-with-chocolate cake summit in Mar-a-Lago that Trump managed to split the Russia-China entente on Syria and isolate Russia in the UN Security Council. It would have taken only a few minutes for McMaster to read the BRICS joint communiqué on Syria for him to learn that the BRICS are behind Russia. No wonder a vastly-experienced Indian geopolitical observer felt compelled to note:
Trump and McMaster look somewhat like two country bumpkins who lost their way in the metropolis.
Follow the Money
Exhibit B centres in Russia and China quietly advancing their agreement to replace the US Dollar’s reserve status with a gold-backed system. That also involves the key participation of Kazakhstan… very much interested in using gold as currency along OBOR. Kazakhstan couldn’t be more strategically positioned; a key hub of OBOR; a key member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAES); member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (ShOS); and not by accident the smelter of most of Russia’s gold. In parallel, Russia and China are advancing their own payment systems. With the Yuan now enjoying the status of a global currency, China has swiftly promoted their payment system, CIPS, careful not to frontally antagonise the internationally-accepted SWIFT, controlled by the USA.
On the other hand, Russia emphasises the creation of “an alternative”, in the words of Russian Central Bank’s Elvira Nabiullina, in the form of the Mir payment system, a Russian version of Visa/ MasterCard. What this implies is that were Washington inclined to exclude Russia from SWIFT, even temporarily, at least 90 percent of ATMs in Russia would be able to operate on Mir. China’s UnionPay cards are already an established fixture all across Asia… enthusiastically adopted by HSBC, amongst others. Combine “alternative” payment systems with a developing gold-backed system… and “toxic” does not even begin to spell out the reaction of the US Federal Reserve. It’s not just about Russia and China; it’s about the BRICS. What First Deputy Governor of Russia’s Central Bank Sergey Shvetsov outlined is just the beginning:
The BRICS countries are large economies with large reserves of gold and an impressive volume of production and consumption of this precious metal. In China, the gold trade is in Shanghai, in Russia, it’s in Moscow. Our idea is to create a link between the two cities in order to increase trade between the two markets.
Already, Russia and China established systems for global trade bypassing the US Dollar. What Washington did to Iran… cutting their banks off SWIFT… is now unthinkable against Russia and China. Thus, we’re already on our way, slowly but surely, towards a BRICS “gold marketplace”. We’re building a “new financial architecture”. That’d imply the eventual inability of the US Fed to export inflation to other nations… especially those in the BRICS, EEU, and SCO.
The Hollow Men
Trump’s Generals, led by “Mad Dog” Mattis, may spin all they want about their need to dominate the planet with their sophisticated AirSeaLandSpaceCyber commands. Yet, that may be not enough to counter the myriad ways the Russia-China strategic partnership is developing. Therefore, more on than off, we’ll have Hollow Men like Vice-President Mike Pence, with empurpled solemnity, threatening the DPRK:
The shield stands guard and the sword stands ready.
Forget this doesn’t even qualify as a lousy line in a cheap remake of a Hollywood B-movie; what we have here is Aspiring Commander-in-Chief Pence warning Russia and China there may be some nuclear nitty-gritty very close to their borders between the USA and the DPRK. Not gonna happen. Therefore, here’s to the great T S Eliot, who saw it all decades in advance:
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar.
21 April 2017