The world is becoming more multipolar. But the United States is only one of its poles. It has a huge navy, and it is striving desperately to gain control over all of the world’s oceans and, therefore, the major cargo routes. The United States is also the world’s financial center. The US dollar functions as the world currency, and the US Federal Reserve issues it. The United States doesn’t make trousers, but you can buy them from China.
The industrial pole shifted to China not long ago. China has a huge skilled workforce that works cheaply, and it also has a favorable economic environment. China needs a lot of oil and gas to make the pants worn by people throughout the world, not just in the United States. Chinese corporations use dollars to buy oil and gas all over the world, but mainly from the Arab world, the Persian Gulf countries in particular. Those countries are under the military and political control of the United States (except for Iran). That makes for a closed circle. The United States rattles its sabers, Chinese workers sew jeans, and the Arab sheiks do a brisk trade in energy commodities.
A country that is a major oil and gas exporter on the one hand, and, on the other, possesses a powerful armed forces and a large arsenal of nuclear tipped missiles, doesn’t fit in this well-oiled system built by Washington. That country is Russia. In addition, Russia has GLONASS and spacecraft, whereas the United States has GPS but no spaceships. They’re gone. Budgetary shortcomings played a definite role in their demise.
So, the United States has dollars but no spaceships. They rent them from Russia. Using dollars, of course.
The problem is that the number of dollars in circulation is increasing, but their buying power is falling. A thousand bucks meant something ten years ago, but not today. It isn’t so much that Russia loves the dollar less as that it has begun loving the yuan more — those colorful pieces of paper with the portrait of the great Chinese President Mao Tse-tung.
Mao valued human rights even less than Comrade Stalin, but you can buy lots of high-quality goods cheaply with yuans. Also, the Chinese Communists love to buy (or simply copy) Russian arms. They might like to get their hands on American weapons, preferably the most advanced ones, but the imperialists in Washington don’t trust their economic partners in Beijing.
Liu Guchang, China’s ambassador to Russia, caught the essence of the (Hegelian) conflict in world politics when he observed that China is seeking to diversify its energy imports and Russia – its energy exports. He made that statement at the launch of the project to build the ESPO oil and gas pipeline.
What does the US want? The United States want to control everything — but especially the global trade in energy. Oil and gas are paid for in dollars on the world market, and as soon as someone wants euros or yuans in exchange for their energy commodities, that “someone” turns out to be a dictator and a tyrant who violates human rights and has chemical weapons. The United States doesn’t much like countries that have nuclear weapons either, but it can’t do anything about them.
The great North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently promised to launch a nuclear strike on American bases in South Korea, Hawaii and Guam and Japan if provoked by the United States. So what’s to be done? The US Defense Department postponed a test launch of its Minuteman 3 ICBM. The Pentagon came to that decision to avoid exacerbating the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
The Americans are a powerful people. But they’re also a very nervous people. Kim Jong-un is aware of that and periodically conducts a ballistic missile or nuclear test.
Returning to the subject of import-export diversification I should point out that President Obama and, especially, Mrs. Clinton aren’t exactly ecstatic that China and Russia are developing better relations. — especially that sales of Russian oil and gas to China are increasing. Moscow and Beijing may ultimately refuse to use US dollars in settling accounts, and then the end of the world that didn’t happen in December 2012 will actually come about — at least for the politicians in the White House and their compatriots at the Federal Reserve.
Again, the Americans are powerful people. Their strength is that they aren’t used to sitting back while somebody or something threatens their income. Karl Marx once said that capitalists are capable of any crime for a 300% profit. But that was before, during the harsh imperialist times when the United States was importing slaves from Africa rather than oil.
Things are different now. Modern capitalists are still capable of any crime, but for defending human rights and fighting corruption, not for money that they despise. As soon as construction began on the ESPO, Alexey Navalny, a minority stakeholder in Rosneft, appeared out of nowhere and announced to an astonished world that there are thieves in Russia. Then it turned out that Navalny apparently stole some things himself: a distillery, party money and some timber. It’s hard to say whether he did or didn’t. A Russian investigative committee is currently looking into all that. But the fact remains that construction of the ESPO has generated quite a bit of noise, “without outside interference,” of course.
The main problem the United States has with the ESPO is that China is getting oil and gas from Russia through an overland pipeline and not from supertankers passing through the Strait of Malacca. That means US carriers don’t represent a threat to the ESPO. A ground operation against Russia would be senseless for anyone, and the US Army definitely isn’t up to the task.
Another fine point is that the East Siberian oil is of a higher grade than oil from the Urals, which currently is Russia’s main oil export commodity. It contains less sulfur and other impurities. It’s lighter. It will be in high demand. Thus, the price set for Dubai oil, whose production is controlled by the Arabs sheiks (and we know WHO ELSE) may be challenged in the future. This situation doesn’t inspire the Arab sheiks and their Washington patrons with a sense of historical optimism, and they’re nervous.
What actions can the guys from the US government and the oil exporters attached to them take, or rather, what have they already been doing for quite a while now? Since direct military pressure on Russia isn’t very promising, they can employ traditional Anglo-Saxon political methods. That is, they can find people in Russia with the lofty title of “agents of influence” who will agree to help thwart construction of the ESPO for money or out of “great love for the Motherland.”
First of all, everybody in Russia who fights corruption has been mobilized. There is corruption in Russia, isn’t there? There is something to shout about; there is reason to draw up something like the Magnitsky list or to use something that already exists. That is, they can try to intimidate some senior Russian government officials. Cries of corruption can very easily be used as a reason to freeze bank accounts. And that’s fine.
Second, those same overseas puppeteers have mobilized a large number of Russian activists to protect the environment, tigers, and plants native to the taiga. The tigers are suffering, and the vegetation is wilting.
Third, there are the so-called “patriots” and “nationalists,” who are screeching on their blogs that Vladimir Putin plans on using the ESPO to “dismember mother Russia and sell out to the Chinese.”
This whole mechanism has been in operation for a long time now. Most of those who oppose the “Putin regime” are in the dark and don’t even suspect who is pulling their strings. However, no one promised them it would be easy.
• This article first appeared in New Eastern Outlook
Konstantin Penzev is a Russian historian and writer, especially for New Eastern Outlook…
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