colonel cassad for dec 4

Belt and Road Strategy and Strategic Instability in the Middle East
Colonel Cassad, Dec 4, 12:07

The general line of pressure on China includes many directions. The rocking situation in Hong Kong and Xinjiang Uygur, the economic war against Chinese goods and sanctions against Huawei, criticism of the CCP’s internal policies and actions in the Spratly Archipelago and around Taiwan are all elements of the American strategy to “contain” Beijing, which is very similar to the one that the US is using against the Russian Federation. As part of this strategy, Washington is actively fighting against the implementation of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. On the one hand, a systematic diplomatic and informational work is being conducted against it, designed to challenge the ideas promoted by the Chinese that mask economic expansion through criticism of the PRC’s actions in Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

But a more effective means of countering China is to create a belt of instability in those countries through which the transport corridors of the Belt and Road Initiative pass. When it is impossible to guarantee the safety of direct investments and large financial and economic flows from China to Europe. In this context, a series of local aggression and color revolutions in Central Asia and the Middle East can be viewed not only as elements of expanding and consolidating American military-political and economic influence, but also as creating a chain of barriers and an extended zone of instability, which makes it difficult to fully implement the initiative ” One Belt – One Road ”and threatens the full functioning of all major corridors.

If you look at the current map of Central Asia and the Middle East, you can see that a number of countries through which the Chinese transport “corridors” of strategic importance pass, are immersed in systemic instability. Tajikistan is susceptible to permanent threats of the growth of Islamist sentiments and the resumption of civil war, which have so far been stopped by Russia’s military and economic efforts. Kyrgyzstan is experiencing regular coups and color revolutions, some of which are supported and supported by American diplomats and special services. As the latest color revolution in Bishkek has shown, after it the question of ownership of assets can very quickly be raised, as happened with a series of attacks on mining enterprises of Kazakhstani owners. Afghanistan is still bleeding from endless war, and American troops are still in the country that borders China. Any serious economic projects on Afghan territory are virtually blocked.

Iran is under serious economic, political and military pressure, accompanied by attempts to overthrow the regime of the Ayatollahs, who are pursuing a course of expanding cooperation with the PRC. Iraq continues to experience a serious economic crisis and political instability, complemented by a proxy war between the United States and Iran, which is de facto going on in Iraq. Not so long ago, a Chinese-owned refinery in Beiji was attacked. ISIS militants claimed responsibility for the attack. Attacks by militants of the “Islamic State” continue on the border with the SAR, and from the Syrian side the Abu Kemal region is subject to periodic attacks by the US and Israel.

It is also worth taking into account the Kurdish factor and the project of separating the Kurdish state entity from Iraq and Syria, which will inevitably give rise to new local wars and general chaos of processes in the region. In the Syrian Arab Republic, the great war died down, but it did not end. In Deir ez-Zor, Daraa, East Homs, attacks by various groups of militants continue, the front in Idlib periodically warms up, and Damascus has not fully restored control over Rojava. The United States continues to maintain a military presence in the SAR, overhanging the Tehran-Beirut Shiite bridge, through which one of the Chinese transport corridors passes. Chinese investments in the Syrian economy are complicated by US sanctions.

Lebanon is experiencing another political crisis against the backdrop of the local economy destroyed by sanctions. In addition, the port of Beirut, which was also considered as part of one of the possible Chinese transport “corridors”, was recently destroyed by a powerful explosion. Yemen is on the brink of dismemberment by the end of 2020, amid a 5-year war. The future of the key port of Aden is extremely uncertain at this stage. In addition, an Israeli military base is being deployed on Socotra Island, next to which one of the sea “corridors” passes. You can also recall the military coup in Turkey in 2016, the attempt to overthrow Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus in August 2020 (whom China was the first to congratulate on his victory), the crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean between Greece and Turkey over offshore production, etc.

These conflicts often have different origins, but if you look at the situation as a whole, you can see that almost all countries through which the main transport corridors of the One Belt One Road initiative pass, one way or another, are either under serious external pressure, or in a state of internal instability. It looks like a kind of “counterfall,” when the roller of Chinese economic influence encounters a whole system of geopolitical “fires” that collapse the economies of countries of interest to the PRC and hamper the implementation of large projects that could help strengthen the economic framework of Chinese strategic expansion. In a sense, we can say that China’s strategy is aimed at stabilizing the region in order to extract economic benefits from the implementation of its strategy,while the United States is interested in destabilizing it in order to thwart the plans of the PRC, Russia and Iran.

Losses of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh war
Colonel Cassad, Dec 3, 17:28

For the first time since the beginning of the Karabakh war, Azerbaijan announced its losses.
According to an official statement, during the hostilities from Sep 27 to Nov 10, the losses were:

  • Killed – 2873 (whether this includes non-combat losses. It is unknown). Some of them have not yet been identified.
  • The number of wounded: 1245 undergoing treatment at the moment. The total number is not named. It is understood that the rest were discharged by December, and we have the number of seriously wounded who require long-term treatment.
  • Missing: more than 100. The search for corpses on both sides, and the establishment of the fate of the missing, continues to this day.
  • Those captured: the total number is not named. At the moment, Armenia, through the mediation of the Russian Federation, proposes to exchange all its prisoners for all Azerbaijan’s prisoners.

In general, if these figures are to be believed (and certain doubts remain, since both sides during the campaign were marked by systematic lies about losses), then they are quite tolerable for Azerbaijan, given the complexity of the theater of military operations and the need to break through prepared defenses. Victory will undoubtedly write off these losses. This prsents a contrast to the Armenians, who lost more than Azerbaijan in killed, but also lost territories, while victory could have justified heavy losses in Karabakh. Aliyev can always present the result, and everyone will understand why these people died. It will be much more difficult for Pashinyan to explain the losses, given the result of the war. Of course, the losses among Syrian militants are not included in this list (there, according to various estimates, another 150 to 320 killed, + 2 cadres who were captured), but these are already Turkey’s problems, for which, frankly speaking, this is a penny price, given that if necessary, you can still pick up many more of the same type in Idlib, Jarablus and Tripoli. Armenia, according to its official statements, has lost 2,718 people killed. Unofficially, numbers from 3,200 to 4,500 are circulating. Of course, we aren’t seeing losses in the ratio of 1 to 3 during the defense, but the true figure may be close to that, which is due to the rather rapid collapse of the defense in the south of Karabakh and the serious disorganization of the Armenian troops as a result of systematic fire impact and internal structural and tactical problems.

The search of traitors leaves no room for real accountability
Patrick Azadian, Civilnet (Armenia), Dec 3 2020

There are two sets of popular conspiracy theories that are circulating in Armenia about the latest war and loss of territory in Artsakh. Naturally, neither can be proven or disproven beyond the shadow of a doubt but they are worth a mention since they cast a light on the current mood in Armenia. Both theories are based on the possibility of the existence of a ‘traitor’ or ‘traitors,’ and employ a simple linear logic. They also keep the minds of the average citizen occupied and instill a feeling of helplessness amongst the population.

Conspiracy Theory 1 – Pashinyan Planned it All Along

The most extreme version of this theory, and probably the more simple-minded, claims that Nikol Pashinyan had always planned to hand over Artsakh’s territories to Azerbaijan and the revolution was part of this grand scheme. Therefore, he is a traitor. A slightly different take on this conspiracy theory, and as simple-minded, claims that because Pashinyan is a pro-Western man, he willingly destroyed Armenia’s strategic relationship with Russia without having any concerns over loss of territories in Artsakh. Moreover, the loss of territory was Russia’s way of punishing Armenia for moving away from its circle of influence. This theory’s supporters continuously remind us that they cautioned the public on this coming disaster, right before the war, to further prove their point. They also love to point out the examples of loss of territories in Ukraine and Georgia due to the conflict with Russia. Whether their thinking is a product of the political version of palm-reading or an extension of Conspiracy Theory 2 (coming up next), we’ll never know. This theory is favored by some members of the opposition and some self-proclaimed political experts. There are some holes in this theory, and they are as follows:

  1. If in fact Pashinyan was planning to sacrifice Artsakh for an alliance with the West, why didn’t certain elements of the opposition take more drastic action to prevent the coming disaster? There is something more dangerous than a traitor, and that is someone who is incompetent, a reckless egomaniac and addicted to populism. This is a combination that can be disastrous for any nation, let alone a nation that is at war. This is an option that is excluded in the above theory.
  2. Why would Russia punish Armenia just because of one man? Russia’s President Putin is not a capricious child. If Russia’s interests meant keeping Artsakh fully Armenian, a change of leadership in Armenia would not matter to this extent. For any regional superpower, there are easier ways to control the leaders of small countries than setting their house on fire.
  3. Pashinyan has not made any meaningful pro-Western outreach since the revolution. Beyond the cute sock-diplomacy with Canada’s prime minister, a couple of hugs here and there with President Macron of France, a somewhat supportive stance toward the Amulsar mining project which is owned by Western companies, and a symbolic visit to Georgia, his administration has had little or nothing to show for if they are truly pro-Western.
  4. Why did Pashinyan have to go through this bloody and painful exercise to hand over territories, if he had already set his mind on doing so? A major defeat in the battlefield can have unpredictable consequences for any leader, and that is a risk not worth taking. Regardless of Pashinyan’s personal preferences, Armenia was still fully in the Russian sphere of influence when territories of Artsakh were conceded to Azerbaijan.

Conspiracy Theory 2: Pre-Revolution Leaders Were the Real Traitors

The most complicated version of this theory claims that the pre-revolution leadership knew the war was coming, and that Armenia was disadvantaged. Therefore, they let the revolution happen so that when Armenia lost the war, Pashinyan would automatically take the blame. According to this theory, the old guard knew they were going to be forced to give up territory. Therefore, they allowed Pashinyan to take the blame and planned for a soft counter-revolution afterward. A milder version of this theory claims that the revolution was inevitable. Once it had happened, the old guard planned a sit-and-wait strategy peppered with occasional cautionary notes on the dangers of erosion of our strategic relationship with Russia. As war and the loss of territories became reality, they saw an opportunity to dethrone Pashinyan and install their own (and Russia’s) man.

This theory is most popular among the average citizens in Armenia, and while many citizens hold Pashinyan responsible for his mistakes and miscalculations before and after the war, as well as the number of deaths on the battlefield, they overestimate the role of the old guard in the latest defeat. This is probably what can explain the lack of enthusiasm among Armenia’s citizens in support of the opposition rallies calling for the resignation of Pashinyan (the other option is that people are just tired of wars, revolutions, upheaval, and incompetent leaders). There are some holes in this theory, as well.

  1. Why would the old guard take a chance on relinquishing power to Pashinyan in the first place? If Pashinyan had moved swiftly, many of the old guard members would have been in prison by now. There was no guarantee Pashinyan was going to make mistakes.
  2. Did the old guard think the people of Armenia would forgive them for their mistakes? They still haven’t.
  3. The old guard is not homogenous, and therefore such a sophisticated scheme on a grand scale may not be plausible.
  4. The theory assumes that all members of the old guard (with some having connections and business ventures in Artsakh) and their associates were willing to lose Artsakh just to take revenge on Pashinyan. This is an unlikely scenario.
  5. Russia is officially supporting Pashinyan after the war.

In one conspiracy theory, Pashinyan is the only figure at fault for conceding territory, and in the other, it is mainly the old guard who are seen as the agents of defeat. Both viewpoints have a villain or a group of villains, and they are presented as mutually exclusive scenarios. The first theory completely relieves the pre-revolution leadership of responsibility for the situation that lead to the war and losses on the battlefield, and the second gives Pashinyan a pass on one of the most tragic capitulations in Armenian history. What is often missing from the discussions, is an honest self-reflection on the causes of this defeat and a re-evaluation of our strengths and areas of opportunity for growth as a nation. Our Diasporic institutions must also self-reflect and realign their priorities if an independent Armenia and an Armenian Artsakh are to continue to exist. Our national discourse needs to change from ‘name your favorite traitor’ to ‘let’s get serious about building a sustainable Armenian state.’

An honest dialogue, however, has no chance of gaining steam as long as the current administration who was in charge (not necessarily fully responsible for capitulation during the war) is in place. They have shown they are capable of twisting facts and lying to the public to benefit their story-line that relieves them of accountability. They are now a biased party and have conflict of interest in leading this process. This dialogue will also be flawed in the eyes of public, if it perceives the process of calls for accountability being advanced only by the old guard. Ironically, the continued passivity of the public will leave the calls for accountability in the hands of the ‘old guard’ alone, or will ultimately relieve the current administration of responsibility. Without active public engagement, an institutional process that deals with the accountability of defeat and a roadmap for the future will be impossible. Engagement in conspiracy theories will only polarize the population and ultimately enable leaders to avoid accountability. Whatever happens, we cannot continue looking for scapegoats and spend as much non-quality time as we have been on the recent past. The future is calling, and it does not have to be gloomy.

Arc of instability
Dmitry Lesnykh, Speakercom.ru, Dec 1 2020

The powers of the President of Moldova are severely limited by the parliament, but this post still has serious powers. But after Sandu is elected to this position, one can expect early early parliamentary elections, so that the “pro-Western,” in fact, pro-American and pro-Romanian coalition won the majority and also received the post of prime minister to completely determine the course of Moldova. And the direction of this course is obvious: a sharp aggravation of relations with Russia and the reopening of the frozen conflict with Transnistria. Given the fact that the US State Dept invested efforts in the election of Sandu, this is absolutely inevitable. With just one stroke, the presidential elections in Moldova this year were taken by the deputy head of the State Dept “under personal control.” After all, it fits into the visible plan of creating tension around the borders of Russia, from Belarus to the Transcaucasus. The focus on Moldova, with the personal control of pro-American forces, has perfectly understandable characteristics. The unrecognized Transnistrian Republic, which has existed for thirty years, is geographically locked between Ukraine and Moldova.

That is, with potential aggression or a complete blockade, its existence and supply even with essential goods will become almost impossible without tough military-political measures. At the same time, in addition, more than 400k people live in Transnistria, and half of them are citizens of the Russian Federation. Blockade or aggression threaten a humanitarian catastrophe. In addition, there is a peacekeeping group of Russia, which has been the guarantor of the PMR’s security all these years from the renewal of aggression from Moldova in the event that radical nationalists come to power there. Thus, we can conclude that it is absolutely not surprising that the US State Dept takes this situation under its personal control. After all, if the power in Moldova is completely in the hands of pro-American nationalists, then a scenario like a blockade of the PMR (Transnistria – RB) is possible, and renewed direct aggression. Given that Ukraine is an unfriendly country whose foreign policy is under the external control of the US, it is highly likely to support the blockade of the republic if either of the two scenarios begins, either by participating in the blockade for the economic strangulation of Transnistria, or by blocking assistance from Russia in the case of a military scenario on the part of Moldova. Yes, in the early 90s, when the PMR was fighting for its existence from the Romanian and Moldovan nationalists, Ukraine provided some assistance to the PMR, but now Ukraine is not an independent player and will participate in these scenarios.

Thus, we see how important it is for the anti-Russian policy of the American hawks to shake the situation in Moldova, to consolidate both executive and legislative power there, in the hands of their supporters, and to start aggressive scenarios. After all, even a complete blockade of the PMR, without the start of direct hostilities, will lead to famine and a humanitarian catastrophe in the region where more than 200k citizens of the Russian Federation live and about 1,700 Russian military personnel are stationed. At the same time, due to its geographical confinement between Moldova and Ukraine, the region is difficult to supply in the event of the beginning of aggressive scenarios, either blockade or military or a combination of the two. Naturally, therefore, fanning this crisis is beneficial to anti-Russian circles in the US, since this is an advantageous position for them to put pressure on Russia. Therefore, it is not surprising that Sandu has already voiced demands for the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from the PMR (which will make the blockade or aggression against Transnistria much easier, without the threat of a direct clash with Russian troops), and refuses to pay Moldova’s debt for gas to Gazprom (which is about $7.5b).

In this situation, Russia can try to prevent the complete consolidation of power in Moldova in the hands of such destructive forces by supporting more neutral and even relatively pro-Russian forces in the potentially imminent parliamentary elections in Moldova, clearly making it clear to a fairly wide circle of positive-minded voters in the country, what threatens fanning this conflict in Russian-Moldovan relations. We must make it clear that the Russian peacekeeping forces will not leave, especially as long as there is a threat to 200k citizens of the Russian Federation, and the same number of PMR citizens who do not possess the citizenship of our country, and that in this case, a conversation is possible only in a constructive way, and not in the language of threats or ultimatums. Because, unfortunately, these are not separate steps of populism to support the radical layers of voters, but a purposeful policy indicated by the US State Dept. Ensuring the security of the PMR will now again be one of the most difficult but necessary tasks for the Russian Federation. As well as stopping and resolving other problem points, which American hawks are trying to create around the borders of our country in the form of a “flaming arc of instability,” it is necessary to understand that these are not single, albeit difficult situations, but part of a single chain built by architects beyond the ocean, and here an equally serious systemic response is required to stop their destructive activity.

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