by Rostislav Ishchenko
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with http://www.stalkerzone.org/rostislav-ishchenko-seven-against-eight-or-223/
On June 9th-10th, the G7 summit was held in Quebec and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit simultaneously took place in Qingdao. For the first time in Qingdao, the SCO was represented by eight participants. India and Pakistan, which were added to the SCO at the last summit, were included in this summit. Another ten States with the status of observer countries and country-partners stand in the queue for dialogue. And another 10 (including, by the way, Ukraine) applied for observer status, but have not yet received any official status.
For us, 20 candidates for membership and candidates for candidacy are important only from the point of view that this demonstrates the significant potential of the organisation. As our “partners” from the EU and NATO said, explaining the inclusion in their structures of former members of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation and Comecon, “countries are fleeing from unpromising organisations to promising ones”. Judging by the queue for entrance, the SCO is a very promising organisation.
This is not surprising. As was stated at the last summit, it has already overtaken the G7 countries in terms of total GDP, and the gap in terms of GDP per capita is rapidly decreasing. Taking into account that in the SCO countries half the world’s population lives on 60% of the earth’s land, the potential for further growth of their economies is beyond doubt. There isn’t a more capacious and promising market on the planet, and there will not be.
However, the past summit was also characterised by the fact that if earlier the SCO countries were limited to discussing financial-economic problems, occasionally touching upon regional political issues, then this time they made policy program statements on issues that formally aren’t related to the SCO’s interests. The SCO countries called for compliance by all parties with their obligations concerning the Iranian nuclear deal, welcomed the contacts between the DPRK and China, reaffirmed the lack of an alternative to the political settlement of the Syrian crisis on the basis of the Astana agreements (they called for the implementation of the agreement on areas of de-escalation), and also the political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis based on the Minsk Agreements.
Let me remind you that the SCO is the #1 economy in the world today. And the world’s #1 economy has unanimously determined its global political priorities. Now everyone will be obliged to reckon with this. The fact is that everyone who has been following the rise of Russia and China in recent decades and the gradual reformatting of the global political space could have noticed that the Euro-Asian association has never been in a hurry to say something or threaten someone. Unlike the Euro-Atlantic alliance – which flailed around in constant hysterics, before making specific political statements or taking concrete steps in the international arena, both Moscow and Beijing accumulated forces, attracted allies, or at least transferred potential opponents to the status of neutrals, and only then acted. It is precisely this that allowed them to outplay the much more militarily and economically strong collective West.
The West’s military advantage was buried during Putin’s demonstration of the latest Russian weapons during his annual address to the Federal Assembly. Its economic superiority has also been in question for a long time, and suddenly on June 9th-10th at the SCO summit it was also finally buried. Now it’s not just the United States that is ceding the title of the #1 economy in the world to China, but the collective West also lost its economic superiority, being squeezed out from 1st place by the SCO. Let me remind you that the SCO consists of 8 members. I.e., the volume of the economy of the 8 SCO member States exceeded the volume of the economies of the 7 most developed Western countries.
I think that it is precisely for this reason that, having eliminated the superiority of the West in the military-political and economic sphere, the SCO started to make political statements only now. Now the SCO countries can back up their desires with real actions. The West itself destroyed the rules of world trade, having started, contrary to the rules of the WTO, to impose sanctions against anyone they want for political reasons. The Eurasian Union is not as greedy for applying sanctions as the Euro-Atlantic is, and does not impose them so quickly. But if it does impose them, it really hurts.
On June 10th, in a joint declaration, the SCO expressed its will, its vision of the prospects for solving current crises, and the rules for building a future world. What was the collective West able to respond with? Nothing. It would have been better if they hadn’t gathered for their G7. Then there wouldn’t be such a contrast.
Actually, Western countries had two main bullet points: how to avoid a trade war, caused by US prohibitive duties on basic European, Canadian and Japanese commodity exports, as well as what to do with Russia, without which the West found itself not being able to solve any current problems in international relations.
Concerning the first question, the “6” tried to organise a collective attack on Trump, in response to which the American President – in his usual free manner, without equivocation – stated that the “6” are used to enriching themselves at the expense of the US, but it won’t be able to do this anymore. The issue of the economic unity of the West was closed on this. Now the dear Europeans need to think whether to accept the challenge of the United States and start an economic war or to shamefully capitulate without even trying to resist. Given the fact that Trump has also personally managed to offend almost each of the participants of the meeting, the chances of making a choose in favor of war has dramatically increased.
In this regard, the course of the discussion about the second (Russian) issue is interesting. Firstly, it is Trump that took the bull by the horns and proposed to return Russia to the “8” – i.e., to expand the format of the G7 to the G8. He was enthusiastically supported by the Italian Prime Minister, but everyone else rejected such a radical change of policy. Then a completely empty statement was signed that once again called on Russia to show good will and to appease the West by abandoning its own position concerning all topical issues of the global agenda. But Trump managed to withdraw the US’ signature from it already on the way to Singapore.
By the way, the fact that the US President’s schedule was drawn up in such a way that he had to give up the final stage of the G7 meeting for the sake of the meeting with Kim Jong-un, which took place under Chinese mediation, is also very significant. The leader of the West left his main allies in order not to be late for the meeting with the leader of the DPRK, who the West only a couple years ago didn’t notice in general. It should be kept in mind that the meeting with Kim Jong-un was planned when the date and protocol of the G7 meeting were known at least a few months prior. If the US had insisted on the meeting in Singapore taking place a day or two later, then neither China nor North Korea would’ve gotten worked up.
But the Americans did not insist. Trump, by all accounts, was not averse to getting away from his rebellious allies much earlier by using a plausible excuse.
It is necessary to understand that Donald Trump is not an urban crazy but the US President, relying on the support of a large part of the political elite and has a good chance of being re-elected. Otherwise he would have been consigned to the dustbin of history by impeachment. I.e., his astonishing, disdainful behavior towards European allies is not the personal position of a businessman who lost his marbles (as he is sometimes presented as). This is the position of people who control the power in the US today and plan to control it for at least another six years, and this is the position that was supported by most voters.
Long ago I wrote that over the past decade we have seen the frantic attempts of the American elites to find the missing resources for carrying out a hegemonic policy. After the failure of the attempt to quickly loot Russia and China – turning them into secondary political entities that pursue a foreign and economic policy that is favorable to Washington – the Euro-Atlantic and Pacific allies of the United States, which were proposed to sign the TTIP and TTP quickly and without asking further questions, had to become the donors of the necessary resources. But the allies dug their heels in and the Obama administration was able to push forward these two “partnerships” in the right form.
Trump immediately refused to continue negotiations over the TTIP and withdrew from the already signed TTP. This marked a new American policy towards allies. If with their help it wasn’t succeeded to suppress Russia and to milk from them the resources needed to continue the American fight, then it is necessary to throw them from the ship as extra ballast.
Of course, all of this doesn’t happen in just one day. But the United States is quite clearly trying to abandon any support for allies and any trade relations that are profitable for them, while maintaining its trade and economic interests in Europe. In fact, if before it was proposed to the EU to relax and grab its ankles, then now the US switched to direct violence. At the same time, there is iron Western logic in the words and actions of Trump. The West as a united front was against Russia and China, but the US was its main force and carried the costs, while the others were mostly just counting the profits. The US has spent too much and can no longer provide resources for the collective policy of the West. It will be honest if the EU, Japan, Canada, and other allies tighten their belts and help the hegemon financially. Well, and if they do not want to do this, then the US has the great right of a hegemon to take away from its vassals everything that it needs, without asking the opinion of the vassals themselves.
It is clear that Washington can no longer carry out its hegemony in general without its allies, but it is not ready for an equal partnership and is trying to find a new junior partner (instead of the too expensive, too clumsy, and inefficient EU). Such a partner for Washington can be either Russia or China. Hence the policy of Trump in relation to Moscow and Beijing. Sanctions haven’t been lifted, new ones are even being introduced, but a desire for a timely solution of complicated and irritating political issues is being demonstrated. Especially if a compromise can be found at the expense of the interests of already unneeded allies (regardless of whether it is the EU or South Korea and Japan).
The United States would like to play in a pair, but so far they don’t know with who. That’s why they are trying to drag Russia into the G8. The calculation is simple: if you can play on the slowness of European politicians and institutions that are unable to quickly rebuild, then you can try within the framework of the G8 to oppose the “6” together with Putin. So then the impudent Europe will be punished, but the Russian-European rapprochement will come under attack.
At the same time, since a united Eurasia is the main project bringing Moscow and Beijing together, Russia’s game on the side of the US and against the EU, even if it is within the framework of the G8, can cause irritation in China. And in the Chinese direction Trump also creates platforms of common interests – for example, he launches a long negotiating process with Kim Jong-un in which the US clearly benefits from if they can convince the DPRK to abandon its nuclear weapons, and they will pay for it at the expensive of the interests of Japan, South Korea, and even China. Nuclear disarmament of the North in exchange for ending the state of war and withdrawing American troops from South Korea dramatically reduces the security of Seoul and Tokyo, and the unification of Korea placed on the agenda does not meet the interests of China and Japan.
Thus, Trump is trying to create for the US a new platform for trade, to close political formats that don’t leave Washington any room for manoeuvre, and to open new ones that allow to actively manoeuvre promising unions. Washington is trying to replace the losing format of 8 (SCO) against 7 (G7) with the format of 2 (Russia and the US) against 2 (the US and China), which in total involves only three countries.
Of course, Trump’s manoeuvring is extremely risky. But it rests on the slowness and clumsiness of the European Union, which simply will not have the time (due to the length of its procedures and the complexity of the agreements) to swap a pro-American policy for an anti-American one. He also hopes that Japan and South Korea have nowhere to go from under the American umbrella and will hope for the best until the last moment, and that their possible intrigues against the US are possible only with Russia, which also should arouse suspicion in China and close the Beijing direction off to Moscow.
After all, he has no options anyway. He is obliged to sacrifice piece after piece in order to win the race and as a result to try while exhaling at the last moment to overtake the opponent and to save the lost game. “Whoever doesn’t risk doesn’t drink champagne!” is the slogan of pure and non-turbid business. But Trump is indeed a businessman, and all American policies in the era of their success were pure and non-turbid business. And then the ideologised neocons came and ruined everything. Trump was push forward for the presidency in order to try to return to the old-good schemes in the context of a geopolitical zugzwang – where every new move worsens the situation. And it must be said that he found an interesting, although not winning continuation. However, he stands a chance only if the enemy makes gross errors, otherwise there is no chance at all. And there a lot of opponents, maybe someone will make a mistake.
In general, the group of 7 was sacrificed at the summit, and it was shown that they are ready to sacrifice the EU, special relations with Canada, a trusting partnership with the UK, and much more for the sake of preserving the freedom of hands in the global game. So far, they are not ready to sacrifice only their military presence on the territories of allies, and only because they want to keep this trump card for further geopolitical exchange.
Now the ball is in the EU’s court. Germany has long tried to reorientate critically important economic ties with the US towards other partners, including Russia, but the process is far from over. Similarly, the process of creating a single European army to replace NATO is not completed (it just started). Trump put his European friends in a very difficult situation – where it is impossible not to respond to his rudeness, but there still isn’t anything to respond with. Let’s see whether the savvy Europeans will find an effective move that can beat the Danaë sacrifices of Trump.