There are several things going on with Russia right now. Connecting them all together is an interesting exercise. I’ve collected several links about it, unfortunately spread over a half dozen browsers on three platforms, a couple of which are no longer available, plus many saved onto a USB drive that is a bit hard to search. So I’ll likely find a couple of other links via a new search or three.
The basics are:
Russia, Brazil, and China are cooperating on setting up their own Internet Backbone that avoids USA intrusive control and monitoring. They have caught on that the NSA via Prism has put data collection and backdoor access into just about every major operating system and router product ( i.e. Cisco, Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc. etc.) along with any Telco of note ( AT&T, et. al.) and don’t like it. So for traffic between their countries, and with friends and hangers on, they are looking to move that outside of US and US based company control.
NSA spying scandal spurs BRIC countries to build own Undersea cable network
October 25, 2013 By Economyman Leave a Comment
The BRICS countries are in the process of completing a brand new Internet CABLE backbone that would bypass the United States entirely and to ensure the protection of the bric countries from the US governments NSA spying.
Brazil will be in center stage with this project and is set to finalize a 34,000-kilometre undersea fiber-optic cable by 2015 that will run from Vladivostok –> Russia to -> Fortaleza –> Brazil, via Shantou –> China –> Chennai, India —> and Cape Town, South Africa (PIC BELOW)
Russia, China, and maybe Brazil are cooperating on setting up oil trade not in $US, so that money flows are not subject to USA observation / control / embargo / whatever. For oil price in $US, those dollars “clear” at US Banks, so are observed and controlled by the US agencies. Trade in Rubles or Yuan or Reals clears in their banks. As we’ve way overused “trade embargo” and asset freezes, there are a very many countries that would be quite happy to leave the USA / EU / UK banking umbrella and tell us to go bugger off. Most of the Muslim world, for example, along with major parts of Latin America (think Venezuela, for example).
China and Russia have agreed to allow their currencies to trade against each other in spot inter-bank markets.
The motive is to promote the bilateral trade between China and Russia, facilitate the cross-border trade settlement of [the yuan], and meet the needs of economic entities to reduce the conversion cost, according to Chinese officials.
This latest move — a continuation in a series of efforts by both countries to move away from U.S. dollar usage in international trade — further threatens the dollar’s reserve currency status.
Russia sees itself as the natural inheritor of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Eastern Orthodox Church from it. It might be cynical, or it might be more of a cultural touchstone, but there it is. And what does an Empire do, by birthright? Sustain itself, expand its borders, “protect” its citizens (often as the expense of those not of the central type…), and generally not take direction from others. Putin knows this. The Russian people remember when they were a super power. Their history is full of Varangean Guards bring treasure (and religion and writing and…) back from the Eastern Empire. Unlike us in the West, Russia remembers history.
The Varangians or Varyags (Old Norse: Væringjar; Greek: Βάραγγοι, Βαριάγοι, Varangoi, Variagoi) was the name given by Greeks and East Slavs to Vikings, who between the 9th and 11th centuries ruled the medieval state of Rus’ and formed the Byzantine Varangian Guard. According to the 12th century Kievan Primary Chronicle, a group of Varangians known as the Rus’ settled in Novgorod in 862 under the leadership of Rurik. Before Rurik, the Rus’ might have ruled an earlier hypothetical polity. Rurik’s relative Oleg conquered Kiev in 882 and established the state of Kievan Rus’, which was later ruled by Rurik’s descendants.
Engaging in trade, piracy, and mercenary activities, Varangians roamed the river systems and portages of Gardariki, as the areas north of the Black Sea were known in the Norse sagas. They controlled the Volga trade route (Route from the Varangians to the Arabs), connecting the Baltic to the Caspian Sea, and the Dnieper trade route (Route from the Varangians to the Greeks) leading to the Black Sea and Constantinople. Those were the critically important trade links at that time, connecting Medieval Europe with wealthy and developed Arab Caliphates and the Byzantine Empire; Most of the silver coinage in the West came from the East via those routes. Attracted by the riches of Constantinople, the Varangian Rus’ initiated a number of Rus’-Byzantine Wars, some of which resulted in advantageous trade treaties. At least from the early 10th century many Varangians served as mercenaries in the Byzantine Army, constituting the elite Varangian Guard (the personal bodyguards of Byzantine Emperors). Eventually most of them, both in Byzantium and in Eastern Europe, were converted from paganism to Orthodox Christianity, culminating in the Christianization of Kievan Rus’ in 988. Coinciding with the general decline of the Viking Age, the influx of Scandinavians to Rus’ stopped, and Varangians were gradually assimilated by East Slavs by the late 11th century.
The start of Russia as The Rus is directly connected to the Eastern Empire, and to Ukraine. The know that when you need some coin, a shakedown of the West is a good place to start. They also know that they are the last bastion of that Empire, and the place preserving it and the Eastern Orthodoxy for the good of everyone else (want it or not…)
The also know that starting a war or two can be a great way to get advantage. Land, money, contracts, treaties. It’s just another tool of the trade.
Compare with The West
We are continuing in the Western Empire tradition (in the EU) where infighting and petty bickering is in competition with Empire Corruption and the extortion of more taxes from the subjugated peoples. Not much different from all the OTHER prior attempts at Western Empire. From the various sizes and shapes of the Roman Empire, to the Holy Roman Empire (when the Germans tried to operated it), to Napoleon when the French took a crack at it, and even to that more or less polite English Empire, that slopped over into Africa, India, and North America; among other places, since Europe was kind of taken at the time. (Along the way there were also Spanish Empire, and some others). All questing in their own way for those good old days of Rome and the lucre of Empire.
The USA, for a long while, was the place where the Celt ideals had control. No central empire. Distributed local control. Things had to be done via the vote and approval of the people. “Delegation upward” only if the cause was just. Then, about the start of W.W.I to the end of W.W.II, that started to be replaced with Central Authority, which has slowly turned our Republic ever more into an Empire-wanna-be. We now have an, effectively, Police State; what with the degree of intrusive monitoring and central authority; more cops and prisons that any sane country really needs. We still have the form of a Republic, but it is tenuous at best now. Rather like the old Roman Republic, we are well on our way to having created an unstoppable Central Authority, just waiting for the Emperor Wanna-be who is willing to grasp it. Every president since Ike has moved for more Presidential authority. Never has power moved back to local control. It is only a matter of time, now.
So we have a couple of places vying to be The New Rome.
But the problem is that having two Empires has never been very stable…
So the USA has had ongoing direct conflict with Russia / USSR. And a load of ‘by proxy’ conflict. Post W.W.II, the EU was mostly just trying to reassemble itself. Now the New Western Roman Empire is effectively a ‘done deal’. Britain is still a bit on the sidelines, fondly remembering the ‘good old days’ when it had its own global empire… but is pretty much inside the pen. I suppose that by some great effort it might be able to escape, but doubt it will really try.
The Western Empire is now dependent on the Eastern Empire for a load of fuel, and some amount of food. The Eastern Empire needs some technology from the West, but not much anymore (and increasingly can get nearly anything tech or manufactures it needs from China – who have always been their own Empire…) There is inherent tension between these two poles of the Redux Roman Empires.
And on the side, we have the USA. Pot stirring. Going on adventures (often ill advised). Nice cash cow to be milked by all. But increasingly a decrepit thing. Manufacture pretty much off to China other than very specialized things, or things with very high shipping costs or very small scale. Oh, and Subsidy Queens like GM. Lead by a toothless and often clueless wonder, who mostly doesn’t understand at all how an economy works, what strategic thinking is, or how military power really ought to be used. Looking for political advantage, not strategic advantage.
But all analogies break down on changed things. Rome did not face a Muslim Empire. Byzantium did, and fell to it. So there is a big unknown in how these two Empires Redux will respond to a resurgent Islam this time. The Holy Roman Empire did face them a bit at the borders, but mostly the task fell to the Spanish and Portuguese (modulo the French kicking them out of France).
So as Islam looks to recreate their various Empires (such as the Ottoman Empire), they are running head long into the Rome Again Rome Again… Oddly, this time the French are welcoming them in. Greece and Spain may have a stronger memory of what it was like, having had a few hundred years of subjugation. Russia knows the risks, yet is playing a close friend to many Islamic states. It is very unclear to me how Russia sees this all, or plans to ‘sort it out’.
Yet what is clear is that the old Ottomans are looking to reform the Caliphate, with Turkey torn between old Byzantine glory and a New Turk role; with much of North Africa and the Levant in turmoil. So this is already a place with fuel in the streets and folks running around with torches. Sparks now blowing in the wind into Paris and more of the EU.
So What’s The World To Do?
I do wish the Celtic Ideals were more prevalent in the world today. Less dreams of Empire and more dreams of local authority, individual rights and freedoms. But it isn’t.
If history shows anything at all, it shows that the drive to Empire is strong, and persistent. It takes constant vigilance to suppress it; and right now nobody is doing much of anything to even slow down the rush to Empire. Which is followed close behind by domestic oppression and international wars.
Worse, we have at least 4 (and likely more) resurgent Empires. East and West New Rome, The USA on its way, New Ottoman Caliphate, and a couple of ‘wanna-be’ efforts with the integration efforts in South America into a new Spanish Empire of sorts (but still too weak to matter) based on an EU model, and China starting to feel its oats and getting pushy.
How do I think this will play out?
First off, Islam is never ever going to stop pushing to convert and occupy the entire world. It is a core of the religion. So for starters, getting that old Caliphate back up and functioning will be a returning goal. The only good news being that insiders fighting each other tends to slow down their progress. That, and when you spend most of your waking hours creating mayhem or reading the Koran, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for manufacture and technical advancement. So I’d expect them to continue to be a PITA to everyone else, but not make much progress outside of the “war of the womb” replacing the EU from within. That will take a generation (about 30 years).
Second, Putin is unlikely to want to wait 30 years. He wants things inside his remaining active lifetime. Call it 20 years, tops. So I’d put Russia in play, well, now.
The EU is playing a slow game, and with the British “Great Game” advice, is mostly working to get their interior controls tightened up, make mayhem in the Russian underbelly, and suck up all the money they can for personal gain. Besides, they can use the US Army any time they want to make some military adventures, and doing it cheap too… So I’d expect the EU to avoid any actual military adventures (at least beyond that needed to get the Americans to do most of it).
But what happens when Putin takes some more of the EU empire for his own? Hmmm…. And will China continue to just arrange it so the USA weakens and they can do whatever they want locally? That’s where it gets sticky. China will spread power and control locally (on their borders), but mostly look to create problems by proxy for the USA and Japan. A border truce with Russia is likely, and perhaps even cooperation with each looking to ‘other borders’ for gains. (Expect China to help India and Pakistan find reasons to fight each other…)
Which leaves Russia with reforming the old Soviet Empire territories. As, so far, the Western Response as been a very loud “Tsk Tsk!” and some refusal to sell things (along with a loud begging noise for more gas, please…), I think Putin knows he has an essentially free hand. As long as he only does “one country a year”… Evidence? Well, Ukraine has been the most recent pain. He’s still there. Oh, and longer term looking to cut them out of the gas pipeline trade…
Russia to Shift Ukraine Gas Transit to Turkey as EU Cries Foul
By Elena Mazneva January 14, 2015
Russia plans to shift all its natural gas flows crossing Ukraine to a route via Turkey, a surprise move that the European Union’s energy chief said would hurt its reputation as a supplier.
The decision makes no economic sense, Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission’s vice president for energy union, told reporters today after talks with Russian government officials and the head of gas exporter, OAO Gazprom (GAZP), in Moscow.
Gazprom, the world’s biggest natural gas supplier, plans to send 63 billion cubic meters through a proposed link under the Black Sea to Turkey, fully replacing shipments via Ukraine, Chief Executive Officer Alexey Miller said during the discussions. About 40 percent of Russia’s gas exports to Europe and Turkey travel through Ukraine’s Soviet-era network.
Now the EU is all “panties in a bunch” over this, as the gas does not end up in the cold north where the Holy Roman Empire wants it to be. It doesn’t connect well with the EU pipelines.
Sefcovic said he was “very surprised” by Miller’s comment, adding that relying on a Turkish route, without Ukraine, won’t fit with the EU’s gas system.
Gazprom plans to deliver the fuel to Turkey’s border with Greece and “it’s up to the EU to decide what to do” with it further, according to Sefcovic.
“We don’t work like this,” he said. “The trading system and trading habits — how we do it today — are different.”
Sefcovic said he arrived in the Russian capital to discuss supplies to south-eastern EU countries after Putin scrapped the proposed $45 billion South Stream pipeline. The region, even if Turkey is included, doesn’t need the volumes Gazprom is planning for a new link, he said.
It is clearly a strategic move by Russia to be able to “convince” Ukraine that they want to be in the tender embrace of the folks who can shut off the gas… and to be able to tell the EU to “shut up and let us have a free hand”, or be very cold and hungry…
It also ties the New East Byzantine Empire with the New Ottoman Turks more closely. That needs more thought… Just why, and why is Putin feeling good about that ‘tie up’ of empires… Perhaps angling for more reason to control more southern lands and ports… Black Sea anyone?
Meanwhile, back at the EU and USA
We are playing Stupid Games with windmills… (In fairness, the private sector of the USA is still doing a great job of that Celtic thing with fracking and drilling and producing in a not-so-central-planned kind of way here in the USA ;-)
The 28-nation EU is planning build an energy union to reduce dependence on Russia and facilitate transition to a low-carbon economy. Russia was planning South Stream for about a decade, first claiming it would meet expanding demand in the EU, then saying would ensure supplies from high transit risks via Ukraine.
I’m reminded of a business cartoon I saw once, long ago. A mainframe company named Sperry was having hard times, and another old line one named Univac was also having pains. The cartoon showed two rocks on the bottom of a river with a rope tide to both of them. Each labeled with one of those names. The caption read “Maybe if we tie ourselves together we will float…” Eventually a merger happened, and Unisys was the result. Their 10 year chart is pretty dismal, and this event preceded it by many more years of decline:
Yes, that thing flat-lined to the right bottom is it…
Only for the EU, it’s 28 rocks on the bottom and 28 x 28 ropes, and some windmills tied in too. Yeah, that’s gonna make ’em float… that “tie up” is not going to fix things. Energy production does not care how many of you are sharing a legal framework…
IMHO, this all ends up in an odd paradigm.
The New Eastern Empire is joining forces with the Caliphate, to sap and drain the New Western Empire. As The Western Empire evolves into dependence and turmoil, Russia takes the cold north, the Caliphate the warm south. The USA is not even at the table; being far too occupied with Political Correctness internally and with redistributing the deck chairs and assuring everyone has tickets to the Orchestra Deck during the holing of our ship of economy.
Eventually we have China dominating in the East and South East Asia. Russia with the northern cold band into Germany and Scandinavia (perhaps with a bit of north France too). The UK holding the remains of the Western Empire (i.e. not much…), but they are good at that… and the USA more feeble and self centered, merging into a Latin Empire of Mañana Life Style.
How long? Hard to say, but I’d put it as 20 years, max, for Europe / Russia and closer to a 10 year goal for the New Caliphate / Ottoman Turks. USA perhaps a bit longer, and it is always possible the UK and parts of the EU might not like this and could start a ruckus about it.
I would also hope that Russia gets some hard push back on recent Empire Building and needs to slow down. I’d also hope that The West figures out that The New Caliphate has their eyes firmly on ALL prior Muslim territory, including Spain, Greece, et. al. (The Koran demands it. Yes, it specifically demands than any territory ever converted to Islam must be recaptured; so they ARE going to go for it.) “But hope is not a strategy. -E.M.Smith”…
In the end, is there anywhere left for the free and independent spirits of the world to live in a place with minimal Central Authority and maximum local control, freedom, and privacy? Maybe on some uninteresting island somewhere in a 3rd world economic context… but even then, Empires have tended to capture them…
For a good 100 years or so, the USA has been the place keeping Empire at bay. Yes, Canada and Australia and even New Zealand have joined in (after the British Empire let them go). But the last 50 years has seen a significant erosion of real freedoms, real liberty, and nearly all real privacy. Much of the world is already in functional police states of one or another “Empires In The Making”. If the USA continues the present path to decline and self absorption, just who will stop Empires from taking over? All it takes for evil to triumph is for men of good will to do nothing (paraphrase of Edmund Burke) and we are certainly busy doing nothing that matters. Tilting at windmills, railing at the weather, and worried about who is most easily upset by speech of which they do not approve. Oh, and redistributing ever smaller slices of pie with ever larger vig taken at each redistribution…
So watch The New Caliphate and Putin, as they have the shortest time lines, near as I can tell.
Somehow this must change. But at present, the changes are all toward more Empire, and the inevitable following wars and tyranny.