Dhaka August 04 2022:
Inside Russia : Outside Russia : News Digest by the Embassy of Russian Federation in Bangladesh on August 04 2022.
New Russian foreign policy priority outlined
A “Greater Eurasia” economic framework may become Russia’s top diplomatic goal, a senior foreign ministry strategist says
The promotion of free trade and regional integration across greater Eurasia may become a priority for Russian foreign policy for years to come, says Aleksey Drobinin, who is a senior strategist at the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The idea behind the so-called Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP) is to foster economic relations between nations without interfering with their domestic policies. It would serve as “a framework contour for economic integration and security, which would be open for all nations and organizations on the continent,” according to Drobinin.
“Its added value would be the harmonious conjunction of integration projects, national development strategies, chains of production and logistics and energy transport corridors,” he wrote in a keynote article, published on Wednesday.
GEP was first proposed by President Vladimir Putin in 2015. He promoted its merits in late May as he was addressing the leaders of the Eurasian Economic Union, a regional integration body that includes several former Soviet republics.
Putin called GEP “a big civilizational project” meant to “change the political and economic architecture of the entire continent, become a safeguard of stability and prosperity that would account for the diversity of development models, cultures and traditions of all peoples.”
US did not suggest Russia return to talks on treaty to replace New START — Lavrov
NAYPYITAW, August 3. /TASS/. The United States has not approached Russia in order to resume talks on a document to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday at a news conference following talks with his Myanmar counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin.
“They [the US] have not even suggested resuming these talks. There have been no appeals to us about resuming the negotiation process,” Lavrov said. According to the minister, the Americans have made a habit of “announcing some things over the microphone and then forgetting about them.”
When asked whether Russia was also ready to invite China to the talks if the process was resumed, Lavrov said that Beijing would then make its own decision. “When and if that happens, it will be up to China itself to decide whether to join these talks, the Americans know our position perfectly well,” the minister pointed out.
Age of Russia-West cooperation over – senior diplomat
Moscow only needs “transactional” deals with Western states, the official has suggested
The West is trying to protect its power from an emerging multipolar world, so countries like Russia that reject Washington’s “rules-based order” have no other option but resistance, a senior Russian diplomat has said. After the present crisis in Ukraine, there can be no return to attempts at integration with the US and its allies, he believes.
Russia’s attack against Ukraine became “a milestone on the path towards a new world order,” Russian foreign ministry official Aleksey Drobinin wrote in a keynote article on Wednesday. He heads a department responsible for academic research and strategic planning on behalf of the ministry.
“Regardless of the duration and outcome of the special military operation, even now we can acknowledge that a three-decade-long period of mostly constructive, if problematic cooperation with the West is gone for good,” he said.
The breakup dispels “the last illusions” that Russians may have about the merits of a “friendly takeover” of their country by the US and its allies after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the analyst added.
He assessed that amid the current confrontation, the “irrational equation of Western with ‘progressive,’ Western with ‘attractive’” by some people in Russia was no longer “up to date.” Such moods, he said, persisted in various forms since the time of Peter the Great, who ruled the country in the late 17th and early 18th century.
The 3,500-word article gives a preview of the upcoming update of Russia’s foreign-policy concept, a document that guides the work of the foreign ministry and other parts of the government. Moscow perceives as inevitable the arrival of a multipolar world order, which would replace a brief moment of US-led unipolarity that emerged in the 1990s.
Several “civilizational” blocs, each led by a powerful nation like the US, China or Russia, will be the stakeholders in the future, but the exact configuration is yet to be determined, Drobinin predicted.
The diplomat accused the US of actively undermining international institutions and of otherwise destabilizing the world in a fruitless attempt to delay the reduction of its power. Russia is at the forefront of opposing Washington, he said.
“We have to realize that the Russophobic-minded collective West is a dangerous and motivated … opponent that remains strong, has a leading military-technological potential and controls a large portion of the global markets, financial resources, logistical chains and flows of information,” he warned.
Russia will pursue closer ties with non-Western players, foster regional integration, help create new international financial and management mechanisms that would be free from Western control and otherwise ensure that it would have a say in how the future multipolar world would work, Drobinin said.
“For many [nations] the acute problems are access to cheap energy (not a switch to ‘green’ technology), socio-economic development (not the ultraliberal version of human rights), security and sovereign equality (not the imposed Western-style electoral democracy),” he argued.
As for dealing with nations that Russia deems “unfriendly,” it is currently “only possible on a one-shot transactional basis … in cases where Russia would benefit and where there is no suitable alternative,” the diplomat said.
According to Drobinin, Moscow hopes that Europe would distance itself from Washington and become a force of its own, as political forces pursuing sovereignty and national interests gain power.
Russia could “offer to Europe a scheme of future cooperation that would on the one hand support autonomist desires of the Europeans and on the other hand would ensure that our nation would not face any kinds of threats from the European direction,” he wrote. Pursuing that goal would be a challenge, he acknowledged.
Nuclear conflict scenarios back on table – Russia’s Foreign Ministry
The erosion of global arms control by the US has forced world powers to revive their nuclear war planning, a diplomat argues
“Built by generations of negotiators, the framework for arms control and preservation of strategic stability is now being dismantled at the instigation of the US. The Americans have lowered the first-strike threshold in their military doctrine,” Drobinin wrote in an article for the Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn (International Life) magazine published Wednesday.
“These and other concerning factors are yet again bringing the most dangerous scenarios of conflict between nuclear powers, fraught with disastrous consequences, back into the view of military planners,” he warned.
Nevertheless, the emergence of a multipolar world order – in which Russia is actively involved – will make the globe a safer place, unless the West chooses to interfere, the diplomat argues. “Everyone will benefit from the multipolarity and deglobalization – provided no-one disrupts the natural course of these objective phenomena,” Drobinin argued.
“What is of crucial importance here is how the political establishment of North America and Western Europe chooses to behave… Unless they are able to suppress the pain they are feeling over losing their power over the world – however humanly understandable that pain may be – and stop ‘grabbing the gun’ every time patient diplomacy is in order, the alarming trend of the growing importance of strength in international affairs will not only endure but intensify,” Drobinin wrote.
On Monday, in a letter to participants of the tenth Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated that there would be no winners in a nuclear war, and it must never be allowed to happen.
The landmark New START remains the only major arms control agreement between Moscow and Washington still in force. In early 2021, the deal was on the brink of expiration, but it was ultimately salvaged shortly after Biden’s inauguration, when Washington finally agreed to Moscow’s calls to prolong the deal without any preconditions. It is currently set to expire in 2026.
Rosatom expecting to receive principal license for construction of Paks-2 NPP in coming months
YEKATERINBURG. Aug 3 (Interfax) – The Rosatom state corporation expects to receive the principal license to build the Paks-2 nuclear power plant in Hungary in the coming months, Rosatom CEO Alexei Likhachev told reporters in Yekaterinburg on Wednesday.
“For Paks-2, we expect to receive the main license in the next few months. It is important to understand that it is of course the Hungarian regulator and the Hungarian government that have the final say in this decision,” he said.
“In order to maintain the momentum of construction and to act within the contractual terms, of course, we would very much like to have this license issued in the coming months,” Likhachev said.
International equipment suppliers have given assurances that they would continue collaborating with the Paks II nuclear power plant project in Hungary, as international sanctions imposed against Russia do not affect the nuclear industry, Janos Suli, a Hungarian minister without a portfolio in charge of the project, was quoted as saying in a press release posted on the Paks 2 website in April.
The Paks-2 company has received construction licenses for more than half of construction and installation work. The new documents will be issued soon, allowing the project to proceed to the second stage, Suli said.
Hungary is still waiting for a license to build the plant. In early February, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that the country expects the license to be issued as soon as possible, which would allow it to proceed with construction.
At the moment, the only NPP in Hungary, Paks, built under a Soviet project, has four power units with VVER-440 type reactors with a total capacity of about 2 GW. In 2009, the Hungarian Parliament approved the construction of two new power units of this NPP, but the construction period was affected by the protracted proceedings of the European Commission.
The cost of the project is about 12.5 billion euros; Russia’s Rosatom state corporation signed contracts for the completion of the nuclear power plant in December 2014. In March of the same year, Russia and Hungary signed an agreement on a long-term loan of up to 10 billion euros.
Russian gas giant warns it can’t accept key turbine
Western sanctions make it impossible to properly return a turbine for the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, Russian energy giant Gazprom claimed on Wednesday. The missing equipment has been the key reason for supply cuts.
Siemens Energy CEO Christian Bruch earlier said that the German company had fulfilled all conditions for sending the repaired turbine back to Russia. According to Bruch, the company is “extremely interested” in advancing the process and blamed missing documents from the Russian side for the delay.
“The sanctions regimes of Canada, the EU, the UK and the inconsistency of the current situation with the current contractual obligations on the part of Siemens make the delivery of the 073 engine to the Portovaya [compressor station] impossible,” Gazprom said on Wednesday.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited the Siemens plant in Mülheim an der Ruhr on Tuesday and inspected the Nord Stream turbine located there. According to Scholz, the turbine is ready for operation and could be sent to Russia.
In mid-June, Gazprom reduced gas supplies via Nord Stream to 40%, as the German-based Siemens had not returned the turbine in time after repairs in Canada, due to the sanctions. At Berlin’s urging, Canada agreed to send the equipment to Germany, and then on to Russia. On July 25, Gazprom confirmed that it had received documents for the turbine from Siemens.
On July 27, Russian gas supplies to Europe via Nord Stream dropped to 20% of their maximum level, due to Gazprom decommissioning another gas turbine engine at the Portovaya compressor station.
Vitaly Markelov, deputy head of Gazprom, said that Siemens was not fulfilling its obligations to repair faulty engines for Nord Stream. According to Markelov, several engines at the compressor station are currently idle due to emergency failures, since Siemens has not repaired them.
On July 29, Markelov said that the delivery of the turbine from Canada to Germany, instead of Russia, did not comply with the contract. In addition, he said that Gazprom has not received from Siemens a complete package of documents that allow the transportation and repair of engines for the gas pipeline.
Schroeder says Merkel, Steinmeier made “wise” decision to keep Ukraine out of NATO
BERLIN, August 3. /TASS/. Germany’s former chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder (served from 1998 till 2005), has said that the country’s former leader Angela Merkel (in office in 2005-2021) and the then foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, made a “wise decision” at the 2008 NATO summit to prevent Ukraine from joining the alliance.
“Ukraine’s NATO membership is a blessing. Who prevented this at the NATO summit in 2008? Angela Merkel and Frank-Walter Steinmeier,” Schroeder said in an interview with Stern magazine published on Wednesday. “It was a wise decision. Even [Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky said that there was an alternative, such as Ukraine’s armed neutrality without NATO membership, like Austria’s,” he added.
At the same time, Schroeder pointed out that “if you look at the problems that are really relevant, they are solvable.”
“First, Crimea. To think that Ukrainian President Zelensky will take over Crimea again by military means is absurd. With the exception of the Tatar minority, this region is Russian. The former Soviet state and party leader, Nikita Khrushchev, handed it over to Ukraine, which at that time was part of the Soviet Union,” Schroeder said.
“This could be solved with the help of a timeline, maybe not in 99 years’ time, the way it happened with Hong Kong, but in the next generation,” he believes. Also, among the current problems, Schroeder believes, Ukraine’s already mentioned wish to join NATO stands out. The situation in the Donbass, according to Germany’s ex-chancellor, is more complicated. “It was stipulated in the Minsk agreements that Donbass shall remain part of Ukraine, but at the same time the Russian minority should have more rights. But the Ukrainians abolished even bilingualism in Donbass. For this, it is necessary to achieve a solution using the Swiss confederation as a model,” Schroeder concluded.
In early June, during her first contact with the media since leaving office Germany’s former chancellor, Angela Merkel, explained why she opposed Ukraine’s fast-tracked entry into the alliance at the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest. She said “Ukraine was then a different country, it was strongly divided in the field of domestic politics.” In addition, Merkel speculated that at that time Russia might have interfered with the accelerated admission, and “this would not have done any good.” At the same time, as Merkel noted, “Ukraine was a country under a great influence of the oligarchs.”.
Lavrov arrives in Myanmar for working visit
NAYPYIDAW, August 3. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in Myanmar’s capital of Naypyidaw for a working visit on Wednesday, a TASS correspondent reported.
Russia’s top diplomat has talks with the country’s top diplomat Wunna Maung Lwin and meetings with Myanmar’s leadership planned.
Later Lavrov will head to Cambodia, where in Phnom Penh he will participate in the meeting of the Russia-ASEAN format foreign ministers and hold a number of bilateral meetings.
On February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military declared a state of emergency for a year and announced that the nation’s leadership had been sacked. Army officials claimed widespread fraud in the November 2020 parliamentary elections.
Russia calls for reform of UN Security Council
Senior Russian diplomat Alexey Drobinin suggests the council expands representation from African, Asian and Latin American countries
The United Nations is in dire need of reform and the Security council must be “democratized” by expanding its representation, Russian foreign ministry official Alexey Drobinin has written in a keynote article published on Wednesday.
Drobinin, the Director of the Department of Foreign Policy Planning, commented on the current state of international relations and came to the conclusion that “more conscious effort and imagination is needed” to reform the UN.
He pointed out that the organization’s current agenda, which is primarily fueled by the West, is not necessarily in line with the interests of the majority of its international members.
Drobinin suggested that for most UN members the most important issues are things like access to cheap energy sources rather than the transition to “green” technologies, socio-economic development rather than human rights “in an ultra-liberal interpretation,” and security and sovereign equality rather than the artificial imposition of electoral democracy according to Western patterns.
He added that another topic that has once-again become relevant is the process of decolonization and ending the neo-colonial practices by transnational corporations in regards to the development of natural resources in developing countries.
However, international organizations such as the UN have essentially been “privatized” by the West, Drobinin points out. He suggests that the UN Secretariat and the offices of special envoys and special representatives of the Secretary General have all been saturated with the West’s own “tested” personnel, and that this also extended to non-UN organizations as well, such as the OPCW.
“The saddest thing is that this rust is eating away at the ‘holy of holies’ of the UN system – the Security Council,” Drobinin writes. “It devalues the meaning of the right of veto, which the founding fathers endowed to the permanent members of the Security Council with one single purpose: to prevent the interests of any of the great powers from being infringed, and thus save the world from a direct clash between them, which in the nuclear age is fraught with catastrophic consequences.”
While there are no “clear and simple recipes for correcting the situation here,” the diplomat continues, “clearly more conscious effort and imagination is needed when it comes to UN reform.” He goes on to suggest that the Security Council needs to be “democratized,” first of all by expanding the representation of African, Asian and Latin American countries.
Drobinin suggests that whatever the fate of international organizations such as the UN, WTO, IMF, World Bank or G20 is, the divisive policies of the West makes it “an absolute imperative for the coming years to form a new infrastructure of international relations.”
“After their frankly perfidious decisions and actions against Russia, its citizens and tangible assets, we simply cannot afford the luxury of not thinking about alternatives. Especially since many of our friends who have lost faith in Western benevolence and decency are thinking about the same thing,” the diplomat surmised.
SPECIAL MILITARY OPERATION IN UKRAINE
Russia ready for Ukraine peace deal – Kremlin
The country will achieve its goals regardless of Ukraine’s willingness to concede, Putin’s spokesman has insisted
Ukraine can end the ongoing conflict at any time by conceding to Russia’s conditions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.
“Russia is ready [for a peace deal], the Ukrainian side is well-aware of our terms. One way or another, they will be fulfilled,” the official told journalists.
Peskov went on to explain that back in late March the two countries were close to settling their differences in a way that was acceptable to Russia, but the draft agreement prepared during a meeting in Istanbul was torpedoed by the Ukrainian side.
Kiev broke off talks with Moscow after accusing Russia of committing war crimes, an allegation that Russia said was based on fabricated evidence. The Ukrainian leadership has since insisted that negotiations can only be resumed after Russia is defeated on the battlefield with the help of Western weapons.
Dmitry Peskov also commented on the recent visit to Moscow by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who, the Kremlin spokesman confirmed, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Despite media speculation that the former German leader could serve as a mediator in the Ukraine conflict, the 78-year-old “expressed no desire” to do so, Peskov said.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.
Russia rejects accusations of initiating conflict in Ukraine, says diplomat
UNITED NATIONS, August 3. /TASS/. Russia definitely rejects accusations of “unprovoked aggression” against Ukraine, a high-ranking Russian foreign ministry’s official said on Tuesday.
“We would like to definitely reject all accusations against us of ‘unprovoked aggression’ against Ukraine that have been voiced. Kiev’s current regime rose to power in a coup and straightaway raised persecution, later an armed struggle against the Russian-speaking population of Donbass. During eight years Ukrainian nationalists were killing civilians on this territory almost with impunity and preparing a major military entry into republics that had virtually separated from Ukraine,” deputy director of the ministry’s non-proliferation and arms control department Igor Vishnevsky said at the Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
“That said, having signed the Minsk accords that were the only way to bring peace to this land, Kiev’s authorities were even not going to implement them,” the diplomat noted, adding that “Russia’s actions became a forced response to atrocities there.”
Moscow also rejects insinuations about threatening with nuclear weapons and acting to undermine physical nuclear security in Ukraine, he said. “We will provide our detailed response on insinuations about allegedly threatening with nuclear weapons and acting to undermine nuclear and physical nuclear security in Ukraine later,” Vishnevsky said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on February 24 that in response to a request by the heads of the Donbass republics he had made a decision to carry out a special military operation, after which the US, EU states, the UK, as well as some other states, imposed sanctions against Russian persons and legal entities, as well as sped up arms supplies to Kiev.
Russia accuses Ukraine of mistreating POWs
The Russian Defense Ministry provided details of what it called Kiev’s abysmal treatment of captives
Moscow has scrupulously observed the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners, while the government of Ukraine has tortured, starved and deprived of medical care the Russian soldiers in its captivity, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed on Wednesday. The West’s unwillingness to hold Kiev accountable has resulted in violations and outright crimes, Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin told reporters.
Russia has taken “painstaking” steps to observe the Geneva Convention on the treatment of POWs, among them holding more than 40 weekly meetings with representatives of the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and establishing a medical commission on seriously ill and injured prisoners. So far, 18 such prisoners were sent back to Ukraine, General Fomin said.
There have also been 27 exchanges of POWs and the bodies of dead servicemen, while the ICRC has received more than 1,500 letters home from the Ukrainian prisoners. Detained Ukrainian soldiers can also make phone calls to their families, Fomin said, all in accordance with Article 71 of the convention.
Fomin’s press conference came after the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said it was appalled by a video allegedly showing a Russian soldier castrating a bound and gagged Ukrainian captive. In a statement on Friday, the commission reminded everyone that “torture and summary executions of prisoners of war” are war crimes. The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office has launched an investigation into the video, to establish where and when it might have taken place.
The Russian general did not address the video directly. He did, however, say that while Russia has treated its prisoners in full accordance with international law, Ukraine has not.
According to a survey of exchanged service members, both Russian and those of the Donbass republics, 81% of the prisoners were subjected to beatings and other physical violence, while 55% were forced to film propaganda videos. Some 46% received no medical care, 79% were given no opportunity to contact relatives, and 19% were given poor or insufficient meals.
One detention center, run by the Ukrainian security service SBU in Kiev, gave captives only 50 grams of porridge, a piece of bread and a glass of water a day, while keeping them blindfolded.
Fomin also brought up videos circulating online showing “torture and abuse,” as well as extrajudicial executions and “monstrous acts of violence” against Russian and Donbass POWs. “Ukrainian Nazis” have also attempted to extort the families of captives for ransom, he said.
Russia has regularly informed the international humanitarian structures of Ukraine’s behavior, with requests to influence the Kiev government, but to little or no effect, Fomin said.
In addition to the mistreatment of prisoners, according to the Russian military, Ukrainian forces have been using civilians as human shields, as well as using Western-supplied weapons and banned ordnance – such as cluster munitions and landmines – to target civilians in the Donetsk and Lugansk republics. The international community has turned a blind eye to these atrocities, Fomin said, allowing them to continue.
As Lebanon suffers an unprecedented food crisis, Ukraine uses Western support to block flour and wheat from its markets
A Syrian-flagged ship named the Laodicea that docked in the Lebanese port of Tripoli was detained last Saturday, preventing desperately needed flour and barley from reaching people in the Middle East. The move came after Western threats against Beirut and unsubstantiated claims from Kiev that the cargo was stolen from Ukraine. The ship, which has been on a US blacklist since 2015 for allegedly carrying shipments from sanctioned Crimea, is now under investigation.
On Friday, allegations emerged in Western media, citing the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut, that “stolen” flour and barley had been transferred to the Lebanese port of Tripoli and that Kiev had warned the Lebanese government against buying the grain. The news was said to have sparked protests from Western governments “warning” Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, over the allegedly stolen cargo. It later turned out that Kiev possessed no evidence that the flour and barley aboard the ship was from Ukraine. Despite this, Lebanon has now seized the ship and will act according to legal proceedings on the issue, after reported Western pressure.
The Ukrainian embassy in Beirut told Reuters that “the ship has traveled from a Crimean port that is closed to international shipping, carrying 5,000 tonnes of barley and 5,000 tonnes of flour that we suspect was taken from Ukrainian stores,” without presenting evidence to support the claim. An official from a private firm responsible for the import of the grain, Loyal Agro Co LTD, based in Turkey, not only denied that the goods were Ukrainian, but also clarified that the ship was carrying 8,000 tonnes of flour and 1,700 tonnes of barley in total. The vessel was also said to have been seeking private buyers in Lebanon, not a sale to the Lebanese government, and was destined to travel on to Syria after its stop in Tripoli.
Additionally, the Russian embassy in Beirut said that it had “no information regarding the Syrian vessel or a cargo brought to Lebanon by a private company.” An official at the Lebanese port authority also stated that there was “nothing wrong” with the cargo aboard the ship. None of this however, was enough to prevent the issue being pursued and for Lebanon to be threatened.
What makes this issue troubling, is that – without evidence – Western nations and Kiev can openly pressure Lebanon to keep much needed supplies away from its people, in this case potentially forever and for at least 72 hours under detention. The country is currently suffering its worst ever economic collapse, enduring shortages in food, medicine, electricity and essential goods. According to some UN estimates, some 78% of the Lebanese population now live in poverty. The food shortage has led to long queues at bakeries, sometimes resulting in gunfire and brawls between people fighting over the limited supply of bread. The Ukraine crisis has made Lebanon’s predicament even tougher, with a lack of flow of supplies from Ukraine and difficulties bringing in Russian goods due to sanctions. The Western “Caesar Act” sanctions against Syria have also made the situation even worse, as Lebanon has historically benefited greatly from its bigger neighbor.
What Kiev is doing, by threatening the future of bilateral relations between Lebanon and Ukraine over this issue, could be interpreted as blackmail. Ukraine has 20 million tonnes of wheat that it still hasn’t exported and a severing of relations with Beirut would mean that Lebanon could potentially miss out on acquiring it during a food shortage. The Lebanese government is clearly in a weak position and Kiev, backed by the power of NATO, is now attempting to bully Beirut over unsubstantiated claims that are denied by all sides, notwithstanding that officials won’t even state the allegation with certainty.
Another issue here is the double-standard at play, whilst Western nations suffer economically themselves, there is no hesitation at sending billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine every other week. Yet when it comes to simply amending sanctions, after pledging to do so, in order to allow Egypt to send gas to ease the energy crisis in Lebanon, Washington still refuses to allow it, a year later.
Instead, based upon unsubstantiated claims, Lebanon is forced to suffer even more by having basic food supplies dangled over its head. Whilst the West acts holier-than-thou on the issue of unsubstantiated claims of Ukraine’s grain being sold by private firms in Lebanon, it seemingly forgets that the US illegally occupies neighboring Syria’s most fertile agricultural lands, in addition to the majority of its oil and gas fields.
America has repeatedly been accused of smuggling Syrian grain and oil into Iraq, resources which should belong to the Syrian government and could be part of the answer to Lebanon’s current shortage.
Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit Similar to the 1995-6 Crisis, But China’s Spent 25 Years Preparing for It
Late on Tuesday night, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) landed in Taipei, disregarding warnings from Beijing, the White House, and the Pentagon. Now China is planning military drills on every side of Taiwan and Pelosi has declared that “we cannot stand by as the CCP [Communist Party of China] proceeds to threaten Taiwan – and democracy itself.”
Pelosi’s trip has had the predicted effect of ramping up tensions between the US and China over Taiwan, an island off the coast of the Chinese mainland which Beijing claims is a Chinese province in rebellion.
When the US switched its recognition of the legitimate Chinese government from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, it acknowledged what Beijing’s position was, and later pledged to slowly reduce its support for Taipei. Respect for the “One China” principle forms the bedrock of US-China relations, and despite Pelosi’s claims otherwise, Beijing sees the growing US support for Taipei, of which Pelosi’s trip is but one example, as violations of that principle.
The last time tensions over Taiwan were this high was 26 years ago; ironically, that crisis also began with a controversial trip, albeit in the opposite direction. However, this time around, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is far more prepared to stand up to Washington.
On June 9-10, 1995, Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui flew to the United States to give the commencement address at his alma mater, Cornell University, in upstate New York. Lee had been refused a visa to visit the US a year earlier, but complaints from Taipei and the US Congress convinced the US State Department to grant one, despite having promised China not to do so.
Lee’s visit was provocative enough, with Chinese media branding him a “traitor” who wanted to split China. In his speech at Cornell, Lee repeatedly used the phrase “the Republic of China on Taiwan,” which he referred to as “my country.” This formula enraged Beijing, which perceived it as a challenge to the “One China” consensus recently agreed to by Beijing and Taipei in 1992.
Missiles Splash Near Taiwan
China responded with waves of missile tests extremely close to Taiwan beginning in July 1995, and began positioning 100,000 troops and large numbers of strike aircraft at bases in eastern China that are close to Taiwan. In addition, the PLA carried out highly publicized amphibious assault drills in July and November 1995, and a pre-scheduled nuclear weapons test was held on August 18.
The positioning of forces within striking distance of Taiwan – and the regular missile tests – continued into early 1996, with missiles landing just 25 miles from the port cities of Kaohsiung and Keelung, disrupting maritime traffic and sending the Taiwanese stock market plummeting.
However, the most provocative action was on March 9, 1996, just days before Taiwan’s presidential elections, when a nuclear-capable Dong Feng 15 short-range ballistic missile flew directly over Taipei before splashing down 19 miles off Taiwan’s eastern coast, according to the Washington Post.
‘You Don’t Have the Will’
The US rushed to respond, sending two aircraft carrier battle groups – the USS Nimitz and USS Independence – to the region, with the Nimitz sailing through the Taiwan Strait itself on December 19, 1995, the first such maneuver since the US severed formal relations with Taiwan in 1979. It also mobilized a third, the USS George Washington, to the Arabian Sea. When the March 1996 missile tests landed near Taiwan, US Defense Secretary William Perry told a senior Chinese military official in Washington, Liu Huaqiu, that there would be “grave consequences” if China struck Taiwan.
Reportedly, Chas Freeman, who had had recently been a US assistant secretary of defense and who served as the interpreter for US President Richard Nixon on his historic trip to Beijing in 1972, had a series of conversations with high-ranking Chinese military officials in January 1996 in which California was threatened with a nuclear strike if the US intervened in Taiwan.
“I said you’ll get a military reaction from the United States” if China attacks Taiwan, Freeman told the Washington Post in 1998, “and they said, ‘No, you won’t. We’ve watched you in Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia, and you don’t have the will.’”
Freeman told the paper that another senior Chinese officer, who US intelligence believes was Lt. Gen. Xiong Guangkai, deputy chief of China’s general staff, added: “In the 1950s, you three times threatened nuclear strikes on China, and you could do that because we couldn’t hit back. Now we can. So you are not going to threaten us again because, in the end, you care a lot more about Los Angeles than Taipei.”
Xiong was referring especially to the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis, when China shelled several small islands held by the government in Taiwan that are very close to the Chinese mainland, and then-US President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded with a powerful display of force, including threatening to use nuclear weapons against China.
After March 1996, the tone of the dispute shifted. Lee went on to triumph in Taiwan’s first presidential elections after receiving an unexpected boost thanks to the Chinese drills, and the return of the USS Nimitz and the positioning of the George Washington in the Arabian Sea seemed to convince Beijing that the US would actually defend Taiwan. Beijing had warned the US not to attempt another transit of the strait, but while Pentagon chief Perry boasted that the Chinese “are a great military power, the premier – the strongest – military power in the Western Pacific is the United States,” there was no second transit.
Adopting Anti-Access/Area Denial
Beijing’s bluff was called in 1996, and the following year, then-US House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) flew to Taiwan, met with Lee, and declared the US “will defend Taiwan. Period.” Between the 1995-6 showdown and the US’ 1991 war with Iraq over Kuwait, the PLA set about making extensive changes to its battle plans to update for 21st century warfare.
Then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin directed PLA strategists to prepare to fight “local wars under high technology conditions” and to come up with a plan for one day standing toe-to-toe with the technologically superior American military. That has included extensive investment in developing new warships, jets, and “carrier-killer” missiles that are capable of forcing the US Navy to stay far from Chinese shores – a strategy known as anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD).
“We are at a disadvantage with regard to China today in the sense that China has ground-based ballistic missiles that threaten our basing in the Western Pacific and our ships,” US Adm. Harry Harris, former head of US Pacific Command, told the US Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2018. The Pentagon has since poured large amounts of money into developing weapons with comparable ranges, and defensive countermeasures against Chinese missiles in particular. However, the US has still not been able to field an effective defense against Chinese hypersonic missiles, or its own equivalent weapon.
The result is that 26 years after the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, the PLA is far better equipped to handle a major confrontation with the United States and not back down as it was compelled to do in 1996.
“The Chinese side has stated on many occasions the serious consequences of visiting Taiwan, but Pelosi knowingly made a malicious provocation to create a crisis, which seriously violated the One-China principle and the provisions of the three Sino-US joint communiqués,” Chinese Defense Ministry Spokesperson Wu Qian said on Tuesday in response to Pelosi arriving in Taipei.
“The move by the US sent a serious wrong signal to the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces, further escalating tensions across the Taiwan Strait,” Wu said, adding: “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is on high alert and will launch a series of targeted military operations to counter it, resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and resolutely thwart external interference and ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist attempts.”
The PLA also announced early on Wednesday morning that it would conduct a series of live-fire military drills from August 4 to 7 that would encircle the island of Taiwan, and that J-20 stealth fighters had been mobilized as part of the drills.
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(Reg no: DA 1825)