The Plaid Avenger

Plaidcast  |  East Asia-Pacific

An EU of Asian Persuasion: ASEAN

Synopsis: Watch out! ASEAN stands for the Association of South East Asian Nations, a rapidly up-and-coming trade block in Asia which may very well become the foundation stone of the largest free trade zone on the planet. The ten-nation group, while still very young, is set to fashion itself as the EU of Asia…with perhaps even more potential for growth and integration. With associate members like China, India and Australia already aligning itself with the group, this is one to keep your eye on if you want to understand the rapid evolution of Asia as the center for 21st century growth.

ASEAN to strengthen ties with China and rest of Asia

ASEAN Leaders Call for Freer Trade

In midst of financial crisis, leaders join together

At ASEAN, reaching out to regular people

Keywords: ASEAN, Southeast Asia, China, India, free trade, EU

Obamafication of US Foreign Policy: Diplomacy Trumps Military

As the Obama administration begins the task of taking the helm of the US superpower state, they have been making it very clear that they want to break strongly with the past Bush administration’s foreign policy tactics and targets. Thus, a huge shift is underway to make the US approach to international matters a more open and multilateral process…but not necessarily suggesting that they will be entirely dovish.  While this is certainly a more diplomatic approach, the Plaid Avenger wants you to be aware that there are many international issues which may not be substantially changed (if at all) by this shift in administrative policy.

As Obama Visits State Dept., Clinton Announces Two Special Envoys

Obama marks ‘new era’ at State Dept

Biden to signal new era in US foreign policy at security talks

Biden moves to heal rift with Europe

Keywords: US, Barack Obama, foreign policy, dovish, hawkish, unilateralism, multilateralism

China, US happy with their new Ma.

A few Taiwan tidbits to tinker with…

Promoting social harmony a priority for new President

Taiwan’s message for Beijing

US presidential rivals congratulate Ma

Election moves Taiwan and Beijing closer

Russia Turns East; the Bear and the Dragon Embrace!

Greetings friends! And damn did I get seriously sidetracked on the way to Siberia! Sorry for the Piss off Team West! I'm hungry for Chinese!!!extended blog departure, but I had an unexpected mission come up which involved 16 vestal virgins, 10 cases of Jägermeister, a cache of AK-47’s, a warm pretzel eating contest, and Angela Merkel.  I know: it sounds complicated, and I cannot divest any of the details at the present time…mostly because I can’t remember many of them. But I’m back in fine form once again, and I woke up woozy in Uzbekistan just in time to tap into a tipple here in Tashkent….and catch the end of the SCO meeting. A meeting which continued to reaffirm my belief that Russia and China are becoming the best-est of buddies, much to the chagrin of ‘the West.’  Dig it:

Russian lovefest to the East…

Russian, Chinese PMs meet Central Asian allies

Premiers of SCO vow to enhance cooperation

Chinese premier: China-Russia relations at most important stage

Russian deputy PM hails Russian-Chinese theme years

Russian dissing to the West…

U.S. pushes to get Russia on its side

US disappointed in China, Russia response on Iran sanctions

Russia-EU Summit: A Nice Gathering with Few Results

Have a glass of vodka with your Moo Goo Gai Pan.  Or a caviar filled egg-roll. ‘Cause that is the Chinese Dragon love Russian Oil! Love it long time!international cuisine paring of the future man!  So what’s this all about?  Well, in a nutshell, Russia and China are grooving to a mutual lovefest which is resulting in an undeclared new axis of power in the world….one that has serious repercussions for ‘Team West.’  All I know is, someone is going to lose their virginity on this one….and it is likely to be the US that gets screwed.  Now before any of you start digging the hole for the underground bunker in your backyard in preparations for World War 3….just relax and hold on a minute.  I’m not talking about open armed conflict, or even a return to a Cold War scenario.  It’s much more subtle and simple than that.  It’s more like this:

Russia and China‘s new and strengthening alignment will be a source of friction and frustration for most US foreign policy in the coming decade.  And beyond.  One needs only look as far as the current story above which references Russia and China‘s open willingness to block any US proposals on sanctions of Iran at the UN Permanent Security Council.  But I am perhaps getting ahead of myself as usual…how did we get to this point?

1991: Russia in no mood for love!Way back in 1991 when the USSR officially collapsed and ceased to exist, Russia was a complete basketcase of a country politically, economically, socially, and psychologically. They were losers with a capital LOSE. Communism had failed, they had lost the Cold War of ideology, they were bankrupt, and completely lost in the sauce on how to go forward.  Throughout the 1990’s, Russia was the scene of a veritable ‘wild west’ of capitalism and democratic transition—meaning that there were no rules, largely unregulated privatization, and no boundaries for how the country underwent this massive transition from commie to capitalist/democratic. 

The US and ‘Team West’ did try to help out as best as they could….while still maintaining their strategic edge (meaning they helped out as long as the relationship still tilted in their direction.) Team West encouraged privatization and opening markets as the ‘tough love’ route that had to be taken for Russia to go forward.  While democracy did get advanced in this era, the market capitalism transition left most in the gutter with a bad taste in their mouth—a situation usually reserved for cheap vodka consumption on Friday nights.  By 2000, the place was still awash in corruption, organized crime, endemic poverty, and a sense of national hopelessness that relegated the state to the history books.

By my how times change. Enter two factors into this Russian equation: Putin and petroleum.  Vlad ‘the Man’ took over in 2000, roughly the exact same that oil prices began to rise…and they have been steadily rising ever since! Putin’s strong-arm tactics to clamp down on crime and chaos in the markets, coupled with his strong sense of nationalism, have given the Russian’s a source of pride that they haven’t known since the Sputnik satellite launch. And since Russia controls shit-tons of oil and natural gas, they have been getting exceptionally rich in the last seven years too.  Sum up these factors and you get this: Russia is back, bee-yatch!

Massive sales of oil and natural gas have allowed the Ruskies to pay off their national debt.  Like all of it. They don’t owe anybody a damn dime.  Putin has also been very savvy about socking away a lot of that oil wealth for a rainy day. And he has been storing it legally in banks for future use of the state, as opposed to storing it in his private bank account, which of course is the type of corruption that happens all the time in lesser developed places with less of a sense of national pride.  I’m telling you, this national pride shit has a lot to do with the current Russian success story…and Putin’s whack-crazy approval ratings too, which hover in the 80 to 90%  range. Damn! G.W. would give his left nut for an 80% approval rating! But I digress…

Back to the stories above: The US and Team West have been assuming since 1991 that Russia would eventually join their team. I mean, their teams have so much in common already in terms of culture, religion, international business, technology and history.  And Team West has been actively courting the Russians to side up with the West in terms of the war on terrorism, UN security council resolutions, perhaps even EU membership…and I even remember a time when NATO membership for Russia was a serious talking point. 

But a funny thing happened on Russia‘s way to joining Team West: they got their Russian groove Back in full force…hell, stronger than ever!back.  They got an economy back. They got a nationalistic pride back. And most importantly, they have their sense of being a world power back.  Oops. Looks like Russia is forming their own team again, as opposed to joining Team West.  And that is exactly what I’m writing about today. Russia has turned east to embrace China. And embrace its former Central Asian possession of the –stan countries, and yes, even embrace Iran. The East is (at least for the time being) Russia‘s focus for the future.

As the US and Western Europe continue to attempt to sweet talk the Russians, they are doing so with increasingly less and less bait to attract their former Cold War adversaries. And Russia is increasingly holding all the aces in this poker match. And Russia knows it.  Thus, they are playing their hands on foreign policy from a position of power.  The Ruskies are now in a position to play off all the other powers at their own whim, seeking out the most advantageous situations for themselves, with extremely limited repercussions from the US, Team West, or really anybody else. Meaning, they simply cannot lose anymore. What do I mean they can’t lose?

Well, let’s summarize on just a few of the points mentioned in the stories above:

Economically, if we go no further than to consider the role of oil and natural gas, then Russia is in the catbird’s seat for at least another decade…or ten. Russia supplies at least 1/3 of Europe‘s energy needs. That’s Western and Eastern Europe. And it’s not just about the money being made either: tremendous political power has now been bestowed on Russia since those European powers get so much of their energy from the Bear. Translation: if you piss off Russia, you may get your heating oil turned off…in January. Think I’m making this shit up? Ask Belarus and Poland how fictional that story is. Then ask them how cold it gets in January.

Hu loves Putin? Hu does! And Hu loves his oil too!But wait! Its not just Europe.  China is energy hungry too, and the Russians are now establishing all kinds of relationships to transport more oil and natural gas then ever to their new Chinese friends. As China continues to explode economically, Russia will continue to get rich exponentially since they will be supplying the energy for this growth. Whoops! I almost forgot Japan! Japan wants as much Russian oil as it can get too, so there will never be any shortage of demand for Ruskies petroleum products in the East. Which means of course that Russia can play both sides of the continent against each other to jack up demand…and prices!

For now, the Chinese are winning this petroleum pissing match, as the Russians continue to forge new ties, build new pipelines, and sign new contracts with their eastern friends…but openly dissed the meeting with EU countries last week as ‘a waste of time.’

Strategically, Russia has also been busy strengthening its hand in the SCO. Big time. Don’t know your SCO? Better dig this then: You Gotsta’ Know the SCO!!! Within the SCO framework, China and Russia have basically been conducting an orgy of trade agreements, energy security agreements, economic and infrastructure projects and even military exercise co-ordination.  They haven’t been doing any of that shit with Team West! And here’s why: as a member of the SCO, Russia is a leader. As a member of the EU or NATO, Russia is a follower. Got it? The Russians do, and they dig it.

Finally, politically the Russians and Chinese are in bed together like never before…mostly in the sense that they are now openly countering US foreign policies on the world stage.  Putin’s position of power affords him the ability to completely piss off the West…‘cause he can always just chill with the Chinese chaps.  This has come into play in current events in several ways:

1)    Putin has been openly critical of the US plan to put a ‘missile shield’ in Eastern Europe. So This is the only missile defense Putin will allow…a hand held unit outside of Krakow.critical in fact, that he is saying that this shield will cause another Cold War, and the Russians have pulled out of treaties which have limited the production of certain types of missiles. Putin has also overseen the resumption of old Cold War bomber patrols across Russian territory, as well as the creation and testing of a ‘super-bomb.’ He is causing such a ruckus over the planned missile defense systems, that he now almost literally has the US kissing his ass and begging him to allow the plan to go through.  It is interesting to note that the two sites which will house this defense system are Poland and the Czech Republic: two countries which are heavily reliant on Russian fuel to get thru the long winter.  Starting to get the picture here of how this shit is working?

2)    Iran. Iran‘s continued foray into developing a nuclear industry (and perhaps a nuclear bomb) has pitted the Russian-Chinese axis against Team West.  Putin has cozied up to Iran if for no other reason than to check-and checkmate with the US on foreign policy issues. Nobody really thinks that Putin has a lovefest with Iran, but he is in a position to counter any moves towards US sanctions or even an US invasion of Iran should it come down to that. Again, start to put the pieces of the puzzle together: if the US continues to make moves towards the missile defense shield…then Russia will strengthen its support for an Iranian nuke industry.  If the US/Team West pisses off Russia about anything, then Russia will use its veto power on the UN Permanent Security Council to stop any international action dead in its tracks.  Both Russia and China are now dropping hints that they are prepared to do just that.

3)    The SCO is continuing to grow in functionality and membership.  It is starting to look a lot like Don't mess with the Shanghai 5!a combo NATO/EU of the east…with Russia as a real leader.  And watch out for this big bombshell to be dropped in the near future: Russia is going to lead the formation of a natural gas cartel of Asia, with themselves in the center. Quote from SCO meeting on Friday: “Russia has also proposed the establishment of an “energy club” to complement the SCO regional security bloc, said Ivan Materov, Russian deputy minister of industry and energy.”  The Plaid Avenger sez: Watch out OPEC, here comes ‘SCO’-PEC!  Man! That will be some serious shit hitting the fan!

But enough speculation and assessment for now. Just know this: Russia is turning east to be a leader, and away from the west where it would be conscripted to be a follower.  It’s not really surprising I suppose. I think its more the speed at which Russia has gone from being a zero to be a hero…or at least to being a major force in the world again. But all this talk of Russia has built my thirst and whetted my appetite.  I think its time for a few dozen Oysters shooters, Moscow-style.  What? Never had it? Dig:

The aphrodisiac that I never lack….Moscow Oyster Shooters, Plaid Avenger recipe:

Oh hell yeah!

White House loses cable TV; Administration Unaware of World Opinion.

Dude! Did someone forget to pay the cable bill at the White House? Because I don’t think that they are getting CNN anymore, much less any other news network that deals with issues outside the US!

Salutations my sexy and sultry friends! The Plaid Avenger is back is rare form, to the great consternation of the Cheney administration in the US.  While I typically try not to dabble in doltish domestic drivel, I’ve heard enough irreverent and irrational interpretations of international intrigue from this administration to last an infinity. Ha! That’s a lot of ‘I’s my friends! And since the US is definitely the 800 pound gorilla of international politics, it is worthy enough to talk about the current comments of the Cheney corporation…and more importantly why their statements are strange…and sketch.  Check it:

Bush warns world of WWIII over Iran

George Bush warns Putin over ‘World War III’

Cheney – No nuclear arms for Iran

Cheney, Like President, Has a Warning for Iran

Cheney raises anti-Iran rhetoric

So what am I ranting about here? Let’s get the sentiment of this blog straight from the start: the Avenger is only concerned with the ridiculous rhetoric coming from the Bush Administration about their ‘world support’ against the Iranian regime.  I’m not going to get into the debate about whether or not the Iranians are trying to build a nuclear bomb (they are not…yet). I’m not getting into the particulars about whether or not they support terrorism in the Middle East (they do). I’m not even going to get into whether or not Iran has evil intentions or should be sanctioned or even should be bombed.  What I do want to chat about is who exactly would be supporting any of these movements against Iran—which is the focus of this forum….

Now, apparently the US administration is employing some good old boy, old-school, pre-WWII tactics of full-on propaganda in order to scare the living shit out of folks enough to get them riled up to demand that action be taken against the Iranians.  I mean, if the whole world is against the Iranians, shouldn’t we do something about it?  Um….that’s just the problem…the whole world is Talk about a sweet party! What fun!definitely not on board with US foreign policy on this matter, and to announce that the US is going to lead a willing world to destroy Iran is not just misleading…its simply wrong.  But I want you folks to be smarter than the average bear…and in this case, ‘bear’ is an appropriate animal description, as the Russian Bear has everything to do with this equation.

But I am getting ahead of myself as usual.  Let’s get to the facts…I don’t think I need to elaborate much on the Iranian/US situation happening on the planet right now.  In a nutshell: Iran is developing a nuclear power industry; no one is disputing that fact. The US and some Western European states are utterly convinced that Iran is developing this knowledge in order to ultimately build nuclear weapons.  Iran claims that it only wants the nuclear power, and has a right to do this based on the NPT treaty (which is true). 

The US in particular refutes this claim, and there are widespread accusations in the US which allude to ‘flagrant’ misdeeds of Iran developing a secret nuke bomb—although to my knowledge, no proof of Iranian wrong-doing has ever been presented to the IAEA.  In other words, the US and its allies insist that everybody in the world knows Iran is doing all this bad stuff…even though no one has actually got any proof of any of this bad stuff.  You starting to get the picture here?

Well the picture got fuzzier after Vlad ‘the Man’ Putin visited Iran last week and declared that Russia does not believe threat Iran is doing anything illegal.  As you know from a previous blog (World Pissing Match: Russia Pisses Off US;), Russia also went as far as to set up a ‘no-attack-Iran’ zone with all the countries which surround the Caspian Sea.  ‘The Bear’ is making no bones about its position with Iran—a position which runs exactly opposite to the US one.

And that brings us back to point: Last Friday US President Bush made a speech in which he said that Iran‘s obtaining of a nuclear weapon would start ‘World War Three.”  Wow! That is some serious shit to be spouting! Not to be outdone, US Vice-President Dick Cheney went on the attack just yesterday by saying that under no circumstances would the US and the world at large allow Iran to get a nuclear bomb…which in this case also means developing nuclear power. He hinted that ‘the world’ would not allow this, and that there would be serious repercussions on Iran if they continued down this path.

Just a couple of quotes:

President Bush: “My intent is to continue(?) to rally the world, to send a focused signal to the Iranian government that we will continue to work to isolate you…” (my italics…and ‘continue to rally the world’? ‘Continue’? When did it start?)

Vice President Cheney: “The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences,” Mr. Cheney said, without specifying what those might be. “The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.” (my italics)

The international community is prepared to impose serious consequences? The US is rallying the world?  Hmmmm….. I do have to wonder…..Where are these guys getting their information from? I mean, they are the damn White House for pete’s sake! They have the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, foreign ambassadors, think tanks, chiefs of staff and a shitload of other folks whose jobs are to keep the Executive Branch well informed.  So how are these guys making such clueless comments?  I’m just a dude reading the newspapers and can point out a few holes in their thinking about international support against Iran. Here we go:

Vlad: 1) Russia: Hey guys! Check the papers from last week! Russia just announced that they don’t think Iran is doing anything illegal.  AND they said that they would not be supporting any more tougher UN-imposed sanctions on Iran.  How can Russian make such a bold assertion? Duh? Russia has a permanent seat on the UN Permanent Security Council.  As such, it has veto power over any UN sanctions against Iran.

Hello? McFly? McCheney? Do you know how the UN works? Check out a previous blog if you are still confused (Permanent Possessors of Power: the Fabulous 5!)  The deal: Russia will stop cold any UN move against Iran.  So you can count Russia out of your ‘international community’ plans…and while we are it at…

2) China: China almost always stays out of internal affairs of other countries unless those Hu loves you baby?countries happen to be directly threatening China itself.  And that is not the case here either.  Remember, China is the #1 fan of sovereignty on the planet, and as such will say that Iran has a right as a sovereign state to develop nuclear energy until it is proven that they are doing something else.  On top of that, China is always wimpy to stand alone at the UN…but since Russia has already ponied up and said it will block any UN measures against Iran, China will now do it too.  So count China out of the ‘world standing against Iran’….but wait! There’s more!

3) Latin America: Venezuela? Forget about it! Hugo Chavez loves Iran, as does Bolivia‘s leader.  And since most of Latin America now swings to the left side of the socialist spectrum (and because US-Latin American relations have sucked for a decade), the US should not be looking south of its borders for too much support of an Iranian intervention. In fact, almost all countries south of Mexico will probably openly oppose any such move…since most already did oppose the US invasion of Iraq. Oh! And speaking of Iraq

4) Iraq: That place is still in bad shape with sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite…does anybody in Iraq really want an invasion of Shia Iran next door? Talk about dumping gas on the fire! Holy shit! That whole place will explode! Don’t look for Iran‘s immediate neighbors to support an invasion or bombing…what a minute…did you say neighbors?

5) Iran‘s ‘hood: As suggested above, Iraq cannot be very supportive of a new war next door. But as This is now the also referenced earlier, what I refer to as ‘The Caspian Coalition’ has already declared it opposition to any move against Iran. See map for countries who have already agreed to NOT allow any attack on Iran from their territories.  And you can extend a bit beyond the Caspian as well…Central Asian countries have been much more keen to party with Russia lately, and have also been having talks with Iran about letting them into their SCO club.  (You Gotsta’ Know the SCO!!! )  So count those –stan countries out as well, ‘cause they will side up with the Ruskies on this matter.

Shit. Who does that leave for the “international stand against Iran”? Let’s end the blog on who the US can count on to get their panties in a bunch over Iran: for sure the US can count on their old lapdog the UK for support.  Even though Gordon Brown isn’t quite the parlor pooch that Tony Blair was, he will still give his go ahead for actions against Iran.

And France? Hell, France is the new UK when it comes to supporting US foreign policy!  Nick Sarkozy is all about kicking some Iranian ass…or at least supporting the US to do it! Germany may be in on this action as well, as they are getting very leery of Iranian power…combined with the quaint fact that they may be within reach of an Iranian missile.  Most other European nations, Japan, and even Australia would be on board right this second. But watch out! Australia is holding an election soon, and if John Howard loses, then you can count the Australians out too! Hell, the Labour Party is threatening to pull Aussie troops out of Iraq if they win–no way they are going to support a war with Iran. That is, if they win…which seems probable right now.

Other than that, the US will have a handful of Arab states which may actually support a move against Iran too. Look for Saudi Arabia and Egypt to possibly side up with the US, although in doing so may cause catastrophic public dissent in their countries. Turkey will also probably side up with the US, although if that Armenian genocide bill goes through the US Congress, its anybody’s bet how the Turks will roll.

Needless to say, this idea of an international community rallying around the US to deny Iran nuclear power/nuclear weaponry is a bit of fancy.  And the Avenger can’t stand such fluff.  Know your world my friends. Know how it works. And know when politicians are blowing smoke up your ass.

Speaking of smoke…time to head to the local hookah bar for some much needed respite from these radical ramblings…

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Issue 2: Battle For Burma

Well, the battle for the heart and soul of this country is on, but no one outside Burma seems to be able to do a damn thing about it! Why not?

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