The Plaid Avenger

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You Gotsta’ Know the SCO!!!

The mother of all logos: Shanghai sweetness!Greetings from Shanghai my Plaid Friends!  Stopped in from Ankara so I could sniff around to see what shenanigans that savvy Shanghai Six are up to.  What? You don’t know who the Shanghai Six are?  Hell, I’ve been following these guys since they were a little bitty newborn Shanghai Five!  Perhaps you know them by their newer, streamlined cool nickname, the SCO: the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?  What? Still drawing a blank?  Oh my friends, if you want to understand what’s going on in the world, you better know your SCO.  Here, try these on for size:

Shanghai plan to fight extremism (old school story-check the date)

Shanghai grouping moves centre stage

SCO joint military exercises to be held in Russia in 2007

Don’t play this Great Game

Pakistan and the SCO

Iran urges Central Asian bloc to counter West

Who the hell are these guys? The current SCO/Shanghai Six are: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.  The Asian giants on either side of a smattering of central Asian states—a big “Stan” sandwich! Ha!  That is too damn good!  I’ll have a side of fries with my Stan Sandwich!  And speaking of sides, there are some of those too: Iran, Afghanistan, Mongolia, India and Pakistan have all requested and obtained observer status—which means they get to come to the meetings and hang out with the cool kids in the SCO clubhouse.  I wonder if they have a secret hand shake? A shake with my fries and Stan-wich…oh, I’m too much today!

But I digress…

What the hell are they up to?  This club was formed from the ashes of the demise of the USSR, and their original mission consisted of curbing “extremism, terrorism and separatism”—and let’s call a spade a spade here: their talking about Islamic extremism and Islamic terrorism, and separatism of any damn color or flavor.  Some of these states are totalitarian in nature, others are one-party states, and some are fledgling democracies, so you can probably figure out very quickly how they deal with extremism, terrorism and separatism.  ‘Iron fisted’ may be too strong a term, but let’s just say that the use of force to quell internal troubles is usually in the top three responses, if not the number one.  In other words, China and Russia have no qualms about Tajikistan or Uzbekistan suppressing internal dissent with force—as long as its guised under the ‘stabilizing security’ heading.  But that’s not what I really want to blather about.  It’s this:

SCO: spanning the continentSecurity may have been the foundation block, but my oh my, they are a long way from home now!  The SCO is one of the fastest growing clubs on the planet, mostly growing in terms of their mission statement.  Now they conduct joint military exercises (hmmm…kind of like an Asian NATO), are signing all sorts of trade pacts (hmmm…kind of like an Asian EU), and there is been a fluttering of talk in the last six months about the SCO forming a giant natural gas cartel to stabilize market outputs and prices (hmmm…kind of like an Asian OPEC).

Wow! That is potent stuff!  The fact that Vladimir Putin and several others completely dismissed the Asian OPEC idea publicly means to me that they are actually seriously considering it behind closed doors. These guys have terrible poker faces! If they really had no desire to build a natural gas coalition, they would have pretended to do it just to scare the shit out of everybody.  Like oil is to the Middle East, natural gas is to Russia and Central Asia—in that they have the lion’s share of the world’s reserves, and could easily use it for price-fixing and political advantage.  I look for that gas activity to start discreetly building next year—pun intended.

The ‘security/military’ maneuvers are very interesting as well, since they are the largest of their kind that the world has ever known. I’m not sure why no one has pointed that out.  China has the biggest manned military on the planet. And Russia has the second biggest arsenal after the US, so you’re talking a seriously powerful group of folks from a strategic standpoint.  And don’t start stock-piling for WW3; I am in no way shape of form suggesting that this group is planning anything offensively.  Quite the contrary! I am suggesting that much like NATO, they are setting themselves up as an ‘un-attackable’ group. Many are already calling the SCO the ‘anti-Western’ option.  Hmmm…Interesting shit for sure.

Their trade activity is getting hot too, as most countries want to get in on the trade block action.  That’s why Iran, Pakistan, India and Mongolia wanted observer status, and I’m assuming they will all take full-member status if it’s ever offered to them. Everybody wants a piece of that SCO pie!  Japan too has to pay attention to the action, since so much of their energy and other imports flows from the continent. Others will follow, but Russia and China have already vowed that unlike the EU, growth will be slow and controlled no matter what the future of the SCO holds.  Those bastards are as patient as stones when it comes to foreign policy!

Lastly, I’ll point this out: the US is very unhappy about the SCO. Why? The SCO is definitely a threat to US power in the region. Def. Def. Def. The SCO has already pressured its member countries into forcing out some US military bases, and has openly stated that all US military installations should be gone in the near future. The SCO as the Asian NATO gives many other countries a viable option to team up with in the 21st century…an option that is not US based, backed, or controlled.  In fact, you should really know this: the US has asked for observer status to the SCO for years, and been refused!!! The SCO won’t let Uncle Sam even hang out in the clubhouse! Damn, Unc is getting pissed!

Russia and China‘s ties with Iran through the SCO are also irksome for the US—it’s why Russia and China continue to vote down tough sanctions against Iran in the UN Permanent Security Council. Doh! Unc is getting more pissed!

And the gas? Don’t even get me started with the gas! The US and Europe will be shitting themselves if an OPEC-like gas coalition gets formed—pun intended again! As the biggest consumers of both oil and natural gas, the US and Europe are likely to be strung up by the energy balls in the coming century, because Asia‘s got it all!

Damn! That SCO is one to watch my friends!  But you won’t read about it in the US press, because they are totally clueless.  Even Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert can’t help you like the Plaid Avenger can when it comes to international intrigue!

Party on! Shanghai-style!


Eurasian Persuasion: Ejected by EU? Slide into Central Asia!

Greetings again from Ankara my Plaid Friends!  On my way back from Pakistan, I felt the overwhelming urge for some raki and Turkish Delight (the confection has taken such a bad rap since that little lying bastard Edmund wanted it in ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’)…aslan sütü and lokum.  What a delightful pair to have while in Turkey! I do love the lion’s milk!  Yeah baby!    And Turkey is back on my radar screen again already due to some current events.  Dig it:

Turkey stakes a Central Asian claim
US to push Sarkozy on Turkey’s EU processBetween Turkey and the EU, two plus two does not necessarily equal four
EU excited and worried by Sarkozy

Now I’ve chatted about the EU’s apprehension for Turkish ascension before on this blog, so I need not go back into those details (see EU turkeys talk turkey with Turkey ). But what I want to blather about today is what I’ve been telling my classes for years: Turkey is on a pivot point in modern history, and it looks as if a direction is soon to be chosen…if not downright forced on it!  What pivot do I speak of?  I’m referring to one of two directions Turkey will take to team up with in terms of economies, cultures, and politics.  Those two team choices are the EU or Central Asia/Middle East. West or East. Could the choices be made more geographically distinct? 

Turkey is a population powerhouse, Turkey is a growing economic power, and Turkey is increasingly a vital hub for the international flow of oil and natural gas.  Turkey will be a leader in the 21st century.  The question is: of what?  Will they be accepted into the EU and embrace the West even more, or will they be snubbed by the EU and turn around and become a power broker of a Central Asian/Middle Eastern coalition?

Ottoman Designs on Central Asian Squad?

An Ottoman Empire Part Deux? Seems increasingly likely. Why?

As a very savvy commenter pointed out in a previous blog (see Fuck ‘Freedom Fries’: France is Freakin’ Back, Fools!), the election of anti-EU-enlargement Nicolas Sarkozy in France is very likely to put a huge damper on Turkish movement forward with EU entry.  But that French fairy is only the latest nail in the coffin of Turkey‘s EU talks: Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel is also vehemently opposed to the Turks, and the likely-next-Prime Minister of the UK, Gordon ‘Brown Sugar’ Brown, may be no proponent of Ankara either. And this ‘EU Dream Team’ of leaders are all youngish and recently-elected, so they are going to be around for while—which may mean Turkey won’t be!

As pointed out numerous times by the Avenger, the US is HUGELY in favor of Turkey staying staunchly in the western sphere of influence, and they are pushing hard for the EU to embrace their Turkish ally. Why would this be? Turkey is a NATO member, and one that has been of central and downright critical importance for the War on Terrorism: Afghan Chapter.  The US also sees Turkey as the only successful Islamic democracy in the region to be emulated by its Middle Eastern neighbors, so Uncle Sam is keen on keeping Turkey in their corner of the ring.  Simply put, without Turkish help, the war on terrorism in the Middle East and Central Asia becomes seriously hampered, if not outright hamstrung. 

The other consideration here is that Turkey is increasingly becoming a pivotal power player in the energy game too.  Long story short:

And therefore shutting out Turkey will further shut out strategic ties to their energy sources. Don’t sound too smart to me, but whatever. Perhaps the EU will go totally green in the next ten years and never use oil again. Yeah…..right.  As of this writing, it appears that the EU fears negative repercussions of Turkish entry in the EU much much much more than it fears losing an ally on the anti-terrorism campaign and an ally in their energy strategy.  Tricky business. Tricky business indeed.  I wonder if the ‘EU Dream Team’ will still be glad they excluded the Turks if Turkey turns around and starts to put the energy crunch on them…like the Russians have been.

But watch out!  This is what I really want you to see!  The Turks are not going to roll over and die if they don’t get in the EU, and Central Asia may be where they will re-focus their foreign policy and diplomacy.  Why there? Several reasons:

Turk Talk Time: Places where the Language is Turkic

1)Cultural and historic ties—the ethnic group called ‘the Turks’ are from Central Asia originally, and they share linguistic and religious commonalities with their Asian buddies. Ever wonder how Turkmenistan got its name?
2)As pointed out above, Central Asia is producing a shitload of energy…and a serious percentage of that shitload flows thru Turkey to get to the rest of the world. Turkey would like to see even more flow thru their territory, thus increasing their geopolitical hand while decreasing Russia‘s—‘cause whoever has or controls the oil of the future controls a lot!
3)While Turkey may be looked upon as a poor and backwards stepchild within the EU framework, it would be a true leader of states to their east—being richer, more technologically advanced and more politically stable than virtually any country east of them to China! And speaking of China, Turkey‘s involvement as a power player in Central Asia would also cut into China‘s influence as well. The ‘Great Game’ is back on!

So Europe has got some thinking to do, and Turkey does as well.  Many in Turkey are becoming totally disenfranchised with the whole bullshit EU entry process, and many have given up on it already.  But that don’t mean that they’ve given up aspirations to be a regional power! Let’s watch the Turks carefully this year to see where new relationships may be blossoming…I personally bet that the next President or Prime Minister of Turkey will soon go on a whirlwind tour of Central Asia states trying to sign as many trade deals as he can…but we shall see.

I won’t lie to you Turkey: you’ve got your work cut out for you trying to establish ties in Central Asia, cause the SCO has beat you to the punch. SCO? What the hell is an SCO? The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is not to be messed with!  Back the fuck up off the SCO!  Maybe I better fly from here to China and tell you a little bit more about these guys in my next blog….


EU turkeys talk turkey with Turkey

The only Islamic Democracy!And its about time too dammit!  What a bunch of goobers the EU members have become on the topic of Turkey joining their club.  Turkey has been a staunch ally of ‘the West’ since WWII, was one of the original inductees into NATO over 50 years ago, and has been petitioning to join the EU for over 40 years! 40 damn years? Yep, for 40 damn years the Europeans have kept Turkey waiting at the alter; always a EU bridesmaid, never an EU bride.  Turkey has sat on the sidelines while virtually all of Eastern Europe has joined the block, with Romania and Bulgaria being the most recent inductees last year.

What? You mean they let the down-and-out, broke-ass, former Soviet satellite states into the EU before their NATO ally Turkey? Yep. What a crock of shit.

Full-fledged entry talks for Turkey started in earnest in 2005, but as of 6 months ago the proposal was dead in the water again because the two sides could not agree on a whole host of issues, a main one being that the EU demanded Turkey open up trade with Cyprus: a long-standing hot button issue that I won’t go into right now.  But the Turks seemed to have had enough of demand after demand after demand that the EU has thrown at it, year after year after decade after decade…so they stopped negotiations last year.  But the game is back afoot:

EU to re-start talks with Turkey

EU…or CU????I just wanted to talk about why this whole fiasco has happened.  While EU entry has long enjoyed popular support by most Turks, the Europeans have been grinding them down, and as a result public opinion of the EU is growing more dismal by the day.  Many Turks refer to the EU as the CU…which stands for the ‘Christian Union’…and the Plaid Avenger does believe that there is something to this interpretation.

Europe was the cradle of Christianity.  Not the birthplace, but the cradle for its growth into a worldwide phenomenon.  Europe is still a Christian dominated culture.  The EU is overwhelmingly Christian.  In fact, I had an excellent German historian point out the fact that the original members of the EU covered the exact same area of Europe once held by the Carolingian Empire under Charlemagne…an entity dubbed ‘The Holy Roman Empire’. He suggested that this new European group was simply falling back on its old religious roots…..hmmmmm….interesting how looking back helps you understand what’s ahead.  But I digress.

Carolingians Re-Unite!!!!!

Europe is Christian.  Turkey is not.  There are those in Europe that would argue that Turkey, being an overwhelmingly Muslim country, simply won’t ‘fit’ in well with European values and principles.  The Plaid Avenger thinks that is a load of shit.  But some EU members will continue to shovel it.

Turkey is a modern country for the most part. Turkey is a democracy. Turkey is in the NATO defense network.  Turkey helped in small part win WWII.  Turkey in greater part helped win the Cold War.  Turkey in a very large part helped the US win the Gulf War: Part Uno.  But somehow these guys aren’t going to be able to get along with the Europeans? Ha! The very Europeans they helped protect as a NATO member?  What a joke!

So Plaid, what’s the real deal?  I’m glad you asked.  There is concern among many EU states that including a Muslim nation is going to increase the flow of Muslim people into the EU which may perpetuate a clash of cultures (look to cultural problems in France right now for your best examples of this).  Some argue this increased flow of Muslims might also include a modicum of Muslim people who might be terrorists–thus it’s a security issue. There are other folks that think Turkey is too big with too many people and would wield too much power in the EU.  Others think they are too poor and would be a strain on the EU. Still others fear an inflow of Turks that are going to ‘take my job!’

What the fuck ever.

Turkey deserves better.  And as a moderate voice of Islam, as the only true Islamic democracy, and as a continued staunch ally of ‘the West’, the EU OUGHT to be kissing Turkey‘s ass!  Does Europe really want to be in a position of pissing off Turkey and having them turn around and embrace the Middle East? Or Russia? Or China?  Wake up EU goobers!

And know this world watchers: the US is not happy about the European foot-dragging.  The US would very much like to keep Turkey in the western camp.  Watch for US pressure to mount on the side of the Turks in future stories about the EU.

Party in Plaid.


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