“Armageddon Lobby”: How Christian Zionists Influence U.S. Policy

Despite the fact that not only hospitals and mosques but also Christian churches were destroyed during the bombardment of the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces, many people who call themselves Christians and who are not ethnic Jews actively support Israel’s actions. Where did this phenomenon come from?

The fact is that Zionism as a Jewish political movement emerged in the late 19th century, but similar ideas appeared much earlier. And, paradoxically, they were born in a Christian environment.

The Birth of Puritan Zionism

One of the first supporters of the immigration of European Jews to Palestine were the Puritans. This Protestant sect emerged in the late 16th century and became quite influential in England and later in the American colonies. They showed considerable interest in the role of the Jews in eschatology, or end-time theology.

For example, John Owen, a seventeenth-century theologian, member of Parliament, and administrator at Oxford, taught that the physical return of Jews to Palestine was necessary for the fulfillment of end times prophecy. And in 1621, Sir Henry Finch wrote a sermon calling for the support of the Jewish people and their return to their biblical homeland.

One of the most influential strands of Christian Zionism has been dispensationalism, a system of interpretation that uses information from the Bible to divide history into different periods of administrations or dispensations and views the biblical term “Israel” as referring to the ethnic Jewish nation established in Palestine.

Dispensationalism was originally developed by Anglo-Irish preacher John Nelson Darby in the nineteenth century. Darby believed that the God-ordained destinies of Israel and the Christian church were completely separate, with the latter to be physically “raptured”—raised to meet Jesus—before the period of upheaval predicted in the Apocalypse, called the Great Tribulation.

According to Darby, the Great Tribulation will begin after the construction of the Third Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. During the Great Tribulation, according to this teaching, 144,000 Jews will convert to Christianity, and this will reveal to them the true intentions of the Antichrist. Thus, they will become the epicenter for the conversion of all unbelievers who have not been raptured to the Christian faith.

It is these 144,000 converted Jews who will meet Antichrist in the final battle known as Armageddon and defeat the Antichrist. After this battle, the seven years of tribulation will end and Jesus will return to imprison Satan and establish a thousand-year Messianic Kingdom on earth.

Despite its absurdity and lack of any reference in the Bible, the concept of physically moving Christians to heaven on the eve of Armageddon has been enthusiastically embraced by some churches in England and especially in the United States.

Darby’s approach to Christian eschatology coincides with similar developments in Jewish eschatology, namely, the ideas of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer and the creation of a new branch of Jewish messianism. Its representatives believed that Jews should actively work to hasten the coming of their messiah by immigrating to Israel and building the Third Temple on the site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located.

Darby himself traveled throughout North America and several other countries to popularize his ideas, meeting with several influential pastors throughout the English-speaking world. Among them was James Brooks, Cyrus Scofield’s future mentor, who later disseminated the concept; and his interpretation was published widely in the United States and is known as the Scofield Bible.

Another figure influenced by Darby’s doctrine was the American preacher Charles Taze Russell, whose church later gave rise to several different sects, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses (an organization banned in Russia). Decades before the founding of modern political Zionism, Russell began preaching—not only to Christians but also to Jews in the United States and elsewhere—the need for mass Jewish immigration to Palestine.

Russell wrote a letter in 1891 to Edmond de Rothschild, a member of the Rothschild banking family, as well as Maurice von Hirsch, a wealthy German financier of Jewish descent, about his plan to settle Palestine. He described his plan as follows: “My proposal is that wealthy Jews buy from Turkey at a fair value all her property rights in these lands: that is, all public lands (lands not belonging to private owners), provided that Syria and Palestine are formed as free states.”

The book, The Jewish State by Theodor Herzl, considered the founder of Zionism, was published only in 1896.

American preacher William E. Blackstone, greatly influenced by Darby and other dispensationalists of the era, also spent decades advocating Jewish immigration to Palestine as a means of fulfilling biblical prophecy. His efforts culminated in the Blackstone Memorial Petition, which called on then-United States President Benjamin Harrison and his Secretary of State James Blaine to take action “in favor of the return of Palestine to the Jews.”

Signers of the petition included bankers J. D. Rockefeller and J. P. Morgan, future President of the United States William McKinley, Speaker of the House Thomas Brackett Reed, Chief Justice Melville Fuller, the mayors of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, and Chicago, the editors of the Boston Globe, New York Times, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune, as well as members of Congress, influential businessmen, and clergy.

Although some rabbis were included among the signers, most American Jewish communities opposed the content of the petition. In other words, the primary goal of Zionism, even before it became a movement, was widely supported by the American Christian elite.

Modern Rise

Yet for the first half of the twentieth century, Christian Zionism was not very widespread or influential in the United States.

However, then preacher Billy Graham enters the arena and had close relationships with several presidents, including Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon. Finally, dispensationalism entered the mainstream of American political discourse with evangelical preacher Jerry Falwell, who founded the Moral Majority organization in 1979.

Another prominent dispensationalist of great political and literary influence was Hal Lindsey. Ronald Reagan was so moved by his books that he invited Lindsey to speak at a National Security Council meeting on nuclear war plans and made him an influential adviser to several members of Congress and Pentagon officials.

To this day, the Republican Party still leans heavily on Christian Zionists for both cash and votes. They have a profound influence on party ideology.

Christian Zionists in the United States now have many names. Some call them the “Armageddon Lobby,” others call them the “Christian AIPAC” (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).

Christian Zionists themselves number about 20 million in the United States, and they sponsor the migration of Jews to Israel from Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine and other countries. That is, in fact, there are more of them than ethnic Jews around the world, although not all Jews support Zionism.

During the administration of George W. Bush Jr. and especially on the eve of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, the administration was also heavily influenced by Christian Zionists in the form of neoconservatives. During a 60 Minutes interview in October 2002, Jerry Falwell even stated, “I think we can now count on President Bush to do the right thing for Israel every time.”

Falwell was referring to President Bush’s actions in April 2002 when he turned a blind eye to Israeli actions in the West Bank during Operation Protective Wall. Falwell met with President Bush several times during his first term, specifically to discuss United States support for Israel. According to him, the president’s views on Israel were in line with his own.

Christian Zionists also helped oust Democratic Congressman Jim Moran, who suggested that it was done for Israel’s benefit by the Jewish lobby. And the Apostolic Congress and the group Americans for a Secure Israel effectively derailed Bush’s plan to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians by flooding the White House with petitions.

There is also an organization in the U.S. called United Christians for Israel, which was founded in 2006 by Pastor John Hagee and has more than seven million members. Its members include former CIA head and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Vice President Mike Pence and well-known hawk John Bolton. All of them were quite active during Donald Trump’s presidency.

During a speech in Kansas in 2015, Pompeo openly stated that he believes in the “rapture of Christians,” and in an interview said that as a Christian he believes that “God chose Trump to help save the Jews from the threat of Iran.”

It was Christian Zionists who lobbied Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights. Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas and Trump supporter led a prayer for peace in Jerusalem during the relocation of the United States embassy from Tel Aviv on May 14, 2018. He called it “a momentous event in the life of your nation and in the history of our world.”

Another entity from the U.S. called, Proclaiming Justice for the Nations, also lobbies for Israel’s interests. At the end of October 2023, they began calling for the resignation of the UN Secretary General for his criticism of Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians.

As we can see, the issue of support for Israel has a longer and more complex history than even that state’s creation in 1948.

Whereas many Jews deny even the very statehood of Israel, calling it a violation of Talmudic commandments (e.g., the Hasidic Naturei Karta movement), there are ardent supporters of Israel among the followers of Christian denominations, including justifications for any of its government’s actions, including repression of Palestinians.

And, of course, American Protestants, who link Israel’s fate to their eschatological worldview, play a huge role in this. And among them are influential political figures who make decisions on U.S. foreign policy.

Leonid Savin is Editor-in-Chief of the Geopolitika.ru Analytical Center, General Director of the Cultural and Territorial Spaces Monitoring and Forecasting Foundation and Head of the International Eurasia Movement Administration. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geopolitika.

Gaza: The Tunnel War

After the Palestinian Hamas movement’s Operation Al-Aqsa Storm and Israel’s response, military experts in various countries began to talk about the phenomenon of “tunnel warfare.” The well-known military strategist Edward Luttwak published an article, “The Battle of the Tunnels is about to begin in Gaza” on October 25, 2023.

In it, he pointed out that in Palestine, “underground networks have many uses, with everything from weapons drills hidden from overhead balloons or synthetic aperture radars (which produce photo-like images in all degrees of visibility) to makeshift headquarters and even rest areas protected from air strikes. Built with the cement and rebar donated by the European Union, Qatar and both Islamic and Western charities ‘to build housing for refugees,’ and delivered to Gaza through the Israeli port of Ashdod—Israeli governments that tried to limit the cement imports were barraged with ‘human rights’ demands—the tunnel network has grown exponentially over the past decade. Israeli soldier-analysts even refer to it as ‘the Underground,’ in reference to London’s labyrinthine tube network.”

It was no secret to Israel that these underground communications would be used to wage war against them. But Luttwak warns, if Israel concentrates its efforts on destroying the tunnels in Gaza, it will be virtually powerless. Because tunnel warfare requires very specific detection and monitoring skills, equipment, close-range weapons (even compact assault rifles are too long), the use of specialized shields and respirators, and a very fast reaction time.

Experts say there are several types of tunnels in the region. Along the northern border with Lebanon, Hezbollah used diamond-tipped drills to cut passageways in the rock. On the southern border, tunnels from Gaza to Egypt have long been used to smuggle goods, while tunnels to Israel have been used to attack Israeli villages and, in 2006, to kidnap Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

A Hamas leader, Yehya Sinwar, recently claimed that they have 500 kilometers of tunnels dug under the Gaza Strip, an area of about 360 square kilometers, roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C. Hamas survived shelling, air raids and major IDF ground incursions in 2009 and 2014. So over the years of experience, they have made sure that the command structure, manpower and ammunition depots used to strike Israel from hidden firing points can survive Israeli incursions, artillery and airstrikes.

According to the IDF, Hamas’ underground defense and offensive structure is well supplied with food and fuel. This will enable Hamas fighters to withstand a prolonged siege. Compounding the situation is the fact that tunnel entrances are often in residences, various buildings, fields in the desert surrounding Gaza, and one found in a washing machine. Finding them is like looking for a needle in a haystack. According to the IDF, the command and control center for the entire labyrinth of tunnels is located under Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa. Such statements from Israel are apparently given to justify strikes on churches, mosques and hospitals in the Gaza Strip.

It is noted that Israel has no illusions about the dangers it faces in taking Hamas tunnels. It has previously fought an uphill battle in their depths during the 50-day ground invasion of Gaza launched in 2014 to destroy the tunnels to Israel (Operation Unbreakable Rock).

During this campaign, Israeli troops entered the tunnels on the outskirts of Gaza and suffered casualties because they were unprepared for what lay ahead. Israeli soldiers faced enormous technological difficulties in locating, fighting in, and destroying hidden Hamas tunnels.

In response to Hamas’s efforts, Israel had previously created a special Corps of Engineers unit, known informally as Yahalom (Diamond). The tunnel warfare unit is called “Samur,” which means “weasel” in Hebrew and is the initials of the words “Slikim” (hiding places) and “Minharot” (caves or tunnels).

On its website, the “Yahalom Advanced Unit” describes its mission as follows: special sabotage missions, demolishing and blowing up buildings, sabotaging enemy infrastructure, handling explosives, preparing explosive devices and bombs, neutralizing enemy explosive devices, clearing complex minefields, and locating and destroying terrorist tunnels. The unit sometimes utilizes robots and many remote-controlled devices.

A secret underground training center has been set up to train the unit, with a mock-up of Hamas tunnels built to “detect, map and neutralize underground tunnels that threaten any country.” Israeli tunnel units have practiced underground warfare in the artificial Palestinian Baladiya City, which is located on a military base, in the Negev Desert.

Nevertheless, so far, the IDF has had no particular success in destroying the tunnels. Only the use of anti-bunker bombs with a strong destructive effect gives them some hope. However, this comes at the cost of a large number of civilian casualties. In a month of fighting in Palestine, more than 10,000 people have been killed.

The very question of the use of various underground passages and structures as a tool of war is not something new or extraordinary. In ancient times, tunnels and underground structures were also used in wars.

For example, the Jews used them to attack the Roman legions during the revolt of 66-70 AD. The Romans encountered similar tactics in the Balkans and in the forests of Germanic tribes. Even earlier, underground tunnels were built by the Persians to undermine cities, and were also used to mop up advancing soldiers with lit sulfur (the prototype of a gas attack).

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the technique of tunnel digging and the use of gunpowder charges was greatly improved in Europe. Asia also used tunneling until the wars of the 20th century—the Chinese built tunnels between village houses to attack the Japanese during the occupation. Later, the Japanese themselves began creating similar communications systems that were used against the US Marines. The famous defensive Maginot Line in France also had a system of underground tunnels and bunkers. In 1940, the Germans did not attack it, but simply bypassed it, actually taking it without a single shot, and France was forced to capitulate.

Vietnam, North Korea, and Afghanistan are places where the U.S. military has already encountered tunnel warfare. However, before the Americans in Afghanistan, Soviet soldiers were familiar with them. During the Cold War, systems of underground bunkers were actively created both in the USSR and in the US and were designed to accommodate command centers.

In addition to Israel, the US is also very interested in this kind of action.

The first manual that describes tactics and procedures for fighting in underground structures is FM 90-10-1, “An Infantryman’s Guide to Combat in Built-Up Areas,” dated 1993.

Prior to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the mission of capturing large underground military complexes was assigned to first-tier special operations units, such as Army Force Delta and Navy SEAL Team 6, as well as the US Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment.

However, after the U.S. designated the DPRK, Russia, Iran, and China as threats, the requirements changed.

In late 2017, the US Army spent about $572 million to train and equip 26 of its 31 active combat brigades to fight in large-scale underground structures beneath densely populated urban areas around the world. Training Circular TC 3-20.50, “Small Unit Training in Subterranean Environments,” was released at that time.

In 2018, DARPA launched the Subterranean Challenge project to train fighters and first responders by exploring man-made tunnel systems, urban subways, and natural cave networks [v].

In the same year, an underground warfare training center was built at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It is built on Range 68 and features over a kilometer of tunnels with tight spaces and unexpected elements.

In November 2019, the U.S. Army issued another doctrinal document on the topic of Underground Warfare. It stated that there are more than 10,000 tactical tunnels in the world and underground structures will be increasingly used in modern armed conflicts.

It was also said that to fight this new type of combat, infantry units need to know how to effectively navigate, communicate, overcome difficult obstacles and attack enemy forces in underground labyrinths ranging from narrow corridors to tunnels as wide as residential streets. Soldiers will need new equipment and training to operate in conditions such as total darkness, bad air and lack of cover from enemy fire in areas where standard army communications equipment does not work.

The US also drew attention to the experience in Syria, where terrorists from ISIS (banned in Russia) and other anti-government groups have used underground communications (including the creation of tunnels) to attack checkpoints, blow up buildings and other infrastructure in various cities.

But in addition to hypothetical threats, hundreds of tunnels already exist in the United States along the border with Mexico, which are used by drug cartels to smuggle drugs and illegal migrants across the border. In January 2011, the U.S. government built a special tunnel in Yuma, Arizona, to study this problem and develop measures to combat it. Various “anti-tunnel” technologies began to be practiced there. They used acoustic detectors, electromagnetic wave generators, robots equipped with sensors and special anti-bunker bombs.

It is likely that Israel has already received some support from its American colleagues when the first airplanes with equipment and ammunition arrived in October.

Of course, the likelihood of armed conflicts using underground infrastructure is not only related to Israel and the United States.

In 2015, Paul Springer, professor of comparative military history at the US Air Force Command and General Staff College, warned that “If irregular warfare remains common in the next few decades, as it has been for many recent conflicts, tunnels are likely to play an increasingly important role. Dominant conventional powers, most notably the United States, have a massive informational advantage provided by aerial surveillance. One way to offset some of the effects of this information dominance is to simply conceal activities, particularly underground. Tunnels can create a defensive nightmare for attackers, and negate many of the advantages held by a technologically superior conventional force. The process of clearing and destroying a tunnel network is expensive, time-consuming, and likely to inflict many more casualties than an engagement above ground. Tunnels also offer a dual-usage in peacetime, in that they provide infiltration and smuggling routes. If the entrances and layout of the tunnels can be kept secret, their existence creates a major security threat.”

Apparently Springer was referring to Iran when he talked about compensation because of US intelligence assets. And Iran has an extensive underground infrastructure of bunkers, housing missiles and drones.

The Russian army also faced tunnel warfare when it knocked out Ukrainian neo-Nazis from the Azov Battalion (a terrorist organization banned in Russia) from the undergrounds of the Azovstal plant. On the other hand, industrial infrastructure is still different from specially designed military communications. Therefore, in the current confrontation with Hamas, Israel actually has no effective tools to destroy them. Because of this, the IDF is using scorched earth tactics in an attempt to achieve an intimidation effect.

Leonid Savin is Editor-in-Chief of the Geopolitika.ru Analytical Center, General Director of the Cultural and Territorial Spaces Monitoring and Forecasting Foundation and Head of the International Eurasia Movement Administration. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geopolitika.

Russia In a Just War

The special military operation that Russia is conducting in Ukraine has drawn a lot of criticism in Western countries. As a rule, it is reduced to a few particular narratives: Russia has violated the norms of international law and the sovereignty of Ukraine, and war (use of force) is not acceptable to resolve any disagreements. At the same time, the West deliberately glosses over all precedents of aggression against other countries in which they participated, violated sovereignty and conducted occupation. Even relatively recent, such wars constitute a long list—Yugoslavia, the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army received support from NATO countries, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria. In other words, the implication is that wars fought by the West are just and those fought by the rest of us (regardless of their form or causes) are not.

Let us consider whether Russia has acted justly towards Ukraine. First of all, we should keep in mind that in the current postmodern paradigm, there is no single system of accountability and no universal measure for various spheres of activity, including political and military.

Many terms and vague concepts have emerged. Following the combatants are “neo-combatants,” “quasi-combatants,” “post-combatants,” and “other actors” involved in conflicts. Definitions such as “gray zone,” “hybrid warfare,” and “special operations” do not bring clarity to current forms of conflict. Even the classic of military theorist, Carl von Clausewitz, said that “war is the realm of the untrustworthy; three-quarters of what the action of war is based on lies in the fog of the unknown. War is the domain of chance…. It increases the uncertainty of the situation and disrupts the course of events.”

Which is Why…

In our case it is necessary, first of all, to determine when and how a just war begins. The classics of jurisprudence have said the following about it.

The Roman philosopher and politician Marcus Tullius Cicero noted: “We have established by law that when a war is started, when it is waged and when it is stopped, the right and fidelity to one’s word should be of the greatest importance, and that there should be interpreters of this right and fidelity appointed by the state.”

Note that the word “law” in Latin (lex) contains the meaning and significance of choosing (legere) a just and true beginning.

Cicero also said that “unjust are those wars which have been started without cause. For if there is no cause in the form of revenge or by virtue of the necessity of repelling the attack of enemies, it is impossible to wage a just war…. No war is considered just unless it is proclaimed, declared, or started because of an unfulfilled demand for reparation.”

Undoubtedly, the special military operation had serious reasons. Russia has repeatedly demanded of both the collective West and the Kiev regime to stop shelling peaceful towns in the Donbas and to honor the Minsk agreements. They have not done so. And the Russian leadership has repeatedly warned of serious consequences.

And, as we see, it has kept its word.

Augustine, another major authority in the West, states that “the best state does not itself start a war, except when it does so by virtue of its word or in defense of its welfare.” Again, we see mention made of the need to keep one’s word. But to it is added the questionof preserving the welfare.

Thus, according to Augustine, Russia is the best state that 1) keeps its promise, and 2) protects its welfare. And it is impossible to argue against this.

If we talk about modern theorists of just war, we can also find theses justifying the measures that Russia has taken in relation to Ukraine.

Michael Walzer said that “states may resort to military means in the event of a threat of war whenever inaction would lead to a serious risk of violating territorial integrity or political independence.”

Brian Orend generally believed that “a government can launch a preemptive attack if it is in defense of human rights. Military action against an enemy that disregards morality and rights in its policies is not recognized as aggression.” It is assumed that he thus justified the actions of Western countries in relation, for example, to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, where there were problems with respect for human rights; in particular, the repression of the Kurds. However, it is clear that Orend’s formulation also fits the Ukrainian regime, which facilitated the formation of neo-Nazi battalions and ethnocide.

Orend also formulated the idea of a minimally just political community, which has three main criteria:

  1. It is recognized by its own citizens and the world community;
  2. It does not violate the rights of neighboring states;
  3. It ensures respect for the rights of its own citizens.

At least the first and second criteria were absent in Ukraine after the coup in February 2014, because some citizens did not recognize the new neo-Nazi regime, and their rights were not ensured by the central government and were diminished in every possible way.

And according to Orenda, “an attack on a government that does not meet the criteria of minimum justice and is unable to protect the rights of its own citizens or intentionally violates them does not constitute aggression and a violation of the principle of non-intervention.”

Consequently, Russia has not carried out any aggression. Although many politicians in the West would like to think otherwise.

Hence the interpretation of humanitarian intervention. And this is also a Western concept, which under the name of “Responsibility to Protect” was extended even to the UN. And if Western countries have repeatedly carried out such humanitarian interventions under a variety of pretexts, why can Russia not do so, especially since there was a need to protect civilians.

The same Walzer says that “when people are killed, we should not wait to see if they pass the self-help test before providing support.” Apparently, the DNR and LNR passed the self-help test and eight years later they were supported.

Nicholas Fouchin, a professor at Emory University (Atlanta, USA), defends the right to strike non-state groups (especially against terrorists). There were and still are plenty of such groups in Ukraine, from the odious Azov battalion to other paramilitary formations with foreign mercenaries.

Since we are talking about humanitarian intervention, it is necessary to turn to the issue of international humanitarian law (IHL). And here we will immediately discover an interesting nuance. It turns out that international humanitarian law as we know it and as it is spread all over the world is nothing but Western humanitarian law. And, to some extent, even Anglo-Saxon.

Tania Ixchel Atilano, from Mexico, a specialist in international law, notes that in the standard account of IHL history, similarities with classical studies of revolution can be discerned. Traditional accounts of revolutions deal mainly with the revolutions of the United States and Europe. In her study of revolutions, Hannah Arendt deals exclusively with the revolutions of the United States, France, and Russia, completely ignoring Latin America. Even when she explains that all revolutions follow the model of the French Revolution as if it were a decisive process; she fails to note that the Mexican Revolution (1910), which actually occurred before the Russian Revolution (1917), does not follow the “organic process” of the French Revolution at all (the exception, of course, being the establishment of “one-party rule”). It seems that revolutions had to have certain characteristics that could only be fulfilled in certain “civilized” regions.

Even though these “other” revolutions early on provided rights that had not yet been granted to Europeans, such as the abolition of slavery (Haiti, 1793), equality before the law, universal male suffrage and freedom of expression. Above all, it gave hope of emancipation to people who were still colonized or suffering from some kind of oppression.

Exactly the same has happened with the study of IHL history. Perhaps because the “founding fathers” of humanity at war did not consider from the outset the events that took place in Latin America, historians have also reproduced this distortion. By doing so, scholars inadvertently reproduce the misconception that waging war according to the laws of war would only occur in “civilized” states. At the time, the history of IHL was a reflection of the “victor’s story,” or the history of powerful states and their interaction with the laws of war. In other words, without allowing for the existence of any other histories, we are dealing here with a pure “global epistemology.” Global means Western.

Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, and now Ukraine are contemporary examples of the continuation of global epistemology.

Another example is the Caroline Affair, which served as the basis for the emergence of the Self-Defense Act during the 1837 war between Canada and Britain. The rebels in Canada were being aided by the US with the ship Caroline, so British troops entered the US territory to carry out a punitive action which resulted in the ship being burned.

This was followed by a discussion between the US Secretary of State, Daniel Webster, and the British government, where the issue of proportionality was discussed. The principle of proportionality was then introduced into the 1949 Geneva Convention and speaks of the need to balance military necessity with humanity.

This was originally just an Anglo-Saxon interlocution that had nothing to do with international affairs, but became part of IHL.

And there are many such examples when European-American codes in the field of criminal, humanitarian and international law were imposed on the overwhelming majority of the world’s states. And the imposition of the Western position continued to be actively imposed over the last 30 years, especially in the countries that the U.S. disparagingly called “developing countries” and implemented their own laws there with the help of USAID, the Carnegie Foundation and other structures.

In this respect, the Special Military Operation in Ukraine is also an incentive to revise a number of international instruments and to carry out necessary reforms. If this cannot yet be done at a truly international level, the vestiges of the influence of Western theories should be removed at least at the national level and within the framework of partnership agreements with friendly countries.

Leonid Savin is Editor-in-Chief of the Geopolitika.ru Analytical Center, General Director of the Cultural and Territorial Spaces Monitoring and Forecasting Foundation and Head of the International Eurasia Movement Administration. This article appears through the kind courtesy RUSSTRAT Institute.

New Pentagon Cyber Strategy

On September 12, the Pentagon released an updated cyber strategy and published its main provisions in fifteen pages. The rest of the document is classified.

We know that the fourth iteration of the department’s strategy “implements the priorities of the 2022 National Security Strategy, 2022 National Defense Strategy (NDS), and 2023 National Cybersecurity Strategy.” It replaces the Department of Defense’s 2018 cyber strategy and is intended to set a new strategic direction for the department.

What direction is this? And does it pose a potential threat to Russia? From the first lines you can understand what it means. The preface immediately places emphasis on the war in Ukraine. It is noted that “the conflict has demonstrated the character of war in the cyber domain. Its lessons will shape the maturation of our cyber capabilities. The Department’s experiences have shown that cyber capabilities held in reserve or employed in isolation render little deterrent effect on their own. Instead, these military capabilities are most effective when used in concert with other instruments of national power, creating a deterrent greater than the sum of its parts.”

Thus, operations in cyberspace will continue.

The Department will also use cyberspace operations for the purpose of campaigning, undertaking actions to limit, frustrate, or disrupt adversaries’ activities below the level of armed conflict and to achieve favorable security conditions. By persistently engaging malicious cyber actors and other malign threats to U.S. interests in cyberspace, U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) will support Department-wide campaigns to strengthen deterrence and gain advantages. As it campaigns in cyberspace, the Department will remain closely attuned to adversary perceptions and will manage the risk of unintended escalation.

The document points to the continuation of a policy of following interventionist liberalism, labeled as “rules-based order,” and promoting the deepening of the digital divide. This gap, despite calls by U.S. politicians to reduce it and help developing countries, will be exacerbated both through the imposition of new sanctions against states and companies in the field of promising technologies (the U.S. has consistently implemented them against Russia, China, and other countries) and through attempts to undermine technological development through targeted cyberattacks. The desire of the U.S. establishment to prevent the development of the state was mentioned by the President of Russia during his speech at the FEF on September 12.

Judging by the new strategy, the U.S. will take in its cohort of trusted satellite-states, to use them against sovereign powers, and justify its actions through the coalition’s efforts in the “fight for democracy.” Which has happened before on other fronts of U.S. intervention—military, political, diplomatic, informational and economic. The Pentagon has made it clear that these are other elements of national power, and they will also be applied in the future. We are talking about the sphere of penetration and influence—now the Internet (both global and sovereign) will suffer from US interventions, as well as various sectors that are related to it and, accordingly, may be vulnerable.

In terms of enemies and threats, the overall U.S. approach has changed little. And despite revelations inside the U.S. that Russia was not involved in any election meddling, the old meme about Russian hackers remains dominant.

“Russia remains an acute threat to the United States in cyberspace. Russia has undertaken malign influence efforts against the United States that aim to manipulate and undermine confidence in U.S. elections. Russia targets U.S. critical infrastructure as well as that of Allies and partners. It continues to refine its espionage, influence, and attack capabilities,” the strategy states.

As before, other challenges and threats are named: China, Iran, DPRK, extremist and transnational criminal organizations.

What does the Pentagon intend to do in order to achieve these goals and counter these threats, including fictitious ones?

The Department will prioritize reforms to our cyber workforce and improve the retention and utilization of our cyber operators. In so doing, we will assess diverse alternatives for sizing, structuring, organizing and training the Cyberspace Operations Forces and their relationship to Service-retained cyber forces.

The Department will proactively identify cyber talent with experience in the DIB, commercial information technology sector, academia, Intelligence Community, and military. We will ensure that incentive programs are adequately resourced and target specific desired skills for hiring and retention. Where we cannot hire desired skills directly, we will leverage rotational programs and enhance collaboration with the private sector to ensure the Department’s access to relevant talent.

Where we cannot hire desired skills directly, we will leverage rotational programs and enhance collaboration with the private sector to ensure the Department’s access to relevant talent.

The Department will also empower the Services to implement effective talent management and career progression for the cyber workforce. We will encourage the development of expertise via options including extended tour commitments or repeat tour requirements, rotations within mission areas, and career progression models that reward development of such skills. The Department will also exploregreater use of reserve components as a way to share talent with the private sector, like those adopted in National Guard cyber units.

This shows concern about the current state of affairs in the field of cyber specialists, but the US Cyber Command has previously had the ability to strike at designated targets. The Pentagon just wants to maintain its dominance. And to do this, they will work in conjunction with business and other government departments and continue efforts to “brain drain” other countries.

It is no coincidence that in early August 2023, the White House administration launched the Artificial Intelligence Cyber Challenge initiative, a two-year competition supervised by the Defense Advanced Technologies Agency DARPA. Anthropic, Google, Microsoft and OpenAI are participating.

Almost at the same time, on August 10, 2023, the US Department of Defense created Task Force Lima to study generative artificial intelligence for defense (i.e., war) needs. It will be led by the Pentagon’s Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office (CDAO) and, according to a Pentagon statement, “will assess, synchronize, and employ generative AI capabilities across the DoD, ensuring the Department remains at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies while safeguarding national security.”

Artificial intelligence is now actively used both in the US military-industrial sector, for example, for the operation of drones or intelligence and reconnaissance tools, and as a weapon of information warfare.

A RAND Corporation study on generative artificial intelligence used for social media manipulation, released in September 2023, argued that “the emergence of ubiquitous, powerful generative AI poses a potential national security threat in terms of the risk of misuse by U.S. adversaries (in particular, for social media manipulation) that the U.S. government and broader technology and policy community should proactively address now. Although the authors focus on China and its People’s Liberation Army as an illustrative example of the potential threat, a variety of actors could use generative AI for social media manipulation, including technically sophisticated nonstate actors (domestic as well as foreign). The capabilities and threats discussed in this Perspective are likely also relevant to other actors, such as Russia and Iran, that have already engaged in social media manipulation.”

The old narrative is used about enemies and threats against which AI must be used because potential enemies could use it against the United States.

And such initiatives and strategies require a proactive and comprehensive response, both at the national level and together with partners who do not accept US hegemony in cyberspace.

Leonid Savin is Editor-in-Chief of the Geopolitika.ru Analytical Center, General Director of the Cultural and Territorial Spaces Monitoring and Forecasting Foundation and Head of the International Eurasia Movement Administration. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geopolitika.

Geopolitics of Lithium

Among critical minerals, some occupy a special place. For example, it is difficult to imagine the normal functioning of a large metropolitan city without salt. In the Middle Ages, many countries experienced so-called salt riots due to salt shortages or tax increases. The situation is similar with petroleum products, on which the transportation system of any state is heavily dependent. Some rare-earth or other metals are not so prominent in the list of critical resources, but they are necessary for the production and uninterrupted operation of a country’s infrastructure system.

For example, we use lithium-ion batteries in our daily lives. From ordinary “finger” batteries, cell phones, laptops and home appliances to electric vehicles, drones and specialty equipment like submarines—and all of these devices require lithium. Lithium and its derivatives have other industrial uses as well. Lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) is used in the production of glass and ceramics, as well as in pharmaceuticals. Lithium chloride (LiCl) is used in the air conditioning industry, while lithium hydroxide (LiOH) is now the preferred cathode material for lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles.

Lithium is valuable as a recharging material because it stores more energy in proportion to its weight than other battery materials.

It is a toxic metal that is difficult to mine (100 tons of ore must be processed to produce one ton of lithium) and to dispose of, but nevertheless, its reserves are being hunted around the world.

Globally, lithium is considered to be a strategic but not scarce resource. It occurs in nature in a wide range of forms, mostly in low concentrations. Today, it is economically feasible to extract lithium from two sources—brines (continental and geothermal), or “hard rock” (pegmatites, hectorite and jadarite). Brines account for approximately 50% of the world’s reserves (source).

Manufacturers use more than 160,000 tons of this material annually. Global lithium consumption is expected to be at least 200,000 tons by 2025, and is expected to grow nearly 10-fold further over the next decade.

But there is a geographical nuance—its deposits are limited to a small number of countries, so the issues of its extraction automatically acquire geopolitical significance.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the largest lithium resources in the world as of last year were located in Bolivia, where they were estimated at 21 million tons, Argentina (19 million tons), Chile (9.8 million tons), the United States (9.1 million tons), Australia (7.3 million tons), and China (5.1 million tons). The Service estimates Russia’s projected lithium reserves at 1 million tons (source).

Bolivia, Argentina and Chile represent the so-called lithium triangle. It is considered to be of increasing strategic importance as countries seek to gain a technological advantage by controlling the lithium industry. This triangle uses the vaporization method, so the cost of lithium there is lower than in mining. It is estimated that the lithium triangle in the salt marshes of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina accounted for 56% of global resources, 52% of global reserves and one-third of global production in 2021.

In Chile, lithium is considered a strategic resource. Decree No. 2886 (Ministerio de Minería, 1979) declared it reserved for the state and excluded it from all mining concession regimes, except for those entities that held mining concessions (pertenecias mineras) prior to 1979. As a result, two private companies have been mining lithium for more than 25 years—the U.S. company Albemarle and Chemical & Mining Co. of Chile Inc, both operating in concession areas of the Chilean Corporation for the Development of Production (CORFO) in the Atacama Salt Plain.

In Argentina, the situation is somewhat different. US companies have been mining lithium there for more than 20 years, and now Canadian, Australian, Chinese and Japanese companies have joined them. Over the past decade, Argentina has been the most dynamic country in terms of lithium production expansion, with some 38 projects in various stages of preliminary implementation. Nevertheless, the national government does not consider lithium a strategic resource (with the exception of the province of Jujuy, which has declared it strategic). As with any other mining activity, the regulatory framework is based on the National Constitution, the Mining Code and the Mining Law. The management of mining resources is delegated to the provinces. The federal framework grants the provinces the rights to determine concessions to private and public entities and the norms for regulating mining activities within their jurisdiction.

To date, there are two main production sites in Argentina:

• a public-private partnership in Salar de Olaroz (Jujuy Province) operated by Sales de Jujuy S.A., owned by Orocobre Limited, in a joint venture with Toyota Tsusho Corporation (TTC) and Jujuy Energía y Minería Sociedad del Estado (JEMSE—a company owned by the Jujuy Provincial Government);
• a private company (Minera del Altiplano S.A.), owned by Livent (formerly FMC Corporation) operating in Salar del Hombre Muerto (Catamarca province).

Bolivia is a special case; although it has the world’s largest lithium deposit, it has not entered the global lithium market in any meaningful way. The governance structure defines lithium’s strategic status and centralized state management through the state-owned mining company, Yacimientos del Litio Boliviano (YLB). For over a decade, with a public investment of approximately US $1 billion, the government strategy has focused on building infrastructure for the LIB value chain, but has had extremely modest results in terms of lithium carbonate production.

Only during the industrialization phase of cathode and battery production is space created for public-private partnerships, with the government retaining at least 55% of net profits. In December 2018, YLB formally registered a joint venture (YLB-ACISA) with Germany’s ACI Systems GmbH for a lithium hydroxide industrial complex, but the Evo Morales government canceled the contract amid protests in Potosí against the terms of the agreement. Earlier that year, the Morales government also signed a joint venture agreement with Chinese consortium Xinjiang TBEA Group-Baocheng to explore and extract resources in the Coipas and Pastos Grandes salt marshes.

Recently, Bolivian state-owned YLB and China’s CATL BRUNP & CMOC (CBC) signed an agreement under which the Bolivian side will oversee the entire soft metal industrialization process, from mining to commercialization. The Chinese partners will invest more than $1 billion in the costs of commissioning and construction of industrial complexes.

The agreement includes the creation of two industrial complexes with direct lithium extraction technology in Potosí and Oruro.

Brazilian professor Bruno Lima believes that “if other countries copy Bolivia’s model of industrializing lithium production and enter into profitable partnerships for technology transfer, they will succeed.”

In his opinion, “[Bolivia] will not limit itself to selling to the international market, but will create a complete cycle. Part of the lithium is sold to the international market, such as China, but the other part goes to processing, transfer and technological development.”

He adds, however, that “if these operations were conducted outside the dollar standard, that would be ideal. We are really talking about a qualitative leap for Latin American presence in the market and in the international system” (source).

It should be noted that Bolivia deliberately keeps US companies out of Bolivia, understanding their intentions and goals. In 2022, the US company EnergyX was disqualified there. The aforementioned German ACI has also run into problems.

Since in the case of ACI, the key decision involved recognizing the rights of local communities to benefits and compensation in their territories, as well as the risk of environmental damage, these interrelated trends will only intensify.

However, environmental aspects are directly related to lithium extraction in one way or another, regardless of who is involved. While there is a wide range of lithium extraction methods available, the main ones, including hard rock mining and the extraction of lithium from seawater, require large amounts of energy. These processes disrupt natural groundwater levels, local biodiversity and the ecosystems of nearby communities. For example, nickel mining and refining practices have already resulted in documented damage to freshwater and marine ecosystems in Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia.

Pollution from this work not only impacts oceans and ecosystems, but also creates environmental hazards throughout the life cycle of batteries, from the extraction of raw materials for their production to the disposal of old batteries in landfills, creating health risks for workers and impacting nearby communities due to the toxicity of heavy metals such as lithium (source).

Therefore, environmental requirements will become stricter and new extraction and recycling technologies will be welcomed.

It would seem that seawater could solve the problems of supplying lithium to markets, because the world’s oceans contain 180 billion tons of lithium. But its percentage lithium content is about 0.2 parts per million. Existing evaporation technologies are time-consuming and require special areas, so they are not economically feasible.

A new approach is to create special electrodes that act more selectively. Such experiments are being conducted at Stanford University, where the electrode is coated with a thin layer of titanium dioxide as a barrier. Since lithium ions are smaller than sodium ions, it is easier for them to squeeze through the multilayer electrode. In addition, the way in which the electrical voltage is controlled has been changed to improve efficiency, although this method is still quite expensive (source).

In terms of corporate structure, the world’s lithium suppliers are five major companies—Albemarle (USA), Ganfeng (China), SQM (Chile), Tianqi (China) and Livent Corp (USA) (source).

Battery production has a slightly different geography. In 2021, Australia, Chile, and China accounted for 94% of global lithium-ion battery production. But in recent years, Chile has lost its leading role in the global lithium market as Australia has rapidly expanded its hard rock mining operations.

It should be noted that lithium is fully recyclable, so it is not a consumable commodity like oil. Accordingly, even if lithium batteries do begin to significantly displace internal combustion engines, we will not necessarily see a “lithium policy” replace today’s “oil policy.” Nevertheless, if demand for electric vehicles increases dramatically in the coming years (projected to reach $985 billion by 2027), countries with large lithium reserves will wield far more power than they have in today’s economic and geopolitical hierarchy (source).

Because of this, the U.S. fears that “because lithium supply chains will be critical to the future of technology and clean energy, lithium will play an important role in the competition between the United States and its rivals, mainly China, in the coming years. China currently leads the world in electric vehicle production. This is largely due to the fact that it has acquired 55% of the chemical lithium reserves needed for electric car batteries, mainly through its early investments in major mining operations in Australia.” (source).

The EU is also concerned about its dependence on lithium supplies. In the upstream segment of the value chain, Chile provides more than 70% of the EU’s lithium supply. Since other minerals are also needed to make batteries, the dependence extends to other countries in the big picture.

The Democratic Republic of Congo supplies more than 60% of the cobalt processed in the EU. China, for its part, meets about half of the Union’s total demand for natural graphite. Moreover, the EU’s international dependence in the low-carbon sector also stems from the fact that its own battery cell production capacity is still relatively weak. In 2020, EU battery production accounted for just 9% of global battery production (source).

It is only natural that the EU is trying to prioritize high-risk investments in battery designs that are less dependent on scarce natural resources such as cobalt, nickel or lithium.

Geopolitical tensions and possible lithium supply disruptions are not only being highlighted in the West.

In May 2023, Asia Times noted that the top three producing countries process more than 80% of the most important minerals used in lithium batteries. China dominates the processing of almost all minerals, holding more than 50% of the total market share, with the exception of nickel and copper, of which China controls 35% and 40% respectively.

Technology-intensive industries rely on interdependencies between countries with different endowments. This works well during periods of geopolitical stability and cooperation but the high concentration of processing in the lithium battery supply chain means that it is vulnerable to disruption by war, global pandemics, natural disasters or geopolitical tensions.

Australia has the world’s largest battery-grade lithium deposits, and export revenues have skyrocketed, with lithium becoming Australia’s sixth most valuable commodity export. Australia needs to consider how to profit from the boom and what role it can play in the lithium race.

Australia and China complement each other in this supply chain. Australia supplies 46% of lithium chemicals and a large proportion goes to Chinese processing facilities and then to Chinese battery and EV makers.

China produces 60% of the world’s lithium products and 75% of all lithium-ion batteries, primarily powering its rapidly growing EV market, which accounts for 60% of the world’s total.

Australia moving up the value chain would require investment and technology, and bear a significant environmental cost. Without scale advantages, Australian-made products will fail to achieve global competitiveness. Australia must consider long-term industrial policies that enable the country to play a role in fighting against climate change rather than being caught between the superpower competition.

Australia is entangled in the superpower competition between China and the United States over the control of lithium.” (source).

And the US still lags behind China in lithium mining and battery production. An estimated 3.6% of the world’s lithium reserves are concentrated there, with a single lithium mine in Nevada (although others are planned), and only 2.1% of the world’s lithium is processed.

But in the 1990s, the U.S. was the leader in lithium production. The industry was undermined by a combination of cheaper production overseas, strict environmental regulations and the empowerment of indigenous peoples, who often own property where there are lithium mines. The big push for clean technology has changed U.S. priorities—unless the United States develops domestic sources of lithium or secures additional sources abroad, it faces a threat to its national security as China expands its own access to the resource (source).

The current situation also raises the issue of control over lithium supplies, as the West is trying to impose all sorts of sanctions on unwanted states that pursue independent policies. And, according to the author of the RAND Corporation, it is not so easy to do this. “The special requirements for suppliers of critical minerals to receive credit for clean vehicles are designed to encourage increased production outside of China, which dominates global supply chains for electric vehicle batteries. A certain percentage of the minerals must be domestic or from a country with which the United States has a free trade agreement, and none can come from a “foreign interested party,” which includes China. The dominance of any one source of supply leaves the rest of the world vulnerable to disruption, and the fact that that source is China only heightens the fears of the United States and its allies” (source).

Another RAND publication noted that China has a huge share of lithium-ion battery production. Today, it produces 91% and 78% of all battery anodes and cathodes, respectively, and 70% of the world’s battery production. China has also demonstrated that it is willing to restrict exports of critical minerals, such as rare earth elements, to coerce trading partners. Such export restrictions could negatively impact the entire U.S. economy and, in particular, the growing market for electric vehicles. But they could also undermine the defense industry’s ability to support the U.S. military (source).

After all, there are certain indicators by which technological superiority in geopolitical competition can be determined. And in our case, gigafactories are a key indicator of who and where will dominate electric vehicle platform technology (and beyond). The term, originally coined by Tesla, refers to large-scale electric battery manufacturing capacity (for electric vehicles and energy storage). Capacity is measured in gigawatt hours (GWh). The relevance of these gigafactories has increased dramatically over time as this resource has become a major source of foreign direct investment and has become necessary to support battery-related industries, vehicle manufacturers, and supply chains. According to the Automotive database (2021), Europe has only 25% of gigafactories, while Asia has 71% (China owns 69% of capacity). As China leads in gigafactory capacity at the speed and scale required by global demand, gigafactories could become a “geopolitical hotspot” beyond purely geographic concentration of infrastructure (source).

At the same time, China’s expansion into other markets is noticeable. For example, China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited (CATL) not only had 22% of the total global gigafactory capacity of 500 GWh in 2021, but is now expanding its operations in Europe and is likely to increase its presence in the United States and other key regions.

In 2022, there are 92 gigafactories in Asia, 23 in Europe, and 13 in North America. So the percentages are as follows – 72, 18 and 10. Paradoxically, Latin America, which accounts for the bulk of lithium production, has no gigafactories at all. Neither does Africa.

As for Russia, the lithium boom is just beginning. During SPIEF-2023, an agreement was signed on the development of the Kolmozersky lithium deposit in the Murmansk region. The development of the deposit will make it possible to create Russia’s first production of lithium-containing raw materials, which will make it possible to supply advanced Russian enterprises with lithium. Among them is a factory for the production of lithium-ion batteries in the Kaliningrad Region, which is scheduled to be launched in 2025. The deposit itself contains about 19% of Russia’s lithium reserves. Its ore also contains valuable strategic materials—beryllium, niobium and tantalum (source).

We can only hope that the experience of other countries will be taken into account and Russia will have at least a little more domestic gigafactories.

Leonid Savin is Editor-in-Chief of the Geopolitika.ru Analytical Center, General Director of the Cultural and Territorial Spaces Monitoring and Forecasting Foundation and Head of the International Eurasia Movement Administration. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geopolitika.

Why Soft Power is not Applicable in Russia

The use of foreign theories and models is unlikely to benefit our state and people.

From the mid-2000s to the early 2020s, there was a vogue for “soft power” in the Russian community of political scientists and international scholars—numerous articles on the subject were published, dissertations were defended, and representatives of a number of Russian NGOs and foundations eloquently tried to convince that it was they who were engaged in “soft power” issues in order to promote Russia’s interests abroad. One must agree that the term coined by Joseph Nye Jr. was indeed an attractive one. True, he also talked about hard power, smart power, and cyber power. And then there is sharp force (by Christopher Walker) and sticky force (by Walter Russell Mead). And different views on how exactly to apply power to exercise US domination led to polemics between theorists of the said methodologies.

But it is “soft power” that has become popular in Russia. Probably because it was opposed to hard power. And although in 2008 Russia resorted specifically to hard power in South Ossetia, soft power continued to be discussed just as actively.

This approach is generally wrong. Instead of developing its own concepts, strategies and doctrines, Russia has been musing over models that were alien to us. And their analysis did not have enough critical depth to realize the importance of an authentic and sovereign approach to the conduct of international affairs. Because of this, a Russian theory of International Relations has not yet emerged, although attempts by a number of Russian scholars and political scientists have been made for many years.

The fascination with the West is not a trend of recent decades. During the Soviet era, we (alas) also began to use terms and concepts formulated by our ideological opponents. The term “bipolar world,” the “Third World,” and more specific definitions, such as the “Cuban Missile Crisis” are all products of the U.S. presidential administration and the pool of American political scientists serving the White House and the State Department.

The same phenomenon has occurred with soft power. And, having created in their own imagination some model that, theoretically, can influence others, domestic political scientists began to talk about the need to apply it at the global level.

If we take into account that “soft power is more of a figurative generalization than a normatively expressed concept,” this approach could be justified.

However, the initial positions and capabilities of Russia and the United States in this regard are very different from each other.

First, the budget used in the United States for all kinds of psychological operations, cultural and ideological influence, scientific and educational programs, as well as maintaining a staff of its own agents around the world is not comparable to the funds that even under ideal conditions Russia would have for conducting its foreign policy.

The formation of the U.S. soft power apparatus began as early as the 1970s, and it was quite diverse. From USAID, the Peace Corps and organizations like NDI and the Republican Institute, to Saul Alinsky’s network projects and Protestant missionary groups—all of them have been working for decades in different regions of the world, collecting the necessary data and developing unique methods of social engineering (it should be noted that the school of behaviorism, i.e., human behavior management, originated in the United States). The budgets of millions of dollars were allocated, year after year, and mastered by a whole army of scientists, specialists and executors. The best methods that proved themselves in one or another country/region were scaled up at the global level.

Second, soft power does not exist on its own, but only in conjunction with hard power.

While hard power—the ability to coerce—stems from a country’s military or economic strength, soft power arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals and policies. Hard power remains crucial in a world of nations trying to assert their independence. It was at the heart of the Bush Jr. administration’s new national security strategy. But in Nye’s view, the neoconservatives who advised the president made a serious miscalculation—they focused too much on using America’s military might to force other countries to do Washington’s bidding, but paid too little attention to soft power. In Nye’s view, it was soft power that was supposed to prevent terrorists from recruiting supporters from among the moderate majority. And it was soft power that was supposed to help deal with critical global problems that required multilateral cooperation among nations. This is what Nye discussed in his book, which was published in 2004, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Again, the U.S. hard power budget is also dozens of times greater than what Russia has spent on military and defense.

Third, the author (Nye) himself should be more closely scrutinized. With a Ph.D. in philosophy and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Joseph Nye, Jr. is by no means a pacifist or a proponent of exclusively controversial diplomacy. From 1977 to 1979, he served as Assistant Under Secretary of State for Security Support, Science and Technology. He was also chairman of the National Security Council panel on nuclear nonproliferation. From 1993 to 1994, he was chairman of the National Intelligence Council, and from 1994 to 1995, he served as U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for International Affairs. Thus, his main experience has been in the security services, and he was a decision-maker. And in 1994, the U.S. military intervention in Haiti took place, in order to return to office President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had repeatedly violated the country’s Constitution. Of course, this was done under the guise of “restoring democracy” to improve Bill Clinton’s rating. Interestingly, in 2004, the U.S. itself had already financed Aristide’s overthrow, having created the necessary conditions (both in terms of destroying the country’s economy and creating a controlled opposition). The mentioning of such a change of mood on the part of the US is not accidental, because we are talking about soft power as a kind of political tool. And this period is precisely the time of a series of color revolutions in the post-Soviet space, which the U.S. was behind. Is not this the manifestation of the “soft power” of the professional strongman Joseph Nye? The understanding of this has come to the Russian political science community relatively recently.

By the way, Joseph Nye himself introduced the term “soft power” back in the late 1980s and regularly used it in his works before the book with the same title was published.

For example, in a 1990 work, Bound Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power, he argues for the need to control international processes, albeit not directly, but by asserting its strategic interests. And for this purpose, the U.S. has the necessary resources, which must be properly allocated—one part to maintain military power and the other to skillful diplomacy, which he called “soft power.”

We read: ” The United States has both the traditional hard power resources and the new soft power resources to meet the challenges of transnational interdependence. The critical question is whether it will have the political leadership and strategic vision to convert these power resources into real influence in a transitional period of world politics. The implications for stability in the nuclear era are immense. A strategy for managing the transition to complex interdependence over the next decades will require the United States to invest its resources in the maintenance of the geopolitical balance, in an open attitude to the rest of the world, in the development of new international institutions, and in major reforms to restore the domestic sources of U.S. strength” (pp. 260-261).

There are rather obvious attitudes towards the continuation of the US global dominance. At the time of writing, the USSR was still in existence, but Nye had already warned of the need to invest in new international structures in order to control world processes through them.

Another mistake of Russian political analysts is that they have started to refer to U.S. diplomacy in general as nothing but “soft power.” One can often encounter such expressions as “US soft power in the post-Soviet space,” “US soft power in Central Asia,” etc. etc. It is as if a wide range of instruments of diplomatic influence conducted by the U.S. State Department did not exist before. And all this was long before Joseph Nye invented his term.

According to Nye’s definition, a country’s “soft power” is based on three sources: culture, political values and its foreign policy. Any state has all of these, but their essence and form are different. If the U.S. is based on Protestant religious culture, exclusivity and superiority, with an emphasis on God’s chosenness (the doctrine of Predestination) with a moralizing bias, other countries and peoples have different views on world affairs.

Developing this idea, Olga Leonova rightly notes that “soft power” is formed on the basis of the attractiveness of not only the general culture of a given country, but also its political ideals and traditions. Hence, political culture is meant here. Indeed, when the political course of a given country finds a positive response among its partners, the potential of “soft power” increases. Consequently, the resources of “soft power” include political institutions, political doctrines and concepts expressed in the country’s activities, both at the domestic political level and in the international arena.

But does U.S. foreign policy resonate positively in other countries? Of course, there is a certain correlation between public support and military interventions. For example, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the U.S. rating plummeted in many countries that were considered allies. Apparently, this worried Joseph Nye, who saw the critical attitude of the vast majority of the world’s peoples toward his country as a threat to the attractiveness in which resources had been invested over the previous decades.

But definitely, the attractiveness of the USA is also related to the welfare of the citizens who live there, and in the 1990s and early 2000s, this country was considered promising for life, work and career. But in recent times, the rising unemployment rate, crime rate and declining quality of life as such in the US leaves much to be desired. Of course, there are very poor countries from where illegal migrants try to get to the US via Mexico, but this is done out of desperation and inflated expectations. It is doubtful that the segment of illegal migrants who are not highly skilled and unable to actively contribute to the U.S. economy can be attributed to the “soft power” effect.

Consequently, there is an illusory component to this model. Just as the picture in Hollywood movies is different from real life in the United States, the culture, political values, and image of U.S. foreign policy itself is distorted by the imagination of those affected by these three components.

If we simplify the comparison of “soft power” of different countries on the basis of these three components, we can say that we have the same name for a culinary dish, but the proportions of ingredients and their quality (as well as the preparation process) will be different; so it makes no sense to give this dish the same name.

Let the US stay with its soft, hard, smart and other powers. They, of course, should be kept in mind, but only analyzed through a critical prism and take into account how they can use these tools against us.

We, on the other hand, need to develop our own concepts, theories, and doctrines based on domestic history, culture, and values, and in accordance with the current political moment.

Leonid Savin is Editor-in-Chief of the Geopolitika.ru Analytical Center, General Director of the Cultural and Territorial Spaces Monitoring and Forecasting Foundation and Head of the International Eurasia Movement Administration. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geopolitika.

Featured: Ten Men Pulling on Ropes, by Claude-Joseph Vernet; pen and ink, ca. 18th century.

The Geopolitics of Water

The factor of hydro-hegemony becomes an important asset in foreign policy disputes.

Water has traditionally been considered one of the most important resources to which proper access must be ensured. It is directly related to food security, i.e., agriculture, but also concerns all types of industry (since water is needed for a variety of production cycles from the creation of semiconductors to the functioning of standard equipment) and power generation.

If access to water begins to be a problem, it automatically leads to negative effects such as migration, epidemics, economic decline and conflict. In this context, the concept of water hegemony emerged in the context of state sovereignty (more precisely, the interrelation of the sovereignties of different states and their national interests). Hydro-hegemony is hegemony at the river basin level, achieved through water management strategies such as resource grabbing, integration, and containment.

Strategies are implemented through a variety of tactics (e.g., coercion—pressure, treaties, knowledge accumulation, etc.) that are made possible by exploiting existing asymmetries of power in a weak international institutional context.

Political processes, outside the water sector shape, hydro-political relations in a form that varies from the benefits derived from cooperation under hegemonic leadership to the unfair aspects of dominance. The outcome of competition in terms of control over a resource is determined by the form of establishment of hydro-hegemony, as a rule, in favor of the most powerful participant. The establishment of a dominant position in the management of the river system can be seen as an attractive tool for the hegemonic actor, since it allows him to unilaterally set national goals above those of other agents. In addition, unilateral control creates political leverage over downstream countries.

Thus, Zeitoun and Warner have looked at the basins of such rivers as the Jordan, Nile, Euphrates, and Tigris; but this model can be applied to other regions—in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. But there are also cases closer to us. The Rogun hydropower plant in Tajikistan has caused tensions between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

To this day, the problem of water allocation remains acute in Central Asia.

For example, the second largest lake in Asia, Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan is directly connected to the Ili River, whose headwaters are in China. The Ili-Balkhash ecosystem covers 413,000 square kilometers—more than Britain, Denmark, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium combined. Previously, due to the consumption of water resources in China itself, aimed at supplying the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and the demands of local industry, the level of the river was declining, which was reflected in the rapid shallowing of the lake. In recent years, land development and expansion of rice fields in China have continued, which reflected in the decline of water in Balkhash. We must consider that the lack of water also results in desertification and loss of soil fertility. This is a universal phenomenon. And conflicts similar to the Tajik-Uzbek conflict occur in other regions.

For example, disputes over water resources of the Brahmaputra have long been the cause of political friction between India and China. In April 2010, during Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna’s visit to Beijing, the Chinese first designated an area on the Brahmaputra where the initial construction of the Zangmu Dam in Tibet was to take place. Chinese officials assured India that the projects would proceed as usual and would not create a water shortage downstream. In response to India’s subsequent requests for more information on the plans, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: “China takes a responsible attitude toward transboundary water development. We have a policy that protection goes hand in hand with development, and we take full account of the interests of downstream countries.”

Additional information about the dam plan was released in January 2013, as part of China’s current five-year energy plan. The plan included proposals to build three medium-sized dams on the Yarlung Tsangpo River. As a result, this increased tensions between the two countries, because India was not consulted before the plan was released and only learned about it from the Chinese press. This forced the Indian government to protest strongly. The conflict between the two countries did not end there. When China completed construction of the 510 MW Zangmu hydropower plant in Tibet in October 2015, much of the Indian media expressed concern about the dam preventing water from flowing into the downstream Brahmaputra. A Chinese foreign ministry official noted that Zangmu was part of the River Project, so it would not hold back water.

Indeed, there is no water retention under this project, but there is silt retention, and this has a serious impact on downstream fertility. Technically, the project builds a dam to divert water from the river into the tunnel. The dam typically diverts 70 to 90 percent of the water, depending on the environmental permit obtained. This silt-laden water is first diverted to a sump so the silt can settle to the bottom, because the silt breaks the edges of the turbine blades. Then the silt-cleansed water is conveyed through a long tunnel, at the end of which it falls vertically onto the turbine blades. The rotation of the turbine generates electricity. The water is then diverted back into the river. Thus, the water itself is not retained, but the silt settles to the bottom of the first reservoir and is flushed into the riverbed just downstream of the dam wall. The question is, is the force of the water that flows out of the dam enough to carry much of this silt downstream? In most cases it is not.

Because it is the silt that restores soil fertility downstream, this issue becomes crucial.

The Himalayas are the youngest mountain range in the world, and the rivers flowing down from them replenish soil fertility in some of the oldest cultivated regions on earth in all of Asia. The Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta consists almost entirely of this silt. There are controversial issues in Thailand as well. There are plans to build several dams on the Mekong in the region, such as Pak Beng and Luang Prabang, but some believe they are unnecessary for the Thai electricity system. Thai civil society and people in Thailand have also questioned the possibility of buying more electricity from neighboring countries, including from the Mekong River dams in Pak Beng and Luang Prabang. Since last year, every household has felt their electricity bills increase every month. They ask, “While we have a huge energy reserve, [an electricity surplus of] more than 50%, why are you buying more?”—since the main costs are borne by taxpayers. Environmentalists are also sounding the alarm because they believe that the natural balance will be disrupted.

As for Russia, the situation with the division of water resources differs depending on where the border runs. For example, there are about 450 rivers, streams and lakes on the Russian-Finnish border (Russia-Greater Russia, over 1,200 km). For the most part, their course is directed towards Russia, and among the larger rivers are the Vuoksi, the Hiitolanjoki and the Tuloma. The total flow volume is 780 cubic meters per second. There are four hydroelectric power stations on the Vuoksa, two in Finland and two in Russia. The Russian-Finnish Commission on the Use of Boundary Waters deals with the regulation of water flows. Given the fact that the upper reaches of the rivers are in Finland, theoretically Helsinki has a better chance of hydro-hegemony than Moscow.

With regard to Kazakhstan, Russia has a balanced position, since the Ural River flows from Russia, and Tobol, Ishim and Irtysh from Kazakhstan. There have been no problems with the water resources of these rivers between the countries. However, since the upper reaches of the Irtysh are in China, this has caused trilateral disputes and Beijing has been reluctant to respond to Russian and Kazakh requests to regulate the use and protection of water resources. But with respect to Ukraine, Russia has a serious advantage because it controls the upper reaches of the main tributaries of the Dnieper—the major rivers Desna, Psel, Seim, and Voskla. It should be added that allied Belarus controls the Pripyat and Dnieper rivers.

Potentially, Russia can use its strategic position, and not only from the position of geo-economics, but also from the theater of military operations.

In particular, unmanned surface and underwater vehicles can be launched into these rivers to collect intelligence. Such models are in service with the U.S. military, and some of them are made in the form of fish for external camouflage. Ideally, the use of such vehicles could create a reliable network of sensors to obtain operational information (e.g., on the movement of equipment across bridges or activity near special-purpose facilities that are in close proximity to river banks). If the need for such activity persists, such a hydro-hegemonic asset could become a useful tool in confronting the enemy.

Leonid Savin is Editor-in-Chief of the Geopolitika.ru Analytical Center, General Director of the Cultural and Territorial Spaces Monitoring and Forecasting Foundation and Head of the International Eurasia Movement Administration. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geopolitika.

Featured: The Oxus at Khami-e-Ab, Looking East, Near Khoja-Saleh, print, from a sketch by Captain Peacocke, Illustrated London News, 1885.

Iran: The Achievements of the “Resistance Economy”

Many media outlets write about the effectiveness of Iranian drones on the front lines. The official agenda also increasingly speaks of visits by official delegations or interest in interaction in one industry or another. In mid-December, I made a fairly long trip to Iran, where I was able to see the latest achievements of this country, through meetings and in-depth interviews to assess bilateral cooperation and the prospects for further interaction between Russia and Iran.

I will begin with subjective impressions. The last time I was in Iran was in May 2017. In the intervening time, there have been certain changes that are striking. First, the procedure for entering the country has become much easier. It took me ten minutes to get a visa at the airport and pay the fee. It was given on a small piece of paper that was presented at the control window together with my passport. No stamps were put in the passport. Many premium buildings have sprung up in Tehran. High-rise buildings were being built everywhere, especially in the northern district. The subway has been expanded. In fact, a branch line to Imam Khomeini International Airport has been completed, which will make logistics much easier. There is a lot of traffic at peak hours, which is due to the infrastructure of the capital, which was expanded rather chaotically.

As for the protests, about which the Western media write so much and constantly—they simply do not exist. The so-called “hijab crisis,” which occurred after the death of a Kurdish girl, is just another attempt by the West to bring about a color revolution. Indeed, there were attempts at riots in a number of cities, and even protests took place in Tehran. But now everything is quite calm. As for the hijab: In Tehran, you regularly see girls and women with uncovered heads in all kinds of places—in the streets, in cafes, museums and parks, in bazaars and in stores. Of course, no one is allowed into a mosque without a headscarf. But in other public places women walk quite freely and look happy. No one stops them or represses them. I should add that I have seen women not only with blond hair, but also with blue, with Botox-infused lips, tattoos on the palms and necks, and even with face piercings. So, there is nothing wrong with rights and freedoms in Iran.

More sanctions by the West against a number of Iranian officials is a standard political procedure, where the death of a Kurdish girl was just a pretext for intervention. And how many people suffered from police actions in cities in Germany, France, the USA and other Western countries? Who counted the victims of the arbitrary actions of the authorities in the EU? How many people have been innocently convicted by the U.S. judicial system? And yet no one imposes sanctions against these countries because the concept of sovereignty implies non-interference in the affairs of other states. However, Washington and Brussels believe that they are allowed to do so. In general, the West’s strategy towards Iran is aimed at completely changing its political system, and for this purpose any available mechanisms are used to hit the Islamic Republic of Iran with pin-point strikes.

In the context of current events on December 15, 2022 Iran was expelled from the Commission on the Status of Women by the UN Economic and Social Council (28 votes in favor, 8 against, among them—Russia, which questioned the legitimacy of such a decision, 16—abstained). Iranian officials called the procedure nothing short of clownish, noting human rights violations within the United States, especially against the black population. And the EU sanctions against Iran, which Brussels recently imposed “for human rights violations and drone deliveries to Russia,” were assessed as a blatant act of Iranophobia. The Iranian Foreign Ministry protested, adding that the West is following a double standard by turning a blind eye to what is happening in Palestine, and that the EU will face consequences if it continues to hype Iranophobia.

Incidentally, Iran has also imposed retaliatory sanctions against officials and organizations from Britain, the US and the EU, including the media, NGOs and various companies. We can assume that in the future the West will use any pretext for new sanctions. For example, at the beginning of December in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan, the Sunni Imam Moulavi Abdulhaved Rigi was kidnapped and killed by unknown persons. Some Western media are already trying to present this case to show some kind of guilt of the country’s authorities, since the deceased was a Sunni. But everybody suffers from activities of bandits and terrorists (most of which are deliberately created by Western special services for destabilization of the situation in the country), irrespective of religion and social identity. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps recently claimed to have prevented the attempted assassination of Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolkhoda.

Now for the achievements of Iran. According to the Deputy Minister of Road and Urban Development Mohammad Muhammadi, Iran’s civilian aircraft fleet has increased by 77 aircrafts and now consists of 175 airliners.

Iran is also among the top ten steel producing countries. In 2022, the country produced 2.9 million tons in the first ten months. From March to October, the country exported 5.9 million tons, a 30% increase over the same period the previous year.

The capacity of oil terminals is expanding. The Hark oil storage facility, for example, plans to increase volumes to 4.2 million barrels. Exports of minerals and other mining resources from March to November this year reached more than 30 million tons worth $7.8 billion. Exports of petrochemical products increased by 30% and reached 90 million tons. By the way, one of the Iranian catalysts for the petrochemical industry is also supplied to Russia. Iran produces 60 of all 87 necessary types of catalysts.

China alone accounted for 30% of Iran’s foreign trade in 2022. In addition to petrochemical products, China actively buys steel, liquefied gases (propane, butane), methanol, polyethylene, bitumen, alloys, nuts, saffron and leather products. Trade figures with Africa increased by 39%. Even with the U.S., trade is up nearly 15% over 2021, although the overall numbers are lower than they were in 2019. Meanwhile, medicines from the U.S. go to Iran through third countries, particularly the UAE. And from Iran to the U.S., all exports are limited to what passengers buy and bring in. Tehran does not seem to care much about the U.S. market, which is being replaced by other countries.

It should be added that Iran itself follows the principle of economy mokavemati (resistance), the doctrine of which the Supreme Leader of Iran previously presented as a response to pressure from the West. It is based on the principle where the basis of the economy is the social unit; then comes the local level, then the regional and then the national level. The processes of the global economy are the very last concern. This approach allows Iran to rely on its own strength and not be dependent on foreign markets. Judging by the economic boom in the country, this model has turned out to be effective and efficient. Moreover, its goals are the eradication of poverty and the provision of assistance to the poor.

But Iran has made great strides beyond the export of raw materials. In the engineering and maintenance sector, exports rose by 41% to $260 million. In knowledge-intensive products, Iran ranks 15th in the world and leads the region. The country has a total of 8,735 companies in this field and 51 science and technology parks. The budget for research and development is about $80 million. The indicators related to foreign investments in Iran are interesting. For example, this year half of all investments in Iran came from the citizens of Afghanistan. For example, in Khorasan Razavi province the share of Afghan capital is about one billion dollars. This phenomenon is partly connected with the Taliban coming to power in Afghanistan, which forced many businessmen to leave the country. At the same time, a dialogue is now being established with the Taliban government, where bilateral trade and the use of Iran as a transit is an important point in the negotiation process. Earlier, Afghanistan said it was interested in exporting its coal to Iran.

Domestic consumption is also growing. In particular, domestic and commercial gas consumption is expected to grow from 600 million cubic meters per day to 650. This means that the domestic economy is developing, despite external sanctions and pressure. This is confirmed by the abundance of advertising on Iran’s central and regional TV channels—and all the advertised products, with a few exceptions, from household chemicals to motorcycles and cars are locally produced.

Relations with Russia are also actively developing. If five years ago only international relations specialists and experts knew about the EAEU and Eurasian integration, now ordinary newspapers regularly provide information about it. In particular, the Iranian media write that the terms of accession to the free trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union have been agreed upon. The contract is 150 pages long and includes more than 7500 types of goods and services. Russia is Iran’s main partner in the EAEU with a turnover of more than $1.4 billion. In 2021 Iran’s trade with the EAEU increased by 73% compared with 2020. The creation of an additional railway branch of the North-South transport corridor is being discussed. Although there is also talk of creating a canal that would connect the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf.

In addition to official data, information is leaking out about the intensification of cooperation on other fronts as well. Thus, the U.S. media, citing Israeli intelligence, reported that Iran and Russia are negotiating the training of Iranian sailors and the production of warships in Russia. Previously, Iran had asked China for help with shipbuilding, but Beijing hesitated. The current relationship between Moscow and Tehran is conducive to the widest cooperation, so the chances of this project being realized are great. Incidentally, Admiral Tangsiri, commander of the IRGC naval forces, recently stated that “the United States cannot even imagine what kind of missiles Iran already has.” He added that Iran is the only one with small boats no more than 8 meters long equipped with missiles. This is a reflection of the “swarm strategy” adopted by Iran some fifteen years ago to use small and mobile vessels as well as drones against bulky and large enemy ships. Potential targets for Iran are U.S. aircraft carriers and destroyers in the Persian Gulf.

As for the assessment of a special military operation in Ukraine, Iranians differ in their opinions. And this is due to the lack of awareness of the background of the events that unfolded in Ukraine after the coup d’etat in 2014—although there is a common understanding of the aggressive role of the United States and NATO.

I had a discussion with representatives of scientific, intellectual, and ideological circles in Iran about the Ukrainian conflict. I tried to explain to them the background of the war in Ukraine with a historical and metaphysical context. And when there was a follow-up question as to why this war is not only just for the Russians, but also holy, since Russia does not defend itself as it did in 1812 and 1941, I had to make an additional excursus, for which my interlocutors expressed their gratitude.

The fact is that holy war is translated as jihad, and in this context, for Muslims, their own understanding immediately emerges. First, there are differences between Shiite and Sunni fiqh (religious law). Second, there are also differences between classical and modern Shiite fiqh. But there are also common grounds, for example, in Shi’a and Sunni jihad is also a religious obligation (along with prayer, fasting, hajj, and charity). However, the Shiites have an important caveat that the imam must be of good moral character; without this, jihad would be illegitimate. Both Sunni and Shiite jihad is both defensive and offensive in nature. However, modern Shiite theologians such as Ayatollah Mortada Motahhari and Ayatollah Salehi Najafabadi interpret the ayats to mean that jihad can only be defensive in nature, since we are now in the era of the hidden Imam. But there are reservations here as well. For example, Ayatollah Khomeini pointed out that in addition to the prerogative of the Vilayati Fatih (guardian-type sovereignty held by the supreme leader of Iran for the duration of the hidden Imam), other theologians can also give the right to conduct offensive jihad. But Ayatollah Golpaigani of Qom Seminary argued that offensive jihad is the exclusive prerogative of the impeccable Imam and his authorized representative.

While contemporary Shi’a interpretations of offensive jihad differ, the opinion on defensive jihad is unanimous. Here the permission of the irreproachable Imam is not needed, and it represents a response to an enemy attack against Muslims with the intention of seizing their property and subjugating their lives. In such a case, the obligation to wage defensive jihad falls on all who can fight, regardless of gender or age. This is the context in which the Iranians interpret the special military operation in Ukraine.

With these aspects in mind, we need to have a carefully constructed system of arguments to polemicize with those forces in the Muslim world who promote the thesis that “Russia is not waging a defensive war” and question the justice of its actions. Therefore, we need more explanatory work in this direction—as well as strengthening cooperation in information exchange and jointly countering disinformation and hybrid operations of the West against our countries. And, of course, the Iranian experience of economic development under harsh sanctions will also be useful.

Leonid Savin, is Editor-in-Chief of the Geopolitika.ru Analytical Center, General Director of the Cultural and Territorial Spaces Monitoring and Forecasting Foundation and Head of the International Eurasia Movement Administration. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geopolitika.

Iran: “Hijab Crisis,” Or Color Revolution?

In Iran, riots and mass protests continue for a third week. The Western globalist media wrote that this was caused by the death of Mahsa Amini, who was allegedly killed by the vice squad for not wearing a headscarf (in Iran, girls and women are required by law to cover their heads). However, according to official reports, she suffered a heart attack at the police station [vax status? Ed]. She was taken to the hospital, but could not be saved. The rest of the details are not known, because the situation began to deteriorate rapidly. In addition, a large number of fakes appeared on social networks and in foreign publications.

The incident with the girl occurred on September 16. By September 18, mass protests and riots began. A security officer was killed by a mob of unidentified people, and four young Iranians were also killed by protesters during the clashes. Clearly, the situation was deliberately escalating.

In the following days, the protests spread to a number of cities in Iran. Women were demonstratively tearing scarves from their heads. There were reports of weapons being seized. A video shared on social media showed rioters throwing Molotov cocktails at police cars and beating police officers. Footage has also emerged of the crowd chanting “Long Live Shah Pahlavi.” Such chants are surprising because the vast majority of Iranians today don’t remember the times of the Pahlavi dynasty (the Shah fled the country during the 1979 Islamic Revolution; and it was the repressive nature of the Shah’s regime that was the key to that Revolution’s success).

This scenario resembles the events in Libya which also began with a small incident and then developed into political actions (monarchist banners appeared immediately), and then civil war. Similar developments also took place in Iran, during the presidential elections, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was running for a second term.

After Mahsa Amini’s death, the “green movement” in Iran, by way of social networks, called for mobilization and mass protests. By September 22, it was known that 61 ambulances had been destroyed by vandals. By the second week, more than forty deaths were known. By the third week, the number of victims was close to a hundred.

Hijab Riots

Across Iran, ordinary women and public figures, including Iranian actresses, removed their headscarves in protest or cut their hair in public to show solidarity with the demonstrators. We do not have complete statistics on criminal and misdemeanor crimes in Iran. However, we can assume that there are the usual incidents, with the deaths of offenders, as well as cases of abuse of power by members of the executive branch. But in this case there is a deliberate promotion of the theme of “the victim and the bad officials.” In general, the Arab Spring in Tunisia began with a similar episode. In the case of Iran, it is also indicative that the protesters are not demanding to “get the culprits,” but are blaming the authorities in general; that is, their actions are directed against the Supreme Leader of Iran and the rahbar institution, which represents the spiritual authorities that are above secular bodies.

Leaving aside the emotional factor, as well as the socio-political turmoil in Iran (which is less than it was a year ago), one should pay attention to the geopolitical context and international relations. In Iran, the wave of protests began immediately after the SCO summit in Samarkand, where Iran was accepted as a full member of the organization.

In addition, Iran is currently working on adjusting a number of laws in accordance with the norms of the EAEU, in order to move from a free trade zone to full membership. Numerous agreements have been signed with Russia, including the supply of natural gas to Iran and the use of the country for transit to the neighboring Republic of Pakistan, which is also interested in Russian energy resources. Cooperation in infrastructure and military-technical cooperation is also being enhanced. The appearance of Iranian kamikaze drones by the Russian army conducting the operation in Ukraine has also changed the situation on the front in favor of Russia.

Let us note another interesting fact: Albania officially severed diplomatic relations with Iran. The reason given was a cyber attack that allegedly had been carried out by Iranian special services on the infrastructure of Albania. But, in fact, this is a double-edged case. There are training camps in Albanian territory of the terrorist organization, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, who advocate the overthrow of the Iranian government. In particular, they spread propaganda and conduct cyber operations against Iran. It is likely that retaliation by Iranian security forces, or hackers, against the Mojahedin Organization servers led to cascading effects that affected other elements of critical infrastructure. Microsoft was involved in the investigation of the cyber incident in Albania.

In addition, the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program is nearing resolution. Russia fully supports Tehran on this issue. The EU states are also interested in returning to the state of affairs before the imposition of new sanctions by the U.S. Only Washington is still stubborn, which is explained by the close ties between the U.S. and Israel. Normalization of relations has also been noted with Saudi Arabia, a longtime antagonist of Iran. Taken together, these factors indicate a significant strengthening of Iran in the region in recent times, despite continuing U.S. sanctions.

This raises the question—who benefits from a crisis or coup d’état in Iran?

Neighboring Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey and Iraq are hardly interested in a serious deterioration of the political climate in their neighboring country, because any unrest could spill over to them. But there are other actors who would benefit from any crisis in Iran.

First of all, Israel, Britain and the United States are not interested in increasing the role and status of Iran. Israel and the U.S. have been outspoken about the need to overthrow the “ayatollah regime” in Iran. For Israel, because of security and ties of Palestinian groups and the Lebanese Hezbollah to the Iranian government. The U.S., because of the idée fixe of establishing a Western liberal democracy.

We should add that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has been recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Representatives of this organization are constantly and groundlessly accused by Washington of planning and organizing unlawful acts and threatening U.S. interests.

Finally, the victim-heroine of the protests was a native of the Kurdish region of Iran, which adds both a regional and Kurdish factor to the story, since a number of Kurdish organizations have subversive activities against the Iranian government, from political propaganda to organizing attacks on border guards and security forces. Given the long-standing Israeli and U.S. ties with the Kurds of Iraq, as well as the ability to manipulate social networks, we can assume that those concerned would be unlikely to miss the chance to use the girl’s death to foment discontent and social unrest.

In addition, the level and experience of the intelligence services of the above states allows us to conclude that only these three countries can conduct an operation of this level in another state. Reliable sources in Iran report increased activity of Zionist and Western propaganda inside Iran. A chain reaction has begun. These events will obviously go down in history as another attempt at a color revolution.

Leonid Savin, is Editor-in-Chief of the Geopolitika.ru Analytical Center, General Director of the Cultural and Territorial Spaces Monitoring and Forecasting Foundation and Head of the International Eurasia Movement Administration. This article appears through the kind courtesy of the Oriental Review.

The Anti-Utopia of Klaus Schwab

The ideas proposed by the Chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, in his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) have already been criticized quite a lot for a variety of reasons. Yet to other people who do not identify themselves as supporters of globalization, these ideas seem quite appealing. After all, Schwab argues that digital innovation will change people’s lives, work, and leisure time for the better. Technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics, quantum cloud computing and blockchain are already part of everyday life. We use cell phones and apps, smart technology and the Internet of Things. And compared to previous industrial revolutions, he argues, 4IR is evolving at an exponential rate, reorganizing production, management and governance systems in unprecedented ways.

However, an objective analysis of Klaus Schwab’s ideas shows that he is partly mistaken and that his position is generally driven by the interests of exercising control over society and managing capital that is acquiring new properties.

Critics of the 4IR concept include Nanjala Nyabola, who in her book Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics analyzes the narrative by which Schwab has shaped his ideology.

She argues that 4IR is used by global elites to divert attention away from the drivers of inequality and to facilitate ongoing processes of expropriation, exploitation, and exclusion. Nyabola astutely notes that “the real appeal of this idea is that it is apolitical. We can talk about development and progress without resorting to power struggles.”


“Embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution has become a defining factor for competitiveness,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

The rejoinder from Africa, where Nyabola lives, is not accidental, since this region, together with Asia and Latin America, is seen by globalists as favorable for new interventions, under the guise of technological assistance and 4IR. After all, evidence suggests that the spread of digital technology has been highly uneven, driven by older technological innovations, and used to reproduce rather than transform social inequalities.

Historian Ian Moll goes further and asks the question whether the current digital technological innovation represents the 4IR as such.

He notes that there is a hegemonic interpretation of 4IR that portrays rapid technological development as a bold new industrial revolution. However, there is no evidence of any such revolution in the totality of social, political, cultural and economic institutions, both locally and globally; hence attention must be paid to how this ideological structure functions to advance the interests of social and economic elites around the world.

Ian Moll argues that the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” frame bolsters the contingent neoliberalism of the post-Washington consensus period, and therefore serves to obscure the continuing decline of the globalized world order with a “brave new world” narrative. Schwab has simply made a kind of ideological coup, with a set of metaphors narrating an imagined revolution.

Allison Gillwald calls it “one the most successful lobbying and policy influence instruments of our time… Mobilising around the elite annual gathering in Davos, the WEF policy blueprints on the 4IR fill a vacuum for many countries that haven’t publicly invested in what they want their own futures to look like… With visions of global prosperity, packaged with futurist conviction and fantastical economic forecasts of exponential growth and job creation, they appear to provide a ready roadmap in an uncertain future. But caution is required. Even a cursory glance at earlier industrial revolutions will show that they have not been associated with the interests of the working or underclasses. This is despite the broader benefits to society from the introduction of steam, electricity and digitisation. Rather, they are associated with the advancement of capitalism, through the ‘big tech of the day.”

Industrial revolutions, from steam power to cyber physical systems, automation and internet of things.

Moll writes that the 4IR concept seems compelling because it acts as a kind of formula:

  1. List 7 to 15 technologies, mostly digital, that seem smart, make us feel obsolete, and inspire awe of the future. Even if they are not twenty-first century innovations, declare them as such.
  2. Declare that there is an amazing, unprecedented convergence between these technologies.
  3. Assume that they will lead to changes that will disrupt and transform every part of our lives.
  4. Appeal to each of the previous industrial revolutions as a model for the present one.
  5. Name one or two major technologies or energy sources in previous industrial revolutions. Proven suggestions are the steam engine for 1IR; the internal combustion engine and/or electricity for 2IR; computers and/or nuclear power for 3IR (you would have mentioned the Internet in point I, so avoid it here).

Thus, Schwab unobtrusively instills the correctness of the overall concept. In doing so, “Schwab successfully exploits our internal technological rationality. He proclaims the unprecedented speed, size, and scope of 4IR. The rate of change, he says, is exponential rather than linear; the integration of multiple technologies is broader and deeper than ever before; and the systemic impact is now total, encompassing all of society and the global economy. Thus he argues that “disruption and innovation […] are occurring faster than ever before.”

At the same time, Schwab rejects much of our historical experience on this issue. He writes that he is “well aware that some scholars and professionals view the events I am looking at simply as part of the third industrial revolution.”

But Moll offers to look at some of the expert knowledge he ignores. Here are two examples. The Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells has pointed out that the critical role of networked information and communication technologies is a “double-edged sword”: some countries are accelerating economic growth by adopting digital economic systems, while those that fail are becoming increasingly marginalized; “their lag is becoming cumulative.” Castells writes extensively about what he calls “the other side of the information age: inequality, poverty, poverty, and social exclusion,” all of which are now the growing legacies of the globalized information economy.

Unlike Schwab, Castells does not attempt to ideologize or politicize sociological data. And his empirical research does not suggest a fundamental digital transformation of society in the modern era.

Another expert Schwab ignores is Jeremy Rifkin. In 2016, when Schwab proposed his 4IR concept, Rifkin was already researching workplaces where robotics had taken over strategic and managerial roles in economic production. There is a noticeable divide between the authors. Rifkin does not believe that the dramatic changes associated with ICTs constitute a 4IR.

In 2016, Rifkin argued that the WEF “misfired” with its intervention under the guise of 4IR. He challenged Schwab’s claim that the fusion of physical systems, biological processes, and digital technologies is a qualitatively new phenomenon:

“The very nature of digitalization – which characterizes the Third Industrial Revolution – is its ability to reduce communications, visual, auditory, physical, and biological systems, to pure information that can then be reorganized into vast interactive networks that operate much like complex ecosystems. In other words, it is the interconnected nature of digitalization technology that allows us to penetrate borders and ‘blur the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.’ Digitalization’s modus operandi is ‘interconnectivity and network building.’ That’s what digitalization has been doing, with increasing sophistication, for several decades. This is what defines the very architecture of the Third Industrial Revolution. All of which raises the question, why then, a Fourth Industrial Revolution?”

A study of the “technologies” often heralded as key convergent innovations of the 4IR—artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and the Internet of Things—shows that they do not live up to the claim of a modern technological “revolution.”.

Moll concludes that Schwab’s 4IR is nothing more than a myth. The social context of the world is still the same as in 3IR, and little change is expected. There is nothing like another industrial revolution occurring after the third. Schwab’s brave new world simply does not exist.

After all, revolutions are not just characterized by technological change. Rather, they are driven by transformations in the labor process, fundamental changes in workplace attitudes, shifts in social relations, and global socioeconomic restructuring.

Of course, technological innovations can be good for workers and society as a whole. They can reduce the need to do hard work, improve conditions, and free up more time for people to engage in other meaningful activities.

But the problem is that the fruits of technological innovation are monopolized by a globalized capitalist class. The same digital labor platforms are financed mostly by venture capital funds in the global North, while enterprises are created in the global South, without the funds investing in assets, hiring employees, or paying taxes to the public treasury. This is just another attempt to capture markets with a new technology, taking advantage of the transparency of borders, to make a profit, and to have no accountability.

So the 4IR narrative is more aspiration than reality. These are the aspirations of a wealthy class that anticipates the crisis of the Western economic system and wants to find a safe haven in other regions. This is why, given the historical experience of Western-style capitalism, the rest of the world sees the 4IR as an undesirable anti-utopia.

Leonid Savin, is Editor-in-Chief of the Geopolitika.ru Analytical Center, General Director of the Cultural and Territorial Spaces Monitoring and Forecasting Foundation and Head of the International Eurasia Movement Administration. This article appears through the kind courtesy of the Oriental Review.

Featured: “Klaus Schwab,” by Maria Petroff; painted in 2021.