Venezuela Reaffirms its Social Course

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, despite US sanctions, continues to pursue the socialist course founded by Hugo Chavez. At the same time, unlike other Latin American countries that also claim a leftist agenda, it is Venezuela that demonstrates its resilience and irreconcilability with US hegemony. While Brazil used to be a regular venue for the World Social Forum, after years of Jair Bolsonaro’s rule and Lula da Silva’s current controversial policies (flirting with the US Democratic Party), and Cuba being uncomfortable with the longstanding US embargo, Venezuela has been quite successful in coping with external pressure and continues to serve as a venue for high-level events.

On April 18-19, the international forum “World Social Alternative” was held in Caracas. It was organized by the Simón Bolivar Institute and took place within the framework of ALBA-TCP. However, the geography of the participants was not limited to the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of the Americas, but was global: from Malaysia, South Korea and Bangladesh in Asia to Kenya, Guiana and even the Polisario Front, which is fighting for the independence of the Saharawi people from the domination of Morocco and Mauritania.

The event focused on the current global crisis with an emphasis on the guilt of Western countries, which were deservedly accused of artificially creating numerous problems all over the planet due to the greed of bourgeois capitalism, which is part of the system of liberal democracies. In other words, the collective West and their unipolar hegemony, which in these countries is called no other than the “rule-based order,” were criticized.

The speakers of the forum talked about this. At the same time, constructive ways of solving problems and methods of solidarity with the peoples of those countries that have suffered the most from Western aggression in one form or another—political, economic, intellectual, etc. were proposed. Of course, on the agenda were the issues of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Israel, the actions of the World Bank, as well as solidarity with the peoples of Cuba and Haiti. Separately, words of support were expressed for former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glass, who was forcibly seized at the Mexican Embassy in early April of this year.

ALBA-TCP Secretary Jorge Arreaza and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro spoke at the closing plenary session. Former Bolivian President Evo Morales and former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya also shared their views. It is indicative that Nicolas Maduro emphasized that “the multipolar world has already been born” and quoted the words of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Incidentally, at the forum, Jorge Arreaza gave a presentation on “The Principle of Unity as a Transformative Element” and noted that the bloc’s goal is to achieve self-determination. He stated that “we are free and satisfied with needs met.” He also added that the strategy includes new projects to strengthen plans in sectors, such as economy, health, education, nutrition and environmental protection. It was also announced that ALBA-TCP member countries will hold the 23rd Summit of Heads of State and Government of the bloc in Caracas, where the presentation of the Strategic Agenda 2030 is expected to take place.

In parallel, forum participants from other countries (200 people from 80 nations in total) were able to familiarize themselves with Venezuelan culture and various aspects of domestic politics. In particular, some participated as international observers two days later. Since April 21, popular consultations were held throughout the country. This initiative is supported by Article 70 of the Venezuelan Constitution, which implies that important issues are regularly discussed with the people. This involved 4,500 voting centers across the country.

In Venezuela itself, this approach is called radical essential democracy, although in the international lexicon there is a term, “participatory democracy,” when the people not only elect deputies and heads of state from time to time, but also directly participate in the political process through discussions of key issues. This is probably what ancient democracy once looked like, when citizens in the polis met regularly to work out a decision on some pressing issues.

In this case, the range of issues focused exclusively on domestic matters: roads, access to water and electricity, health (including sports and recreational facilities), and education. At the same time, the projects themselves differed, depending on the voting location due to local specificities. A total of 27,156 projects were considered nationwide, which had been previously reviewed by community councils on the ground.

Previously, in 2022 and 2023, the State of Miranda consulted with the communal councils and this experience was used in the current plebiscite.

I was able to visit four polling stations in Caracas, not only in the center (where polling places were set up in schools and a library), but also in the Atlántico district and in the commune of Antimano-Mamero, which are part of the famous slums with houses stacked on top of each other on the mountainside. Unlike the famous favelas of Rio de Janeiro, where even the police are afraid to enter, these areas of Caracas, which are called barrios, are quite socialized. Although they look a bit creepy from afar (although in some ways they resemble some traditional villages in mountainous Dagestan, where some houses stand on the roofs of others), there is running water and electricity inside the dwellings, and the locals are quite friendly and sociable. Particularly in these communities, the issues of improving infrastructure and reorganization of living space were discussed during the consultations.

The previous plebiscite was held on December 2, 2023, to discuss the annexation of the disputed territory with Guyana. The overwhelming majority, including the opposition, recognized it as the new state of Esequibo.

And the next vote will be held on July 28 to elect the country’s president. In fact, the two past plebiscites are strengthening the social base of incumbent President Nicolas Maduro and indirectly helping to improve his position compared to the Western-oriented opposition, which nominated 13 candidates who have neither charisma nor adequate political experience to be a real competition. There is no doubt that Maduro will win again, and the country’s current course in both foreign and domestic policy will continue.

Leonid Savin is Editor-in-Chief of the 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.

Twenty-Five Years of Aggression against Yugoslavia: NATO Expansion and the Global Context

A quarter of a century ago, on March 24, 1999, a combined group of NATO countries launched a military campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which at that time consisted of Serbia and Montenegro.

Over the years, quite a lot has been written about the consequences of this aggression—about the clear violation of the principles of international law, since the UN did not sanction any military action against a sovereign state; about the numerous human rights violations during the bombing; about the commissioned information campaigns against the Serbs, which had nothing to do with reality; and about the impact of the war on the civilian population—from post-traumatic stress syndrome to the increase in cancer because of the use of munitions with depleted uranium cores.

However, several important points should be emphasized. This campaign was NATO’s first offensive operation. The military-political bloc, which was conceived ostensibly for defense against a possible attack from the Soviet Union (a figment of the crazy imagination of Western, primarily Anglo-American, politicians) became an instrument of military expansion. From conditionally defensive, it became offensive. First in Europe and then in other parts of the world, in particular against Libya in 2011. The military campaign against Yugoslavia probably gave NATO strategists confidence in the need for further expansion and homogenization of the whole of Europe under the umbrella of Brussels. The next expansion of the alliance came in a whole bundle. In March 2004, seven states were admitted at once: Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia. There is one interesting nuance here—all these countries signed the membership action plan in April 1999, that is, when the bombing of Serbia was in full swing. The connection between the aggression and the co-option of new members is obvious. It should be noted that actually on the eve of the aggression against Yugoslavia on March 12, 1999, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, which received an invitation to join in July 1997, joined the alliance. Now NATO’s tentacles are creeping into the Caucasus, the Middle East and Central Asia, as the alliance has various agreements with a number of states in the regions mentioned.

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s signing of an agreement to withdraw from the province of Kosovo and Metohija and hand it over to international forces did not mean total political defeat. He remained in power. Although already in May 1999, the Hague Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia brought charges against Milosevic for war crimes in Kosovo. To get him, it was necessary to lift the diplomatic immunity enjoyed by heads of state.

External tools such as sanctions helped to put pressure and increase social tensions. Agencies at the same time worked on the ground and pumped money into the opposition. The puppet movement Otpor, acting as if on behalf of Serbian citizens, adopted Gene Sharp’s methodology of non-violent (conditionally) resistance and continued to implement its plan step by step.

The moment of the election campaign was chosen to bring people out on the streets.

In October 2000, because of mass protests, Slobodan Milosevic resigned, without waiting for the second round of presidential elections. In fact, the first color revolution, called the “bulldozer revolution,” was successfully implemented in Serbia. What is striking is that many of its thought leaders, such as Professor Cedomir Čupić, are still living quietly in Belgrade and actively criticizing the current authorities. While the younger ones, such as Srdja Popovic, immediately defected to the West and continue their attempts to stage coups d’état in other countries.

A monument, in Tašmajdan Park, Belgrade, to the children killed by NATO bombing. The child represented is Milica Rakić.

Let us now look at the global context of NATO’s war against Yugoslavia.

It should be taken into account that earlier in Yugoslavia a civil war was raging, and NATO countries, including the United States, were actively involved in Bosnia. This gave them an opportunity not only to practice ethnic conflict technologies, as well as new theories of warfare, such as network-centric warfare, but also to use both private military companies and mercenaries (in particular, mujahideen who had previously fought in Afghanistan were brought in as part of the “jihad”). This whole machine was directed against the Serbs, not only to gain operational superiority on the front, but also with far-reaching strategic objectives, which included demonization of the Serbs, creating the image of barbarians who pose a threat to the “civilized world.” And this demonization was successful and was already consolidated in 1999. But if the West then openly blamed the Serbs, it also meant the Russians, who tried to help their brotherly people to withstand the pressure of the West. It is no coincidence that Slobodan Milosevic warned that what the West had done to the Serbs, it would try to do to Russia in the future.

However, a scenario similar to the Yugoslav one had already been conceived for Russia. In the spring of 1999, terrorist organizations intensified their activities in Russia’s North Caucasus. In April, when NATO was bombing Yugoslavia, the self-proclaimed “emir of the Dagestan Jamaat” announced the creation of an “Islamic army of the Caucasus” to carry out jihad in southern Russia. Then began a whole wave of terrorist attacks organized by terrorists under the leadership of Shamil Basayev—seizure of settlements in Dagestan, bombings of houses in Moscow and Volgodonsk.

Therefore, when the question is raised whether Russia could have helped the Serbs more than it did, including the operation to block the Pristina airport, we must remember that the situation was quite difficult for us as well. The North Caucasus was in flames, emissaries of Western security services were working in the Volga region, and separatist projects were emerging in the regions.

It was an active phase of the unipolar moment, which the U.S. used to strengthen its hegemony all over the world, not shying away from any means, including terrorism. And its decline was still far away.

But were there positive outcomes of NATO’s military aggression against Yugoslavia? Let us try to summarize. First: the Yugoslav army seriously repulsed the enemy and as a result NATO had significant losses, which they did not expect initially. Various military tricks were used in different types of military forces and which may well now be adapted for the Special Military Operation (SMO), with appropriate adjustments. Second: the real face of NATO was seen by the whole world, which led to anti-war protests. In particular, Italy left the coalition because of this. Third, the dirty methods of information campaigns and the use of non-governmental organizations as a fifth column were documented and widely publicized. Finally, the international solidarity with the Serbs—Russian volunteers and humanitarian aid, the work of hackers from different countries against NATO, the circumvention of Western sanctions—is also an important experience of a complex nature, which will be useful for crushing the globalist military hydra of the North Atlantic Alliance.

Leonid Savin is Editor-in-Chief of the 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: Milica Rakić, 3-years-old, killed on April 17, 1999, by a cluster munition during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.

Why India, China and Russia Oppose Plans to Triple Renewable Energy

The climate summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) ended in Dubai on December 13. It lasted a day longer than planned as participants disagreed on the final document.

COP28 ended with the first ever pledge to phase out fossil fuel use and triple renewable energy capacity by 2030.

By the same time, emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, including methane, must be reduced. Within two years, countries must submit a detailed action plan to implement their programs.

130 UN member states signed the resolution, although the largest countries India and China, which also produce the most greenhouse gases and consume huge amounts of fuel, did not sign.

However, the document is not legally binding. And no one will be able to force any “violators” or outsiders of the agreement to change the course of their policies. Like the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, this plan, although ambitious, is difficult to implement for objective reasons.

Not so “Green”

The current commitment is one of the International Energy Agency’s five imperatives to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. The signatory countries together account for 40% of global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion, 37% of total global energy demand and 56% of global GDP.

It is noted that 2023 is one of the hottest years in decades. Environmental activists cite various natural disasters around the world that they believe are consequences of current warming.

However, there is no objective scientific correlation between these events. Moreover, analysis of weather patterns of previous centuries based on archaeological materials, as well as ice samples in Antarctica and other sources, has shown that throughout history there have been periods of cooling and warming on Earth. It turns out that human activity has nothing to do with it.

Although eco-activists have an argument that anthropogenic activity has worsened the overall state of the planet, so adjustments are needed. This requires limiting emissions of CO2, methane, and other harmful substances into the atmosphere. It is also necessary to move to technologies that will be friendlier to the environment, both in energy production and for human needs.

However, a number of nuances arise.

So-called green technologies are by no means environmentally friendly. The production of electric cars and batteries requires lithium, the mining of which causes serious damage to the environment. The same is true for cobalt, which is needed to produce lithium-ion batteries.

As for the plates of wind turbines, there is still no way to recycle them. The wind turbines themselves need careful and regular maintenance to avoid breakages and fires caused by friction.

The same is true for solar panels—their disposal and recycling is a costly process, if all environmental safety requirements are met and the framework for reducing hydrocarbon emissions is adhered to.

The EU has No Way Out, but India and China Do

As is well known, energy based on sunlight and wind depends on the vagaries of nature.

In this regard, projects are being created to transport electricity from regions where the intensity of sunlight is high, for example, from Africa to Europe through underwater electric cables. However, the risk of their destruction by an earthquake or man-made damage, for example from a ship’s anchor, also remains high.

Then there is nuclear power.

Back in 2021, the European Commission prepared a detailed report, according to which by most indicators it is more acceptable and safer for both humans and the environment. The extraction of uranium, its direct use in nuclear power plants and proper utilization have a much smaller impact on the landscape, flora and fauna than wind and solar power. Given that it is low-carbon energy, it is far ahead of all types of thermal power plants.

The same European researchers have previously included natural gas in the low-carbon fuel mix.

But the EU is gradually abandoning Russian gas, and there is really nothing to replace it with. Given the reorientation of markets for Russian gas, it is likely to go more to Asian giants—to China and, in the long term, probably to India. This explains the frenzy around “green” technologies in the EU—they simply have no other choice.

Although China and India are not involved in the COP28 plans, they signed the Leaders’ Declaration at the G20 summit in New Delhi in September. According to this document, they are to “pursue and promote efforts to triple renewable energy capacity worldwide” by 2030. In addition, China also agreed on the same thing with the US about two weeks before COP28.

Technically, both China and India can ramp up renewables. The Middle Kingdom alone is the world leader in solar panel production and is also expanding its production of electric cars, wind turbines and batteries. In addition, China is engaged in offshore wind energy projects all over the world, actually becoming a monopoly in this regard. Even the EU lags behind it in these areas.

India has become the third largest renewable energy market in the world in terms of annual growth and total capacity in 2021, behind only China and the United States.

Difficult Promises

The promise to reduce methane (CH4) emissions will be even harder to fulfill than the other stated goals. CH4 is expected to be responsible for 45% of the planet’s warming this decade. Even though it does not stay in the atmosphere as long as CO2.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Dec. 2, during the summit, that it had finalized a long-awaited rule to reduce CH4 emissions from the oil and gas sector by about 80% within 15 years. This news was accompanied by a commitment to provide $1 billion in aid to smaller countries to tackle the same problem.

This prompted several countries to join the global commitment to reduce overall CH4 emissions by 30% by 2030. Many developed countries at the summit publicly insisted, albeit with reservations, on phasing out coal, oil and gas.

Earlier, the EU passed a law setting strict standards for methane leakage, although the results of this provision will have an impact far beyond European borders. At issue are technologies to capture the gas so that it is not released into the atmosphere and flared, as has been done to date.

It seems that the authors of such initiatives are lobbying for the interests of manufacturers of special equipment to impose them on other countries.

Probably for this reason, Saudi Arabia and several allied countries were in a small minority that publicly voiced strong objections to the inclusion of any reference to reducing fossil fuel production and consumption in the text of a potential deal.

Representatives of the Russian Ministry of Energy traditionally spoke of the low-carbon nature of the Russian energy sector (referring to nuclear, hydro and gas generation). They also talked about the lack of common sense in the development of renewable energy sources on such a scale as is happening in the EU. The Russian delegation advocated a rational approach to decarbonization, calling plans to triple renewable energy sources by 2030 “slogans and extremism.”

It turns out that the most vulnerable countries are not the main polluters, which, given the growth of their own economies, can gradually adjust to the trend. Some producers and buyers of energy resources, especially those with limited capacity, are in an unequal position.

In addition, developing countries need financing to achieve these goals. It is needed to meet their growing demand for affordable energy to power their economies and growing populations. India will need to find $293 billion to triple its renewable energy capacity by 2030. And an additional $101 billion to align with the IEA’s net zero greenhouse gas emissions scenario.

In addition, investors in many countries often face payment delays, red tape, protectionist rules and regulations, and domestic policy uncertainty. This may discourage them from working with renewable energy in such regions.

There are other risks as well.

Prices for key materials for renewable energy—aluminum, copper, steel and polysilicon—could rise because of supply shortages. Transportation and labor costs may also exceed expectations. There is also a labor shortage per se. Not all countries have the necessary programs and vocational schools to provide workers with the necessary knowledge, especially in manufacturing and new construction.

In the end, even if the signed agreement is followed, there remains the equally daunting task of measuring, reporting, verifying and enforcing the commitments made.

Most likely, despite further summits (the next one will be held in Baku), the signatory and non-signatory countries will move along their own trajectories. Technologically advanced states will try to impose their developments on everyone else and oblige them to follow their agenda through such climate treaties.

Independent actors will continue to consume fossil energy, but at the same time develop alternative sources, including hydrogen and nuclear energy production. Russia will probably follow this path.

Those who depend on supplies and foreign aid will balance opportunities and offers, regularly appealing to justice and the notion of humanity’s “common home.”

Leonid Savin is Editor-in-Chief of the 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.

“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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.