Actually I suspect that Pepe Escobar leans to the country to whose sources he next expects access. He covers Russia, China, and other Eurasian countries. He is good at representing their public point of view. That public point of view is a bit of news in itself; it says what the official sources want the world to believe.
The subtitle is a stretch: “With a ceasefire in southwestern Syria in the works, meeting proves diplomacy beats demonization.”
It is a stretch because it extends to all of the G-20 diplomacy the two public points of the Putin-Trump meeting from both readouts.
For those keeping score, this is a Russia propaganda point:
Still, from the toxic, overwhelmingly Russophobic Beltway point of view, that dystopia masquerading as a summit – the actual G-20 – was a mere backdrop; the only thing that mattered in this parallel G-2 was confirmation of an obsessive narrative; Russian interfered in the US elections.
This is another. Will the US give up its ambition of regime change in Syria? That’s the point.
The real test for a possible reset will be the US-Russia ceasefire in southwestern Syria. Tillerson and Lavrov had been discussing it for weeks now. And it’s a Russian idea.
Obama and Putin, Kerry and Lavrov, had a reset in US-Russia relations after Russia persuaded Assad to give up his chemical weapons and the US arranged verifiable destruction of the weapons in Germany. A reset in US-Russia relations is a matter of diplomacy. It is the content of future joint policies that bear scrutiny. One that Escobar doesn’t mention is the US-Russia cybersecurity effort.
Then the Russian readout of the details:
Essentially, that would lead towards American/Jordanian peacekeeping forces near the Golan; Damascus allowing Iranian and Russian peacekeeping forces around the capital; Turkey ensconced between Jarablus and Al-Bab in the north with Russians around them; and the Americans in the northeast all the way to Raqqa alongside the Kurdish YPG.
And Russian expectations of the result:
In a nutshell; a regional balance of power which, assuming it holds, might slowly lead towards a final all-Syria settlement.
Finally, what are the contingencies in the Russian view:
Jordan – and Israel – are not warring parties in Syria, and yet the deal directly concerns them. It’s not clear whether US forces will have to be back to Jordan. It’s not clear how the ceasefire will complement the Astana negotiation – the actual top frontline decider – involving Russia, Iran and Turkey. It’s not clear whether Daesh will be eradicated for good. It’s not clear whether the Pentagon will stop sporadically attacking the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).
The Russians are not assuming the US (Trump) cleared the deal with its allies but trust with Tillerson in the room that they did. Other contingencies are from processes still in motion.
Then the news that did not register on US consciousness, so attuned only to US involvement instead of US interests.
Xi repeatedly extolled the “strategic alliance”, or “the fast-growing, pragmatic cooperation”, or even the “special character” of China’s ties with Russia.
Putin once again pledged to support the New Silk Roads, or One Belt, One Road initiative (Obor), “by all means”, which includes its interpenetration with the Eurasia Economic Union (EEU).
The Russian Direct Investment Fund and the China Development Bank established a joint $10 billion investment fund.
A fairly standard diplomatic statement, a reaffirmation of a previous agreement on a joint project, and a commitment of funds (conveniently translated to their dollar value). Or do the banks themselves earmark that amount of their offshore dollar assets and deal in dollars? Is this a confession that the BRICS countries still are dependent on US dollar dominance in global currencies?
One OBOR project is underway:
Gazprom and China’s CNPC signed a key agreement for the starting date of gas deliveries via the Power of Siberia pipeline; December 20, 2019, according to Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller. And that will be followed by the construction of Power of Siberia-2.
China and Russia are pursuing the same energy policy the US has been pursuing — building more pipelines. Seems everyone is looking to the export market. What does that say about the global prospects for oil as renewables start to contribute more energy to economies?
Lest you think that peer powers are headed toward peace, Escobar reads out this obvious diplomacy:
They kept discussing a military cooperation roadmap.
And at a closed Kremlin meeting the night before their official summit, in which they clinched yet another proverbial raft of deals worth billions of dollars, Putin and Xi developed a common North Korea strategy; “dialogue and negotiation”, coupled with firm opposition to the THAAD missile system being installed in South Korea.
Xi, in an interview to TASS, had already expounded on US missile defense – an absolute top priority for the Kremlin – “disrupting the strategic balance in the region”.
Missile defense is indeed disruptive of MAD (mutually assured destruction) strategic architectures as they signal to an adversary that one is intending a first strike that can be survivable enough to win on the follow-up. The create a game mindset in which pre-emptive war is the payoff point, not that countries mechanically follow game theory options.
But pre-G20, Trump and Tillerson were saying that the time for dialog and negotiation were running out. Notice here that Russia and China do not have an interest in a nuclear-armed rival who can strike all of their cities no matter how much a client it acts like now.
The US, US media, and US public don’t recognize the reality of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a mutual defense organization for Eurasia, much like NATO is for the North Atlantic. It is a reality and the nations within it are beginning to coordinate national security strategies more closely. Although seen as a mechanism of Chinese power, Putin’s intentions for use of the SCO are not analyzed beyond the idea that it is a major rival of NATO.
This was Putin and Xi’s third meeting in 2017 alone. At the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Astana, Putin had already hinted that this one, in Moscow, would be “a major event in bilateral relations.”
The giveaway: that’s where they not only deepened their joint strategy for Eurasia integration but also coordinated their common approach to Trump at the G-20. This is what a strategic partnership is all about.
What Obama grasped about NATO that Trump has turned his back on. There is a need for a more fuller discussion of how mutual defense pacts can actually become a pathway to reduction of militaries instead of vehicles of the Great Game of empire. That requires that the institutions conduct diplomacy with each other, probably through some UN mechanism that preserves national sovereignty and focuses on technical questions about national security architectures.
Putin and Lavrov have intelligence services that read US media and understand what is going on. Unlike the head of state and foreign minister of the US.
Considering the toxicity levels in the Beltway, Putin and Lavrov went to the G-20 harboring no expectations that a package deal could be achieved between Russia and the US.
They knew this would be a strictly political meeting – and not economic; an easing of sanctions was out of the cards.
Plus Trump and Tillerson communicated what they should expect in setting up the meeting. Normal diplomatic courtesy.
Here’s the Russian propaganda again. “Sanctions don’t matter. Look at our autarky.” When you manage your economic information, it’s kind of easy to pull of this stunt. In the US we have competing private opinions of US economic activity that fog up the situation. Seems that both are effective management in an information war.
They also knew there’s not much Trump could offer to the Russian economy. This exhaustive report sets the record straight.
Even under sanctions, Russia should expect a “handsome recovery”, with an expected growth of 3% to 4% in 2017. There has been an “extraordinary decrease in the share of oil & gas revenue in Russia’s GDP.” Russia has “the lowest level of imports (as a share of the GDP) of all major countries.” And the clincher; Russia “must focus on China, the East, and the rest of the world.”
Now you understand why the Obama administration named 44 individuals closely associated with Putin for sanctions instead. In other words, this economic prosperity avoids punishing the people instead of the leader. So the only question now is what Putin will do for the US in exchange for eliminating sanctions. The current US news narrative is that he will steal another election for Trump. I think the American people deserve more out of Putin than that.
BRICS diplomacy as an alternative to US international economic domination did get Xi’s and Putin’s attention at the G-20:
That’s already happening. At the BRICS meeting on the sidelines of the G-20, they called for a more open global economy and for a “rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system
What Russia and China want is WTO 2.0. What rules? How will transparency be guaranteed? And does non-discriminatory give a free pass to state production, oligarchic combine, government-sponsored enterprises? Those questions are more important than the stigmatizing the proposal as being from Russia or China. The TPP was not transparent, patently discriminated against China (it’s very purpose), and was indeed rules-based. So you see where this proposal is coming from.
The Russian propaganda sum-up talking points:
Putin and Lavrov faced Trump and Tillerson knowing full well that
political factions in the US won’t waiver in their mission to keep the tension with “peer competitors” Russia and China at a very dangerous level.
At the same time, they knew Trump and Tillerson really aim for a reset – incipient as it may be at the start.
Syria is an ultra-complex case where the sphere of influence is mostly Iranian but the hard, cold facts on the ground and in the skies are mostly Russian. With this ceasefire deal, it’s as if Putin and Lavrov are inviting a losing Washington to be part of a solution that satisfies – sort of – all parties, including Israel and Turkey.
Trump did not make any substantial concessions in Hamburg, at least according to what both Tillerson and Lavrov volunteered to disclose. The Beltway is barking that Trump gave Putin a win. As usual, they’re wrong; Putin and Trump stage-managed a win-win.
Yes, exactly like JFK and Krushchev in 1961 in the reset after the Francis Gary Powers U-2 got shot down over the Soviet Union in the latter days of the Eisenhower administration and Eisenhower got exposed as a (shock! a symptom of the zeitgeist) a liar.
Some people remember when we so trusted our Presidents not to lie to us that we were shocked when they did. Now, we would be shocked when the current President tells the truth. (Or says anything consistently.)