The Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke yesterday at the yearly Valdai Discussion Club meeting in Sochi. A video with English translations and excerpts of the transcript are here.
With regards to the global system Putin made an interesting historic comparison:
in the 19th century they used to refer to a “Concert of Powers.” The time has come to talk in terms of a global “concert” of development models, interests, cultures and traditions where the sound of each instrument is crucial, inextricable and valuable, and for the music to be played harmoniously rather than performed with discordant notes, a cacophony. It is crucial to consider the opinions and interests of all the participants in international life. Let me reiterate: truly mutually respectful, pragmatic and consequently .Russia is sincerely committed to this approach and pursues a positive agenda.
The Concert of Europe was the balance of power system between 1815 to 1848 and from 1871 to 1914:
A first phase of the Concert of Europe, known as the Congress System or the Vienna System after the Congress of Vienna (1814–15), was dominated by five Great Powers of Europe: Prussia, Russia, Britain, France and Austria. […] With the Revolutions of 1848 the Vienna system collapsed and, although the republican rebellions were checked, an age of nationalism began and culminated in the unifications of Italy (by Sardinia) and Germany (by Prussia) in 1871. The German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck re-created the Concert of Europe to avoid future conflicts escalating into new wars. The revitalized concert included France, Britain, Austria, Russia, and Italy with Germany as the main continental power economically and militarily.
Bismark’s concert kept peace in a usually warring Europe for 43 years. If Putin wants to be the new Bismarck I am all for it.
Putin also made a rather extraordinary announcement:
Russian president Vladimir Putin has said that Moscow is helping China build a system to warn of ballistic missile launches.Since the cold war, only the United States and Russia have had such systems, which involve an array of ground-based radars and space satellites. The systems allow for early spotting of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Speaking at an international affairs conference in Moscow on Thursday, Putin said Russia had been helping China develop such a system. He added that “this is a very serious thing that will radically enhance China’s defence capability”.
His statement signalled a new degree of defence cooperation between the two former Communist rivals that have developed increasingly close political and military ties while Beijing and Washington have sunk into a trade war.
That is as good for China as it is for Russia. China has an immediate need for such a system because the U.S. is taking a significantly more bellicose posture against it.
The U.S. left the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia to build a nuclear missiles force in South Asia that will aim at China. It is now looking for Asian countries in which it could station such weapons. China is using its economic might to prevent that but the U.S. is likely to succeed.
While China has capable weapons and can defend itself against a smaller attack the U.S. has about 20 times more nuclear warheads than China. It could use those in an overwhelming first strike to decapitate and destroy the Chinese state. An early warning system will give China enough time to detect such an attack and to launch its own nuclear deterrent against the U.S. The warning systems will thus checkmate the U.S. first strike capability.
Over the last two years Russia and China both unveiled hypersonic weapons. Currently the U.S. has neither such weapons nor any defensive system that can protect against these.
Russia was smart enough to develop both – the super fast offensive weapon and a defense against it. Via Andrei Martyanov we learn of a recent Russian press notice:
Translation: And what this “Favorit PM” missile-target complex is? Very simple, it is deeply modernized good ol’ S-300 P series which allows to use missiles of types 5V55 which have their explosives removed and are capable of atmospheric maneuverable flight with the velocities of Mach=6 (in excess of 7,000 kilometers per hour). These are genuine hyper-sonic missile-targets and, evidently, and I don’t have any reasons to doubt it, S-400 had very little problems shooting them down.
On top of the missile warning system China will also want to have that most capable air and missile defense system. Russia will make it a decent offer.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s talked a day earlier than Putin. His speech and the Q & A with him are here. The talk was mostly about the Middle East and Lavrov’s tone was rather angry while he passed through a long list of U.S. sins in the region and beyond. There were also some interesting remarks about Turkey, Syria and the Ukraine. The most interesting passage was his response to a question about U.S. sanction against Russia to which some senators want to add even more. Lavrov said:
I have heard that Marco Rubio and Ben Cardin are two famous anti-Russia-minded members of the US Congress. I don’t think that this implies that they have any foresight. Those with a more or less politically mature opinion of the situation should have realised long ago that the sanctions don’t work in the direction they wanted them to work. I believe that they will never work. We have a territory and its riches that were bestowed on us by God and our ancestors, we have a feeling of personal dignity, and we also have the armed forces. This combination makes us very confident. I hope that economic development and all the investment that has been made and continues to be made will also pay off in the near future.
The U.S. loves to dish out sanctions left and right and the Trump administration has increased their use. But sanctions, especially unilateral ones, do not work. The U.S. has not recognized that because it has never assessed whether those sanctions fulfill their aims. A recent Government Accountability Office report found:
The Departments of the Treasury (Treasury), State (State), and Commerce (Commerce) each undertake efforts to assess the impacts of specific sanctions on the targets of those sanctions. […] However,, including challenges in isolating the effect of sanctions from other factors as well as evolving foreign policy goals. According to Treasury, State, and Commerce officials, their agencies have not conducted such assessments on their own.
The U.S. sanctions and sanctions and sanctions but never checked if sanctions work to the intended purpose. The efforts to sanction Russia have surely led to some unintended consequences. They are the reason why the alliance between China and Russia deepens every day. The U.S. has the exorbitant privilege of having its own currency being used as the international reserve. The sanctioning of U.S. dollar transactions is the reason why the U.S. is now losing it:
Russia’s Rosneft has set the euro as the default currency for all its new export contracts including for crude oil, oil products, petrochemicals and liquefied petroleum gas, tender documents showed.The switch from U.S. dollars, which happened in September according to the tender documents published on Rosneft’s website, is set to reduce the state-controlled firm’s vulnerability to potential fresh U.S. sanctions.
Washington has threatened to impose sanctions on Rosneft over its operations in Venezuela, a move which Rosneft says would be illegal.
Iran has taken comparable steps. It now sells oil to China and India in either local currencies. Other countries will surely learn from this and will also start to use other currencies for their energy purchases. As the transactions in dollars decrease they will also start to use other currencies for their reserves.
But the U.S. is not losing its financial or sole superpower status because of what China or Russia or Iran have done or do. It is losing it because it has made too many mistakes.
Those states who, like Russia, have done their homework will profit from it.
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