Vindicated Again: The Intermarium Alliance is happening.

Posted by Kumiko Oumae on Monday, 14 March 2016 14:41.

I recall that the last time that the issue of a Euro-Asian alliance came up on Majorityrights, there was a contingent of commentators who did not believe that the direction that was taken at Majorityrights about this issue was reality-based.

I would ask such persons to look at this article which appeared today in the EU Observer, which is now working in cooperation with the Mission of China to the European Union.

It’s so comprehensive that there’s scarcely anything that I would add to it:

EU Observer / Emanuele Scimia, ‘China, Russia and the EU’s intermarium block’, 14 Mar 2016:

Old Silk Road, new era in Eurasian geopolitics (Photo: Martha de Jong-Lantink)

China’s geopolitics of trade passageways, expected to revive the ancient Silk Road arteries across the Eurasian continent, is producing the first collateral effect.

The potential integration of Beijing’s “Belt and Road” initiative with a regional infrastructure scheme in Central and Eastern Europe is contributing to altering the balance of power in Euro-Russian dynamics.

Emergence of China as independent player in region marks pivotal change from 1920s and 1930s (Photo: Bernd Thaller)
Emergence of China as independent player in region marks pivotal change from 1920s and 1930s (Photo: Bernd Thaller)

Beijing maintains that the Eurasian landmass exists as an “integral whole” and that Central and Eastern Europe play an important role in its strategy to link the Chinese eastern coast and Western Europe through land and sea-based passages.

In line with this vision, on 23 February, during a meeting in Zagreb with Croatian prime minister Tihomir Oreskovic, representatives of the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission stressed that China was interested in connecting the “Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Initiative” and the Belt and Road project.

The Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Initiative was first laid out by Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic in September 2015. In her view, it should work as a framework for enhanced cooperation in the political, economic and security realms among 12 European Union countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

In particular, this Croatian-sponsored plan of regional integration aims to promote concrete projects on infrastructure development, so as to improve trade connection and energy independence on the eastern flank of both the EU and Nato.

When in October last year Chinese president Xi Jinping held talks with Kitarovic in Beijing, he welcomed the Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Initiative, underlining that the development of a north-south corridor in Europe, based on the ports of Adriatic and Baltic nations, was complementary to China’s Silk Road strategy.

Intermarium

Beijing could in fact exploit the favorable position of Adriatic, Baltic and Black Sea ports to link the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road - the overland and sea-going sections of the Belt and Road, respectively - through a longitudinal and intermodal corridor in the heart of Europe.

Kitarovic keeps repeating that its project is not directed against Russia.

Yet, it is doubtful that the Kremlin buys the Croatian president’s reassurances. And it cannot be otherwise, if Moscow looks at Europe’s map.

The Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Initiative has in fact startling similarities with the Intermarium (or “the land between the seas”), an alliance of states from the Baltics to the Black Sea - and potentially down to the Balkans - that in the 1920s and 1930s Polish leader Jozef Pilsudski tried in vain to create to prevent German and Russian expansionism.

Today, Polish president Andrzej Duda has resumed Pilsudski’s geopolitical thinking, overtly endorsing the formation of a modern Intermarium, which in large part coincides with the bloc of states included in the Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Initiative.

Russia will inevitably oppose any move that leads to increasing cooperation among the states of Central and Eastern Europe, viewing it as an effort to separate the Russian territory from Western Europe. But, the problem for the Kremlin is that now, unlike in the interwar period, there is China that acts as an independent variable in the eventual creation of an Intermarium grouping.

China’s cooperation with Central and Eastern Europe countries (the so-called China+16) has been underpinned by both its recent accession to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and its push to build synergies between the Belt and Road scheme and the EU $393 billion investment plan.

Particularly, Beijing and Brussels are focusing on improving their infrastructure links through the establishment of a Sino-European connectivity platform.

Baltic region

Ultimately, China and the EU are working to set up corridors between the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), Brussels’ plan to upgrade Europe’s transport system, and the Belt and Road. The Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Initiative should fit into this China-Europe infrastructure mechanism.

On a visit to Latvia on 19 February, Chinese National Development and Reform Commission vice chairman Ning Jizhe voiced his government’s interest in boosting the container train traffic from China to the Baltic region and Northern Europe and investing in both the Rail Baltica project and the port of Latvian capital city Riga.

Rail Baltica is a high speed rail project, under the TEN-T initiative, that will link Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, with an extension into Germany; Riga seaport is instead at the northern end of the proposed Baltic-Adriatic Corridor, yet another TENT-T artery.

Thus, China is betting big on the Baltic ports, as also proved by China Merchants Group’s intention to expand the existing Klaipeda seaport, in Lithuania, and turns it into a new transport and logistics center within the Belt and Road scheme.

Chinese plans to reboot Klaipeda seaport should be viewed in combination with Beijing’s interest in building up the Croatian port of Rijeka, the southernmost tip of the Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Initiative, and, more importantly, with the potential connection between the new iron Silk Road and the Baltic coast.

The iron Silk Road is a China-Europe land-sea express line connecting Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Illichivsk with Western China via Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

This Euro-Asian transport passageway has been operational since January and has a considerable strategic relevance, given that it circumvents the Russian territory.

Weakening Russia

Ukraine is currently in talks with Lithuania and Belarus for linking the iron Silk Road and the port of Klaipeda. If the three countries succeed in carrying out their project, Russia will definitely lose its position as a transit space for the Sino-European trade.

China’s drive to integrate the Central and Eastern Europe countries into its Silk Road strategy has the potential to further weaken the grip of Russia on its western neighbourhood.

While there is not much Moscow can do to halt Beijing’s engagement in the European post-Soviet space, its only hope is that historical mistrust among potential participants, combined with harsh competition among them for more Chinese funds and investments, may sink the Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Initiative, as well as any other prospective Intermarium-style alliance.

Emanuele Scimia is an independent journalist and foreign policy analyst. His articles have appeared in the South China Morning Post, the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor, Deutsche Welle, and The Jerusalem Post, among others.

It was possible to see this coming from a long way off.

For example:

The National Interest / Raffaello Pantucci and Alexandros Petersen, ‘China’s Inadvertent Empire’, 24 Oct 2012:

[...] China also is bolstering cross-border traders who are the economic lifeblood of the old Silk Road. Sitting atop it all is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which offers an umbrella for China to demonstrate that its regional activities are undertaken with the acquiescence of neighboring powers.

The driver is economics, seen most clearly in China’s heavy purchasing of large mineral and hydrocarbon sites across the region. In Kazakhstan, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has gone into partnership with the local, state-owned enterprise (SOE) KazMunaiGaz to secure 4 percent of China’s oil imports from Kazakhstan. Turkmenistan currently accounts for almost a third of China’s imported natural gas—mostly coming through the speedily built China-Central Asia pipeline, which in 2011 brought some 15.5 billion cubic meters (BCM) of gas to China. CNPC aims to send 24.1 BCM this year and eventually get the flow up to 65 BCM. Further, CNPC secured the rights to develop an oil field in Amu Darya in northern Afghanistan, upriver to a project it already is exploiting in Turkmenistan. According to Kabul analysts, this field, a small one for a company as large as CNPC, is a kind of toe in the water for the Chinese SOE to prepare for future contracts in the hydrocarbon-rich area.

It is not only oil and gas that Chinese firms see in Central Asia. State-owned mining firms Jiangxi Copper and the China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC) partnered to invest near $4 billion to exploit the Mes Aynak copper mine southeast of Kabul. And while Chinese firms have been less visible on recent mining tenders in Afghanistan, they doubtless noted the U.S. Geological Survey’s estimate of nearly a trillion dollars worth of minerals in the country. Furthermore, Chinese mining firms have won concessions to mine for gold in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

But while this natural wealth will help feed China’s insatiable demand for resources, it won’t necessarily help develop Xinjiang. That will require the development of infrastructure across Central Asia. Crippled by aging Soviet infrastructure, the region is a blank canvas for outside developers. China is not the only player around. South Korea has a notable presence in Uzbekistan, while Turkish and French firms dominate the Turkmenistan market. But it is notable to see Chinese firms developing roads leading in and out of Xinjiang. The road from Kashgar to Osh in Kyrgyzstan through the Irkeshtam Pass was built by the China Bridge and Road Company. Chinese workers in distinctive green military greatcoats with shiny buttons could be found earlier this year directing trucks of dirt to complete the road’s final stretches. Other roads can be found in Tajikistan with crews of Chinese repairing parts from Dushanbe toward the Afghan border. Dual-language Russian-Chinese signs mark the workers’ presence. More notable in Tajikistan is the only toll road in the country, going north from Dushanbe to Khujand, built by a Chinese firm and broken up by a shoddily designed Iranian tunnel at the Shahriston Pass. This soon will be replaced by a Chinese-built tunnel.

China also has sought to help develop the region’s rail systems. A train line is being built from China through Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan. Other train networks are being developed to strengthen links with Kazakhstan, including a high-speed train to be exported there from China. Other infrastructure elements are being spearheaded or supported by Chinese firms, including gas metering in Uzbekistan, telecoms across the region and hydropower developments in Tajikistan.

Various forms of funding have emerged. Primary among them is the use of linked loans or lines of credit provided through China Export-Import Bank. Often granted with provisions guaranteeing that Chinese firms get the contracts, these loans are breeding a growing number of Chinese train carriages in the region as well as Chinese road crews. In addition, Chinese firms often are the winning bidders in projects tendered by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Regional ADB officials openly praise the Chinese companies and their work. The ADB’s Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation program dovetails with China’s road-building aim of connecting the underdeveloped region with its wealthier neighbors. But China wants this infrastructure to be oriented in its direction rather than toward Afghanistan, as the ADB would prefer.

The fruits of this road and rail construction are seen in the markets of Kara-Suu in Kyrgyzstan, Barakholka in Kazakhstan or as far as Türkmenabat’s bazaars in Turkmenistan, just across the border from Uzbekistan. Sprawling fields harbor truck trailers with doors cut in them so merchants can peddle goods to local buyers. Traders in Uzbekistan report using Chinese roads and rail links to get goods from Guangzhou and Urumqi to their markets, while in Dushanbe the aptly named Shanghai Market offers a shrunken version of this model focused mostly on home construction. This trade includes such goods as air conditioners, televisions and knickknacks of the kind commonly associated with China. Xinjiang traders and truckers are largely responsible for this back and forth, which is helping expand China’s market presence in Central Asia, opening up Xinjiang’s markets and providing employment in the region.

Taken as a composite, this may appear to be a coherent strategy, but there is little evidence that it was developed consciously as a grand plan in Beijing. Beyond the Xinjiang development program, the other main area of Chinese concentration has been the SCO, a somewhat half-baked organization initially formed to resolve regional border disputes. For Beijing, the ideal would be for the organization to become a vehicle through which it can direct China’s economic investments in the region. Beijing policy makers have advanced notions of creating an SCO development bank and an SCO free-trade zone. At the latest summit in Beijing, China pledged $10 billion in regional support through the organization. But this eagerness is not shared by other SCO members—in particular Russia, which sees China’s rise in Central Asia as a direct threat to its interests. [...]

How might Russia try to frustrate these developments? The Russians know that the resources under Siberia are the key to realising their aspiration of being a great power in Asia, but it is the case that China is also the main foreign investor in Siberia now.

China has been testing the willingness of people to defend boundaries in all regions that it is adjacent to, namely, those of the United States, the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea, Central Asia, the Northern Korean peninsula, and the Northern Sea route in the Arctic Zone. Yet the only areas where China has managed to make a long-lasting strategic breakthrough are those areas in which it is detrimental to Russia. Russia has been the single biggest loser in this equation.

How should this be appraised in the broadest sense? The lesson is simple. The development of productive forces, the economic sphere, is what ultimately drives history. Things which appear to be accidents of history, are revealed as non-accidents once a long enough time scale is considered. On a long enough time scale, the course of history will tend to run parallel with the course of economic development.

Given that China became ‘a workshop of the world’, which is to say, a key element of the supply chain for every manufacturing power in East Asia, Western Europe, and the Americas, it was almost a certainty that this would create a scenario where there could potentially be strategic gains for China to pursue. Whichever boundary in the region was controlled by the weakest economic player, would become the ‘path of least resistance’ for Chinese economic expansion.

We’ve heard about the so-called ‘strength’ of Russia’s ‘Eurasianism’, which is espoused by Vladimir Putin and Kremlin advisers such as Aleksandr Dugin. The idea that Russia’s ‘Eurasianism’—a ‘Eurasianism’ which has nothing to do with Asia and everything to do with providing rhetorical cover for Gazprombank’s interests and the retrograde rent-seeking interests of (((Russian oligarchs))), ex-Stalinist gangsters, landlords, and clergy—would somehow be sufficient to improve Russia’s fortunes. We’ve also heard that the social reproduction of this supposed ‘strength’ would be presided over by the furrowed brows of Russian Orthodox priests and their thunderous moral injunctions.

And in the eyes of some, it seemed almost to be true. But was that the end of the story? No. Strong words must be backed by productive force if they are to be effective, and ultimately, a higher form of production will tend to triumph over a lower form.

It is for that reason which Russia now finds itself being increasingly denied the preponderance over the post-Soviet space that it so craved. The development of productive forces in East Asia is overcoming the force of Vladimir Putin’s fanciful speeches about ‘Eurasianism’, and it will also overcome all Abrahamic clerical-landlordist tendencies.



Comments:


1

Posted by Intermarium on Tue, 15 Mar 2016 01:42 | #

       

Jozef Piłsudski pursued, with varying degrees of intensity, two complementary strategies, intended to enhance Poland’s security: “Prometheism”, which aimed at breaking up, successively, the Imperial Russia and later the Soviet Union into their constituent nations; and the creation of an “Intermarium” federation, comprising Poland and other independent states located in the geographical space between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea and geopolitically placed between Germany and Russia. The Intermarium main purpose was to guarantee a lasting balance of power in Central Europe and to secure the existence of its nations against both western and eastern imperialisms.

Intermarium is a plan, pursued starting after World War I by Polish leader Józef Piłsudski, for a federation of Central and Eastern European countries. Invited to join the proposed federation were the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia), Finland, Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.

The Polish name Międzymorze, which means “Intersea” or “Between-seas,” was rendered into Latin as “Intermarium.”

The proposed federation was meant to emulate the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, that, from the end of the 16th century to the end of the 18th, had united the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Intermarium complemented Piłsudski’s other geopolitical vision—Prometheism, whose goal was the dismemberment of the Russian Empire and that Empire’s divestment of its territorial conquests.

[...]

On 12 May 2011 the Visegrad Group countries (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary) announced the formation of a battlegroup under the command of Poland. The battlegroup would be in place by 2016 as an independent force and would not be part of the NATO command. In addition, starting in 2013, the four countries would begin military exercises together under the auspices of the NATO Response Force. Some scholars see this as a first step toward close cooperation in the Central Europe region.

In view of the Ukrainian Crisis Stratfor has been discussing an alliance system remembering the Intermarium. Given the re-emergence of Russian power, the idea of the Intermarium — supported by the United States, and focused on Russia — would become inevitable. Statements of Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, on pre-positioning essentially announced a new Intermarium, or its small beginning. The area in which the equipment to counter threats from Russia would be pre-positioned stretches from the Baltic states through Poland and then skips to Romania and Bulgaria on the Black Sea. It should signal to the Russians that whatever happens in Ukraine, the next line of countries is the line that triggers the alliance

On 6 August 2015 Polish President Andrzej Duda, in his inaugural address, announced plans to build a regional alliance of Central and East European states, modeled on the Intermarium concept.


2

Posted by Chinese military budget increase on Wed, 16 Mar 2016 05:30 | #


Exponential increase of Chinese military budget


3

Posted by Baltic States Jumping on China's Silk Road on Fri, 20 May 2016 07:07 | #

Sputnik, “Golden Opportunity: Baltic States Jumping on China’s Silk Road Bandwagon”, 18 May 2016:

China is strengthening its economic ties with Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries as part of its ambitious New Silk Road project.

The first summit that brought together transport ministers from 16 Central and European (CEE) countries and China — the so-called 16+1 format — took place in Riga, Latvia, on May, 16-17.

“In recent years, cooperation on the integration of the transport networks and cargo deliveries has been steadily developing in the 16+1 format, with countries expressing strong political support to integration efforts between China and CEE countries, as more and more joint projects are being implemented in the area of transport and cargo deliveries,” Xinhua reported Tuesday.

To accomplish this task China intends to bolster the development of advanced logistics solutions for China and CEE countries; to set new transport and communication rules regulating cargo shipping from China to Eastern Europe “in order to liberalize transport operations”; to develop the railroad network in the Balkans and “speed up reconstruction of key Black Sea, Adriatic and Baltic ports in order to boost their capacity and cooperation with port areas.”

Needless to say, the China-led project creates new business opportunities for the Baltic economies which have long been suffering from recession with unemployment rates soaring step-by-step.



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