Please boycott any stupid artist that does not allow his pathetic songs to be aired on YouTube. Limp Bizkit comes to mind. Asswipes, always looking to score another penny. Pricks.
Bankcock music now:
You all know that I am embedded with the Irish. Love their women, beauty does not compromise.
Kiss it for me
Scotland (leave England and its parasites ye pathetic sponge losers. Of course, Canada will take Shirley. Eejits)
Britain (the best Britain has ever given)
Who doesn’t like women in black dresses?
Gang members are using teenage drug runners to transport and sell crack and heroin in the countryside. Police, youth workers and the government are trying to tackle this problem.
“This isn’t only about Trump’s antipathy toward non-white immigrants,” she writes. “We may also be witnessing a particularly brutal form of climate change adaptation.”
Following an announcement this week from the Trump administration that it is terminating temporary protections for some 59,000 Haitians who fled to the United States after a devastating 2010 earthquake—a highly anticipated move that has motivated thousands of Haitians to cross the border into Canada to seek asylum over the past year—journalist Naomi Klein warns decisions by the U.S. and Canadian governments indicate how wealthy nations may handle climate refugees in the years to come.
Amid growing fears that the Trump administration would not renew their Temporary Protected Status (TPS)—a federal program that allows foreign nationals from a select list of countries to live and work in the United States, due to conditions such as civil war or environmental disaster—thousands of Haitian refugees have fled to Canada in recent months, overwhelming its government’s resources to a degree that up to a quarter of those who make it across the border reportedly could be deported.
Writing for The Intercept, Klein details the experiences of multiple Haitian immigrants who have lived in the United States for several years, but have recently made the journey to Canada, crossing over into the country at remote locations in spite of treacherous weather conditions. Though they share heart-wrenching tales, Klein argues “there is a bigger picture to be seen here”—”the climate connection.”
The thousands of Haitian refugees who came to the United States under TPS were not fleeing what was seen as a permanently unlivable island, and the Trump administration is claiming—despite arguments to the contrary—that conditions on the island have improved enough that such protections are no longer warranted. However, as the planet continues to warm, in large part because of major greenhouse gas emitters like the United States, island nations such as Haiti will face increasing threats from rising sea levels and natural disasters that are intensified by warmer oceans.
Because TPS—which singles out “environmental disaster” as one of the key reasons a country would receive this designation—is currently the most significant policy tool available to the U.S. government to bring a modicum of relief to the countless people worldwide who are already being displaced as a result of climate change-related crises, with many more on the way. Little wonder, then, that Trump officials are rushing to slam this policy door shut….
As the only U.S. immigration program that grants legal rights to migrants in response to environmental disasters, the fate of the program should be seen as a de facto test case for how the world’s wealthiest country, and its largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases, is going treat the coming waves of climate refugees.
So far, the message is clear: Go back to a hell of our making.
The decision to end protections for Haitian refugees came shortly after a similar decision to kick out some 2,500 Nicaraguans from the program—they were granted protections after Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
“Granting the right to live and work in the United States to some migrants from these countries has been an acknowledgement that people in lands rocked by sudden environmental crises have the human right to seek safety,” Klein points out. She suggests that despite President Donald’s Trump unapologetic climate change denialism, the impetus for the “Trump administration’s rapid-fire round of attacks on the program” could very well be a desire to reign in that message.
“It’s a move that should be seen in the context of a pattern of actions that is simultaneously deepening the climate crisis (by granting the fossil fuel industry its wildest wish list), while eliminating programs designed to cope with the impacts of warming,” she concludes. “In short, this isn’t only about Trump’s antipathy toward non-white immigrants (though it’s about that too); we may also be witnessing a particularly brutal form of climate change adaptation.”
Try writing some fake news on rock. It will follow you for eternity.
“The public, it seems, needs to be protected only from bloggers and websites.”
With pemission from
NOV 24, 2017
Can anyone still doubt that access to a relatively free and open internet is rapidly coming to an end in the west? In China and other autocratic regimes, leaders have simply bent the internet to their will, censoring content that threatens their rule. But in the “democratic” west, it is being done differently. The state does not have to interfere directly – it outsources its dirty work to corporations.
As soon as next month, the net could become the exclusive plaything of the biggest such corporations, determined to squeeze as much profit as possible out of bandwith. Meanwhile, the tools to help us engage in critical thinking, dissent and social mobilisation will be taken away as “net neutrality” becomes a historical footnote, a teething phase, in the “maturing” of the internet.
In December the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to repeal already compromised regulations that are in place to maintain a semblance of “net neutrality”. Its chairman, Ajit Pai, and the corporations that are internet service providers want to sweep away these rules, just like the banking sector got rid of financial regulations so it could inflate our economies into giant ponzi schemes.
That could serve as the final blow to the left and its ability to make its voice heard in the public square.
It was political leaders – aided by the corporate media – who paved the way to this with their fomenting of a self-serving moral panic about “fake news”. Fake news, they argued, appeared only online, not in the pages of the corporate media – the same media that sold us the myth of WMD in Iraq, and has so effectively preserved a single party system with two faces. The public, it seems, needs to be protected only from bloggers and websites.
The social media giants soon responded. It is becoming ever clearer that Facebook is interfering as a platform for the dissemination of information for progressive activists. It is already shutting down accounts, and limiting their reach. These trends will only accelerate.
Google has changed its algorithms in ways that have ensured the search engine rankings of prominent leftwing sites are falling through the floor. It is becoming harder and harder to find alternative sources of news because they are being actively hidden from view.
Google stepped up that process this week by “deranking” RT and Sputnik, two Russian news sites that provide an important counterweight – even if one skewed in its pro-Russia agenda – to the anti-Russia propaganda spouted by western corporate media. The two sites will be as good as censored on the internet for the vast majority of users.
RT is far from a perfect source of news – no state or corporate media is – but it is a vital voice to have online. It has become a sanctuary for many seeking alternative, and often far more honest, critiques both of western domestic policy and of western interference in far-off lands. It has its own political agenda, of course, but, despite the assumption of many western liberals, it provides a far more accurate picture of the world than the western corporate media on a vast range of issues.
That is for good reason. Western corporate media is there to shore up prejudices that have been inculcated in western audiences over a lifetime – the chief one being that western states rightfully act as well-meaning, if occasionally bumbling, policemen trying to keep order among other, unruly or outright evil states around the globe.
The media and political class can easily tap into these prejudices to persuade us of all sorts of untruths that advance western interests. To take just one example – Iraq. We were told Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaeda (he didn’t and could not have had); that Iraq was armed with WMD (it wasn’t, as UN arms inspectors tried to tell us); and that the US and UK wanted to promote democracy in Iraq (but not before they had stolen its oil). There may have been opposition in the west to the invasion of Iraq, but little of it was driven by an appreciation that these elements of the official narrative were all easily verified as lies.
RT and other non-western news sources in English provide a different lens through which we can view such important events, perspectives unclouded by a western patrician agenda.
They and progressive sites are being gradually silenced and blacklisted, herding us back into the arms of the corporate propagandists. Few liberals have been prepared to raise their voices on behalf of RT, forgetting warnings from history, such as Martin Niemoller’s anti-Nazi poem “First they came for the socialists”.
The existing rules of “net neutrality” are already failing progressives and dissidents, as the developments I have outlined above make clear. But without them, things will get even worse. If the changes are approved next month, internet service providers (ISPs), the corporations that plug us into the internet, will also be able to decide what we should see and what will be out of reach.
Much of the debate has focused on the impact of ending the rules on online commercial ventures. That is why Amazon and porn sites like Pornhub have been leading the opposition. But that is overshadowing the more significant threat to progressive sites and already-embattled principles of free speech.
ISPs will be given a much freer hand to determine the content we can can get online. They will be able to slow down the access speeds of sites that are not profitable – which is true for activist sites, by definition. But they may also be empowered to impose Chinese-style censorship, either on their own initiative or under political pressure. The fact that this may be justified on commercial, not political, grounds will offer little succour.
Those committed to finding real news may be able to find workarounds. But this is little consolation. The vast majority of people will use the services they are provided with, and be oblivious to what is no longer available.
If it takes an age to access a website, they will simply click elsewhere. If a Google search shows them only corporately approved results, they will read what is on offer. If their Facebook feed declines to supply them with “non-profitable” or “fake” content, they will be none the wiser. But all of us who care about the future will be the poorer.
Yup, that’s how we do it in Canada. French, Natives, English, Portuguese, Pekingese, and all the other late comers.
To my poor nephew who is stuck in Saskatchewan after being born in paradise (Victoria, BC). Oh well, must be his karma and what he did before this lifetime. Justin Turtle is a great dude tho.
This is a breaking news story and will likely be updated…
At least 235 people were killed and over 100 injured after gunmen opened fire on worshipers at a Sufi mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula during Friday prayers.
The attackers also detonated explosives that were planted inside the mosque, located just over 100 miles northeast of the Egyptian capital.
The New York Times reported:
The attackers traveled in four-wheel-drive vehicles and exploded bombs inside the mosque in Bir al-Abd…then sprayed worshipers with gunfire as they fled, state media reported. A military official said that a suicide bomber was involved in the attack.
The attackers lingered at the scene even as emergency workers arrived to treat the injured, and opened fire on several ambulances, Ahmed el-Ansari, a senior government health official, told state television.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which was described as the deadliest to strike in the Sinai region in years.
Three days of mourning have been declared, according to Egyptian state media.
On Tuesday, the US Federal Communications Commission announced that it planned to vote on an order to roll back Obama-era rules governing net neutrality.
Simply put, net neutrality means that all data on the internet is treated equally. An internet service provider can’t prioritize certain companies or types of data, charge users more to access certain websites and apps, or charge businesses for preferential access.
Advocates of net neutrality argue that it ensures a level playing field for everyone on the internet. Telecoms firms, however, are largely against it because of the additional restrictions it places on them.
But with the Republican-majority FCC likely to vote on December 14 in favor of rolling back the order, what might the American internet look like without net neutrality? Just look at Portugal.
Really into messaging? Then pay €4.99 ($5.86 or £4.43) a month and get more data for apps like WhatsApp, Skype, and FaceTime. Prefer social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger, and so on? That’ll be another €4.99 a month.
Telecom giants in the US are set for a significant victory if Washington goes ahead with its plan to repeal so-called ‘net neutrality’ rules. The Obama-era legislation was enacted to prevent internet service providers from potentially cornering parts of the digital market and charging extra fees. As a result, it’s likely to have a direct impact on internet speeds in the US and cause a lot of inconvenience for users.
Meanwhile, Google has just been caught secretly collecting location data from Android phone users, even after they turned off location settings and had no SIM card in their devices.
So is there a way to escape from the increasing arbitrariness of the ‘regular internet’?
Kim Dotcom, the founder of Megaupload, who is wanted in America for alleged illegal file sharing, has pledged to create an ‘alternative internet’ to defend rights to privacy and freedom online.
RT: What are your thoughts on Kim Dotcom’s idea? How is it possible to build an alternative internet?
Dmytri Kleiner: The current internet as it exists right now suffers from a lot of privacy concerns. A lot of those privacy concerns – some of them are inherent to the architecture of the platforms, but a lot of them are related more to the business models of a lot of the kind of companies that make money on the internet. Companies like Google and Facebook make their money by targeting advertising. And targeting advertising requires to know a lot more about you than untargeted advertising. So the more they know about you, the more they can sell these ads for.
Kim Dotcom’s proposal is not something that I’ve seen too many details about, although he has been mentioning MegaNet for a few years now I think, as early as 2015. And there are a lot of things that sound pretty good about what he is proposing. Especially the idea of using mobile devices more actively. It is not clear what he means by that – whether he means there will be an overlay network on top of the kind of IP internet that adds anonymity along the lines of something like Tor or Tox; or whether he plans to use Bluetooth, or NFC (Near Field Communication,) or direct Wi-Fi capabilities of the mobile phones themselves to create a so-called mesh network along the lines of Briar or several other applications. But in any case, more development in this area would certainly be good – the better platforms that consumers have that deliver privacy and anonymity – the more we have – the better. But that won’t necessarily affect the actual concerns of data being collected by the likes of Google and Facebook.
RT: What about the speed at which people can use the internet. With these net neutrality rules being rolled back is Kim Dotcom’s idea a way of circumventing those alternative rules that are going to come into force?
DK: We need to know more about the architecture to make a claim either way. If it is planning to use the kind of radio capabilities of mobile phones themselves, and the Bluetooth and NFC and Wi-Fi capabilities those phones have to create another mesh network, then you could have an advantage that it is much more difficult to block than centralized things. So net neutrality wouldn’t affect it directly. However, it is still may be a slower service to what people used to right now, given a neutral internet.
RT: What would be the drawbacks be to an alternative internet? Some people might say there is too much anonymity, and perhaps there would be sort of fair game for criminals and the like? What’s your response to that argument?
DK: It seems to me the criminals aren’t having a terrible amount of difficulty operating on the internet as it is today. Having a more alternative internet that is more controlled by its users, gives us better options in order to protect ourselves. We can have collaborative moderation, and collaborative block lists and stuff like that that could make user-driven ways to defend against this stuff more effective, rather than being completely in the hands of Facebook and Google and Twitter, and only being able to access the protections that they provide.
RT: Can you see the public taking to this alternative internet quickly, or would there be problems for them to connect? What are your thoughts on its accessibility?
DK: There are a lot of questions need to be looked at there. One is how user-friendly and usable this kind of stuff is. We know without a clear business model, like advertising that Facebook and Google have, you have to question where the investments are going to come from to create the kind of rich user experience that users are used to; to market it, to promote it, to support it – and all that kind of stuff. I mean given the right support I definitely think that an alternative could be made and it could be very popular.
However, it is not clear where that support could come from short of public institutions because as a private entrepreneur Kim Dotcom can only spend money that he can earn back. And it is not clear how he would earn money on such a thing, given that advertising and surveillance would not be used.
Everyone knows what it feels like to have consciousness: it’s that self-evident sense of personal awareness, which gives us a feeling of ownership and control over the thoughts, emotions and experiences that we have every day.
Most experts think that consciousness can be divided into two parts: the experience of consciousness (or personal awareness), and the contents of consciousness, which include things such as thoughts, beliefs, sensations, perceptions, intentions, memories and emotions.
It’s easy to assume that these contents of consciousness are somehow chosen, caused or controlled by our personal awareness – after all, thoughts don’t exist until until we think them. But in a new research paper in Frontiers of Psychology, we argue that this is a mistake.
We suggest that our personal awareness does not create, cause or choose our beliefs, feelings or perceptions. Instead, the contents of consciousness are generated “behind the scenes” by fast, efficient, non-conscious systems in our brains. All this happens without any interference from our personal awareness, which sits passively in the passenger seat while these processes occur.
Put simply, we don’t consciously choose our thoughts or our feelings – we become aware of them.
If this sounds strange, consider how effortlessly we regain consciousness each morning after losing it the night before; how thoughts and emotions – welcome or otherwise – arrive already formed in our minds; how the colours and shapes we see are constructed into meaningful objects or memorable faces without any effort or input from our conscious mind.
Consider that all the neuropsychological processes responsible for moving your body or using words to form sentences take place without involving your personal awareness. We believe that the processes responsible for generating the contents of consciousness do the same.
Our thinking has been influenced by research into neuropsychological and neuropsychiatric disorders, as well as more recent cognitive neuroscience studies using hypnosis. The studies using hypnosis show that a person’s mood, thoughts and perceptions can be profoundly altered by suggestion.
In such studies, participants go through a hypnosis induction procedure, to help them to enter a mentally focused and absorbed state. Then, suggestions are made to change their perceptions and experiences.
For example, in one study, researchers recorded the brain activity of participants when they raised their arm intentionally, when it was lifted by a pulley, and when it moved in response to a hypnotic suggestion that it was being lifted by a pulley.
Similar areas of the brain were active during the involuntary and the suggested “alien” movement, while brain activity for the intentional action was different. So, hypnotic suggestion can be seen as a means of communicating an idea or belief that, when accepted, has the power to alter a person’s perceptions or behaviour.
All this may leave one wondering where our thoughts, emotions and perceptions actually come from. We argue that the contents of consciousness are a subset of the experiences, emotions, thoughts and beliefs that are generated by non-conscious processes within our brains.
This subset takes the form of a personal narrative, which is constantly being updated. The personal narrative exists in parallel with our personal awareness, but the latter has no influence over the former.
The personal narrative is important because it provides information to be stored in your autobiographical memory (the story you tell yourself, about yourself), and gives human beings a way of communicating the things we have perceived and experienced to others.
This, in turn, allows us to generate survival strategies; for example, by learning to predict other people’s behaviour. Interpersonal skills like this underpin the development of social and cultural structures, which have promoted the survival of human kind for millennia.
So, we argue that it is the ability to communicate the contents of one’s personal narrative –– and not personal awareness – that gives humans their unique evolutionary advantage.
If the experience of consciousness does not confer any particular advantage, it’s not clear what it’s purpose is. But as a passive accompaniment to non-conscious processes, we don’t think that the phenomena of personal awareness has a purpose, in much the same way that rainbows do not. Rainbows simply result from the reflection, refraction and dispersion of sunlight through water droplets – none of which serves any particular purpose.
Our conclusions also raise questions about the notions of free will and personal responsibility. If our personal awareness does not control the contents of the personal narrative which reflects our thoughts, feelings, emotions, actions and decisions, then perhaps we should not be held responsible for them.
In response to this, we argue that free will and personal responsibility are notions that have been constructed by society. As such, they are built into the way we see and understand ourselves as individuals, and as a species. Because of this, they are represented within the non-conscious processes that create our personal narratives, and in the way we communicate those narratives to others.
Just because consciousness has been placed in the passenger seat, does not mean we need to dispense with important everyday notions such as free will and personal responsibility. In fact, they are embedded in the workings of our non-conscious brain systems. They have a powerful purpose in society and have a deep impact on the way we understand ourselves.
“With a life expectancy of 79.1 years and levels of wellbeing in the top 7% of the world, Costa Rica matches many Scandinavian nations in these areas and neatly outperforms the United States. And it manages all of this with a GDP per capita of only $10,000, less than one-fifth that of the US.”
With permission from
Nov 24, 2017
Earlier this summer, a paper published in the journal Nature captured headlines with a rather bleak forecast. Our chances of keeping global warming below the 2C danger threshold are very, very small: only about 5%. The reason, according to the paper’s authors, is that the cuts we’re making to greenhouse gas emissions are being cancelled out by economic growth.
In the coming decades, we’ll be able to reduce the carbon intensity of the global economy by about 1.9% per year, if we make heavy investments in clean energy and efficient technology. That’s a lot. But as long as the economy keeps growing by more than that, total emissions are still going to rise. Right now we’re ratcheting up global GDP by 3% per year, which means we’re headed for trouble.
If we want to have any hope of averting catastrophe, we’re going to have to do something about our addiction to growth. This is tricky, because GDP growth is the main policy objective of virtually every government on the planet. It lies at the heart of everything we’ve been told to believe about how the economy should work: that GDP growth is good, that it’s essential to progress, and that if we want to improve human wellbeing and eradicate poverty around the world, we need more of it. It’s a powerful narrative. But is it true?
Maybe not. Take Costa Rica. A beautiful Central American country known for its lush rainforests and stunning beaches, Costa Rica proves that achieving high levels of human wellbeing has very little to do with GDP and almost everything to do with something very different.
Every few years the New Economics Foundation publishes the Happy Planet Index – a measure of progress that looks at life expectancy, wellbeing and equality rather than the narrow metric of GDP, and plots these measures against ecological impact. Costa Rica tops the list of countries every time. With a life expectancy of 79.1 years and levels of wellbeing in the top 7% of the world, Costa Rica matches many Scandinavian nations in these areas and neatly outperforms the United States. And it manages all of this with a GDP per capita of only $10,000, less than one-fifth that of the US.
In this sense, Costa Rica is the most efficient economy on earth: it produces high standards of living with low GDP and minimal pressure on the environment.
How do they do it? Professors Martínez-Franzoni and Sánchez-Ancochea argue that it’s all down to Costa Rica’s commitment to universalism: the principle that everyone – regardless of income – should have equal access to generous, high-quality social services as a basic right. A series of progressive governments started rolling out healthcare, education and social security in the 1940s and expanded these to the whole population from the 50s onward, after abolishing the military and freeing up more resources for social spending.
Costa Rica wasn’t alone in this effort, of course. Progressive governments elsewhere in Latin America made similar moves, but in nearly every case the US violently intervened to stop them for fear that “communist” ideas might scupper American interests in the region. Costa Rica escaped this fate by outwardly claiming to be anti-communist and – horribly – allowing US-backed forces to use the country as a base in the contra war against Nicaragua.
The upshot is that Costa Rica is one of only a few countries in the global South that enjoys robust universalism. It’s not perfect, however. Relatively high levels of income inequality make the economy less efficient than it otherwise might be. But the country’s achievements are still impressive. On the back of universal social policy, Costa Rica surpassed the US in life expectancy in the late 80s, when its GDP per capita was a mere tenth of America’s.
Today, Costa Rica is a thorn in the side of orthodox economics. The conventional wisdom holds that high GDP is essential for longevity: “wealthier is healthier”, as former World Bank chief economist Larry Summers put it in a famous paper. But Costa Rica shows that we can achieve human progress without much GDP at all, and therefore without triggering ecological collapse. In fact, the part of Costa Rica where people live the longest, happiest lives – the Nicoya Peninsula – is also the poorest, in terms of GDP per capita. Researchers have concluded that Nicoyans do so well not in spite of their “poverty”, but because of it – because their communities, environment and relationships haven’t been plowed over by industrial expansion.
All of this turns the usual growth narrative on its head. Henry Wallich, a former member of the US Federal Reserve Board, once pointed out that “growth is a substitute for redistribution”. And it’s true: most politicians would rather try to rev up the GDP and hope it trickles down than raise taxes on the rich and redistribute income into social goods. But a new generation of thinkers is ready to flip Wallich’s quip around: if growth is a substitute for redistribution, then redistribution can be a substitute for growth.
Costa Rica provides a hopeful model for any country that wants to chart its way out of poverty. But it also holds an important lesson for rich countries. Scientists tell us that if we want to avert dangerous climate change, high-consuming nations are going to have to scale down their bloated economies to get back in sync with the planet’s ecology, and fast. A widely-cited paper by scientists at the University of Manchester estimates it’s going to require downscaling of 4-6% per year.
This is what ecologists call “de-growth”. This calls for redistributing existing resources and investing in social goods in order to render growth unnecessary. Decommoditizing and universalizing healthcare, education and even housing would be a step in the right direction. Another would be a universal basic income – perhaps funded by taxes on carbon, land, resource extraction and financial transactions.
The opposite of growth isn’t austerity, or depression, or voluntary poverty. It is sharing what we already have, so we won’t need to plunder the earth for more.
Costa Rica proves that rich countries could theoretically ease their consumption by half or more while maintaining or even increasing their human development indicators. Of course, getting there would require that we devise a new economic system that doesn’t require endless growth just to stay afloat. That’s a challenge, to be sure, but it’s possible.
After all, once we have excellent healthcare, education, and affordable housing, what will endlessly more income growth gain us? Maybe bigger TVs, flashier cars, and expensive holidays. But not more happiness, or stronger communities, or more time with our families and friends. Not more peace or more stability, fresher air or cleaner rivers. Past a certain point, GDP gains us nothing when it comes to what really matters. In an age of climate change, where the pursuit of ever more GDP is actively dangerous, we need a different approach.
Jason Hickel is an anthropologist at the London School of Economics. He specializes in globalization, finance, democracy, violence, and ritual, and is the author of Democracy as Death: The Moral Order of Anti-Liberal Politics in South Africa.
With permission from
Nov 24, 2017
Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani will hold a summit this Wednesday in Sochi to discuss Syria. Russia, Turkey and Iran are the three power players at the Astana negotiations – where multiple cease-fires, as hard to implement as they are, at least evolve, slowly but surely, towards the ultimate target – a political settlement.
A stable Syria is crucial to all parties involved in Eurasia integration. As Asia Times reported, China has made it clear that a pacified Syria will eventually become a hub of the New Silk Roads, known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – building on the previous business bonanza of legions of small traders commuting between Yiwu and the Levant.
Away from intractable war and peace issues, it’s even more enlightening to observe how Turkey, Iran and Russia are playing their overlapping versions of Eurasia economic integration and/or BRI-related business.
Much has to do with the energy/transportation connectivity between railway networks – and, further on the down the road, high-speed rail – and what I have described, since the early 2000s, as Pipelineistan.
The Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, a deal brokered in person in Baku by the late Dr Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski, was a major energy/geopolitical coup by the Clinton administration, laying out an umbilical steel cord between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.
Now comes the Baku-Tblisi-Kars (BTK) railway – inaugurated with great fanfare by Erdogan alongside Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, but also crucially Kazakh Prime Minister Bakhytzhan Sagintayev and Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov. After all, this is about the integration of the Caucasus with Central Asia.
Erdogan actually went further: BTK is “an important chain in the New Silk Road, which aims to connect Asia, Africa, and Europe.” The new transportation corridor is configured as an important Eurasian hub linking not only the Caucasus with Central Asia but also, in the Big Picture, the EU with Western China.
BTK is just the beginning, considering the long-term strategy of Chinese-built high-speed rail from Xinjiang across Central Asia all the way to Iran, Turkey, and of course, the dream destination: the EU. Erdogan can clearly see how Turkey is strategically positioned to profit from it.
Of course, BTK is not a panacea. Other connectivity points between Iran and Turkey will spring up, and other key BRI interconnectors will pick up speed in the next few years, such as the Eurasian Land Bridge across the revamped Trans-Siberian and an icy version of the Maritime Silk Road: the Northern Sea Route across the Arctic.
What’s particularly interesting in the BTK case is the Pipelineistan interconnection with the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP), bringing natural gas from the massive Azeri gas field Shah Deniz-2 to Turkey and eventually the EU.
Turkish analyst Cemil Ertem stresses, “just like TANAP, the BTK Railway not only connects three countries, but also is one of the main trade and transport routes in Asia and Europe, and particularly Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan ports. It connects Central Asia to Turkey with the Marmaray project in Istanbul and via the Caspian region. Along with the Southern Gas Corridor, which constitutes TANAP’s backbone, it will also connect ports on the South China Sea to Europe via Turkey.”
It’s no wonder BTK has been met with ecstatic reception across Turkey – or, should we say, what used to be known as Asia Minor. It does spell out, graphically, Ankara’s pivoting to the East (as in increasing trade with China) as well as a new step in the extremely complex strategic interdependence between Ankara and Moscow; the Central Asian “stans”, after all, fall into Russia’s historical sphere of influence.
Add to it the (pending) Russian sale of the S-400 missile defense system to Ankara, and the Russian and Chinese interest in having Turkey as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
From IPI to IP and then II
Now compare the BTK coup with one of Pipelineistan’s trademark cliff-hanging soap operas; the IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India), previously dubbed “the peace pipeline”.
IPI originally was supposed to link southeastern Iran with northern India across Balochistan, via the Pakistani port of Gwadar (now a key hub of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, CPEC). The Bush and Obama administrations did everything to prevent IPI from ever being built, betting instead on the rival TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) – which would actually traverse a war zone east of Herat, Afghanistan.
TAPI might eventually be built – even with the Taliban being denied their cut (that was exactly the contention 20 years ago with the first Clinton administration: transit rights). Lately, Russia stepped up its game, with Gazprom seducing India into becoming a partner in TAPI’s construction.
But then came the recent announcement by Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak: Moscow and Tehran will sign a memorandum of understanding to build a 1,200km gas pipeline from Iran to India; call it II. And Gazprom, in parallel, will invest in unexplored Iranian gas fields along the route.
Apart from the fact of a major win for Gazprom – expanding its reach towards South Asia – the clincher is the project won’t be the original IPI (actually IP), where Iran already built the stretch up to the border and offered help for Islamabad to build its own stretch; a move that would be plagued by US sanctions. The Gazprom project will be an underwater pipeline from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean.
From New Delhi’s point of view, this is the ultimate win-win. TAPI remains a nightmarish proposition, and India needs all the gas it can get, fast. Assuming the new Trump administration “Indo-Pacific” rhetoric holds, New Delhi is confident it won’t be slapped with sanctions because it’s doing business with both Iran and Russia.
And then there was another key development coming out of Putin’s recent visit to Tehran: the idea – straight out of BRI – of building a rail link between St. Petersburg (on the Baltic) and Chabahar port close to the Persian Gulf. Chabahar happens to be the key hub of India’s answer to BRI: a maritime trade link to Afghanistan and Central Asia bypassing Pakistan, and connected to the North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), of which Iran, India and Russia are key members alongside Caucasus and Central Asian nations.
You don’t need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows across Eurasia; integration, all the way.
This piece first appeared at Asia Times.