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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Geopolitics of today (or "BRICs are heavy")


I finally made a satisfactory map that reflects as well as possible the imperfect multipolarity of today's geopolitics:

Click to expand

Legend:
  • Red shades: The Empire (dark red: USA and dependencies, bright red: other NATO members, other "central" US allies and their colonies, pink: other important US allies/EU members, stripes: under military occupation).
  • Turquoise: Russia (stripes: under military occupation), Cyan: main allies
  • Blue: China, lighter blue shades: under Chinese influence
  • Orange: India, lighter orange shades: under Indian influence
  • Green: Brazil, light green: other Mercosur countries, dark green: ALBA
  • Dark Grey: other regional powers
  • Regular Grey: other countries
Notice that I could not mark all US/NATO allies on risk of almost all the map becoming pink and that way maybe exaggerating the influence of The Empire even more. On the other hand I may have maxed the areas of influence of China (excepting Pakistan) and India. Many countries, of course, play multilateral diplomacy and try to keep a pretense of independence, what makes more difficult to decide what side are they in. The use of similar colors for Brazil/Mercosur and ALBA is somewhat justified but was mostly chosen to underline the differences between the USA/NATO bloc and the "Latin-Americanist" powers in the American continent. Anyhow, the latest developments in Honduras, Colombia and Haiti have clearly pushed Venezuela and Brazil closer in a joint bid to support the independence of Latin American and Caribbean nations, which obviously plays in their interest rather than in that of the USA, as imperialist power.


Overview:

There are two basic elements in the reality reflected in this map: The Empire and the BRIC.

The Empire is incredibly large (even if I tended to reflect only its strongest influence) and is clearly based on naval hegemony, which is supported by proportionally large navies, not just from the USA but also from France, UK, Italy, Spain, Australia and Japan in particular.

BRIC is an acronym that stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China. Even if it's an informal group, it has no other entity that reflect the four major powers that are still independent from The Empire. Each one of them has its own geostrategical interests and also different cultures and political systems. The only thing in common they may have is that they all are more or less confronted with The Empire... with one exception: India.


India:

It seems that India and China perceive each other as most direct rivals. Also India has a large maritime facade and hence clear naval interests in the Indian Ocean specially, which is also the ocean where The Empire has an arguably weaker presence. However India has with good reason distrusted The Empire in the past and instead kept stronger ties with the former USSR. The China-USA entente and the conflicts with Pakistan (an ally of both USA and China) on Kashmir, led the South Asian republic to act that way. However it has played both sides and has always kept major ties with Israel and other members of the Western bloc.

In the current circumstances, India still keeps good relations with Russia but the approach between Moscow and Beijing is pushing the old friend somewhat apart and throwing India in the arms of The Empire.


China and Russia:

But, of course, the most important power of all BRIC countries is nowadays China. And it is the growing conflict between China and the USA what really describes the scene. We can't still talk of a new Cold War, very specially because the Chinese take due care in no pushing the conflict to military but economic and diplomatic terms but, in any case, the conflict is clear and growing stronger, as knows anyone who reads the news.

China however is relatively weak in the military aspect, even if less so than in the past, and hence its growing alliance with the decadent but heavily armed Russia is of crucial importance. The "thirdworldized" Russia with loads of ICBM nukes, offers China an almost ideal ally: China does not dispute Russia its political and military clout on Central Asia but rips many of the economic benefits, not just of Central Asia but also of Siberia. It also offers China a military shield that prevents a direct conflict with The Empire.

On its side Russia also feels threatened by The Empire, which has been growing towards its borders and even threatens it with new missile deployments. The latest developments (defeat of Georgia, pro-Russian government in Ukraine, restive Turkey) may imply that Russia is scoring some goals but still it does feel threatened by NATO and siding with China is the best alternative it has (as together they control most of non-tropical Asia, while divided they would only play in the hands of their common rival).

China's worries are mostly a fear of being blockaded out of the oil supplies from the Middle East. Hence it's following two parallel strategies: on one side, cooperation with Russia to keep The Empire out of Central Asia (and as much as possible of The Middle East as well, for example protecting Iran) and, on the other side, securing as much as possible the shipping lines to West Asia (for which it has recently obtained bases in Bangladesh and Sri-Lanka).

In parallel, China is painfully working to weaken the imperial bloc in its immediate area of East Asia itself (seducing South Korea and even Japan and Taiwan as much as possible, supporting little Cambodia against Thailand, etc.), as well as gaining random friends in Polynesia and Africa and, specially, making business even where The Empire makes military alliances.


Brazil:

The other BRIC power is Brazil, whose confrontation with the USA has been growing hot in the last year. Brazil has been playing, even more than China, a soft diplomatic game, gradually strengthening its position both internally and internationally. While it has got its bad moments with the Bolivarian bloc led by Venezuela, the crisis of Honduras seems to have eventually opened its eyes. And if that did not, the growing US military presence in Colombia and the unbelievable massive invasion of Haiti have put things clear for Brazil: there's no room for two powers in America... unless they fight each other. Surely Brazil would like to grow in power more gradually and without conflicts but it seems that those days are now gone and The Empire is striking back. That situation obviously pushes the Bolivarian bloc (the ALBA) and the Brazilian-led bloc (Mercosur) into each other's arms.

The latest growing tensions around the Falklands/Malvinas disputed archipelago, as well as the repeated protests of Venezuela against the US-Colombia-Netherlands siege, show that the issue is serious.

However Brazil in comparison with the Asian BRIC countries has three disadvantages:
  • Like India, it is a naval oriented country with a large maritime facade. Hence it's potentially more exposed to the Imperial naval hegemony. But, unlike India it's much closer to the USA and its area of immediate interests.
  • It competes with the largest global power for Latin America, which the USA still considers its "backyard".
  • It is the only BRIC power that has no nuclear weapons. It might develop them (as did India not long ago) but that would mean breaching international agreements (NPT) and giving hence a pretext to the USA to behave even more aggressively.
On the other hand it has some major advantages:
  • Latin America in general is fed up with the USA and is clearly willing to try something new. Brazil has the potential of playing a leading role in this aspect and the recent formation of a distinct Latin American and Caribbean association without the USA nor Spain is a clear step in this direction.
  • Not only Latin America but eventually even large parts of Africa, very specially South Africa (particularly sympathetic to Brazil and India, and leader of a large bloc, not represented in the map) and the former Portuguese colonies, could be interested in some sort of cooperation with Brazil and other Latin American nations with common goals of emancipation and development.
  • The legitimacy of the people: unlike the other US rivals (China and Russia) and unlike most US allies (vassals) in the region, Brazil and its allies (excepting Cuba) are clear democracies, with more or less "progressive" leaning. Machiavelli himself would applaud that as a great asset.
  • Oil: Venezuela seems to have become the largest oil reserve in the World, replacing Saudi Arabia in this position. Brazil itself has discovered large deposits offshore and there are others in Cuba, Haiti and the Falklands, fueling the confrontation with the USA and Britain. But also allowing for some decent bargaining as well.

The Empire:

The Imperial bloc lead by the USA has clear advantages: the largest share by far of the global GDP, a huge military, presence almost anywhere on Earth, lots of nukes, total naval hegemony... But it has also some disadvantages, namely: overextension, huge debt (largely caused by military overexpending), being dominated by a small oligarchy with very peculiar interests, often conflicting with those of the people and even The Empire itself (particularly Zionism), and now a brutal overproduction crisis that might well seal its fate once for all.

Overgrowth crisis are not alien to large empires. Rome itself faced one after consolidation and languished for centuries in it, while the British Empire decayed largely because it was too large to be defended against its own peoples. But the closest parallel is surely the Habsburgian Empire of Charles V and Philip II, who similarly were forced to overexpend in military adventures, often ill fated, almost everywhere (Germany, the Mediterranean, Britain...). At the time there was no larger empire and the Habsburgs thought they had no rival... but soon they had to experience a harsh reality check and declare bankrupticy, as well as making huge concessions to their rivals.

This is in fact what The Empire is facing today: the crisis is, as we all know, far from over and it is affecting severely both major pillars of the bloc: the USA and EU. It is primarily an structural overproduction crisis but it's also a debt crisis (with China getting rid of less and less solid US bonds) and an overextension crisis as well.

Just count the unfinished major wars The Empire is involved in: Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia-plus, Yemen, Somalia. Not to mention the never accoplished threat of attacking Iran, the extreme instability of most US vassals in Latin America (Colombia, Mexico, Honduras and poor occupied Haiti at least), which can any day turn against their master by popular acclamation, and those of other regions (Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, Thailand and even some European countries like Greece).

And then count the cost: the nominal US public debt is of almost 8 trillion USD but, in fact, more than 5 trillion are excluded from these accounts. Only counting the nominal fraction, the US public debt has never been so high since the late 1950s (as percentage of GDP, c. 70%) and, when we count all the real debt, it's as high as at the height of WWII (again as percentage of GDP, c. 115%). This kind of heavy indebtment, paid with the booty of conquest maybe but not without serious economic implications, is again another striking parallel with the Habsburgian Empire of Charles V and successors, very specially as most of it is wasted in both cases in military expenses.

But, of course, The Empire remains as of today as a mighty power, the only real superpower on Earth. Meanwhile, the Frances, Englands and Ottoman Empires of our day (the BRIC and particularly China) bid their time as much as they can avoiding direct confrontation as much as possible.

And this is the scenario we have now. Though admittedly it may well be obsolete in a decade or less.


Addendum: naval might:

Aircraft carriers may well reflect with some approximation the real naval might of each of the powers at play. They are as follows:

NATO and allies:
  • USA: 11 ships in use, 1 projected
  • Britain: 2 ships in use, 2 projected
  • Italy: 2 ships in use
  • Spain: 2 ships in use
  • France: 1 ship in use
  • Australia: 2 ships projected
  • Japan: 2 ships projected
  • Thailand: 1 ship projected
Total Empire: 18 aircraft carriers in use, 9 projected

BRIC:
  • India: 1 ship in use, 2 projected
  • Russia: 1 ship in use
  • Brazil: 1 ship in use
  • China: 1 ship projected
Total BRIC: 3 aircraft carriers in use, 4 projected


Sources: most data freely adapted from diverse Wikipedia articles and maps. See also this post on the China-US competition, this one on the latest US invasion of Haiti and its geostrategical implications and maybe this one on how Venezuela is being surrounded by US military deployment.

Note: of course, the secondary title is a silly wordplay with the superb record of L7, Bricks Are Heavy.

7 comments:

tavatea said...

Plzzz don't delete my comment! I read your blog sometimes. U R an idividual of exceptional understanding though with sometimes an unjustified foul temper.

Keep writing original content. I have researched blogging more than u. Though my heart may not be in the right place like you. I want to make money from the internet. So u may say my research is in vain. But I write to help you.

Give ur opinion rather just reprinting news - Like this article. I know our lives are very short. We may not be able to make the difference we want to.

Give up ur fear of internet commerce. I have made some money thru internet. Why not get ur own domain leherensuge.org from google. It will cost u just $ 15 per year.

Maju said...

"U R an idividual of exceptional understanding though with sometimes an unjustified foul temper".

Fair enough. I can agree with that. :D

"Give ur opinion rather just reprinting news"...

I almost always give my opinion. However I do get a lot of feed from other sources, which must be at least properly acknowledged.

I also have since the beginning certain commitment to reflect news from media in Spanish or Basque (and sometimes French, Italian or Portuguese too) and give an English version of them, which otherwise may not even exist. Not sure if you realize that, while the Internet may be global, there are many sub-internets by language in practice, and bringing some of that to the lingua franca is, I believe, an important service.

I don't trust e-commerce nor e-banking (too many worms and loopholes around... and you have to remember "safe" passwords), I am just not interested in money (though you can send me a check if you feel so inclined) and I think commercials give a bad feeling to a site.

And I also think you are Jhangora. Am I right?

tavatea said...

And I also think you are Jhangora. Am I right?

No Sir, my name is Dinesh Mohan Raturi.


I almost always give my opinion. However I do get a lot of feed from other sources, which must be at least properly acknowledged.

Sir as I said I have researched blogging more than you. Social Media is even more powerful than you. I also get feeds which I acknowledge. But you are special, be urself. Instead of pumpimg out 4 posts a day, just write 1 article each day. It will improve ur overall wellbeing. I know the sources u quote may not be known to others but then u said once each idea has a shelf life. It is best to burn a candle in someone else, maybe I have made fly a hundred basque links on the net u are not aware of. Quality always wins Sir, focus on it.

(though you can send me a check if you feel so inclined)

The money I have made from the net is not much. Just about $ 500 in 5 months. But I have some ideas to explore. N U can help me by translating some foolish commercial content in Basque. I have a little more than $ 100 in my Paypal account. The guy who writes official Paypal blog is an Indian but Paypal has frozen payments to India. We can still send money abroad but can't receive. If u r willing to Translate from English to Basque plz email me.

Normally content sells on the internet. Indian writers write for $ 3 per 300 words. A native speaker of English wud charge $ 10. I have written the content in English and am willing to pay you $ 3 per 300 words in English translated to Euskara. Fair Enough?

Maju said...

Ok, Dinesh-Jhangora: stop telling me what I have to do. I write because I want and because I can.

I don't sell my soul. I don't want money.

And anyhow all you say sounds to some sort of "Nigerian scam".

Did you finally got married?

Maju said...

And, btw, do you know what can I buy with 3 dollars here? Maybe not even a pack of cigarettes.

That's why Europe has so low competitivity: everything is so damn expensive. I want the euro massively devaluated now!

tavatea said...

$ 3 is just the initial payment. If I make over a million in one year I'll pay u much more.

It's no scam, usually companies which can't get shelf space in superstores focus on internet marketing. I've had some luck with search engine optimization. For example google "Maximum Strength Acai" and my post wud be on 2nd position. That post has helped me make $ 65 in the past 2 days. 1 sale in UK and one in Australia. Isn't that wonderful. I don't know who they r and wud never meet them but they help me make money. I just have to ensure my articles rank high enough on google.

Ofcourse u may want to take a look at this article http://jhangora.blogspot.com/2010/01/acai-palm-and-acai-fruit.html The popularity of Acai berry in the US is depriving Brazilian jungle populations of a protein-rich nutrient they have relied on for generations.

Maybe u can write an article on it like u wrote an article against source forge.

Cigarette is same price in India as it was in South Korea. $ 2 per pack of 20. $ 100 is not a substantial amount. My brother helped me with some money.

Anyways if u r not interested I'll ask someone else.

About marriage : Did u stop answering my questions bcoz I did not accept ur advise on marrying a lower-middle class girl.

I think Virgos and Cancerians will never get along. She got married in 2008. Saw her a month or so back. Look like a pale shadow of her wonderful self now. Something wrong between her husband and her pretty self. I suspect but am not sure and don't care. There was more to me disliking her than I told u. I have learnt never to share anything fully with one individual. Dangerous to let someone know all ur secrets.

The other Virgo girl I met in S Korea has left Samsung. She worked in S Korea and England for Samsung and has joined a non-governmental organisation in her hometown. Sent her an SMS today. Don't ask me how I found her cell phone number. My search skills on the net are good.

Whether u want the euro devaluated or not makes no difference Maju. U R an insignificant creature.

But I think u have foresight. I used to laugh at ur idea of world governance but after the financial meltdown of 2008 have read scores of reports, articles, etc and even heads of big nations agree that world governance is needed.

So my friend life is short enjoy it. Don't be angry, be cheerful.

I havn't married yet. Why did my stars say that I shud have been married by now?

Maju said...

"Did u stop answering my questions bcoz I did not accept ur advise on marrying a lower-middle class girl"?

No, LOL. You know perfectly that I stopped replying to you because you were a total dick. There's even a thread with your name explaining everything.

...

And don't bother I'm not interesting in your business. At my age, I'd rather die.

"I think Virgos and Cancerians will never get along".

They actually do get along fine, but from what I recall, you are super-Gemini by planetary positions, what is the main reason you and my Virgo zone (five planets) don't get along. Gemini people is normally quite socialite and, sure interested in mobile phones and making money through the net... while Virgo types are more interested in pure science and handwork rather than chatting.

It's the difference between air and earth, at the zone they get worst with each other. With all that Gemini stuff you rather want a Gemini or a Libra.

"I havn't married yet. Why did my stars say that I shud have been married by now?"

No. I don't believe in destiny (stars impel, not compel). What they say in your case (from memory) is that, unlike me, you'd be happier within a couple (married or not, not my business).