Saturday, 31 May 2014

Why China Could Stand to Gain from the Coup in Thiland.

The decision to put off any election in Thailand for a period of 15 months by General Prayuth Chan-ocha and to put into effect political 'reforms', that will put an end to the political turmoil that has been going on since 2011, is essentially an attempt to restore the predominant role of the 'monarchy-military nexus'.

The US and EU diplomats expressing 'concern' and demanding elections do so because since the new Pivot to Asia strategy that started in 2010, Washington has tended to back the Shinawatras because they do win elections and because they are allied to pro-US political forces across the border in Cambodia.

The Pivot to Asia is all about containing the military threat posed by China to Washington's regional partners and, in particular its claims to the territorial waters of the South China Sea where there are copious supplies of oil, and the Middle Kingdom's rivalry with the US for influence in South East Asia.

Given that the US and EU tacitly allowed the military in Egypt to launch a coup and gun down protesters in the street, while offering only tokenistic and mealy-mouthed condemnations, the Thai military have had no reason to believe that its coup would meet with effective western opposition.

One reason is that Thailand was a key part of Washington's strategy of containing communism during the Cold War and now of China as it overtakes the US in the wake of the financial crash of 2008 to become the world's largest economy with which Thailand has an increased amount of trade.

Should the US start to withdraw more of its military aid to Thailand, the monarchy-military nexus could always start to draw on Chinese military assistance and pull away from the joint naval cooperation essential to Washington's plan to control the oil tanker routes to China.

China has every interest in a military government in Thailand moving closer to Beijing in order to offset Washington's attempt to secure naval predominance in South East Asia and so be able to use the potential stopping of China's oil imports as a coercive tool of diplomacy.

Beijing has already watched as a traditional ally in Myanmar ( Burma ) has become closer to aligning with Washington, in response to nationalist discontent with Chinese dominance over its mining sector infrastructure projects, and has witnessed the establishment of military ties and prospectively lucrative arms deals.

If China is able to exploit the insecurity the monarchy-military nexus has at the threat of being pushed out of the privileged position they had under US auspices throughout the Cold War and until the first part of the twenty first century, it can thwart part of Washington's Pivot to Asia strategy.

When General Prayuth claims that 'Thais' like me, have probably not been happy for nine years' he is referring to the fact the 2006 coup did not, in the end, defeat the power of the Shinawatra dynasty and also, in effect, the fact that the US has moved closer to them after initially being wary of Thaksin's party.

What the monarchy military nexus want is an authoritarian government and the reduced threat of any attempt to erode their privileges through the Shinawatras mobilisation of the votes of the urban wage earners and rural classes who have seen higher food and energy prices due to dependence on imported oil.

With the impact of climate change causing floods and droughts that have caused havoc to Thai rice yields, both the Shinawatra party and their enemies have seen China as an alternative source of aid and assistance and, in the case of the generals, an example of a prosperous economy without the chaotic democracy.

The Pivot to Asia: Energy Geopolitics and Containing China.

"In recent months, China has undertaken destabilising, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea....All nations of the region, including China, have a choice: to unite, and recommit to a stable regional order, or, to walk away from that commitment and risk the peace and security that has benefited millions of people throughout the Asia-Pacific, and billions of people around the world"-Chuck Hagel, United States Secretary of Defense
The largest risk to the Asia Pacific region and its security has come about through Washington's pursuit of the Pivot To Asia strategy that started in 2010 and is ultimately aimed at naval dominance of the vital sea routes along which tankers delivering oil to China from the Middle East and Africa.

As the the US has declined as the world's predominant economy relative to China as a consequence of the financial crash of 2008 and two hugely expensive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama administration has refocused the aim of maintaining global military hegemony to Asia.

After 2011, Obama and Panetta made plain their intent to bolster naval cooperation and increase arms supplies of US military hardware to the Philippines, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan and other long standing allies as well as to bring in Myanmar and Vietnam as part of a plan to contain China.

Beijing has become increasingly worried about the plan to encircle China with a ring of regional alliances that threaten to cut of its access to strategically vital raw materials and energy, one reason both China and the US have continued to vie for influence even in Afghanistan.

One unmentionable geostrategic aim of the prolonged presence of US troops in Afghanistan was the construction of the TAPI pipeline, one aimed at uniting Pakistan and India together with a pro-US regime in Kabul in a community of economic interest that would check China's inroads into Central Asia.

Energy geopolitics is the predominant factor behind global power politics in the 21st century. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a unilateral move to control the second largest oil reserves in the world and hem in Iran to the east and to reduce dependence on Saudi Arabia in the days before US shale oil was tapped.

So a reason for China's unilateral thrust to claim the oil off the Paracel Islands is to secure the oil before the US is in the commanding position to threaten its oil supplies. Vietnam, at present, is not a partner of the US but has started to move towards Washington and the prospect of closer naval cooperation.

The New Great Game between the US and China for influence and control over resources has dangerous overtones of the Cold War and the fact that energy hungry Asia Pacific powers are quarrelling over essential supplies of oil in the South China Sea has led to rising nationalism and an arms race.

As regional rival powers such as China and Vietnam modernise their economies at breakneck speed, the tendency for one party regimes is to use nationalism as a means of diverting domestic discontent onto enemies that threaten their access to resources such as oil vital to drive industrialisation and transport.

A crisis over claims over the Spratley Islands in the South China Sea could well trigger off the potential for a US-China clash as the US is treaty bound to support the Philippines is attacked by a third party. This would cause havoc to the global economy as the centre of economic gravity lies in the Asia Pacific region.

The same potential for conflict exists between China and Japan over the what they respectively call the Diaoyus or the Senkakus islands which are disputed in the East China Sea and contain huge reserves of oil off their shores in maritime waters patrolled by both their navies.

It is ultimately the US that is responsible for ratcheting up the tensions by its attempt to hold on to its global dominance by pursuing a geostrategy of holding the Chinese economy to ransom through what Michael Klare terms the twenty-first century energy equivalent of twentieth-century nuclear blackmail'.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Thailand 2014 : The Year of Living Dangerously.

The vocal condemnation of the Thai army coup by the West could be a diplomatic mistake as might the US decision to suspend about one third of the aid provided to Thailand. None of it can affect events in Thailand nor determine the outcome of the power struggle for control after King Bhumibol Adulyadej dies.

The willingness of Washington to make a principled stand against a military coup reflects the fact that since 2011, the year of Yingluck Shinawatra's election, the Obama administration has pursued its Pivot To Asia strategy in which Thailand is considered a key regional partner in the quest to contain China.

General Prayuth, the head of the army and leading figure in the 2006 coup, is part of Thailand's 'monarchy-military nexus' which has felt pushed out of influence with the rise of Thaksin's party as it keeps winning elections and has been tacitly supported by the US since 2011

The reason for that is the authoritarian government of Abhisit Vejjajiva, the PM from 2008 to 2011, one backed on the streets by the Yellow Shirts, had not proved as pro-US as Washington had hoped after the 2006 coup and raised the prospect of Thailand turning closer to China as a regional partner.

With the dispute between Vietnam and China over the oil and fish of the South China Sea reaching crisis point, Beijing could be posed to exploit the growing rift between the US and the interim coup government to step in to offer arms deals and military aid to the beleaguered monarchy-military nexus.

An authoritarian government in Bangkok dominated by former members of the Democrat Party would be far more congenial to China which has been attempting to cultivate its 'soft power' ties with Bangkok's Sino-Thai business and political elite as a means of rivalling the US for influence.

China has no interest in watching Thailand become closer to Cambodia and Myanmar as part of a coalition of states hostile to China's claims to dominate the South China Sea within the nine dash line just as Thailand and Cambodia have no oil interests at stake in these maritime waters.

By contrast with Washington, Beijing has been mute in response to the coup. Being far more pragmatic, diplomats in Beijing realise that the Thai elites, whether supporters of Thaksin's party or the opposition, would not take kindly to lectures or direct meddling from the West.

The dilemma for Washington now is if tried using punitive sanctions stronger than those after 2006 it could end up pushing whichever faction wrests control after the 2014 coup closer towards Beijing and, in effect, lose a military alliance it has had since the height of the Cold War in the 1950s.

As Ernie Bower of the Center for Strategic and International Studies made plain, “You could lose an alliance and if you don’t lose an alliance, you could in effect lose the primacy of a friendship with one of ASEAN’s anchor countries". Having Myanmar is the US orbit would hardly be compensation.

2014 is going to be a year of living dangerously. Thailand is the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia. But the impact of higher fuel and food prices in an oil import dependent economy is widening social divisions and creating political polarisation between the old elites and the rural masses and urban wage earners.

With the US and China vying for influence, it could be that an authoritarian regime emerging from out of the military coup would be backed by either Great Power, more likely China, and that this, and the reactionary stance of the Sino-Thai elites backing the Yellow Shirts,  could add ethnic enmities to class resentments.

Friday, 23 May 2014

The 2014 Coup in Thailand and the New Great Game in South East Asia.

The Thai military takeover was clearly a coup. Yet Western observers and diplomats are blundering by declaring too openly as did John Kerry in stating “there is no justification for this military coup” . he hinted there would be "negative implications for the U.S.-Thai relationship" and "especially the Thai military.”

The 2006 coup in Thailand was seen as beneficial in some quarters in Washington as during the Cold War the monarchy-military nexus had tended to back the US in South East Asia. However, in the wake of the 2008 financial crash and the USA's relative decline it has become more complicated.

What exactly the coup will mean domestically for Thailand is uncertain but there is an interesting geopolitical context to the unrest. In the post Cold War period, Thailand remained a close ally of the US and was a partner in George Bush's 'Global War on Terror', and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, with the phenomenal growth of China as Asia's or indeed the globe's economic superpower, the US-Thai alliance can no longer be taken for granted. After the coup of 2006, the US put certain sanctions on Thailand and yet it has had no effect on preventing the army interfering in politics.

China would have no qualms in dealing with an authoritarian regime in Bangkok and has attempted to cultivate greater cultural ties especially with the privileged Sino-Thai elite in and around Bangkok who dislike democracy and the threat to their privileges posed by the pro-Thaksin Redshirts.

The coup cannot be officially called a coup in Washington yet because it is not entirely clear if the generals in Bangkok are going to explicitly decide in favour of a government that rejects the democratic mandate given to PM Yingluck Shinawatra or allow fresh elections.

Washington has been divided over whether to back the traditional monarchy-military nexus', supported by the Yellow Shirts, or the pro-Thaksim Redshirts because by backing one or the other too decisively, they could stand to lose political influence to China in the ruling circles of Bangkok .

In practice, under President Obama, Washington has tended to look favourably on Thaksim's side since the Pivot To Asia strategy became the USA's paramount concern in global power politics. One reason is that the government that overthrew Thaksim in the 2006 coup was unpopular and not so pro-US as hoped.

By contrast, Thaksin is seen to represents the the majority of the rural masses and the less privileged in Thailand and is regarded as being an ally of other leaders in neighbouring states such as Hun Sen in Cambodia who had Thaksin as an economic adviser and offered sanctuary to him after the 2006 coup.

As Washington has moved closer to the government of Thaksin's sister ,Yingluck Shinawatra, so as to avert the prospect of Bangkok moving closer to Beijing on issues such as the dispute over the oil and gas in the maritime waters claimed by China, the monarchy-military nexus has been sidelined.

Hence the coup of 2014 could see a reversal of the monarchy-military nexus's previous tendency to lean towards Washington should the US impose sanctions or threaten to suspend military cooperation because China would only be ready to step in to increase joint military exercises and naval patrols with Thailand.

A Congressional Research Service report in 2009 stated "Following the 2006 coup, many US government officials cited fears that China would take advantage of any withdrawal of US military assistance to establish stronger defence relations between Bangkok and Beijing".

The problem for the US is that is denouncing the coup too openly and threatening Thailand with sanctions ( while not calling it a coup ), Washington is going to play into the hands of Beijing which has consistently and increasingly tried to court former allies and opponents of Thaksin's party to gain influence.

Even more ominously, China has attempted 'race-based diplomacy', promoting ties with Thailand's Sino-Thai elites, a number of whom tend to support the monarchy-military nexus and back the Yellow Shirts against the growing strength of the poor, thus adding a potential ethnic dimension to the turmoil.

The absurdly named Thai Democrats led by Abhisit Vejjajiva which represents these elite interests has no interest in parliamentary democracy since it has been unable to win an election since 2001. It's main middle class backers in Bangkok refer to the red shirts as "buffalos", "low class and vile" or else just "trash".

If Thailand remains under military rule, the chances of chronic civil war are likely to be heightened by the competitive New Great Game for influence and regional alliances in South East Asia between China and the US, in which Thailand would be an important linchpin, if order breaks down and widespread conflict ensues.

Thailand's Coup: Serpents in the South East Asian Tourist Paradise.

Events in Thailand took a turn towards the surreal on Tuesday 20 May 2014. The imposition of martial law was imposed without notice to the caretaker government and without much interest from the general population in Bangkok or elsewhere a country seen as a welcoming and friendly tourist haven.

This seems to be borne out by anyone who has friends living in Thailand who regularly take digital snapshots of busloads of Thais being sent in to Bangkok in order to support the government the Red Shirts ) or the opposition on the street ( the Yellow Shirts ), something regarded by expatriates as a bit of a joke.

It seemed typical of Thailand's image as a peaceful Buddhist nation that  nubile young Thai girls appeared with their mobile phones taking 'coup selfies' with soldiers who are part of a military takeover staged a temporary basis that isn't, however, a coup. The suspension of normal political activity was at first termed a 'half coup'. 

On Thursday 22nd May, confirmation came that the Thai military was going to effectively be in power from 4.30am local time to restore stability and "reform the political structure, the economy and society". What this will mean domestically for Thailand is uncertain but there is an interesting geopolitical context to the unrest.

The head of the army, General Prayuth Chan-ocha could not term the coup as a coup because Thailand is an important regional military partner in South East Asia that's supplied by the US with arms and gear. So this is a coup that cannot be called a coup,as in Egypt, because military aid under US law would be suspended..

But it could possibly become an official coup for the US if it disapproves of the side the army is effectively backing and it is not clear yet if it is going to side with the opposition to the democratically elected PM Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in the 2006 coup.

These weird political gyrations are part of the potential sea change in political allegiances set in motion by the ascendancy of China as a major economic power with gravitational pull over south east Asia against which President Obama's Pivot to Asia, the foreign policy emphasis since 2010, is purported to be a counterweight.

Bilateral ties with China have increased hugely in recent years with Thailand set to have a bilateral trade of 100 billion US dollars per annum before 2015. Even more ominous for the US is the move to boost joint boat patrols with China in the South China Sea. There is a competition for influence in Thailand between China and the US.

For a century, Thailand has had close ties with the US. However, in recent years have started to warm towards China as their 'soft power' ally. China offered financial support during the 1997 economic crisis and also US$16 million of assistance to help with the devastating 2011 floods, seventeen times more than the US.

The anti-Thaksin Yellow Shirt opposition is said to be hostile to towards the Pivot to Asia as a strategy that is aimed against China. Nor do the rather inaptly named People's Democratic Reform Committee have qualms about authoritarian government and backing a coup before the accession of the new Thai king who is said to be pro-Red.

The US is concerned about Chinese inroads into Thailand and would not want a government dominated by the army generals or by those too favourable to China and hostile to a US led regional  alliance as part of a strategy to contain China. China would have no problems doing business with an authoritarian regime.

In fact, during the last government of the Democratic Party in 2010, PM Abhisit Vejjajiva firmly rejected attempts by the US to mediate between them and the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) and sent diplomats to Washington to complain about attempts to meddle in internal Thai affairs.

Chinese diplomats, schooled in Asian pragmatism, have realised that the noisy protests and lectures from Washington about how Thailand should, can and must be governed only leads members of Thailand's older ruling elites to look more favourably towards the Middle Kingdom. The US can no longer count on guaranteed support from Bangkok.

Even more ominously, China has attempted court the politically and economically powerful Sino-Thai minority which tends to support the Yellow Shirt opposition to the Thaksins and the rural masses who overwhemingly back the Red Shirts against the older elites in the monarchy-military nexus'.

Given that the Red Shirts have already spelt out consequences if the coup leads to a restoration of the old regime and a reversal of democracy, China's ' race-based diplomacy' could impose hitherto absent ethnic enmities on to sharp social and economic divisions between rural Thais and the Sino-Thai elite in Bankok.

Friday, 16 May 2014

The Pivot To Asia: China, Vietnam and the New Cold War.

'China's provocative decision to station a $1bn (£600m) deep-sea oil drilling rig in disputed waters 120 miles off Vietnam – well within Hanoi's 200-mile exclusive economic zone, in clear breach of a 2011 bilateral maritime pact and in defiance of regional and international agreements' ( Simon Tisdall, Vietnam's fury at China's expansionism can be traced to a troubled history, Guardian May 15 2014 )
The anti-Chinese riots across Vietnam reflect the upsurge in nationalism in the Far East created by the pathological quest for control over the oil and gas in the South China Sea and China's bid for regional economic and military hegemony in opposition to US designs to thwart these ambitions by .

China has been prepared to back up the CNOOC's drilling off the Paracel Islands with 80 ships to protect the oil rig on its journey against Vietnamese vessels which were rammed and blasted with water cannon. This follows on from tensions in May 2011 when PetroVietnam's oil exploration vessels were harassed.

With the race to control the energy rich South China Sea on, Washington has been moving ever closer to Vietnam and even Burma where since 2013 both the US and Britain have been seeking to strengthen military ties and strike lucrative arms deals. This is termed by some as "Investing in Strategic Alignment"

The US is not, as Simon Tisadall claims, 'wary of closer ties' with  Vietnam as it 'must first improve its human rights record'. This is only important in what is known as 'public diplomacy': where vital interests and checking Chinese energy ambitions are concerned human rights are not considered important.

On the contrary, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has lauded the '“tremendous potential” for bilateral defence cooperation, especially between the Vietnamese and US navies with US access to Cam Ranh Bay ,a deepwater port , needed to patrol the sea lanes essential for China's import of oil and gas.

In fact, it is Vietnam that is wary of allowing the US navy full access to its naval facilities. Washington has only refrained from going ahead with full on arms deals because Vietnam has feared that by giving the US Navy full military use of Vietnamese ports, the US could interfere in its domestic affairs.

Cam Ranh Bay was used by the US during the Vietnam War in its struggle against the Vietnamese communists. Hanoi has also had to consider that moving closer to Washington too quickly could precipitate a hostile reaction from its neighbour, an emerging global economic and military superpower.

Vietnam is regarded by Washington as an essential partner in the Asia-Pacific region because of the 'pivot to Asia' strategy. With shale oil giving the US more energy independence from the Middle East, Obama's administration has been able to devise a new strategy for holding China over the barrel as regards oil.

By exercising regional control over the South East China Sea, the US could also block the flow of energy supplies to Chinese economy, one that depends on oil imports from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Oman and Angola. This threat has been countered by the build up of China's navy and quest for oil security.

As Michael Klare puts it,'the Obama administration evidently aims to acquire the twenty-first century energy equivalent of twentieth-century nuclear blackmail'. With China, Brazil and India rapidly industrialising and the age of easy oil ending, the race is on to control what's left of global fossil fuels.

Klare has referred to a global New Cold War in which military ties and access to energy ( and blocking off the access by other Great Powers ) has triggered off an arms race in Asia that has led to greater tensions, a risk of naval clashes and 'inadvertent escalation', making the region a 'powder keg' waiting to explode.

Across the Asia-Pacific region, the US has attempted to encircle China by building up a neo-imperial alliance with Australia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, Singapore and Thailand to contain China and retain its global hegemony no matter the costs or the risks.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Ukraine: The Kiev Government and National Revolution.

"When we set off to Maidan we did not go to fight, but that's what life threw up, that's what fate decreed for us...A lot of people on Maidan still think that they need to protect Kiev … we are calling on all these people, especially young men, to join our [volunteer] battalions and go to where there are currently real barricades."-Andriy Parubiy

The overthrow of President Yanukovych in February 2014 was termed a 'revolution'. If so, as with most revolutions, it has been hijacked by radicals. With far right paramilitaries providing the muscle on the streets of Kiev to take over key buildings and drive out the elected incumbent, Kiev is now seeking to deploy them in the east.

The head of Ukraine's armed forces, Andrei Parubiy, is an ultra nationalist radical. Concern that the 'activists' could get 'bored' with the inaction in the capital and cause trouble has led Parubiy, who was a leader of the paramilitaries who helped oust Yanukoych, to coopt the paramilitaries as part of Ukraine's regular armed forces.

Already Kiev had reintroduced conscription in order to try and deal with the threat of Donetsk breaking away after 'terrorists' copied the actions of Right Sector and activists in Kiev by taking over buildings in eastern cities, proclaiming the Donetsk People's Republic and carrying out a hurried referendum.

Though Parubiy left the the Social-National Party of Ukraine, which he founded in 1991 together with Oleh Tyahnybok ( now leader of Svoboda ) he has been a member of other far right political organisations and retained his close links to paramilitary Ukrainian nationalists despite being elected in 2012 as a member for the Fatherland Party.

Parubiy 's use of volunteer units is consistent with Svoboda's aim of a 'national revolution' based on the ideology of UPA, the Ukrainian nationalist formation that collaborated with Nazi Germany. One reason for this deployment, apart from the need to deal with eastern separatists and federalists, is to give the hard men on the streets of Kiev some action.

The Kiev government is clearly concerned that the far right nationalists they used to oust Yanukovych could turn on them if they remain 'bored' in Maidan. After the killing of the leading Right Sector paramilitary Oleksandr Muzychko in March 2014, Right Sector foot soldiers threatened the Rada and to get revenge on the Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.

With eastern separatists gaining ground and the annexation of Crimea, the growing polarisation of Ukraine between the east and west could lead to Svoboda making gains in the May 25 elections or the other parties in government making deals with ultra nationalists in order to mobilise them against pro-Russian militants.

The Kiev government has sought to coopt radical far right Ukrainian nationalist from the outset of the February uprising, one in which the Euromaidan protests were to be taken over by Right Sector and Svoboda as part of their war against the 'Russian-Jewish mafia elites' dominating Ukraine since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

This position was made clear by Dmytro Yarosh, leader of Right Sector, who has a position next to Parubiy as Deputy Secretary of National Security when he commented, 'Russia has pursued a systematic, targeted policy of subjugation toward Ukraine...So of course we will prepare for a conflict with them'. 

Even if  most in  the Ukrainian cabinet are members of Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party are not actual fascists, they have been content to play the nationalist card to shore up their popularity. After all, Tymoshenko's party was deeply unpopular in Ukraine in 2010 when it was voted out in favour of Yanukovych.

The use of volunteer units of Ukrainian far right nationalists is a clear sign of Kiev's desperation. Regular units have failed to stem the paramilitary separatists in Donestsk and Kiev is hoping to fend off the destabilising effects of having the paramilitaries roaming around in the capital where they could challenge a weak government.

The calculation is that the violence would be localised in the east and not return to Kiev as this has become a pathological struggle between Kiev and the Kremlin in which the stakes have been steadily ratcheted up in the run up to Ukraine's elections. But by using paramilitaries, Kiev is set to drive eastern Ukrainians closer to the rebels.

Already, Right Sector paramilitaries have been active in the violence in Mariupol and Krasnoarmeisk. Volunteer units of Ukrainian nationalists are bound to conjure up memories of those who collaborated with Hitler in World War Two and confirm Russian propaganda about the February uprising being a 'fascist coup'.

In this light, Western diplomats and statesmen have ceaselessly blundered in underestimating the national revolutionary dynamic at work. Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague, on visiting Kiev claimed "The idea that some extremists have taken over here is far, far wide of the mark". The problem is that it is not.

Despite Paribuy's attempt to reinvent himself as a responsible mainstream politician in the Fatherland Party, he retains his links to the Ukrainian far right paramilitaries he forged throughout the 1990s and 2000s, groups like the SNPU, the Patriot of Ukraine which have a Wolfsangel-type logo and held rallies under torchlight.

The fact that a politician with clear neo-Nazi sympathies is head of Ukraine's armed forces should be reason enough for the Western Powers to publicly distance themselves from the Kiev government. No doubt EU leader and US officials hope the May 25 elections could bring about a better government but there is no guarantee of that.

For over a decade, the Western politicians have been prepared to turn a blind eye to the presence and potential power of the Ukrainian far right, being prepared to see them as assets in the struggle to mobilise Ukrainians to throw off rulers who leaned more towards Moscow than London, Berlin and Washington.

Unfortunately, the economic crisis and the unpopularity of Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party, which in government was loathed by many for its venality and corruption, has created the space for far right Ukrainian nationalism to become more mainstream and for Ukraine's disintegration to accelerate through civil war.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Nigeria, Oil and the Global War on Terror Redux.

"This is not just a Nigerian issue, it is a global issue,..There are extreme Islamists around our world who are against education, against progress, against equality and we must fight them and take them on wherever they are." -David Cameron, British Prime Minister, Wednesday May 7 2014
"As the mother of two young daughters, Mrs Obama is taking up the opportunity to express outrage and heartbreak the president and she share over the kidnapping,"-White House deputy spokesman Eric Schultz
..the security council should act quickly to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group."We're working with Nigeria in the security council to secure urgently needed UN sanctions (on) Boko Haram,"Must hold its murderous leaders to account."-Samathan Power on Twitter.
The abduction of 267 girls has been spun into a chorus of denunciation from Western leaders and diplomats is intended as 'public diplomacy' to enable the Western powers to intervene with military aid to shore up the Nigerian state which looks as though it is losing control of the country.

Nigeria provided around 10% of the USA's crude oil imports. Yet the amount of oil imported by the barrel has rapidly diminished since 2011 and plummeted in the latter part of 2013. The start of 2014 saw an upsurge in Boko Haram violence in the north of Nigeria which it has threatened to bring south.

The falling imports of Nigerian crude to the US, due to the exploitation of shale oil, do not mean that Obama's administration is any less concerned about the spread of Al Qaida affiliated terror groups across sub Saharan Africa in what US geopolitical experts term an 'arc of instability'.

For a start, Boko Haram could bring chaos to a nation whose oil still provides a significant proportion of the oil imports of the US's main trading partners in the EU states, especially Britain and France. European demand for Nigerian oil has actually increased between 2011 and 2012.

Sola Tayo, a Nigeria analyst at the London-based think tank Chatham House, has claimed that the effects of Boko Haram attacks spreading south would be "catastrophic" for Africa's leading economy and add to the already damaging attacks from other insurgent group's on pipelines in the Niger Delta.

One reason for the rising conflict in northern Nigeria, of which the abduction of the girls in Chibok is a consequence, is the ruthless determination of the government in Abuja to exploit huge reserves of oil in the Chad Basin and so secure a reduction of its over-dependence on the oil of the Niger Delta.

Should oil in Northern Nigeria be exploited successfully, Nigeria's foreign exchange earnings would increase and it is claimed oil revenue could be used to improve the social and economic welfare of the vastly poorer Nigerians in the region, something that did not happen in the case of the Niger Delta.

In any case, tensions between the predominantly Muslim north and the Christian South are widening and set to widen further with the question of who is going to benefit from northern Nigeria's oil. The Nigerian Joint Task Force units are venal and inept, and have attempted to crack down on insurgents heavy handedly.

Before the global media made a cause celebre out of the abducted girls, the JTF was found to have employed extrajudicial execution and torture in some villages where 'terror suspects' from Boko Haram were believed to operate. The danger is now that the West could get drawn in to the struggle.

Indeed, none of this chaos seems to have abated the willingness of the US, Britain and France to try and step up the 'war on terror' and add their assistance and military aid. As President Hollande said in Abuja in January after 43 boys were murdered in a dormitory school 'Your struggle is our struggle'.

Britain and France have strong bilateral ties with Nigeria. Oil revenues and investments in infrastructure and banking are very important for both of their economies, not to mention the role crude oil imports have on keeeping petrol prices for British and French consumers lower.

The need for stable oil prices and foreign export earnings from the sale of oil makes exploration of the oil in northern Nigeria ever more necessary. Yet in March 2014 the Nigerial oil corporation's head declared that Boko Haram is increasingly stalling all possibilities of it being tapped.

So expect further moves towards intervention from the Western Powers in Nigeria in the coming weeks and months and years.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Nigeria, Resource Wars and Boko Haram

Boko Haram's attacks and killings in Nigeria have been going on since 2009. Girls such as Malala in Pakistan have become global media figures for denoucing the Taliban, and now Boko Haram,  for trying to deny Muslim girls an education; the cause has been championed by former British PM Gordon Brown.

But when politicians start adding their voice, questions need asking. Why have Barack Obama and David Cameron have only become more vocally concerned now about such events as the kidnapping of the 267 girls from Chibok ? William Hague talked about the possibility of sending in the SAS if Nigeria asked it to do so.
 
It was not as if Western statesmen did not know Boko Haram was committing atrocities before. Hollande in February 2014 on a visit to Nigeria, that followed an attack on a school dormitory in Buni Yadi , killing 43, stated 'Your struggle is our struggle' and backing in the struggle against insurgents in Mali.

Part of the answer has to lie in fears that the Nigerian state is failing to be able to protect both its citizens. But also Boko Harem, according to Sola Tayo a Chatham House expert on Nigeria, Boko Harem is threatening to strike Lagos and the country's oil pipelines in the Niger Delta.

Boko Haram is also threatening oil exploration in the Chad Basin, a major aim of the Nigerian government at present which needs to reduce dependence on oil supplies from the Niger Delta where an ongoing insurgency from MEND has continuously threatened oil supplies to nations such as Britain.

Britain's crude oil imports from Nigeria amount to 7% of its total. Back in 2008, the threat to the Niger Delta was a major concern for PM Gordon Brown who feared insurgent activity could disrupt oil supplies and create a price spike for British consumers. Hence the growth of British military assistance to the government.

France has major interests in Nigerian oil too representing 88% of French investment in the country. Military assistance is tied to Abuja's continued friendly relations with Western governments, one that is feared to be under threat from China.

The broader context to Boko Haram's upsurge since 2009 is a combination of climate change causing hunger and poverty along with the Nigerian government's use of extrajudicial killings and torture in the region, something that tends to increase support for Al Qaida affiliated groups.

The relentless and ruthless drive for oil, though it could improve the welfare and economic position of the people of Northern Nigeria, helps to explain what is at stake in the conflicts in Nigeria and why they have contributed towards a deteriorating security environment.

Boko Haram, the Chibok Outrage and Big Oil Interests.

'Addressing dignitaries including the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, and the Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, Jonathan said: "Thank you for accepting to come even at a time we're facing attacks by terrorists. Your presence helps us in the war against terror".Nigerian president: kidnapping will mark beginning of the end of terror, Guardian 8 May 2014
Already politicians are trying to exploit outrage at the abduction of 267 girls in Chibok, Northern Nigeria by Boko Haram, an insurgent group thought to be affiliated to Al Qaida. Gordon Brown, Barack Obama, David Cameron have been waxing indignant at the capture of the girls described by Cameron as 'pure evil'.

There is, however, a broader context to what has been going on in Nigeria. When something is described as 'pure evil', the idea is that its the evil of Boko Haram alone that 'explains' why the abduction happened and that outrage should lead to a call for 'something to be done'.

One reason it happened is Nigeria's security forces seemed to have not done anything to prevent it despite having had advance warning. The reasons offered for that inaction have ranged from fatigue to fear, something not evident before when they were accused of being heavy handed in their operation in the region.

Nigeria's political elite did very little in response.It could well be that they want to encourage Great Powers to back them up with more aid to counter insurgent activities. Now President Johnathan is using the 'war on terror' rhetoric that Western politicians used to justify the war in Afghanistan.

Johnathan is essentially trying to play off rival potential suitors. China in recent years has tried to court favour with Nigeria by investing in infrastructure projects so as to gain access to Nigeria's oil. In the New Great Game,Nigeria is a theatre of shadowy competition between the Great Powers.

Britain and the US are using the atrocities of Boko Haram as a pretext to make themselves more useful for Lagos in promising military assistance against Boko Haram. February and March 2014 saw an upsurge in their activity and threats to oil pipelines and refineries.

Britain's international aid is one tool to try to keep Abuja onside with it. Britain gets 7% of its crude oil supply from Nigeria. Johnathan is clearly using the abduction and enslavement of the 200 girls in the north of Nigeria as a means to bid up support from foreign nations willing to provide military back up.

Back in 2008, the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown was adamant that Britain had a role to play in providing military support against 'lawlessness', meaning back then the threat of insurgent activity from MEND, a group opposing the exploitation of the Niger Delta and government corruption.

Boko Haram has opened up a second insurgent threat to Niger'a government. The scale of the chorus of humanitarian concern over the outrage dovetails with growing concerns about the Nigerian government's capacity to fend off Boko Haram's threat to oil exploration in the borderlands with Chad.

The Chinese President's sudden concern with the 'war on terror', and Cameron's worked up fury over the "pure evil" of Boko Haram's activities, is part of competition to be in favour with a beleaguered government that wants logistical support in rolling back insurgents and competitive arms deals.

The arms race over Nigeria goes back as far as 2006. A humanitarian outrage is useful, therefore, is providing an opportunity for 'public diplomacy' to be deployed to the ends of increasing British military aid to Nigeria. The danger of the arms ( lobbied for by Shell ) slipping into the wrong hands has become a major concern.

Boko Haram is thought to be affiliated to Al Qaida and is parts of an 'arce of crisis' that extends from northern Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Sudan through to Somalia where global heating and collapsing societies have allowed terror groups to thrive and threaten strategic resource regions.

The fear that Johnathan's government is becoming increasingly weak in the run up to the 2015 elections is the essential cause for concern even if humanitarian ideals are not entirely absent from Britain's foreign policy towards Nigeria. Boko Haram could threaten pipelines in the Niger Delta and Lagos.

Islamism, Free Speech and the Great Power Game

'In Britain...a majority of Muslims have, one way or another, clearly accepted the basic rules of peaceful coexistence in a liberal pluralist society. They no longer say, as a British Muslim called Iqbal Sacranie did in 1989, while some of his co-religionists were burning copies of The Satanic Verses, that death might be "a bit too easy" for Rushdie'.We still don't know who'll win the global battle for free speech , Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian, May 9 2014
Certainly the basic rules of free speech have been mostly accepted. Yet it's not clear whether 'preaceful coexistence' is one accepted by militant Islamists without imposing certain terms and using the threat of terror as a means to try and change Britain and its foreign policy.

They may well not say such things as Sacranie did in the heat of the moment in 1989. Instead Islamists have learnt public relations and how to craftily deploy language to insinuate the idea of a 'community under siege'. That was quite evident during the Birmingham Islamist 'school takeover plot'.

They include former psychotherapists such as the sinister Salma Yaqoob. Media savvy and manipulate, she was able to spin the reaction to allegations of an Islamist takeover as part of a "narrative" to demonise Muslims who are 'in denial' and complicit if they "challenge" it.

Unless the Ofsted Report is part of a choreographed state plot, then it has to be accepted that Islamists did put into practice institutional discrimination against non-Muslim pupils. Even so, the point is that Yaqoob is trying to exploit these events for propaganda purposes.

The insinuation is always that Muslims are facing persecution, harrassment and discrimination in Britain so as to whip up sectarian militancy. As Yaqoob puts it 'Muslims feel under siege, while being accused of besieging an unwitting and overly tolerant majority who in turn will be fearful and mistrustful'.

Since 2001, free speech has been lauded by Islamists because it was no longer beneficial to call for a novelists or writer to be killed publicly. It was better to use the undoubted overreaction to the 9/11 attacks to put forth the idea of the myth of the umma as under armed threat across the globe.

In Britain throughout the 2000s a form of shadow boxing has since gone on between British governments wanting to ramp up the threat of terror as a pretext to intervene militarily in 'the Muslim world' and domestic Islamists who portray that as global war of terror against the umma.

That was seen in the Birmingham School 'plot' where Michael Gove deliberately blew out of all proportion the attempts to Islamise schools by sending in counter terrorism officials. Such shoddy attempts to exploit the fear of Islamism are designed to win votes and look 'tough'.

In Britain, free speech is not so much on the wane. The reason there are few people willing to satirise Islam or Mohammed is partly because it is simply so much easier to stick to the routine targets such as Christianity and due to the mendacious use of the word 'Islamophobia' to mean a form of 'racism'.

If anything free speech has become superfluous in an age of image and spin, one where Britons living in a bored and atomised consumer society have their politics and view fed to them by mass media machines, oily spin and ideologues trying to 'frame debates' through their use of politically correct language.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

British Foreign Policy and Ukraine.

"The idea that some extremists have taken over here is far, far wide of the mark"-Wiiliam Hague on meeting civic and political leaders in Ukraine before elections on 25 May.

William Hague's diplomacy reveals a complete ignorance of what is at stake in Ukraine. When he claims 'extremists' have not taken over 'here' ( meaning Kiev ) he intentionally uses the word extremist to mean only those militant pro-Russian or eastern federalists who are rebelling against Kiev in the Donbass.

By any definition, Svoboda are ultra nationalists and they are in Kiev and in cabinet positions in the government. It is what Orwell termed doublethink to deny the obvious and then point the finger at Russia alone for bearing responsibility for the Ukrainian Crisis.

"It is moving forward in a way that should worry Russia in the long term … There will be Nato countries that increase their defence expenditure, that see a revitalised role for Nato. Yes, we will reduce our energy dependence on Russia in western European countries.
It is highly unethical for Hague to pretend that bigging up NATO power is somehow going to have any impact on resolving the Ukrainian crisis as a civil war has effectively started to break out. This shrill New Cold War posture can only make a diplomatic solution more impossible.

The Western powers are not going to fight for Ukraine and to insinuate that the west would is to promise Kiev something it is not going to be able to deliver, something that could only embolden a government in Kiev to act rashly in trying an all out military offensive to crush the uprisings in the Eastern Ukraine.

This idle boast is not backed up by any realistic assessment of Western energy security in 2014. US shale gas will not be exported on LNG tankers until the 2020s and the cost of Qatar's LNG has been vastly increased by Japanese demand following the Fukushima disaster and ending of nuclear power.

As Anatol Lieven puts it, as Kiev cannot win militarily against rebels in Slaviansk and Donestk, the only way to prevent the incipient civil war from turning into a major conflagration, and having Russia invade as in the Russo-Georgian War of 2008, is diplomacy based on an agreement to a more federalised Ukraine.

As Lieven makes plain, Lviv in the far West of Ukraine declared autonomy in February 2014 when it seemed Yanukoych was going to permanently reject the EU and enter Putin's rival Eurasian Customs Union so it cannot be argued that the Donetsk does not have the right to do the same.

The blundering diplomacy of Hague with its systemic hypocrisy could only make a potential for civil war in Ukraine worse. The FO has learnt nothing from the Russo-Georgian War where it seemed as though the west would back Saakashvili , thus encouraging him to attack Russian forces in South Ossetia.

In Hague's case, he has not learnt from Syria; that sticking to intransigent positions and messianic geopolitical strategies-essentially 'neconservative postures-do not work as fail to take into account the reality on the ground in regions of conflict and can worsen the situation.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Ukrainian Civil War and Energy Geopolitics: Pawn in the New Great Game.

"The bloody pictures from Odessa have shown us that we are just a few steps away from a military confrontation," German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Ukraine is already effectively in a state of civil war caused by increased polarisation between the Russian leaning eastern regions and the central and western areas of Ukraine. The prospect of a conflagration was always likely after February's violent overthrow of Yanukovych's government.

The Euromaidan Protests were about moving Ukraine towards an EU membership that European states had dangled before Ukrainians and that was supported by a good number from across Ukraine tired with twenty years of corrupt government and economic stagnation.

Unfortunately, as far back as the Orange Revolution of 2004, it was evident that the Ukrainian far right was active in mass protests. In the wake of the global economic crash of 2008 and the growing unpopularity of Tymoshenko's government it was the far right in the shape of Svoboda that was benefitting.

Back in 2012 it was Svoboda, a party that holds 33 seats in the Rada, which captured 10% of the vote. It's phenomenal rise, along with the growth of armed ultra nationalist paramilitaries, was consistently downplayed by EU governments and  western 'democracy promotion' NGOs

The naivety and foolishness of EU diplomats such as the useless Baroness Ashton and others in thinking that the Euromaidan protests would stay peaceful is still evident in recent utterances about Ukraine only now heading towards civil war or 'military confrontation'.

Washington's diplomacy has proved both ruthless and inept during the crisis now. Only with the Odessa fire outrage has John Kerry started to use weasel words condemning 'all sides involved in the violence'. So the he Kiev government, is tried to affect distance from the Right Sector paramilitaries causing trouble there.

The fact is ,however, that Right Sector paramilitaries had influence in the Ukrainian Interior Ministry. That and the build up of tensions stoked by the Kiev interim government's banning of Russian as an official language and nationalist rhetoric created the space for pro-Russian militants to launch an uprising.

The Kiev government of Yatsenuk has dubious legitimacy. Given that there were to be elections in May 2014, bringing the date back a year, it should have proceded cautiously. Yet it necessarily failed to reassure the eastern regions its interests were being taken into account.

The very make up of the Kiev government is hardly one of national unity. The inclusion of Svoboda in cabinet positions after the previous president was ousted by violence led by far right ultra nationalists being seen to be rewarded with power. So militants in the east copied those tactics.

The US and some more forthrightly anti-Russian EU states such as Poland had always wanted to get a new government that would decisively push through radical IMF reforms, put Ukraine on track for not only EU membership but also NATO accession as part of one package.

This way of proceeding is typical of what Naomi Klein terms the 'shock doctrine' The problem is that many in the eastern industrial regions of Kharkhiv and Donetsk realise that the Kiev administration is forcing large economic reforms on them without their consent and only then calling elections.

One reason Yanukovych refused the EU trade deal back in 2013, a decision which ostensibly triggered off the Euromaidan Protests, was that it would have entailed opening Ukraine up too quickly to EU competition and ended up decimating industries in the east trading mostly with Russia.

If Russia can be held to account for tacitly supporting pro-Russian militants, the US is equally as responsible for having ratcheted up the possibility of civil war by so unconditionally backing a government that lacks legitimacy for a large number of Ukrainians in the south and east.

This policy has less to do with selflessly promoting democracy as with the global ambition of the US and EU states to curtail Russia and Gazprom's control over oil and gas supplies. With the crises in the Middle East from Libya to Egypt and Syria, EU states in particular have sought to diversify gas supplies.

With the US, UK and France humiliated over Syria back in 2013 by Putin's use of diplomacy to prevent them launching a missile attack, the Western Powers have been all the more intent on decisively rolling back Russian influence in and around the Black Sea where large gas reserves exist.

The proxy war in Syria between the West and Russia is mostly concerned with control over potential reserves of gas off the coast of Cyprus and oil and gas pipeline routes between the Gulf and the East Meditteranean where Russia, as in Sevastapol in the Crimea, has a naval base at the port of Tarsous.

Iran, a regional power close to Russia and against the West, wants to construct a pipeline from the South Pars Gas Field that it shares with Qatar through Shia dominated Iraq and an Assad held Syria. Qatar and Saudi Arabia want to thwart that aim and Qatar to build a rival gas pipeline to the west.

Energy geopolitics is crucial to understanding Ukraine as well as Syria as the 2lst century is more and more in Michael Klare's words 'a race for what is left'. Many EU states are obsessed with energy security as they consume 25% of the world's gas but produce a mere 2%.

The US has now embarked on a more adventurous foreign policy precisely because of its shale oil and gas 'revolution'. Washington has every interest in pushing its energy interests agressively in Ukraine because it has become more energy independent ( hence Nuland's comment "Fuck the EU ")

The US has a great interest in shale gas reserves Ukraine where US diplomats such as John Tefft had praised the councils of Lviv and Ivano Frankivsk ( both dominated by Svoboda ) for ratifying the contract with Chevron for exploration of the reserves in the western Ukraine.

Ukraine is of colossal importance as a transit zone for oil and gas pipelines between the east and west. The geopolitical tug of war was made worse by Russia's annexation of Crimea which has effectively halted Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell's plans to drill for gas off the south west Crimean coast.

Ukraine's civil war takes its place as one of the latest conflicts where the New Great Game for resources has made worse pre-existing ethnic and sectarian tensions and where the Great Powers show utter ruthlessness in pursuing their geopolitical ambitions.

Monday, 5 May 2014

China and the USA's Pivot to the East

'China's economy was 87% the size of the US economy..This would have many important consequences beyond the most obvious – that the US, the symbol of post-second world war democracy and western capitalist beliefs, is no longer the world's biggest economy'.
China's economic power is one thing; its potential military weight, however, is being offset in advance by the US through Obama's 'pivot to Asia' strategy which, since 2011, has sought to counter an increase in China's economic and political power in the Far East.

There is no evidence the US intends giving up its global dominance. In particular Washington has made plain it intends to back its south east Asian allies in their disputes with China over access to the oil of the South China Sea. There is also a dispute between Japan and China, in the East China Sea, over the Senkaku /Diaoyu islands

As Michael Klare points out, the US has created an 'anti-Chinese coalition on China’s periphery' by providing military support to India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, a strategy responded to by China bolstering is naval fleet.

The US promotion of free trade ties to Asian states is already under threat from China's model of development in which states supply them with raw material and in return benefit from investments in infrastructure, partnership with Chinese businesses and arms sales.

With the shale oil and gas 'revolution', the US has become less interested in the Middle East as it was under George Bush. Instead, the aim is to contain China as this nascent economic superpower made inroads into both Eurasia and the Pacific regions in the 2000s when the US was bogged down in the Iraq War

China is set to become more dependent upon oil from the unstable Middle East than the US. By securing naval dominance of the South China sea and other vital sea lanes through which oil and LNG flows, the US can thereby put itself in a power political position so as to hold China in check.

In Egypt, the Obama administration was prepared to tacitly acknowledge the military coup of 2013 as it wants to preserve its influence over the Suez Canal, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden ( one reason for US concern for Yemen and also Somalia where oil is present ).

In Afghanistan, the continued presence of US forces and mercenaries is concerned with containing Chinese inroads there as regards its competition for lithium and other minerals. The TAPI pipeline would also bind Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India closer as a bulwark against Chinese influence.

China's influence in Iran was a major reason for the growing importance of the TAPI pipeline, a  main geopolitical ambition of the Afghanistan war ( though unmentionable to the US and European publics ). which would block off Iran's rival IP pipeline and work towards isolating it.

The rise of the Chinese super-economy and rivalry with the US for control over energy supplies and resources is part of a global New Great Game. An arms race and ferocious competition to court oil and gas producing states is as important as China's clout in global economic institutions.

A pathological race for resources stretching from the Greater Middle East to the Eurasian landmass through to the Pacific is on and could herald a new epoch of proxy conflicts ( e.g Syria ), terrorist blowback from destabilised regions, resource wars and the rise of authoritarian security states.

In that sense, China, far from being an anomaly with its authoritarian political structure and turbocapitalist economy, may be a model that other states across the globe would start to converge towards, including the democratic states of Europe and the US ( as predicted in Huxley's Brave New World revisited )

Friday, 2 May 2014

The Ukrainian Civil War Breaks Out.

With the announcement that the beleaguered government in Kiev is introducing conscription, it is evident Ukraine has descended into civil war. By introducing conscription, Turchynov has effectively admitted that his government had lost control over the eastern regions and can only rally support by a levee en masse.

By reintroducing conscription, the provisional government aims to channel the revolutionary impetus behind the Euromaidan protests into supprt for it against pro-Russian militants and force upon the Ukrainian nation the choice of being either for or against a government which has a shaky legitimacy in Ukraine as a whole.

From the outset of the crisis and the overthrow of Yanukovych, the Fatherland Party of Tymoshenko has desperately tried to court popularity by playing the west Ukrainian nationalist card. The inclusion of Svoboda and Right sector politicians in government was a sop to the ultra nationalists who dominated much of the street fighting.

With the uprising of pro-Russian militants in the east, tacitly backed by Russia, the course is now set for a civil war in which NATO and the western powers cannot intervene militarily ( as in the Balkans) and the prospect of an election on May 25th cannot take place in much of Ukraine.

Elections in the west and central Ukraine could see more gains for the far right in the circumstances. If that happens and the eastern regions are still in turmoil, then the Ukrainian state would be even more fragmented, something that separatists in Donestsk and Slaviansk would use to force through break away republics even more.

The chances of there being a free and fair election recede by the day. Uprisings and revolutions seldom bring about peace and stability. The protests in Kiev, after Yanukovych rejected the EU trade deal, were quickly hijacked by the losers of the 2010 elections, the Fatherland Party, and by the far right.

The Fatherland Party was hardly popular even during the Maidan Protests. After Yanukovych was ousted and Tymoshenko was released from prison, it was clear she had scant support, one reason for ramping up the rhetoric about 'nuking' the Russians and speaking favourably about the use of paramilitary forces.

For an unelected interim government in Kiev, one dominated by a party elected out of office in fair and free election in 2010, to have come to power and banned Russian as an official language should have given alarm in the capitals of Europe. No condemnation of the Ukrainian far right was uttered by any European government.

The EU powers miscalculated in giving their open support for a Ukrainian revolution without being able to know who would come out top in Kiev. The failure to distance itself from or to condemn the Ukrainian far right played into the hands of the Kremlin which could portray the protests in the Maidan as part of a 'fascist coup'.

For the US backing the Kiev government and the far right in Ukraine was no problem. US diplomats had openly lauded co-operation with local councils dominated by Svoboda in Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk as a means for energy corporations such as Chevron to gain the right to exploit the Olesska gas field.

Gazprom's opposition to western corporations muscling in to Ukraine was evident. Despite the fact Yanukovych had not acted to prevent these gas deals, the US saw the chance to decisively roll back the political power of the Party of the eastern regions without thoughts for the potential divisions in Ukraine that could be caused.

Energy geopolitics has been the major reason why both the US and Russia are at loggerheads over Ukraine. Exxon Mobil had been drilling off the south west coast of Crimea in the Black Sea before the crisis and consequent annexation of the region by Russia after its population voted for secession from Ukraine.

As Kiev orders a military operation on Slaviansk to maintain 'territorial integrity', as opposed to promising federalisation and seeking a diplomatic resolution, the civil war in Ukraine began.Ukraine as a unified state controlled Kiev is a fiction to be maintained because it was as a whole that Ukraine was going to be supported by the West.

A truncated Ukrainian state without the southern and eastern regions would be of limited geopolitical and economic significance to the West. With Crimea already lost, the potential value of bringing the Ukrainian Black Sea coast within NATO's sphere of influence at once becomes more important and yet beyond its grasp.

With Ukraine's economy sliding into complete ruin, the EU and US failed to provide enough cash and the IMF reforms mean drastic changes that could bankrupt eastern Ukraine's industries and drive citizens in Kharkhiv and Donetsk closer towards support for the pro-Russia militants. 

The Slaviansk offensive by Friday 2 May 2014 was reported by the BBC to have left 'many dead'. Ukraine would seem to have passed the point of no return with Russia making noises about Kiev "leading Ukraine to catastrophe" and a demand for a emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to be held.

Energy Geopolitics and the Ukrainian Crisis.

Energy geopolitics is a driving force behind the Ukrainian crisis , a factor that the beleaguered eastern European state has with both Syria or Afghanistan. It is routinely unmentionable as being a reason why both the US and Russia have found themselves in the worst stand off since the Cold War ended

The wrangle for control over Ukraine is not only about gas pipelines coming from Eurasia and diversifying energy supply routes away from Russia and Gazprom. There also seems to be interest in Ukraine's shale gas potential which it shares with Poland, its neighbouring EU state.
'Ukraine’s total shale gas deposits are estimated at around 7 trillion cubic meters, which places the country at the third place in Europe after Poland and Norway. There are two major shale gas fields: Yuzivs’ka, located in Eastern Ukraine (Donets’k and Kharkiv regions) in the Dnipro-Donbas petroleum basin, and Oles’ka in Western Ukraine (L’viv and Ivano-Frankivs’k regions), part of the Poland’s Lublin gas basin. Yuzivs’ka field is said to contain around 2 trillion cubic meters of gas, while Oles’ka’s deposits are estimated at 1.5 trillion cubic meters'.
It seems that regional party bosses were vying for control in regions were shale gas was discovered some time before the crisis in Ukraine reached the brink of civil war. Where there is a battle to contend over access to and so profit from gas, the stakes are going to be higher.

Multinationals such as Shell were brought in to drill in the eastern gasfield near Donestsk in 2012.
Shell started test drilling already in 2012 at a lot leased before the PSA on Yuzivs’ka field was signed. Yet, already now shale gas production is severely contested by Gazprom and Russian high state officials.
The shale gas discoveries provide one reason why Poland has been particulary keen to back the Kiev government after the uprising to remove Yanukovych. Partly, west Ukraine is historically in its sphere of interest and a shared gasfield would bring the two nations closer.

Poland has wanted to aim at energy independence for some time and to win its old battle with Russia for control over Ukraine dating back to the seventeenth century, a neo-imperial struggle with Poland having the big battalions of NATO on their side this time.

The US clearly has sought to back a new government in Kiev in order to push for shale gas exploration and to draw Ukraine definitively into the west's orbit away from Russia, something that could only raise the fears of eastern Ukrainians that they were being forced into the west.

In 2013 the US Ambassador to Ukraine John Tefft was stating that the aim was to advance US interests in western Ukraine's shale gas, with corporations such as Chevron and Exxon Mobile gaining concessions from local councils in Lviv and Ivano Frankivsk ( controlled by the far right Svoboda).

The US wanted Ukraine to be energy independent and on the way to EU and NATO membership, the two being yoked together by Atlanticist diplomats such as Tefft. This is despite the fact 70% of Ukrainians are opposed to NATO entry, a figure showing how divided Ukraine was even before the current crisis.

The reason for that relentless push eastwards is part of the US drive to control the Back Sea via NATO and control pipeline routes from Eurasia, one contended by Russia which has most likely sunk Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell Plc plans to drill for gas off the Crimean coast.

The gasfields off the Crimean Peninsula are part of ExxonMobils Black Sea discovery in 2012 of the Domino field off Romania, another new NATO member looking for energy independence and to push back Russian influence in places such as Transdnistria where the populace has shown a wish for formal separation from Moldova.