The Problem with North Korea

North Korea has reached the point where they think that just to threaten to attack Guam will change the direction of US policy and get the US to apologize and perhaps end the embargo. At the same time the NK’s are saying how foolish the US is proceed on the course it is. This is a paradox, the North in the first place is expecting a rational reaction (appeasement) while saying how foolish the US is, which recognizes what the NK’s consider irrational behavior.

All the while North Korea is painting itself into a corner where you go so far with threat that even if you don’t mean it you have to do it to maintain credibility. At that point, attacking Guam, the NK’s have to wonder, will the US retaliate with conventional or nuclear weapons?

As for solving the Gordian knot, that is China’s problem. If they hadn’t supported NK in the Korean War, there wouldn’t be any NK today. And ever since the Korean War, China has used NK as a proxy to goad the US into spending it’s treasure while the Chinese just sat back and built up their treasure. It is a very old principle of how to bleed your enemy into losing without a shout being fired.

An important question for China is, will the NK’s turn on them? Russia is cozying up to NK now and undermining Chinese influence, which the Chinese cannot like. They would have Russia to the north of China and a Russian client state to the south with NK. China is very sensitive about their borders.

What can China do? A “shock and awe” attack on NK – they have been building up troops on the China/NK border – and eliminate the NK state. Then to buy goodwill with the international community, China lets the Koreas unify with the understanding that above the 38th parallel. Korea would be a de-militarized zone except for the equivalent of a “national guard” for civil order, rescue and humanitarian services.

The Chinese have to be mindful of any radioactive fallout, with prevailing winds, would blow from NK right into the heart of China. For America, that would be, in diplomatic speak, “oops”. But karma is like that

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Iran, Sanctions and the Global Economy

Now that Iran can return to the global economy and sell oil openly, I see one of three things happening

1) Oil prices will collapse beyond the short term (they will collapse in the short-term regardless)

2) Oil prices will stay down but the global economy will improve with all the money Iran has to spend

3) The global economy will improve and oil prices will go back up from additional consumption

Iran is going to be on a buying binge but some of it will not be reflected in the global economy improving in the short term of 1 to 3 years because Iran has to boot strap itself back up. There is a lot of infrastructure that needs work and people trained. Even the potential sale of planes from Airbus will take time to realize. It could be Iran buys a lot of stuff now and it just sits. The Iranian hardliners are going to insist on a lot of new “toys” for the nuclear deal and that will cut into improving the economy and standard of living.

There is also the geopolitical conflicts Iran participates in like those of Yemen, Syria and Lebanon. Iran has yet to renounce the destruction of Israel and sanctions are still in place for military equipment and the ballistic missile program. If Iran keeps picking fights with Saudi Arabia, the Saudi’s will go ahead and acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan, a program the Saudi’s paid for. 

Iran is still a long ways from being stable or a reliable place to do business

There is an additional feature to the end of Iranian sanctions – the demise of Russian oil and gas sales. Western Europe wants to get away from Russian supplies as Russia is even more willing then OPEC to use oil and gas supplies as a political weapon. Although Russia like to think it’s more then a one-trick pony, it isn’t and the second collapse of the Russian economy – and government – may only be weeks or months away. 

Worried about sub-$20 crude? Some sellers are already there

The Iranians well and truly played the Russians and Putin. China, as Russia’s only market that wants them, now owns Putin. Putin will desperately need a deal with the West to get sanctions lifted as soon as possible or he will be looking for a new job.

Russian ruble drops to a new low, battered by weak oil prices

It could be considered something of a “backdoor” legacy for President Obama that this is happening. he was trying to wreck the U.S. oil industry to drive up prices to make electric cars more viable by ending access to to federal lands. Instead he created the rush to private land and the fracking boom that led to America to becoming virtually energy independent. And with the end to oil export embargo, pressure is being created on OPEC and “near-OPEC” countries, like Russia, to defend their market share.

OPEC and “near-OPEC” countries are in a bind. If they raise prices it opens the door to American producers and loss of market share for the 20 or so years that Brent LCOc1 and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) CLc1 would run wild or to keep prices down and suffer the effects to their economies. It might seem after that 20 years OPEC and “near-OPEC” countries would regain the power to control oil again, but that will be enough time for countries importing oil to make the shift to a renewable energy economy, perhaps even a fusion economy (if Lockheed can deliver), which would be a genuine revolution

The course of history hasn’t changed, but a page has been turned and the one-trick pony economies will fade into the background

Russian Government say sanctions would boomerang

It is not the Russian government we are in a fight with, it’s Vladimir Putin and he has a power base of oligarchs that keep him in power. So why make the Russian people suffer? Putin has made it clear the Russian citizens have no power and he is trying to reduce what power and ability they have. Make the people that keep Putin in power suffer – freeze their funds, don’t issue those people visas, quit doing business with all but the oil and gas companies.

Will Russia (Putin) retaliate? Oh yeah, you bet. But his choices will be limited because there is not so much traffic going the other way. Anything beyond tit-for-tat will cause Putin trouble with his biggest ally – China – who wants stable markets and calm waters to invest in. If Russia becomes a closed market, the Chinese will go someplace else. The Chinese cannot be too happy and what Putin is doing to their multi-megamillions investments in the Ukraine

“Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov warned the United States against “hasty and reckless steps” that would damage relations between Russia and the U.S”

I fully agree with Minister Lavrov, make the steps thought out, but don’t take forever. Russia has left itself open not open with this statement, but allowing Multi-national peacekeepers to keep the two sides apart in the WHOLE of the country just like the Balkans in the 90’s. The precedent is there.

In diplomacy the rule is be careful about creating precedents. The US and Western Europe made a mistake by supporting and recognizing Kosovo as an independent nation. They then had Russia throw that in their faces when supporting the breakaway regions of Georgia. So now I warn Russia, be careful, you are creating a new precedent that will come back to haunt you.

So freeze visas and funds of oligarchs, let them stay home. Get peacekeepers in place and pursue diplomacy. 

Russia doesn’t need or want a a bunch of radicalized Ukrainians, that can’t be distinguished from Russians, sitting that close to Russia. Piss those people off enough and they won’t care if they blowup all the pipelines that Russia depends on to get gas and oil to the west. All that Russia is today is the money from those pipelines. The Chinese would suffer, too, being an ally of Russia in terms of lost investment and people trashing that investment.

 

Realistically, Russia has a strong claim to the Crimea as Russian territory, but they don’t to the rest of the Ukraine. So they take the Crimea and offer reparations for Ukrainian government and military facilities and agree not to interfere in the rest of the Ukraine and to work with the international community stabilizing the country. Russia is at the point of radically diminishing returns if they don’t find a way out. It won’t be about face saving, it will be about power saving for Putin.

Mideast politics and Syria

There is this news article which shows the potential to create some truly byzantine alliances in the mideast . . . .

(Reuters) – Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas have fought their biggest battle yet for Syria’s beleaguered president, prompting international alarm that the civil war may spread and an urgent call for restraint from the United States.

Article link

So now Hezbollah has openly and actively entered the civil war in Syria and that creates an odd situation, they will be fighting Al-Qaeda members, effectively expanding the Shiite vs Sunni war to Syria since Al-Qaeda is Sunni and Iran (Shiite) supports Syria and Hezbollah. Does that mean that Al-Qaeda would start direct actions against Hezbollah? Both are ardent foes of Israel and Israel would benefit either way Israel benefits – Hezbollah knocks over Al-Qaeda or the other way around.

What would be really strange is if Israel made an alliance with Al-Qaeda against Hezbollah to overthrow Assad and for regime change. But I can’t see that as if would be trading the devil you know for the one you don’t. But never dismiss the principle of,
“the enemy of my enemy is my friend – and I can kill my new friend after the former enemy is dead”. And if Jordan was to ask Israel for help, Israel would be hard put to refuse.

For Russia the outcome is bad either way.

Assad stays in power and Russia keeps access to it’s only port on the Mediterranean, Tartus Syria. That pisses off Al-Qeada enough that they spend more active time stirring up the Caucasus region, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Dagastan – and most importantly – the town of Sochi, where the 2014 Russian Olympics will be held, which is deep inside an unstable area of Islamic revivalism. A lot of people are already afraid of terrorists attacks in Sochi during the Olympics and the Russians have played it down. 

Sochi isn’t that far from Dagastan where the Boston Marathon bombers came from, so you do the math.

But is Assad is overthrown, Russia loses it’s port on the Med

For the US the situation is either neutral or has an upside because one way or another Russia loses big time and Russia will be tied up in internal affairs for the next generation, long enough for Putin to lose any chance of office in Russia. And, hopefully, Al-Qaeda and the wrath of the Islamic world gets focused on Russia. Iran is neither Islamic, no matter what they say, nor Arab, they are Persian to the core and want to use Islamic ideology to restore the Persian Empire. They have always been and are now, a loose cannon no one controls.

China doesn’t have dogs in this fight except some political support. Al-Qaeda might try and stir up some trouble in China’s western provinces that border Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan but I doubt it since Al-Qaeda hasn’t done too well with a multi-front strategy so far. But at some point, the bedrock core of Chinese politics, self-interest, will weigh in and decide if supporting Syria is worth stirring up it’s own Islamic elements, notably the Uighars.

The US should stay out, along with England and France, and let the mess sort itself out and tie Russia up.

Is the Korean War live again?

The first question that comes to mind is if the The Korean War is about to resume. I would say no because it wouldn’t be the U.S. that crushes North Korea. It would be China because they won’t put up with that. China is not a renegade nation like it was in the founding days of Mao and communism. China wants to be the world’s next superpower and with that goes certain requirements.

The next question is what is North Korea’s leadership up to? The generals are bitter at the success of the South and act like children that act up in class and yell , “hey, look at me, I’m just as good”, but they aren’t obviously. And the leadership is trying to scare the U.S. into lifting the sanctions without having to give up anything in return. The North also wants a peace treat to formally end the Korean War but one on the North’s terms. This is a lose-lose situation for the North as all it does is reinforce the resolve to not let the North off the hook and keeps the North isolated.

The North withers negotiates in good faith or they will find U.S./South Korean troops coming at them from the South and Chinese troops coming at them from the North should North Korea really be stupid enough to attack either the South or the mainland U.S.

But for now, the North repudiating the Armistice is a safe move for the North. The U.S. forces won’t attack so there is no risk for the North and it allows the North to rachet up the pressure to force the rest of the world to acceded to the North’s demands

CNN link

FoxNews Link

North Korea and Obama

The Obama administration is somewhat taken with itself. They think that just saying something makes it so. The pen, and thus the words, is mightier then the sword is only true up to a point. At some point a person will be called on those words and then they have to stand up with the sword to defend what they said and to preserve the ideals espoused.

The top U.S. envoy on North Korea, Glyn Davies, cautioned Pyongyang not to miscalculate, saying the U.S. will take necessary steps to defend itself and its allies, including South Korea, where it bases nearly 30,000 U.S. forces.

Davies reiterated that the U.S. will not accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state — although after conducting three nuclear tests it is already assumed to be capable of making at least a crude atomic bomb.

Article link

Saying that North Korea will not accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state is engaging in the finest of semantics. The U.S. doesn’t accept North Korea as a state as it stands. But what the administration wants you to hear is that the administration will prevent North Korea from having nuclear weapons, just like it is Iran. The administration comes out looking silly once again and doing what they do best – sticking their foot in their mouth

President Obama talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk. He just wants to be able to vacation as he sees fit on the governments dime.  

Welcome to the New Cold War

Article link

The article has an interesting premise that I believed is based on Judeo-Christian concepts of conflict and anger. The problem with the concept is China is “fighting” differently. They are using the concepts of “The Art of War” as adapted for geo-political wrangling. And above all the Chinese leaders are patient. Few years, or decades, are nothing to a country that has seen much upheaval in 5000 years and they know, assume really, that China’s turn will come as the U.S. bleeds itself dry as Europe, as any empire, has done.

All China has to do is stay strong and concentrate on it’s own affairs and the world will lay at China’s feet . . . .or so China hopes.

The problem is all those countries, especially Russia, that abide by the other set of rules. WWIII is coming and China will get caught up in for no better reason then Russia can’t be trusted. Russia and China, for all the appearances they put up now, are adversaries for far east resources. And once the war starts, and then ends, if the world isn’t totally devastated, a new political order will emerge that bypasses all the old world powers, including China.

China will always be the bridesmaid and never the bride because fate only gives one chance at the wheel of empire and China had it’s when it was the Middle Kingdom. I’m sure Confucius had something to say about it. Even if he didn’t, a study of history shows there are no second chances at world dominion.