6) China: the Silk Road. Lesson thirtyeight

New or modernized and expanded Chinese railway line in the picture below. Will it be difficult because of mountainous areas to connect this railway line to the already existing railway that extends south of the Caspian Sea from east to west through Iran and into central Turkey and Ankara and beyond to Istanbul? There is nothing that suggest it. The oil from Baku must reach further, otherwise it would make no sense to build a railway line from Baku to Turkey. But the oil does not come by railway trains. There are existing oil pipelines from Baku to Istanbul via Georgia, and from Baku to Turkey’s southeast coastal area via Georgia. Russia is present in Syria’s western coastal area south of Turkey, with a naval base in Tartous with the S-400 and S-300 air defense systems deployed, and an airbase protected by air defense systems in Latakia located about 100 km north of Tartous. Given these oil pipes running through Turkey and the railway line that looks like it stops indefinitely on the map below, who knows where it will be drawn next.

There are reportedly also 40,000 Russian citizens in Syria of which most probably are tourists in the unharmed Tartous or Latakia or the rather untouched central Aleppo, whose presence should not be extenuated when Russia implements its major strategy plans and tries to obstruct others. Russia is now (2018) caught up in the game. China wants to expand the oil pipelines to Turkey’s southeastern coastal area, Russia probably does not want this as long as China also aspires to expand the “Silk Road Economic Belt” by land towards Europe, because this threatens Russia’s southern front.

Russia is thus dependent on the turncoat state of Turkey and that Beijing does not have Turkey in their pocket, and they have, among other things, therefore, had negotiations with Turkey about initiating a sale of the S-400 Triumph air defense system to the country. Turkey has already made an advance payment and is hoping for delivery by 2019. The issue is discussed according to what Kremlin adviser Vladimir Kozhin told the Russian news agency TASS in September 2017. The Russian leadership is often forced to concentrate resources, preparations and efforts to Russia’s southern and eastern borders. Many times it is of a military and economic nature. These playfields are primarily much more important for Russia’s security than the Baltic issue is. Much of their strategy in the northwest is a luxury they can sometimes engage in.

Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey thus put an 826 km long railway on their territories (reported in November 2017). The question is whether the Chinese want or intend to resolve the issue of how to pass over or under the 300 km (186 miles) long stretch of the Caspian Sea. Traveling 300 km across the Caspian Sea from Turkmenistan to the oil-rich Baku by ship is a realistic solution. They also probably see a solution with an existing railway line south of the Caspian Sea in Iran. I don’t think Russia is happy about these plans because the influence over the oil-rich Baku is slipping over to China’s court. The Russian interest will probably be shifted to the south and towards China in the near future. But in St. Petersburg and in Kaliningrad, Russia’s plans will continue as usual. It is cunningly done by the Chinese to make Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey invest in China’s evil scheemes for Europe. But this railway is just one of all the railways, roads and fairways, which together make up the modern Chinese Silk Road Economic Belt project. Bit by bit and under obscurity, they are single-mindedly building on this logistical venture’s partly civilian project and partly military project. The silk road is the largest logistic project of all time, which requires a well-developed infrastructure, project planning and investments in transit countries.

The problem with the silk road project is not primarily that there are no good roads. It is laying down oil and gas pipelines, the creation and maintenance of infrastructure such as gas stations, service stations, power stations, drinking water, animal husbandry, agricultural production, food processing and irrigation projects in the silk road transit countries that the challenge lies in. It requires even more fuel and resources of fresh water. Creating opportunities for this can easily be a geopolitical gamble. It will be difficult to provide maintenance support for entire armies. Deserts must be crossed and power plants require fuel, nuclear power plants require water, personnel require drinking water. Perhaps one has to bypass some of the railways with a regular road where the transported vehicles move on their own machine. But they can also lay down water pipes to the steam generator in nuclear power plants. Not even on a multi-track railway, can you transport as many combat vehicles as needed in a short time. Towing vehicles, drinking water, fuel, tires, service personnel, spare parts and rolling mechanical service stations for trucks will require a large part of the space in the trains. Iran doesn’t lack oil but they have a quality on their oil that is not suitable for making diesel from, which means that diesel is rationed and reserved for Iranian truck drivers.

Locomotives probably require relatively flat ground if they are to be able to pull long and heavy trains fully loaded with tanks and fuel. That being said, the world’s highest railway line is Chinese and crosses the Kunlun Shan 3,000-5,000 meters above sea level. It is called the Qingzang railway. It is conceivable that a railway line, if it is not stretched over or through mountains, runs from Inner Mongolia (belonging to China) to Gansu to the Uighur land Xinjiang, into Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and further via southern Iran along the coast of the Persian Gulf and further northwest through Iraq and Syria and southern Turkey. In a war, southern Turkey becomes the most vulnerable stretch, requiring control of the eastern Mediterranean. From Beijing to Istanbul, the train route is >14,000 km of country road which I describe above. But the Chinese may have to punch at least one hole in the Chinese wall, which is actually several walls from different eras and which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

 

The Chinese are planning infrastructure investments for a railroad, a country road and oil pipelines between the port city of Gwadar in southwestern Pakistan and Kashgar in western China, or are already building them. It sounds quite logical. What then follows causally is that China completes the port of Gwadar for their Naval forces and merchant ships in southern Pakistan at the Arabian Sea and a military airport, if they get permission from Pakistan. According to the Financial Times web release in May 2011, Pakistan’s Defense Minister has requested from China to build a Chinese military base for Gwadar’s port. In Uganda 1 200 km southwest of Djibouti there are giant oil reserves. It does not have to be said that the great powers are fighting hard for these oil reserves, which are estimated to exceed the total oil reserves of the OPEC countries put together.

It has been established that the total raw material resources under the Caspian Sea is almost twice as large as all commodity assets in the whole of the United States. Kurdistan has the so-called Taq taq field and has increased its production of oil more than one hundred times from 2,000 barrels of oil a day since new discoveries were discovered in the 00’s. On the border between Kazakhstan and Russia, there are huge reserves in the Karachaganak field, 42 trillion cubic feet of natural gas as well as liquid natural gas and crude oil. In Turkmenistan, there are gas assets of no less than seven hundred trillion calculated cubic feet in the ground, the fourth largest deposit in the world. In addition, gold mines in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are part of the Tian Shan belt. These are the second largest gold deposits in the world after the Witwatersrand mountain in South-Africa. Both Beryllium, Dysprosium and other Rare Earth Element metals have been found in Kazakhstan. These are important in the manufacture of mobile phones, laptops and rechargeable batteries, as well as Uranium and Plutonium which are necessary for nuclear energy and nuclear warheads.

In eastern Ukraine towards the border with Russia in the Donetsk basin, where there is a state of war, there are coal resources with up to about ten billion tonnes. U.S. Geological Service states that there are 1.4 billion barrels of oil and 2.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in addition to considerable amounts of liquid natural gas. Also the fertile black topsoil of Ukraine and southern Russia is sought after. A non-governmental organization has concluded that land worth nearly $ 1 billion in Ukraine alone is being dug up and sold annually. Crop failure and war in Ukraine affect both the price of technology products, cereals and oil.

An expanded and existing railway line between China-Germany will soon reach Paris. Major investments in those transcontinental rail lines have opened for freight routes along the more than 11,000 km long international Iuxinous railway, which runs from China to Duisburg in Germany. 800 m long trains have begun to transport millions of laptops, shoes, clothing and other consumer goods in one direction, and electronics, car parts and medical equipment in the other on a journey that takes 16 days. Significantly faster than the sea route from Chinese ports in the Pacific. Source: The Silk Roads; by Peter Frankopan

Sources:
The Silk Roads; by Peter Frankopan
SR;Ekot

 

Homework:

We know that the US facilitates the economic development of the Central Asian former Sovjet republic “Stan-countries”. But it can be for more than one reason. Why do you think the US do this? I mean, they’ve already left Afghanistan.

Justify your answer please.

Roger M. Klang, defense political Spokesman for the Christian Values Party (Kristna Värdepartiet) in Sweden

3) To be or NATO be. Lesson twentyeight

I don’t think that an attack against Sweden will be of a military nature, but the attack will come in the form of a prolonged cyber operation and/or through an economic conspiracy against us. The only thing that can discourage the Russians from committing a cyber attack on Sweden is if we have an ability to attack Russia with the same means.

Georgia’s president Mikhail Saakashvili believed that NATO would intervene if Russia attacked Georgia militarily. But Georgia is more isolated localized geographically because there are only two access roads by land from the Nato country Turkey. Plus, the airport at Georgia’s capital Tbilisi is isolated. In addition, Turkey has a long history of turncoat policy regardless of the consequences for northern NATO countries and others, and it is the Turks who controls the straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus into the Black Sea. A NATO intervention was hardly possible.

Georgia 2008 was the famous “litmus test”. It will of course be more of a risk-taking for Russia to attack Sweden before we can join NATO than it was to attack the isolated Georgia. But players come in plenty. Professor Rolf Tamnes, Norwegian historian and professor at the Department of Defense Studies (Institutt for forsvarsstudier – IFS), emphasizes that Russia does not trust Swedish non-alignment, since the extensive cuts in the Swedish defense force is considered as an incentive to seek external help, for example from NATO and the United States.

Apparently, it is not clear abroad what Swedish “non-alignment” stands for. In my opinion, it stands for freedom to choose alliance partners according to our own preferences. We should make this clear to the world, even if the outside world then will reject us even more, because uncertainties benefit us even less. We are sitting in the fox trap regardless.

How may Russia evaluate their geo-economic field and balance it with the geomilitary field?

1) Russia prefer to look at it as if the outside world is dependent on what they have to offer in the form of Russian gas and oil, but I believe that they realize that Germany may make themselves independent from the geostrategic Gazprom and thus Russia. They must keep the Germans happy.
2) It is almost a required condition that Russia is able to simultaneously attack the entire Baltics and parts of Scandinavia not to mention Iceland, if they intend to be able to count on free passage through Öresund, Kattegat and Skagerack, and they must be able to keep their main trading countries, e.g. the Netherlands and France.
3) This in turn requires that the United States first, nearly lose its superpower status. We therefore have no interest whatsoever in the United States losing its superpower status.

But I think that Sweden as a state must grant access to our territory for US troops on Swedish soil if we are to join NATO. It is not enough to receive a Naval ship visit from time to time, which we could also do as a non-aligned country in peacetime. I am not particularly happy to let 5,000 American hungry hearts invade a Swedish small town or one of our Baltic Sea islands in peacetime. Maybe we can do as Norway and let the US stock up materiel in Swedish bunker rooms?

Homework:

The US may have bases in Sweden as a requirement for a Swedish membership. Above all, an air defense base on one of our Baltic Sea islands and access to our airbases and ports. Otherwise the US will never have the time window to intervene in Scandinavia and even less in the Baltic countries, before Russia has swallowed parts of us. If the United States cannot intervene in time on our latitudes and longitudes, then it makes no sense for us to join NATO and we will probably then be denied membership.

But there is also the possibility to accomodate American service members families and thus unburden some pressure on our communities and our society as a whole. Let them contribute to our society and at the same time make it possible for them to use public services such as hospitals and schools at the same low cost as for Swedes. The schools should even be free of charge. I have absolutely no problems with Americans as a people.

Do you agree or not agree? Please motivate your position.

Roger M. Klang, defense political Spokesman for the Christian Values Party (Kristna Värdepartiet) in Sweden

2) To be or NATO be. Lesson twentyseven

Off course, the United States does not want to betray the baltic people, but it may be that they realize that it will be impossible to defend the Baltic countries if one does not add big resources to Norway and Poland. One can also choose to defend the Baltic countries already in the Baltics, by deploying long-range air defense systems and mechanized ”verbands” (German word for troops) in the Baltic states. Either the Americans do not see this possibility as realistic, or they abstain from it for political reasons e.g. because they do not want to rock the hornets nest. It might be that they have been duped or maybe they have missed the whole idea of their own fault. In any case, the Americans have not yet deployed any air defense systems in the Baltic countries.

Germany can, in a strategic twilight dusk, deny the Americans access or transit to Poland. In that case, a scenario with a “fire break” dividing Sweden is a probable solution. Chief Engineer Helge Löfstedt expressed this about the presumption of our cooperation in the journal Försvarsutbildaren nr 3 2014;

“The problem is mostly about how Sweden should avoid ending up in a situation where the help takes humiliating forms which leads to Swedish wishes being neglected in conjunction with the development of the conflict.”

What is good in the defense committee report “Road choices in a globalized world” (Vägval i en globaliserad värld) is that the defense committee proposes an expanded and deepened defense cooperation with the Baltic countries. But when they express themselves like this, they are only half right;

“The future is becoming increasingly difficult to predict. It is not possible to imagine that a military conflict in our immediate area would only affect one specific country. A military attack exclusively against Sweden remains unlikely for the foreseeable future. However, crises and incidents, which also include military means of power, can emerge in our region, and in the long term military threats can never be ruled out.”

It is a false axiom that Russia would not have the will or the ability to attack Sweden singularily. In the Georgia War of 2008, a singular Georgia with far-reaching plans to join the NATO organization stood against a Russian attacker, and the Russian attack was planned according to Putin’s own statement several years afterwards. The attack was a signal to the US that; “We can strangle your supply line of materiel and isolate the US forces in Afghanistan right here, so don’t even think about expanding NATO membership to Georgia at our expense.”

There is a threat against a singular Sweden, if our politicians say we will join NATO, just as there was a threat against Georgia in 2008. It must also seem very attractive to the Kremlin to secure its northern flank at a reasonable cost in a European full scale war.

The question is whether Russia really believes it would be easier to secure its northern flank than it would be to win in east Europe. If I am allowed to answer in the Kremlin’s place; It could be if, with “victory”, you are considering gains from the political and military neglect by the victim countries, as well as the result of the implementation of hybrid warfare combined with classic Russian extortion and threat rhetoric against the Scandinavian countries.

In eastern Europe, classic blackmailing and threat rhetoric doesn’t work as well as it do in northern Europe, in peacetime. Putin can annex a little bit at a time in eastern Europe. Or Putin can take a big chew in Scandinavia, as Hitler did.

If democracy can prevail and the people is allowed to decide on NATO membership, the decision is given a legitimacy which Putin will find hard to dismiss. If our Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist and the Government (2019) are to decide, they will put Sweden in unnecessary danger. Which do you think is the most dangerous of the following three alternatives:

1) To apply for membership in NATO after an invitation to the Membership Action Plan.
2) Almost unnoticed bit by bit slipping into NATO without us applying for membership for that matter.
3) To be non-aligned or only in alliance with Finland and build a strong Swedish defense on our own.

Following line 1) requires that Sweden get militarily involved in the outside world and make binding commitments of military assistance to, among other countries, the Baltic states.

Following line 2) is a natural consequence of Sweden caring about its small neighboring countries and brothers in e.g. the Baltics. We are prepared to help the Baltic countries, even though we do not know how to do just that in the event of a Russian invasion of the Baltic countries, and that we are prepared to help gets us involved in international exercises and treaties dominated by the United States.

Following line 3) is a risky business because we don’t know what is going on inside Putin’s head. But we know that we then cannot count on help from the US, who is NATO’s foremost guarantor. We can, of course, be freeloaders just by realizing that the US and NATO almost certainly need to use Swedish territory as a build-up area for a recapturing of the Baltic States. But such thinking creates contempt among the NATO member countries, rightly so, and that may cause them to do whatever they feel like in and with Sweden. So, paradoxically, we lose influence and self-determination in the event of a war in our neighborhood if we would choose to follow line 3.

I believe that a Swedish NATO membership should be debated. But the decision should be left in the hands of the people through a general referendum, and not be left in the hands of the politicians who are not competent in anything that has to do with our defense, except for the gender issue and the ”value ground” that is. A popular referendum is an extra safety net for Sweden as a state, because it will not be as easy for Putin to militarily attack selected parts of Sweden if the decision on NATO membership is decided by vote of the Swedish people.

Homework:

Considering that we need to join the NATO organization simultaneously with Finland, as we already discussed a little in Lesson twentysix, how do you look at our dilemma? What road would you have embarked on if you had the above mentioned three choices?

Is there an additional choice?

Please motivate your conclusions.

Roger M. Klang, defense political Spokesman for the Christian Values Party (Kristna Värdepartiet) in Sweden