Vladimir Putin will not be visiting Ankara after all next week. But the reasons are more complex than State media in the respective countries would have us believe. They go way beyond energy into gold…and the future of Russian diplomacy.
The Russian President during Kremlin discussions yesterday
I tend to get twitchy-nosed when a heavy-hitting leader cancels a trip on the grounds of ‘a heavy schedule’: it always puts me in mind of when 1950s girls said they couldn’t go out with you because they’d be washing their hair.
Vladimir Putin told Turkey’s Recep Erdogan last night that he wanted to postpone their planned trip until November. There are umpteen reasons for this, and oddly enough they’re not all to do with Syrian border incidents. They do, however, have a lot to do with what the Syrian border incidents are really about.
Predictaby, Turko-Syrian relations continue to worsen. General Necdet Özel, the Turkish chief of staff, yesterday said – at the end of six days of Syrian shells landing in Turkey - “If this continues we will respond with greater force.” The shells and mortars have been hitting Turkey’s territory amid heavy fighting for control of nearby border posts on the Syrian side of the frontier, with forces loyal to Mr Assad stepping up their attacks on rebel positions. However, my information remains that Turkish security services are already confident that the shelling isn’t being carried out by Assad. So why then is Erdo-get-your-gun getting in a state about it?
Because it suits him to, says the Turkish opposition to his closet Islamism. They feel Erdogan has been trying to use the shellings to sway public opinion in the direction of war against Assad. If that’s the case, then it isn’t working: the latest polls show that a majority of Turks both oppose war and disapprove of Mr Erdogan’s stance on Syria, which has seen him switch to campaign against the Assad regime….as the region becomes the epicentre for NATO (aka Anglo-American) geopolitics in favour of the Sunni Muslims in general, and the Islamic Brotherhood in particular.
Either way, as I’ve blogged previously, the ‘Assad’ shellings are a put-up job. The Ankara regime was hopeful of using the Putin sessions planned for next week as a chance to talk Vlad out of his support for Assad. They also hoped to use the ‘evidence’ of Assad’s deranged instability to aid in that process. Well, old Rasputin is too ugly and long in the tooth to believe bollocks of that nature. He too knows what the Anglo-American alliance is up to. But before wandering gaily into the lion’s den, he also wants time to see how things develop.
“Putin postponed the trip after he saw the Romney opinion poll leap,” says a senior Russian who should know. “Now he needs to rethink things once we get an American election result. Obviously, he expects Mitt Romney to be a more difficult character than President Obama. At the same time, he is anxious to have some discussions with Beijing”.
China’s primary interest in all this is Iran, a country whose economy (and independence) is being threated by American currency warfare. Beijing too supports Assad, he being both anti-Brotherhood (thus anti-Nato) and an ally of their ally Iran. And yes, this is how wars start. Moscow has similar interests, but for different reasons: having lost their tight relationship with Libya – and the power to destabilise the Middle East in favour of Russian oil/gas energy supplies – the last thing Putin needs is to drop Syria as well.
If Assad’s regime collapses in the next month, then it’ll be Game Over anyway. But if he survives – with Iran desperately bringing soldiers home to economise – then there is an outline plan for Russo-Chinese covert cooperation to prop up both Assad and the Iranians by the end of the year.
So there is obviously a lot at stake here. And the Anglo-American Clinton/Hague fire-eating act will get more dangerous with every month.
Enter now stage left from nowhere another key consideration driving Sino-Russian relations at the moment: gold.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a Chinese-inspired organisation dedicated to eventually overtaking Fort Knox as a global fisco-economic power. The SCO bloc consists of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Between them they produce a quarter of the planet’s gold output: and they don’t sell, they only buy. Others likely to join in future include India, Iran, Pakistan, Mongolia and post-war Afghanistan. The gold imported by just two current and future memebers – China and India – accounts for all but 400-500 tonnes of the world’s gold mining – with much of that now controlled by Beijing via its longstanding ANC links to those who took over South Africa’s industry after apartheid fell.
Ever since America declared currency war on Iran, both the Russians and Chinese have reached one decision in total accord: they will not use the Dollar any more as a currency to be traded within the SCO. “All things are connected” as the Buddhists averr…and what we have here is yet another ‘unforeseen’ consequence of the US bullying people into doing its bidding.
So although he will, like his friend Angela Merkel, always keep his options open, Rasputin is about to attempt a massive gamble: turning East to join the Asian future, rather than turning West to be a third bloc versus both the Chinese and the Americans. And in turn, that leaves the EU in limbo with nowhere to go except up itself.
This is really the ‘busy schedule’ that the Russian leader has on his mind. After US election day and another month of Syria tearing itself apart, he fancies, things will look clearer. He could, of course, miss the boat. That would glue the SCO even more firmly together, and steel the Moscow/Beijing determination to stand firm in Iran. And that in turn would create both a confrontation waiting to happen in the Middle East, and an acceleration of the Dollar’s demise.
In that context, I have my next tranche of gold investment monies waiting to go. But like Mr Rasputin, I propose to stay my hand until I see how the markets deal with it all. Interesting times indeed.