New Eastern Outlook

New Eastern Outlook
Thu, 29 Sep 2022 08:10:19 +0000

Why does Africa Oppose the Presence of UN Peacekeepers?


UN peacekeeping in Africa is in deep crisis, with the Blue Helmets not only failing in their missions but also regularly getting caught up in the middle of scandals.

For the past few years there have been rallies in the Democratic Republic of Congo against the presence of representatives of the UN multidimensional mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) because of the poor performance of the Blue Helmets. Since July this year, the heaviest street protests have taken place in North Kivu province.

Although the UN multidimensional peacekeeping mission has been present in the DRC since 1999, the Blue Helmets have been accused by the people of that country of failing to tackle existing terrorist groups and militias, being unable to implement any provision of their mandate and incapable of protecting civilians. Meanwhile, as is known, the MONUSCO mission is mandated to use all necessary means to fulfil its mandate to, inter alia, protect civilians, humanitarian workers and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence and to support the DRC government in its stabilization and peace consolidation work. So far, it is the biggest UN peacekeeping mission of its size among all the countries receiving such assistance, with a total strength of just over 20,000 people, including a contingent of 14,000 troops.

A large part of the DRC population, especially in the east of the country where terrorist groups and militias are most active, demands that the mandate of UN forces be changed so that they could conduct direct military action against the militants, rather than being limited to logistical support to the Congolese army. This is essentially why there have been sporadic public protests against the UN mission in eastern DRC over the past few years.

This year was no exception. In July, for example, there were mass demonstrations in North Kivu province demanding the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers, who are accused of failing to create safe living conditions for the population in that part of the DRC. In their protest, participants in the provincial capital of Goma stormed the regional headquarters of the UN mission and a warehouse, which were looted. Five people were killed in the riots that erupted during the demonstration.

At least 10 people, including three UN mission members, were killed in mid-July in the city of Butembo, also in eastern DRC, during riots accompanying a demonstration demanding the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers from North Kivu province. "Three people from the MONUSCO mission have been killed – two Indian nationals and one Moroccan national – and there is one injured. Among the demonstrators, seven were killed," the city's police chief, Paul Ngoma, stated.

In early August, another wave of protests over the presence and inactivity of MONUSCO mission staff swept the DRC. In response to protests, "peacekeepers" used firearms and special equipment to disperse demonstrators, resulting in 32 civilian casualties!

Although the UN condemned the Blue Helmets shooting at protesters in the DRC and two Tanzanian peacekeepers were arrested for killing protesters, the DRC authorities nevertheless showed their determination against the MONUSCO contingent. In particular, the national government demanded that the Blue Helmets leave the country earlier than previously anticipated because of their inefficiency and acts of inhumanity. In addition, national authorities appealed on August 3 to the United Nations to expel MONUSCO peacekeeping mission representative Mathias Gillmann from the DRC.

As protests continued in DRC over the presence and actions of MONUSCO members in the country, on September 7 the Blue Helmets once again opened fire on protesters, this time in the city of Beni to clear the way for a transport convoy. One of the civilians was killed. The authorities of that African republic again strongly condemned the actions of the UN "peacekeepers", demanded an accelerated withdrawal of the contingent from the country and notified UN Secretary-General's representative Bintou Keita of their stance.

But the DRC is not the only African country where there have been strong recent protests against the Blue Helmets. Mass demonstrations are also taking place in Mali, demanding the withdrawal of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in September this year. In particular, members of the civil platform Yerewolo argue that for peace and stability to take hold in Mali, foreign peacekeepers acting under UN cover must be withdrawn. The movement's coordinator, Adam Diarra, made several press statements, in one of which members of the Yerewolo platform pointed out: "The terrorist in Mali is France, and when we drove it out, MINUSMA was left behind. Everything that happens in the country now goes through the UN mission. That is why the only agenda is for it to leave so that we can have peace, because we have lost our sovereignty."

As proof that there are no excuses for the inaction of MINUSMA and the French counter-terrorism operation Barkhane in the fight against terrorists and radical groups in Mali, the army of that country is showing its own successes in this field. Units of the Malian army and local law enforcers trained by Russian instructors are confidently searching for the hiding bandits and eliminating them, and have achieved great success in combating radicals.

According to Malian authorities, the jihadist threat remains the gravest problem for the country, and their activity is due to France's subversive efforts in the region, which supports the militants. Referring to such criminal activities of the former metropole, the Malian authorities accuse France, among others, of aiding and abetting the radical Tuareg organization the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), as well as of carrying out illegal military activities on the territory of the republic.

The Malian authorities asked the UN Security Council to hold a special meeting to put an end to the "acts of aggression" of the Fifth Republic in an official letter addressed on August 15 to the leadership of the international organization. To this end, the republic's Foreign Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, provided the UNSC with evidence of the crimes of the former metropole. On September 24, Acting Prime Minister of Mali Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga addressed the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, criticizing French policy in Mali and on the African continent in general, as well as the activities of MINUSMA peacekeeping forces, while pointing to the fruitful cooperation of the African country with Russia in ensuring state security and the lives of Malians.

In another African country, the Central African Republic, demonstrations against the Blue Helmets have also continued. The inhabitants of that country have recently caught the Mauritanian contingent of the UN multidimensional integrated mission (MINUSCA) supporting the militants of the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC), making a criminal agreement with the radicals, selling them weapons, ammunition and food.

In the past, the people of the CAR have repeatedly accused the Blue Helmets of smuggling and various criminal activities.  In 2021, for example, 450 Gabonese peacekeepers were forced to leave urgently the CAR because of accusations of dozens of criminal incidents involving sexual violence; more than 80 members of the contingent have been accused of beating civilians.

Another high-profile scandal involving the Blue Helmets in the CAR was related to the criminal activities in 2021 of a Portuguese contingent of "peacekeepers" who used UN military transport planes to smuggle diamonds, gold and drugs into Europe.  In exchange for jewelry and drugs, the "peacekeepers" provided the criminal groups with weapons and intelligence on the movements of the Armed Forces of the Central African Republic (FACA), provided shelter to wounded radicals and set up strongholds to house them.

In these circumstances, the African public continues to criticize UN peacekeepers, express dissatisfaction with their work and demand that the UN leadership take appropriate measures, disclose the crimes committed by the Blue Helmets and punish the perpetrators.  Politicians and public figures in Africa have criticized the organization's staff for being indifferent to the continent's problems and for disregarding the Blue Helmets' own mandate. And until effective action is taken by the UN leadership in this area, protests against the Blue Helmets will not cease.

Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook".

New Eastern Outlook
Wed, 28 Sep 2022 20:59:40 +0000

US Postpones Passage of “Taiwan Policy” Bill


In this author's latest article on the Taiwan issue, it is important to note the development of its central point to date, namely the apparent strengthening in the last year or two of that faction of the US establishment which stands for abandoning the so-called "strategy of uncertainty" in its approach to Taiwan.

Unlike the still iconic for many former national security advisor to the US President, John Bolton, it is difficult to say whether the current speaker of the lower chamber of the US Congress, Nancy Pelosi, belongs to this faction. In any case, she did not say anything publicly on the subject before, during or after her controversial visit to Taiwan.

 In other words, Pelosi's trip did not bring any fundamental novelty to the Taiwan issue; it did not go beyond media provocation and was addressed not even so much to Beijing as to the American public, who, it seems, will soon be spouting all they think about "all these guys and gals (and various combinations of both) who run us."

The draft Taiwan Policy Act, which has been under preparation since the summer of this year and has received bipartisan support, contains elements of such novelty, but has not left Congress and is likely to remain in it until the next session. And it will be reviewed by a new set of congressmen. However, anyone who so wishes can read the latest revision of the TPA (dated September 15). Although every line of this wide-ranging document is crossed out, it does not make it difficult to see where the congressmen's thinking is heading in this case.

Specifically, it is heading towards actually replacing another law, the Taiwan Relations Act, which has been in force ever since it was passed on January 1, 1979. It is TRA-1979 that forms the basis (predominantly, though with some elements of the so-called "Reagan guarantees") of the very "strategy of uncertainty."

What matters in this document is both what it does contain and what it does not. For example, it has a thesis that Washington adheres to the One China Principle (without mentioning who represents it, though). It also states that it does not accept attempts at non-peaceful solutions "between the banks of the Taiwan Strait" (a remarkable turn of phrase, by the way) or even the mere threat to use force for that purpose.  But there is no mention of how the US would behave in the event of not only a "threat," but even that very "use."

Once again, it is worth recalling the global and political context in which this law was passed, which is fundamentally different from what is seen today. In the 1960s and 1980s, when the main geopolitical rival of the US was the USSR, it was crucial for Washington to win China over to its side. The same China which by now has become the source of main US foreign policy concerns. This not only makes all the "politesse" towards Beijing spelled out in TRA-1979 superfluous, in the eyes of the above mentioned faction of the US establishment, but also stands in the way of combatting China.

That is, in their view, the US position on the key for the PRC issue of Taiwan should be made fully "certain." And hence there should be no "clarifying explanations" of the recent (seemingly) "slip" that Joe Biden made during an interview with the host of the popular TV show 60 Minutes. When asked twice (virtually the same question) about the binding nature of US military intervention in case the PRC tries to resolve the Taiwan problem by force, the answer was also positive twice.

But an hour later, the same "clarification" was issued by a "White House source" that US policy on the issue was unchanged. The main provisions of the said policy are, once again, set out in TRA-1979.

It should be noted, however, that in this case it is probably not a "slip" by a decision-maker with signs of some kind of aberration in his perception of the world around him, but rather a quite conscious probing of the reaction of (mainly) his own population to a possible radical change of strategy on what is arguably the most important foreign policy issue today.

Signs of such a change, again, can be seen in the so far "crossed out" TPA-2022. For example, "Section 102" instructs the Department of State to: "(1) engage with the democratically elected government of Taiwan as the legitimate representative of the people of Taiwan; and (2) end the outdated practice of referring to the government in Taiwan as the 'Taiwan authorities'." And what would be left from the thesis of Washington's respect for the One China Principle if TPA-2022 had already been adopted? According to Chinese experts, almost nothing.

But the adoption of this law, again, has been postponed. This is reported (with obvious disappointment) by a leading Taiwanese newspaper, the Taipei Times. The answer to the question of what will happen to it next will be largely determined by the outcome of the forthcoming US congressional elections.

Among other things, this fact indicates that Washington seems to have decided to slow down its move towards a "strategy of certainty" on the Taiwan issue. Joe Biden's speech to the current UN General Assembly three days after the "slip" mentioned above says exactly what was spelled out in TRA-1979 over forty years ago. And what was once again said by those aides to the US President who corrected their chief's (alleged) "blunder."

Regarding the question of how far (and how quickly) the US should move away from a "strategy of uncertainty" on the Taiwan issue and move towards a "strategy of certainty," there are quite huge differences of opinion in the US establishment. They are evidenced not only by the fact that the TPA-2022 approval procedure has been postponed, but also by the removal from its "final" text (as of September 15) of the previously present thesis of making Taiwan a "major non-NATO ally of the United States."

Only a few countries have this status, namely Australia, Israel, South Korea and Japan. But the document does note that under certain circumstances Taiwan "shall be treated as though it were designated a major non-NATO ally." Perhaps some readers will see some substantive difference in both of these notes…

With any possible subsequent changes, it is fairly certain that the final version of the TPA will reflect some of the trends that have already emerged. Of these, the first is due to the general course of the sudden revival of the US military-industrial complex. Taiwan will undoubtedly remain one of the most preferred markets for its products. Unlike Ukraine (which plays a similar role on the opposite side of the Great Game table), which can offer only cannon fodder and black earth as payment for patronage to the same "master," Taiwan is quite a wealthy and attractive trading partner.

Therefore, second, the future TPA will likely confirm the trend towards bilateral trade and economic cooperation with the island, as well as its involvement in the anti-Chinese interstate configurations being formed by Washington.

Third, there will be a similar trend to involve Taiwan in the work of authoritative international bodies such as the WHO, ICAO, IAEA and even the UN, which oversees them. In this regard, the initiative by three states (which have official relations with Taipei) to return Taiwan's mandate as a member of the UN has drawn attention. The President of the Marshall Islands spoke on their behalf during the ongoing session of the UN General Assembly. It seems to be no coincidence that a statement to this effect was made by the leader of one of the island states in the Pacific. It is they (after Taiwan and the Southeast Asian region) that are now moving to the center of the struggle between the US and the PRC.

Fourth, the course of involving America's closest allies in all processes related to Taiwan will be reaffirmed. Japan is one of these partners in particular. Once again, concerns about the situation in the Taiwan Strait were expressed by the US and Japanese defense ministers during a meeting on September 14 in Washington.

And, of course, there will be support for the rapidly developing (qualitatively and quantitatively) process of networking between US and Taiwanese politicians at various levels.

Finally, the very fact that Washington has so far postponed the adoption of law designed to provide the basis for a new strategy on the key foreign policy issue of the entire system of relations between the two leading world powers shows that it (at least, part of US political elite) is aware of the serious consequences of making mistakes.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook".

New Eastern Outlook
Wed, 28 Sep 2022 20:55:03 +0000

Israel on the Eve of the Fifth Round of Elections


Israeli interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid, in just 29 words from the rostrum of the UN General Assembly, radically changed the fifth electoral round of elections from the first four electoral cycles of the past two and a half years.

From the rostrum of one of the world's largest international diplomatic forums, he said, "An agreement with the Palestinians based on two states for two peoples, is the right thing for Israel's security, for Israel's economy and for the future of our children." After Lapid's speech at the UN, the distinction between left and right camps in Israel itself became clear once again.

In order to understand the impact of this statement on Israeli politics, it is perhaps important to analyze how Lapid, who never came anywhere near winning an election as prime ministerial candidate, became the one who now represents Israel on the world stage, and how he does it. The Israelis will soon move into their fifth election cycle in less than three years. The first four inconclusive elections focused on one, and only one, question: whether then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was fit to continue in his high office amid a spate of corruption allegations. The contenders, including Lapid, repeatedly claimed during the election campaigns that there was little disagreement between the left and right parties on major foreign and security policy issues of the state.

Lapid finally succeeded in removing Netanyahu from his position after a fourth campaign, despite Netanyahu's Likud party's solid electoral victory. He prevented Netanyahu from forming a government, in effect bribing Naftali Bennett to become prime minister. And this (despite the fact that Bennett only got 5% of the vote) was in return for him leaving his constituency and going over to Lapid's camp.   Bennett also reneged on his repeated pre-election promises to never enter into a coalition with Lapid or pursue a joint policy with him.

It is important to understand that Lapid offered the post of prime minister to his fellow MP, Bennett, because he could not come close to forming a majority coalition government. Bennett took the bait to realize his personal ambitions and became prime minister under an arrangement with Lapid for a one-year rotation. The coalition they formed included every single left-wing member of parliament. In particular, the Islamist self-proclaimed anti-Zionist party, which, according to the Israeli media, is an official branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (the organization banned in the Russian Federation). In addition, some right-wing defectors joined the coalition. They insisted that Netanyahu's continued rule posed a greater threat to Israeli stability than bringing in leftists and Islamists into key government ministries, including foreign affairs, defense and energy.  All members of the coalition agreed on one thing: regardless of their different ideologies, the question of Palestinian statehood would not be raised. However, despite the coalition agreement, it soon became clear that Lapid and his partners were laying the groundwork for a future return to the two-state paradigm.

Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and other left-wing ministers, including members of the far-left party Meretz, Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz, Minister of Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg and Minister of Regional Cooperation Issawi Frej, met Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, breaking a nearly 10-year boycott by Netanyahu-led Israeli government ministers.  Gantz even received Abbas at his home in Rosh HaAyin, and Abbas made his first diplomatic visit to uncontested Israeli territory in more than a decade. Gantz has repeatedly claimed that these meetings had only to do with important security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  Barely a year after the government was formed, the Bennett-led government collapsed – as many predicted and, according to a confusing coalition agreement, the dissolution of parliament and Bennett's subsequent resignation immediately led to the appointment of Lapid as "interim" prime minister until a new government could be formed following the November 1 elections.

Nevertheless, after Lapid's speech at the UN, a clear distinction between the Israeli left and right camps was once again evident. And it has great potential to be the defining issue of Israel's fifth election cycle.   By formally acknowledging his belief that "an agreement with the Palestinians based on two states for two peoples, is the right thing for Israel's security, for Israel's economy and for the future of our children," Lapid has changed the electoral paradigm. He wants to return to the issue that has defined the difference between the left and the right since former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the, according to the Israeli press, "infamous Oslo Accords of 1993."  The Oslo Accords divided the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria into separate but non-contiguous areas under Israeli and Palestinian control and were to lay the foundation for a formal two-state agreement based on the land-for-peace paradigm.

Many in Israel and around the world are now asking a very important question: does Lapid genuinely want a Palestinian state, or is this just another campaign stunt? In this regard, former Prime Minister and current opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed himself rather bluntly and sharply, "After a right-wing government led by me took the Palestinian state off the world's agenda, after we made four historic peace agreements with Arab countries that overrode the Palestinian veto, Lapid is bringing the Palestinians back to the forefront of the world stage and driving Israel right into the Palestinian hole." Harsher and more direct threats were made by Minister of Justice Gideon Sa'ar, who told The Jerusalem Post that the establishment of a terrorist state in Judea and Samaria would jeopardize Israel's security and that most Israelis and their representatives would not allow this to happen. And in the upcoming elections on November 1, it is not at all clear who will win, who will be the permanent prime minister and who will completely determine foreign and domestic policy – Lapid or Netanyahu?

The Palestinians themselves have little faith in the words of the current interim prime minister. Criticizing the Israeli government and its security forces, Palestinian Authority President Abbas said that Israel acts with total impunity against people in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and that Palestinian confidence in the prospects for peace is diminishing. Israel "is, through its premeditated and deliberate policies, destroying the two-state solution," the Palestinian president said in his address to the UN General Assembly. "This proves unequivocally that Israel does not believe in peace," he added. "Therefore, we no longer have an Israeli partner to whom we can talk."  Abbas said Israel was waging a campaign to confiscate land in the occupied territories and was giving the military complete freedom to kill or otherwise use excessive force against Palestinians. "This is the truth: they are an apartheid regime," he said.

Demanding that the international community hold Israel accountable "for the massacres they have committed," Abbas accused members of the United Nations of "protecting Israel" from such accountability. He reiterated the Palestinian position that the "Israeli case" should be referred to the International Criminal Court in order for it to be forced to "assume its legal, political, moral and financial responsibilities." Israel's staunch ally, the United States, is urging and putting enormous pressure on the Palestinians not to pursue the case before the ICC, brazenly arguing that the court is unfairly pursuing Israel. And what on earth can one expect from the international gendarme which has already "punished" several dozen countries of the world with just a stick and a cudgel?

Returning to Lapid's speech, it can be stated that he has so far held left-wing and progressive views, positioning himself as a "centrist" through a predominantly left-wing media.  Nevertheless, Lapid's speech at the UN clearly identifies him as the leader of Israel's left wing and demonstrates where he and his governing coalition will lead Israel if he is elected as permanent prime minister.  Regardless of whether Lapid loses the election or not, or whether Netanyahu becomes prime minister again, the main issue facing Israelis in the current election is now the question of the basis for the existence of the State of Israel, not just that of a single individual.

It seems that in this case one should carefully consider Russia's point of view, whose position on the settlement of the Palestinian problem remains unchanged: it must be resolved in accordance with the approaches of the UN Security Council and taking into account the interests of all inhabitants of the region. "The position of the Russian Federation on the Palestinian issue, on the settlement of the Palestinian problem, remains unchanged," Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stated, adding that"the Palestinian issue must be resolved in accordance with previous decisions taken at the level of the United Nations Security Council, on a just basis that takes into account the interests of all the people who live in the region, on the basis of two independent states."

Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook".

New Eastern Outlook
Wed, 28 Sep 2022 08:30:38 +0000

Disgruntlement with US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan Reaches Critical Levels


The wave of criticism of US Ambassador Kelly Degnan's activities has recently swept Georgia and gained critical momentum, along with the criticism of US policy in the country in general.

In an interview to the Public TV – First Channel, chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition Irakli Kobakhidze called "incomprehensible and offensive" the statement of Ambassador Kelly Degnan, who was openly biased in her assessment of changes in Georgian legislation expanding the powers of law enforcement agencies to wiretap suspected criminals, calling it a "blow to democracy." He also emphasized the "insulting" tone of the US Ambassador's comments on the four People's Power MPs criticizing her, as she had baselessly accused them of allegedly spreading "pro-Russian misinformation."  At the same time, he reminded the demagogic defender of "American-style democracy" Degnan that "MPs are elected by the people, they have special merit in the past."

Georgian MPs Sozar Subari, Dimitri Khundadze, Mikhail Kavelashvili and Guram Macharashvili, who left the ruling Georgian Dream Party on September 8 to be able to speak truth about the unfolding situation in the country, made further accusations against the US and US Ambassador Kelly Degnan. The letter of these parliamentarians published on the website of the Parliament indicates that Washington started to establish its network of agents in Georgia in late 1990s, then organized the "Rose Revolution" and achieved the formation of the vertical of power "under full control of the US Embassy in 2004-2012." For example, the letter states that the US Embassy is actively working to change the government in Georgia with the help of its agents – opposition leaders and leaders of influential local NGOs. The US Ambassador Kelly Degnan was blamed for coordinating the revolutionary scenario in Georgia.

As is well known from many Georgian and Western media publications, during the military actions in Ukraine, the West, having failed to achieve a coup in Tbilisi, began to intensively demand from the Georgian authorities to "open a second front" against Russia, but received a harsh rebuke from responsible Georgian politicians, who remember well how the adventure started by Saakashvili and the Americans behind him ended for their country. This is why Georgia is now taking a cautious stance and conducting a balanced policy towards Russia, understanding that the real processes in the region can be born and coordinated not only from the US, but also from the capitals of major regional powers – first and foremost Russia, but also Turkey and Iran. This was particularly confirmed by the second Karabakh war, after which the balance of power in the Transcaucasia changed radically, to the detriment of Georgia's former, almost monopolistic position in the region. Under these circumstances, the US attempt to padlock the Georgian "barn door" is no longer working, and the "cordon sanitaire" against Russia and Azerbaijan is falling apart.

Both Georgian media and many politicians of this Caucasian country have repeatedly stated that the US Embassy is working for a change of power in Georgia and that opposition leaders and heads of influential NGOs are among its "agents." They claim, for example, that not only former President Mikheil Saakashvili but also his successor, Giorgi Margvelashvili, were working for Washington. A confirmation of Washington's above-mentioned policy towards Georgia is the statement of US House of Representatives member Adam Kinzinger on September 9 that "pro-Russian influencers should be expelled from Tbilisi." And the inspiration for such actions among the Georgian population, according to this senator, should be the Georgian Legion fighting in Ukraine, whose militants have already tainted themselves with involvement in the torture and killing of captive Russian servicemen near Kiev.

Relations between the Georgian government and the US Embassy have become strained. The main credit here belongs to the US Ambassador to Georgia, Kelly Degnan, who has increasingly often made what Georgian politicians consider to be overly critical and inappropriate, for a diplomat, statements. For example, in her interview with Georgian media on August 17 this year, she referred to the June 20, 2019 coup attempt by the opposition as "Gavrilov's Night," after the Russian State Duma deputy Sergei Gavrilov, who at the time was in Tbilisi. This was the last straw that overflowed the "cup of patience" of the leaders of the ruling Georgian Dream Party, convincing many in the Georgian government that the "support for military rhetoric," desire for unrest and illegal change of power in Georgia stemmed largely from the US Embassy. However, as former MP Sozar Subari pointed out, it was the US Ambassador who went to great lengths to secure the release of the criminals (Nika Melia, Irakli Okruashvili and Gigi Ugulava), who were indicted for the events of June 20, from jail.

The US Ambassador's statements, in the style of Georgian opposition rhetoric, have proved irritating to many Georgian analysts. Independent Georgian MP Mikhail Kavelashvili, in an open letter to US Ambassador Kelly Degnan, accused her of supporting those Georgians who stand for the country's involvement in the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine.

According to analyst Zaal Anjaparidze, Ambassador Degnan "showed her claws," clearly intending to make the Georgian government feel that the US Embassy is "quite angry at it."

As a result, Georgian politicians have been increasingly asking themselves, just how acceptable to the Georgian society such a tone of the US Ambassador and, in general, the demonstratively contemptuous, bull-in-a-china-shop-like behavior of the US authorities towards Georgia really are?

Kelly Degnan will be finishing her ambassadorial work in Georgia in a few months' time, and the political community in the Caucasus republic is eagerly awaiting her departure. The fact that the mission of US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan "ended in failure" was recently announced by former Minister of State for Conflict Resolution, filmmaker Giorgi Khaindrava, who stressed that after the statements made by Degnan "a self-respecting diplomat would not have stayed in Georgia." Giorgi Khaindrava is sure that Ambassador Degnan failed "to improve relations" and started "to teach wisdom and propagate pseudo-ideals" in Georgia instead.

Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook".

New Eastern Outlook
Wed, 28 Sep 2022 08:11:29 +0000

Russia Shifts to a Zero-waste Nuclear Cycle in its NPPs


The global energy crisis, arguably the worst since 1973, is forcing adjustments in nuclear energy policy in the European Union and many other parts of the world. Washington's policy of squeezing Russia out of the European energy market, decommissioning European NPPs and forcing a "green agenda," for the express purpose of strangling its main economic rival, the EU, has completely failed.

Under these circumstances, a number of European countries have now turned to "reanimating" previously closed NPPs. Among such countries, France is probably the only one in the EU to have managed to preserve the future for its nuclear energy by withstanding the "green" attacks. However, due to corrosion, the timeline for restarting nuclear reactors has become longer and the works now conducted "require more time spent in the reactor section of the structures," the French news agency RFI reported. In this context, contractors of the French energy corporation EDF, which is involved in the maintenance of nuclear reactors, are studying the possibility of increasing radiation dose standards so that employees can work longer inside the reactor, an activity that was not originally planned.

With more than a third of EU countries (10 out of 27) advocating the inclusion of nuclear power in the list of sectors that contribute to environmental harm reduction, many states are seriously considering building NPPs both within the EU and beyond. For example, Rosatom has begun large-scale excavation work at the site of two new units of the Soviet-designed Paks NPP in Hungary. It operates four units with VVER-440 reactors, which generate almost half of Hungary's electricity. And with the planned commissioning of two new units, this share will double.

Kazakhstan decided to build an NPP on its territory, and to this end it studied the experience already accumulated in this area, in particular in Russia, France, Turkey, Hungary, Korea, and Kazakh experts visited an NPP in China. In general, there is a perception in Kazakhstan that this project should be implemented by an international pool of investors, which will take into account all the best technologies as much as possible. In particular, proposals from Rosatom, China's CNNC, Korea's KH&P, and France's EDF are being considered.

The Russian State Corporation Rosatom and the Iraqi Agency for the Control of Radioactive Materials are working together to update the bilateral regulatory framework and sign a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy.

Many other countries have also become keenly interested in Russia's capabilities and accumulated positive experience in building new NPPs. Russia and its relevant companies really do have something to show foreign customers and surprise them, especially with new technological solutions for the zero-waste nuclear cycle, already in use in Russia.

The interest shown by countries around the globe in building NPPs is justified, despite Washington's attempts to steer the world in a completely different direction by pursuing its own self-serving goals, in particular to push its own energy and "green technology" into the European market.

It is well known that nuclear power is one of the most environmentally friendly industries in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, and the issue has been receiving particular attention recently against the backdrop of climate change around the world. After all, nuclear power plants emit only 12 g of CO2 per 1 kWh, whereas natural gas emits 490 g/kWh and coal emits 820 g/kWh!

At the moment, the world's 440 nuclear power reactors produce around 10,500 tons of spent fuel per year. During energy production, nuclear power plants consume only about 5% of uranium and generate by-products such as plutonium, which, just like the remaining uranium, must be reprocessed.

However, the limited expansion of nuclear power plants is due to the fact that one of the main drawbacks of modern nuclear reactors is the large amount of spent nuclear fuel, whose storage poses high environmental risks and requires huge financial outlays. And the question of what to do with the spent nuclear fuel remains unresolved. Under these circumstances, many politicians prefer solar, wind and other renewable energy sources to nuclear power plants. Primarily because the used nuclear fuel remains radioactive and there is as yet no consensus in society or the authorities on what to do with it. Although everyone knows that spent nuclear fuel can be reused, in particular to produce huge amounts of zero-carbon energy, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

There are different reasons for not reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. For example, in the US government's position, the main obstacle to disposition is the fear of cost inefficiencies and the likelihood of nuclear proliferation. The 1977 decision by US President Jimmy Carter to ban the reprocessing of nuclear fuel is well known in this regard. Instead, it is buried deep underground.

A number of countries, notably France, the UK and Japan, have taken a different path, treating spent nuclear fuel as a valuable asset rather than just waste requiring disposal.

The unique zero-waste technology developed by Russia's nuclear scientists to recycle nuclear waste into new fuel has been an unquestionable breakthrough in this area. Based on this technology, the Brest-300 reactor has already been developed, a unique, 4th-generation closed-circuit reactor, whose introduction will definitively remove the shortcomings of modern nuclear reactors and all concerns about the possibility of processing waste for military purposes. Thus, if only Russian nuclear waste accumulated over 60 years were processed into fuel for Brest-300 reactors, it would last for several hundred years. In addition, this new reactor boasts the highest level of safety, durability, exceptionally "peaceful" features, impeccable environmental friendliness and cost-effectiveness.

Beloyarsk NPP Unit 4, with this new reactor using fuel produced from waste generated by conventional reactors, was brought to 100% capacity for the first time ever on September 23 this year. The loading of this reactor started back in June 2022, after which, for the first time ever, its entire core was converted to new plutonium-uranium MOX fuel. The name MOX itself is derived from Mixed-Oxide and means that nuclear fuel is composed of oxides of fissile material. In this case, from plutonium dioxide derived from spent nuclear fuel and depleted uranium oxide produced as a by-product of uranium enrichment.

The use of such fuel and the reactors developed in Russia for it bring the Russian nuclear industry closer to a new technological platform based on a closed nuclear fuel cycle, which will increase the fuel base of nuclear power tenfold and minimize the waste produced in the process. It will also certainly be of interest to many countries around the world.

Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook".

New Eastern Outlook
Tue, 27 Sep 2022 20:59:29 +0000

Futenma Remains a Thorn in the Side of US-Japanese Relations


The fate of the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, one of several operated by the US military on Okinawa, has been discussed many times in the NEO and is noteworthy from several angles. Above all, however, because not only are the answers to the two traditional questions "Who is to blame?" and "What is to be done?" still unclear, but even the meaning of each word that forms them. For the current situation associated with this base looks almost like a prototype of the plot of the famous novel "Airport" by Arthur Hailey

In the summer of 1945, following the occupation of Okinawa by US troops, an airstrip was built near the village of Ginowan, then home to just over ten thousand people. The US Air Force was going to use it in the planned months-long battle for the four "main" Japanese islands.

However, the war soon ended and the ensuing peaceful life in and around the airstrip consisted of two (apparently significantly interrelated) trends. First, the infrastructure of the airstrip itself continued to develop into what was to become the full-fledged Futenma base, which by the 1960s had come under the control of the USMC. Second, the village of Ginowan grew, eventually becoming a full-fledged city with a population of a hundred thousand. There are photos on the internet illustrating the current situation of the base in the city.

It can be assumed that somewhere in the mid-1990s, the following dialogue took place between the responsible representatives of the latter and the former, roughly as follows:

"- And what are you guys actually doing here in the middle of our city? Some parts from your machines are falling off and falling on the roofs of our schools. It's not just the teacher's voice that's inaudible, but the doors and windows are shifting.

- What do you mean "what are we doing"? We are protecting you from the Chinese-Communist threat.

- Oh good for you! Anyhow, could you do it somewhere else?"

In any case, in the second half of the 1990s, another US-Japanese joint paper on strategic issues of the bilateral military-political alliance pointed to the need to remove the Futenma base from the (now) city of Ginowan. Naturally, at the expense of the Japanese state budget.

Less than ten years later, a similar document (in 2006) outlined the main points of the respective project, namely the new location of the base, its future appearance, the tentative construction schedule and the expected costs. Futenma was expected to move to an artificially created coastal area in the second half of the 2010s next to another USMC base in the same Okinawa.

However, the construction that began took place against a backdrop of growing sentiment, always present in a significant part of the local population, in favor of a complete withdrawal of US military from the island. It should be noted that Okinawa is home to about two-thirds of the entire "Japanese" grouping of US forces.

The situation for the initiators of the Futenma relocation project began to look very bad after the election of former TV presenter Denny Tamaki as governor of Okinawa Prefecture (which includes the entire Ryukyu archipelago, stretching some 1,000 km) in autumn 2018. Although the new governor has continued to reclaim the necessary ground from the sea for the future airline with the help of construction waste and sand, he has upset many people, mainly in his own central government.

While not yet claiming a full US military withdrawal from Okinawa, Denny Tamaki has consistently made statements about the need to remove the Futenma from the island altogether. Although, judging by the available photos, the said coastal site for the future base has already appeared above the sea surface.

That is why the results of the latest gubernatorial elections in Okinawa Prefecture on September 10 were awaited with such tension in Tokyo. For the irrepressible Tamaki once again took part in the election. And he won again. The result was 50% in favor of Tamaki (out of 58% of those who turned up to vote), against 40% for the party coalition ruling in the country, which could well be considered a respectable victory for the candidate who had already held the same post.

The winner's mood, however, was spoilt by the fact that he lost the majority that had supported him earlier in the local parliament, as none of his supporters took up any of the vacant seats on the ballot. It is therefore more of a triumphalist political rhetoric that Tamaki said immediately after the announcement of the preliminary election results that "the thoughts of people in the prefecture [on the issue of relocating the Futenma base – author] have not wavered even a millimeter."

For the vast majority of those who came to vote, for whom it is not a question of where the base will go from the city of Ginowan but rather of the future economic development of the prefecture, the overwhelming majority voted for Denny Tamaki's opponent. They, and most likely the 40% of voters who did not turn up at the ballot box, are apparently happy with the ongoing project to relocate Futenma.

Be that as it may, judging from the same post-election speech, the new-old governor intends to continue obstructing the central government from implementing the adopted Futenma relocation project. The completion date has already been postponed (for the time being) to 2030 due to problems with the stability of the bulk soil. Incidentally, the repeated postponements have sometimes led to speculation that Japan is in fact building a base here for its own forces, not for those of the US.

Nevertheless, the fact that the source of (some) discomfort in US-Japanese relations remained to be governor of Okinawa prefecture proved to be very inconvenient for Tokyo, both for foreign policy and purely domestic reasons.

With regard to foreign policy, the outcome of the election under discussion represented a direct challenge to the various recent activities and public statements by decision-makers in both the US and Japan, which are designed to reaffirm the "cornerstone" nature of the bilateral military-political alliance in the entire US-Japanese relations system.

A week before the Okinawa elections, US Ambassador Rahm Emanuel went into unnecessary details in the leading Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun about the advent of the era of US-Japanese alliance projection in the Indo-Pacific region. Ten days later, the defense ministers of both countries met in Washington. Judging from the brief official statement, the two senior officials were just engaged in the said "projection" in the same "Indo-Pacific."

In Japan itself things are going very badly for the current cabinet of Fumio Kishida. The rating of the (outwardly quite positive) Prime Minister, with his vast experience in various public offices, is in free fall. Back in mid-July, i.e. in the first days after the "reformatting" of the government, the figure was still above 50%, having fallen by 6%, a month later it was already at 40%. A September 17-18 poll, on the other hand, found that Kishida's cabinet rating had plummeted below 30%.

This hasn't happened since 2006-2012, when Japan's Prime Ministers changed once a year and Washington said it had no time to remember the face of the head of government of a key ally in Asia. That period ended in December 2012 with the return to office of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, arguably the most important government figure of postwar Japan. The issue with the format of his funeral is now one of the major sources of internal trouble for the Kishida government. Others include the ongoing scandals over some kind of contact between a large part of the Japanese establishment and the so-called "Unification Church," and (mostly inherited) corruption scandals.

But the main source of increased internal nervousness remains, of course, global factors, driven primarily by the evolving global economic crisis and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. That is, those that are beyond the capacity of even a country like modern-day Japan to exert any significant influence.

In short, it is bad timing for Tamaki to once again become governor of Okinawa Prefecture, whose main island is home to most of the "Japanese" military contingent of Tokyo's key ally.

The continuing ambiguity surrounding the relocation of the US base, which is linked to the name of the governor of Okinawa, has been a source of considerable "turmoil" in US-Japanese relations.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook".

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