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POTUS with Xi and Director Burns/ CIA with his Russian counterpart, in crucial meetings
Keep an eye on both of these
Today, two, high-level and important meetings took place hours before most of America was awake. In Turkey, CIA Director Burns met w/ his Russian counterpart, the first since Putin began his genocidal invasion of Ukraine. The other meeting in Bali, was President Biden meeting with Xi of China in a face-to-face summit. Both meetings are essential to our national security and that of our allies and partners.
Today, I’ll just briefly put both meetings into context so that they make more sense over the coming week as media reporting expands on the topics.
First, let’s look at the Biden/ Xi Summit
The US and allied national security community and those of our allies have long framed China as part of GPC, “Great Power Competition.” Simply stated, GPC is the competition by the world’s greatest powers, who are engaged in a contest to become a global hegemon… or rule the world, more by influence means than by military conquest. Military campaigns are not out of the question though as Putin has painfully demonstrated against our ally, Ukraine, they are costly, humiliating and are satuarated with other geo-political risks. China on the other hand, has a fairly decent actual strategy, albeit horribly managed, that puts coercive commercial and diplomatic power as the primary weapon system. Both are failing but yet, still threats to what is called, the “rules-based, international order.”
First things first, Russia is no longer a superpower with any chance of becoming a global hegemon. They essentially have two cash producing industries, oil and weapons. Oil is slowly becoming her only viable cash product due to the dramatic failure of their military and its weapon systems in Ukraine. Their current weapons customers must seriously be rethinking their investment into what had once been more formidable weapons. Now, due to corruption and greed, there is no reliability left, in the eyes of Putin’s customers. Economic sanctions, especially in regard to fossil fuels has cut deeply into the only real cash product they have left.
This now brings us to China, led by Xi. Xi has a stated policy of regional hegemony/ domination by 2035 and global by 2049. There is simply no debate about his intentions. I spent the better part of a couple of years doing narrative analysis of Xi’s intentions. The result is quite clear.
The following quote is from my research and describes precisely what Xi is up to and is after.
The world, All-Under-Heaven, is one, with China / the “Middle Kingdom” at the center and at the pinnacle, is an Emperor or “Son of Heaven”, the sole interface with heaven with no peer. The Han are the “enlightened “while everyone outside is “barbarian” and seeking a tributary relationship with enlightened China for commerce and protection. Those who do not voluntarily seek tributary status must be persuaded or conquered militarily. This will unify All-Under-Heaven under the Chinese paradigm of world order.
The only remaining question mark is will he keep making enemies or will he adapt and use, “honey instead of vinegar” to attract friends. The core of Xi’s strategy is built around his, BRI/ Belt and Road strategy which is grounded in the Silk Road history that connected the once unknown east with the rest of the world. Controlling the Silk Road meant controlling the nations it passed through. Now Xi’s strategy is aimed at controlling all of the primary shipping lanes at sea, digital communications, roads and bridges essential to global commerce and now also includes space.
Fortunately for the rest of the world, Xi has made a career of poor strategic decision-making. With his eye on domination rather than cooperation, he has lost the interest of most nations along his precious BRI, most importantly, it’s most strategically necessary corridors. One of those land corridors runs precisely through Ukraine who has China as one of their primary trading partners. Russia was to also benefit from this critical rail corridor and now… Putin keeps bombing that railway.
Okay, with the background set, POTUS and Xi met today due to the growing animosity between the US, the rules-based, international order and Xi. The point is that the world is symbiotically tied to China regarding commerce. What the world seeks from Xi is more along the line of behavior modification rather than defeat. The problem is, Xi is still fixated on “ruling the world” as described in the quote above. This is also complicated by the fact that Xi and Putin announced an alliance of sort just prior to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Now… Xi understands that he chose poorly, although it hasn’t woken him up to the fact that he bet on a loser as a valuable ally. To some extent, Modi of India made the same bet. Both now regret it.
The initial readouts from today’s summit in Bali suggest that both Biden and Xi planted their flags firmly in their positions on all matters related to national security. Xi’s disadvantage is that his is more like, “false bravado.” His military is untested and not up to taking on a collaboration of militaries that have ample contested experience, better weapons and command and control expertise. Commercially, China’s dominance in certain market areas is weakened due to Xi’s policies. Had he not just recently strong-armed the National Congress to gain another term, his policy failures may have caused him to be unemployed. Like emperors before him, Xi only knows the Chinese way. Failure to adapt to a changing world by default leaves a leader in a weaker position. Being unpopular at home for a variety of good and sometimes humorous reasons, certainly hasn’t helped his public stature. After all, it was Xi who banned “Winnie the Pooh” in China due to being nicknamed Pooh, due to his rather plump physique.
I have no doubt that this summit also included stern, bare-knuckled warnings about Russia, Xi’s aggression and the massive human rights failures of Xi’s China. This is intimated in the REUTERS article linked in today’s opening paragraph and here in the embedded link.
Director Burns and Mr. Naryshkin in Ankara (a truly beautiful city)
The other meeting of critical importance was held in Ankara, Turkey between CIA Director Burns and his Russian counterpart, Naryshkin, head of the SVR. The SVR is roughly the equivalent of the CIA or Britain’s MI6 for James Bond fans.
As always, there will be different readouts from US/ Western reporting than from Russia’s state-controlled news services. It is safe to say that several issues, some regarding critical threats were on the table for discussion.
The US is preparing to announce another round of sanctions against Russia and Russian oligarchs, inside or outside of Russia. Sanctions have crippled the Russian economy which already on life-support from their failed COVID response, the weight of staggering corruption and Putin’s reclusive existence.
No doubt that Putin’s recurring nuclear threats are also one of those critical topics. Any use would be a global game-changer, likely drawing NATO into a wide-ranging conflict with Russia. Even Putin’s teased use of tactical nukes or a dirty bomb would almost certainly trigger a proportionate response from the US and NATO. With the staggering incompetence of Putin’s army, he would be backed into a corner. He would have to decide to defend Mother Russia or capitulate. With his military decimated, his only real defense remaining, would be the use of WMD or the mobilization of all of his reserves. At this moment, he cannot even acquire or equip draftees for Ukraine. Still, Russian patriotism most likely would spur a better draft turnout if the Russian people felt themselves under attack, a paranoia in Russia for centuries.
Director Burns also indicated that he’d raise the issue of Britany Griner and Paul Whelan’s release. To be clear, Russia’s negotiations always begin with asking for the moon. Time will tell what’s on the table in this negotiation for the US.
Another item that I’m also sure is on everyone’s mind is global inflation. Putin more than any other factor is driving inflation in certain sectors of the economy. Fossil fuels is but one of them. No America, it’s not about the administration or US policy. It’s about a variety of factors regarding the world economy, Putin just being a primary destabilizing factor in oil markets.
So far, Putin has been intractable regarding his position on Ukraine and willingness to say, and/ or do anything to hold onto power in Russia. No doubt that Putin’s hold (or not) on power is something on Director Burn’s mind as he talks with Naryshkin.
Going forward, mark these two meetings and follow events related to them. Like a massive oil tanker at sea, global policy often turns very slowly. I project that today’s talks may have reinforced our stances on essential elements of great power competition while concurrently charting newer, slow turning courses. Don’t expect dramatic but there will certainly be hints for practiced watchers.
My best for everyone’s week,