Why the good guys need to keep it real when dealing with Russia and China

One thing about all the conflicts going on around the world today is that their underlying causes haven’t changed. War has always been all about resources — access to and control over it. This is essentially what aspirations to national “independence” are all about. They start with “oppressed” people complaining about being sick and tired of other people being in charge of their stuff. So independence “movements” are essentially people getting together and convincing themselves — and other people who care to listen — that they are no longer “victims”. Similarly, expansionist aspirations find their origins in similar sorts of desperation. Adolf Hitler rose to power on the back of an entire nation of desperate people longing to be free of other governments’ claims to their stuff as compensation for World War I. Hitler succeeded in turning Germany back into an independent society. Unfortunately Germany’s success went way beyond their expectations. From being merely independent they went on to become the preeminent European military and economic power of the time.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin

Russian leader Vladimir Putin

And so, countries form or disintegrate on account of their peoples’ resource access situation. Recently, the province of Crimea decided to secede from the Ukraine, its government voting to declare “independence”. Its fate as a political entity rests on future referenda and parliamentary resolutions within it and in Russia deciding whether it will remain independent or join the Russian Federation. Control of Crimean ports is essential to access to the Black Sea where recent joint exploration deals between the Ukrainian government in Kiev and big-time energy companies like Exxon, Shell, and Chevron have struck paydirt and promise to reduce the Ukraine’s dependence on Russia for its energy needs.

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Since the 1980s, the Soviet Union started offshore drilling for petroleum in the sea’s western portion (adjoining Ukraine’s coast). The independent Ukraine continued and intensified that effort within its Exclusive Economic Zone, inviting major international oil companies for exploration. Discovery of the new, massive oilfields in the area stimulated an influx of foreign investments. It also provoked a short-term peaceful territorial dispute with Romania which was resolved in 2011 by an international court redefining the Exclusive Economic Zones between the two countries.

Closer to home, the Philippines’ on-going face-off with Communist China over disputed West Philippine Sea territories is over the same prize — offshore oil. The Philippines is backed by a strong “legal” claim to the territories in dispute and adds teeth to that by invoking an old military treaty with its former colonial master, the United States. Joining government is Manuel Pangilinan’s Philex Petroleum Corporation representing part of the private sector’s agenda in the crisis, amazingly in partnership with Chinese state enterprise China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC)…

Philex Petroleum is the controlling shareholder of London-based Forum Energy, which operates the natural gas prospects in the Reed Bank of the South China Sea. Forum Energy had called off in October 2012 the planned survey of the sea floor to determine the potential gas reserves of Reed Bank, citing harassment by Chinese navy vessels months earlier. After Philex Petroleum made a request in 2012 to the Chinese government to consider a joint exploration of the disputed territory, Beijing nominated CNOOC to be the partner for the project.

Even closer than closer-to-home is Mindanao, which the Manila government is virtually shrinkwrapping into little packages to be stamped with one-way delivery bills to Malaysia’s or Indonesia’s modern-day sultans. It is easy to see that Mindanao may one day be the Philippines’ Crimea. But that’s another story to be told.

In both the Black and West Philippine seas, the United States and most of the Western world is behind the “victims” owing to multilateral agreements clearly spelt out in black-and-white. The Ukraine’s sovereignity over Crimea is endorsed by Western powers and the United Nations, and the Philippines’ claims over the Spratly Islands and other disputed islands in the region enjoy strong bases in International Law. Russia’s alleged preemptive military excursion into Crimea and China’s belligerent naval “exercises” in the West Philippine sea are attracting condemnation from “friendly” and powerful governments.

Unfortunately, the United States’ leadership in all this is suffering a crisis of credibility owing to its own sorry history of military adventurism whenever situations suit its national interests…

U.S. President Barack Obama, a former law professor who should know better, has charged Vladimir Putin, his Russian counterpart, with violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, in breach of international law.

But it is Obama, following in [former US President George W] Bush’s footsteps, who has repeatedly and cynically flouted international law by launching or backing myriad armed attacks on foreign soil, in Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan to name a few, without U.N. security council authorization. It is Obama’s administration which continues to undermine international law by refusing to join or recognize the International Criminal Court, the most important instrument of international justice to have been developed since 1945.

More importantly, the United States cannot afford to antagonise Russia and China lest it risk its own access to the “essential” resources it needs to keep its citizens fat and happy on a diet of fossil fuels and the “affordable” manufactured goods produced in the Third World.

Suffice to say, all attempts to philosophise war and national agendas lead to the same primal motivation that’s driven practically all of human history. When it comes down to it, at all levels of abstraction — from the individual micro level to the national macro level — we are essentially just sophisticated conduits for dissipating the planet’s stored solar energy into space — just another contributor to the universe’s increasing entropy.

Politicians make the whole exercise sound nice. Science makes it real.

[NB: Parts of this article were lifted from the Wikipedia.org article “Black Sea” in a manner compliant to the terms stipulated in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that governs usage of content made available in this site. Photo courtesy Daily Mail.]

13 Replies to “Why the good guys need to keep it real when dealing with Russia and China”

  1. Robert tiglao’s excellent series in manila times on indonesian billionnaire anthoni salim and how his group ‘bought’ the strategic assets of the philippines, using manny pangilinan as the front man, via hong kong based first pacific. (Manny pangilinan only having 0.1% shares)


    I cannot think of another country that would allow one foreign company to control, telecomms, water, electricity, media, mining.

    Now salim has sights set on mining in mindanao, sugar in luzon, and oil in recto bank. (Link with china oil -CNOOC – not surprising – salim family is chinese-indonesian and many chinese on board of first pacific)

    So in effect the very assets which should be protected have already been sold/controlled abroad, making certain politicians/presidents very rich in the process.

    1. Even on those rare occasions when the Philippine government follows through and accomplishes the job it is supposed to, Filipinos still end up suffering the consequences of its poor planning and bad decision making.

      Case in point: in 2010, Korea Water Resources Development Corp. (K-Water) won the bid to operate the 218-MW Angat hydroelectric power plant. In September 2013, K-Water finalised a partnership agreement with Ramon Ang’s San Miguel Group to operate the facility powered by water from Angat dam in Bulacan.

      On the surface this deal appears to be one of the few occasions where EPIRA and PSALM actually worked. When questioned, even the Supreme Court agreed that the privatisation was proper. San Miguel will have 60 percent equity in the Special Purpose Company (SPC) to be set up with K-Water.

      What seems to have been overlooked is the fact that Metro Manila depends on the Angat reservoir for 97 PERCENT of its water needs! The Philippine government never bothered to add NEW sources of water to the system to reduce our reliance on Angat.

      K-Water and San Miguel can only make money if they produce electricity. The Angat plant only produces electricity if water is released from the dam. By privatising the power generation facilities of Angat, they’ve created a legal boondoggle. The Koreans want full control over the release of water. The national government, on the other hand, through the MWSS, retains control over the water rights and, consequently, control over the release of water from the dam. Now we have a decision to make — either we forego the potential economic benefits of additional power for the Luzon grid or we run the risk of dying from thirst.

      From the start, it was stupid to pursue privatisation of a strategic asset without putting more thought into the idea. The primary purpose of Angat is WATER SUPPLY. It should be preserved and earmarked primarily for Metro Manila’s water needs. If electricity is to be produced by its hydroelectric power plant, that isn’t as important as our drinking water. It was WRONG to have offered this plant for privatisation in the first place.

      Right now, if our government were to return the money and walk away, they would be doing the right thing. They made a mistake and it is more important to rectify it rather than to consummate a bad deal.

  2. Oil is both a blessing and a curse to mankind. The politics of oil is littered with blood and greed. Putin is doing the same, as Hitler did , before World War II. Hitler annexed Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia; then swallowed the whole country , afterward. Hitler’s reason was of the “oppresed” ethnic Germans, living in the area. Crimea is the same; ethnic Russians, who wanted to be part of Russia. This is history repeating itself. We hope that cool heads will prevail; to avoid World War III.

    Anyway, Science is researching for other Sources of Energy. It may be the refining of the Atomic Reactor’s design. Or, it may be Cold Fussion of Atoms…I keep my fingers cross…

    1. UHHHHH Cold Fusion is not possible. there is a little problem called the Coulomb barrier makes it impossible to create cold fusion.

      1. @Jim Arndt:

        Anything is possible. People told Henry Ford,he cannot create an 8 cylinder car; and his contraption (Model T Ford car), will never be bought by people.
        Now, his cars (contraptions) are everywhere , around the world.

        1. Anything is possible according to the laws of nature. But cold fusion is not possible period because of the temps need just to make it happen you can’t simply void the laws of physics.

        2. Laws of Physics on this Planet Earth, seems cannnot be voided. How can you explain those UFO’s who can travel more than the speed of light? And can violate the Planet Earth’s Laws of Physics,at will . There are many things, we have yet to know…the Earth is not flat …

  3. These complicated political and military dramas resulting to war and disagreement and whatnot are results of pride and greed. One nation greedy enough to acquire the resources of another to make itself powerful, with the other doing its terms to keep its sovereignty.

  4. Well were do I start. The International Court, Follies of intervention or oil.

    I find it difficult to compare military actions to take sovereign land from a country for one thing… really bombing some terrorist to annexation of sovereign land of another nation. The international court is a folly full of puppets whose only idea of justice is social justice and progressives plying against capitalism. As for oil it should be noted that the US will be a net exporter of NG and oil in just a few years so no need for Russian or OPEC oil. Obama’s main problem here is nobody trust him at his word. He says do do it or I will say don’t do it again is not very threatening. I think you should read this pieces by Luboš Motl about Russia and Ukraine. http://motls.blogspot.com/2014/03/is-detachment-of-crimea-from-kiev.html

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