Saturday, March 15, 2008

Russia has checkmated the Pentagon, the JCS and the 18 US Intel services...

Russia has checkmated the Pentagon, the JCS and the 18 US Intel services...

***Russia's Trump Card in Energy [see below]

For the first time in the 60-year history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Russia will attend the alliance's summit meeting on April 2-4 in Bucharest, Romania.

It is clear that NATO will defer to a future date any decision to put Ukraine and Georgia on its Membership Action Plan. This means effectively that the two former Soviet republics cannot draw closer to NATO for another year at the very least, which in turn implies that the earliest the two countries can realize their membership claim would be in a four-year time frame.

That is a huge gesture by NATO to Moscow's sensitivities. Conceivably, it clears the decks for what could prove to be a turning point in Russia-NATO relations. Russia may be about to join hands with NATO in Afghanistan. A clearer picture will emerge out of the intensive consultations of the foreign and defense ministers of Russia and the United States within the so-called "2+2" format due to take place in Moscow from Monday through Tuesday next week. From the guarded comments by both sides and the flurry of US diplomatic activity, it appears highly probable that Russia is being brought into the solution of the Afghanistan problem, along with NATO.

According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant and the Financial Times of London, the initiative came from Russia when its new ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin - erstwhile Russian politician with a controversial record as a staunch Russian nationalist who routinely berated the West - signaled a strong interest in this area at a recent meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at Brussels. The plan involves Russia providing a land corridor for NATO to transport its goods - "non-military materials" - destined for the mission in Afghanistan. Intensive talks have been going on since then over a framework agreement.

From the feverish pace of diplomatic activity, the expectation of the two sides seems to be that an agreement could be formalized at NATO's Bucharest summit. In an interview with German publication Der Spiegel on Monday, Rogozin confirmed this expectation, saying, "We [Russia] support the anti-terror campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. I hope we can manage to reach a series of very important agreements with our Western partners at the Bucharest summit. We will demonstrate that we are ready to contribute to the reconstruction of Afghanistan."

Russian diplomats have been quoted as saying that Moscow is engaged in consultations with the governments of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan as regards the proposed land corridor to be made available to NATO.

Given the complicated history of Russia-NATO relations, the issue is loaded with geopolitics. Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted as much at a joint press conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Moscow last Saturday. He said, "NATO is already overstepping its limits today. We have no problem to helping Afghanistan, but it is another matter when it is NATO that is providing the assistance. This is a matter beyond the bounds of the North Atlantic, as you are well aware."

Putin also took the opportunity to harshly criticize NATO's expansion plans: "At a time when we no longer have confrontation between two rival systems, the endless expansion of a military and political bloc seems to us not only unnecessary but also harmful and counter-productive. The impression is that attempts are being made to create an organization that would replace the United Nations, but the international community in its entirety is hardly likely to agree to such a structure for our future international relations. I think the potential for conflict would be only set to grow. These are arguments of a philosophical nature. You can agree or disagree."

The implications are obvious. Russia would be willing to cooperate with NATO, but on an equal and comprehensive basis, and, secondly, the sort of selective engagement of Russia by NATO that the US has been advocating will be unacceptable to Moscow. Significantly, Putin frontally questioned the standing of NATO's monopoly of conflict resolution in Afghanistan.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has also separately signaled Russia's readiness to provide military transit to Afghanistan for NATO provided "an agreement is concluded on all aspects of the Afghan problem between NATO and the Collective Security Treaty Organization [CSTO]". Significantly, Lavrov was speaking immediately after the 7th session of the Russian-French Cooperation Council on Security Issues in Paris on Tuesday. He asserted that "most NATO members, including France", favor Moscow's idea of a NATO-CSTO cooperative framework over Afghanistan. Lavrov all but suggested that Washington was blocking such cooperation between NATO and the Russian-led CSTO.

On the face of it, Washington should jump at the Russian offer of support to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Pakistan has proved to be an unreliable partner in the "war on terror". The growing political uncertainties in Pakistan put question marks on the wisdom of the US continuing to depend so heavily on Pakistan for ferrying supplies for its troops in Afghanistan.

US military spokesmen are on record as saying that about three fourths of all supplies are currently dispatched to Afghanistan via Pakistan. There are fundamental issues as well, such as the US's continued ability to influence Pakistani politics and, indeed, the evolution of Pakistan's political economy as such in the coming critical period.

The coming to power of the Awami National Party (ANP), an avowedly Pashtun nationalist leftist party, in the sensitive North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, further complicates political alignments.

ANP leader Amir Haider Khan Hoti bluntly told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in an exclusive interview this week, "Our priorities are clear. We first want to move toward peace through negotiations [with the Taliban], jirgas [tribal councils], and dialogue. God willing, we will learn from [failed talks and jirgas in the past] and will try not to repeat the same mistakes. We will try to take into confidence our people, our tribal leaders, and our [clerics] - and together with them, we will try to move toward peace through negotiations."

Hoti didn't speak a word about the "war on terror" or the George W Bush administration's expectations of Pakistani military operations in the tribal areas. It remains a riddle why the Bush administration should have so far kept out of conflict resolution in Afghanistan countries such as Russia and China, whose interests are vitally affected, perhaps even more immediately than the US or European countries. As US statesman Henry Kissinger wrote in an article in the International Herald Tribune on Monday, "A strategic consensus remains imperative ... Pakistan's stability should not be viewed as an exclusively American challenge."

The million-dollar question is whether there is political will on the part of the Bush administration to reach a "strategic consensus" over Afghanistan with Russia at the forthcoming NATO summit. Clearly, Moscow is willing. NATO old-timers such as France and Germany, too, are conscious that the alliance may suffer a defeat in Afghanistan, which would be a catastrophic blow to its standing, and that NATO and Russia after all share the same goals in Afghanistan.

The Kremlin has badly cornered the Bush administration. Taking Russia's help at this critical juncture makes eminent sense for NATO. The alliance is struggling to cope with the war in Afghanistan. By the analogy of Iraq, some observers estimate that a force level close to half a million troops will be required to stabilize Afghanistan, given its size and difficult terrain.

But cooperation with Russia involves NATO embarking on cooperation with CSTO and possibly with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as well. (Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, addressing the Security Council in New York on Wednesday, proposed that for effectively combating drug trafficking originating from Afghanistan, a system of security rings promoted by Russia in the Central Asian region in recent years would be useful and that the potential of CSTO and SCO should be utilized.)

What worries the US is that any such link up between NATO and CSTO and SCO would undermine its "containment" policy toward Russia (and China), apart from jeopardizing the US global strategy of projecting NATO as a political organization on the world arena.

The most damaging part is that Russia-NATO cooperation will inevitably strengthen Russia's ties with European countries and that, in turn, would weaken the US's trans-Atlantic leadership role in the 21st century....Hence the USA considers old Europe as a full fledged enemy..., and has "thrown Turkey" in their faces, by way of having two full fledged enemies of the NEW USA.... fight it out...hoping that they will be both losers in the face of the US hegemons of the Energy Matrix....and the new world order of the evil alliance of CIA/MOSSAD.

At the meeting of the foreign ministers of the alliance at Brussels on March 6, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner urged the NATO Council to "take into account Russia's sensitivity and the important role it plays". Moreover, he argued, relations with Russia are already strained over Kosovo and the US's planned missile defense shield based in Europe, and should not be subjected to further strain. The French newspaper Le Monde quoted him as saying, "We [France] think that EU-Russia relations are absolutely important. And France is not the only country wanting to maintain a relationship with Russia as a great nation." (France is assuming the rotating EU presidency in July.)

Indeed, France is not alone in this respect. Germany also has lately shifted to equidistance between the US and Russia on global security issues and is reaching out once again - reminiscent of the Gerhard Schroeder era - as a strategic partner to Russia in European Union-Russia relations.

Two days after her recent visit to Moscow, Merkel addressed the prestigious forum of the German armed forces' top brass (Kommandeurtagung) in Berlin on Monday, where in the presence of NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, she brusquely proceeded to bury the proposals on NATO membership of Ukraine and Georgia even ahead of the Bucharest summit.

"Countries that are involved in regional or internal conflicts cannot become members," she said. Merkel added that aspiring countries must ensure that "qualitatively significant" domestic political support would be available for their accession to NATO. Germany has virtually blocked NATO's further expansion into the territories of the former Soviet Union - a declared goal of Russia.

By putting forth a bold blueprint of cooperation with NATO over Afghanistan, Russia has effectively challenged the US to make a choice. It is by no means an easy choice for Washington. How do you deal in the world of tomorrow with a country whose energy exports are close to reaching a milestone of US$1 billion per day? Russia's benchmark Urals crude topped a record of $100 per barrel this week and once it trades at $107.5 per barrel, the daily value of crude, refined products and gas exports will hit $1 billion. And, Russia's 2008 budget is based on an average Urals price of $65 per barrel.

Besides, post-Soviet Russia's influence in Central Asia has peaked even as the first real possibility of the emergence of a "gas OPEC" involving Russia and the Central Asian countries has appeared. This may well outshine all other foreign policy legacies of Russia in the Putin era. Russia has been for long seeking an association of former Soviet gas producers and exporters on the pattern of the oil cartel. Russia and the Central Asian suppliers - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan - have now agreed that starting in 2009, they will switch to the European price formula.

The move, which bears all the hallmarks of the Kremlin, elevates energy cooperation between Russia and the Central Asian producers to an altogether higher level of coordination and common strategy in foreign markets. The implications are far-reaching for European countries and the US. Russia has checkmated US-sponsored trans-Caspian energy pipeline projects...

Surely, the great shortfall in the Putin legacy has been the failure of his presidency to make Russia a full-fledged partner of Europe. He has now made an offer to NATO that is irresistible - making Russia a participant in the alliance's Afghan mission. The Russian offer comes at a time when the war in Afghanistan is going badly and NATO can afford to take help from whichever quarter help is available.

Washington faces an acute predicament insofar as Moscow won't settle for selective engagement by NATO as a mere transit route but will incrementally broaden and deepen the engagement, and major European allies might welcome it. Moscow insists on the involvement of the CSTO and even SCO. On the other hand, Russia's involvement could invigorate the NATO mission in Afghanistan and ensure that the mission is not predicated on the highly unpredictable factor of Pakistan's partnership.

Will Washington bite? Putin, with his trademark fighting spirit of a black belt in karate, could well be counting that his presidency still has five or six weeks to go and that is a lot of time for making Russia NATO's number one partner globally and ensuring a durable place for Russia within the common European home.

At the very least, history comes full circle when Putin arrives in Bucharest in the next 18 days for the gala 60th anniversary summit of the alliance. That would be 54 years since the Soviet Union suggested it should join NATO to preserve peace in Europe....
Russia's Trump Card in Energy

The good news is that panic scenarios about the world running out of oil anytime soon are wrong. The bad news is that the price of oil is going to continue to rise. Peak Oil is not our problem. Politics is. Big Oil wants to sustain high oil prices. Dick Cheney and friends are all too willing to assist.

On a personal note, I’ve researched questions of petroleum, since the first oil shocks of the 1970’s. I was intrigued in 2003 with something called Peak Oil theory. It seemed to explain the otherwise inexplicable decision by Washington to risk all in a military move on Iraq.

Peak Oil advocates, led by former BP geologist Colin Campbell, and Texas banker Matt Simmons, argued that the world faced a new crisis, an end to cheap oil, or Absolute Peak Oil, perhaps by 2012, perhaps by 2007. Oil was supposedly on its last drops. They pointed to our soaring gasoline and oil prices, to the declines in output of North Sea and Alaska and other fields as proof they were right.

According to Campbell, the fact that no new North Sea-size fields had been discovered since the North Sea in the late 1960’s was proof. He reportedly managed to convince the International Energy Agency and the Swedish government. That, however, does not prove him correct.

Intellectual fossils?

The Peak Oil school rests its theory on conventional Western geology textbooks, most by American or British geologists, which claim oil is a ‘fossil fuel,’ a biological residue or detritus of either fossilized dinosaur remains or perhaps algae, hence a product in finite supply. Biological origin is central to Peak Oil theory, used to explain why oil is only found in certain parts of the world where it was geologically trapped millions of years ago. That would mean that, say, dead dinosaur remains became compressed and over tens of millions of years fossilized and trapped in underground reservoirs perhaps 4-6,000 feet below the surface of the earth. In rare cases, so goes the theory, huge amounts of biological matter should have been trapped in rock formations in the shallower ocean offshore as in the Gulf of Mexico or North Sea or Gulf of Guinea. Geology should be only about figuring out where these pockets in the layers of the earth, called reservoirs, lie within certain sedimentary basins.

An entirely alternative theory of oil formation has existed since the early 1950’s in Russia, almost unknown to the West. It claims conventional American biological origins theory is an unscientific absurdity that is un-provable. They point to the fact that western geologists have repeatedly predicted finite oil over the past century, only to then find more, lots more.

Not only has this alternative explanation of the origins of oil and gas existed in theory. The emergence of Russia and prior of the USSR as the world’s largest oil producer and natural gas producer has been based on the application of the theory in practice. This has geopolitical consequences of staggering magnitude.

Necessity: the mother of invention

In the 1950’s the Soviet Union faced ‘Iron Curtain’ isolation from the West. The Cold War was in high gear. Russia had little oil to fuel its economy. Finding sufficient oil indigenously was a national security priority of the highest order.

Scientists at the Institute of the Physics of the Earth of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Geological Sciences of the Ukraine Academy of Sciences began a fundamental inquiry in the late 1940’s: where does oil come from?

In 1956, Prof. Vladimir Porfir’yev announced their conclusions: ‘Crude oil and natural petroleum gas have no intrinsic connection with biological matter originating near the surface of the earth. They are primordial materials which have been erupted from great depths.’ The Soviet geologists had turned Western orthodox geology on its head. They called their theory of oil origin the ‘a-biotic’ theory—non-biological—to distinguish from the Western biological theory of origins.

If they were right, oil supply on earth would be limited only by the amount of hydrocarbon constituents present deep in the earth at the time of the earth’s formation. Availability of oil would depend only on technology to drill ultra-deep wells and explore into the earth’s inner regions. They also realized old fields could be revived to continue producing, so called self-replenishing fields. They argued that oil is formed deep in the earth, formed in conditions of very high temperature and very high pressure, like that required for diamonds to form. ‘Oil is a primordial material of deep origin which is transported at high pressure via ‘cold’ eruptive processes into the crust of the earth,’ Porfir’yev stated. His team dismissed the idea that oil is was biological residue of plant and animal fossil remains as a hoax designed to perpetuate the myth of limited supply.

Defying conventional geology

That radically different Russian and Ukrainian scientific approach to the discovery of oil allowed the USSR to develop huge gas and oil discoveries in regions previously judged unsuitable, according to Western geological exploration theories, for presence of oil. The new petroleum theory was used in the early 1990’s, well after the dissolution of the USSR, to drill for oil and gas in a region believed for more than forty-five years, to be geologically barren—the Dnieper-Donets Basin in the region between Russia and Ukraine.

Following their a-biotic or non-fossil theory of the deep origins of petroleum, the Russian and Ukrainian petroleum geophysicists and chemists began with a detailed analysis of the tectonic history and geological structure of the crystalline basement of the Dnieper-Donets Basin. After a tectonic and deep structural analysis of the area, they made geophysical and geochemical investigations.

A total of sixty one wells were drilled, of which thirty seven were commercially productive, an extremely impressive exploration success rate of almost sixty percent. The size of the field discovered compared with the North Slope of Alaska. By contrast, US wildcat drilling was considered successful with a ten percent success rate. Nine of ten wells are typically “dry holes.”

That Russian geophysics experience in finding oil and gas was tightly wrapped in the usual Soviet veil of state security during the Cold War era, and went largely unknown to Western geophysicists, who continued to teach fossil origins and, hence, the severe physical limits of petroleum. Slowly it began to dawn on some strategists in and around the Pentagon well after the 2003 Iraq war, that the Russian geophysicists might be on to something of profound strategic importance.

If Russia had the scientific know-how and Western geology not, Russia possessed a strategic trump card of staggering geopolitical import. It was not surprising that Washington would go about erecting a “wall of steel”—a network of military bases and ballistic anti-missile shields around Russia, to cut her pipeline and port links to western Europe, China and the rest of Eurasia. Halford Mackinder’s worst nightmare--a cooperative convergence of mutual interests of the major states of Eurasia, born of necessity and need for oil to fuel economic growth--was emerging. Ironically, it was the blatant US grab for the vast oil riches of Iraq and, potentially, of Iran, that catalyzed closer cooperation between traditional Eurasian foes, China and Russia, and a growing realization in western Europe that their options too were narrowing.

The Peak King

Peak Oil theory is based on a 1956 paper done by the late Marion King Hubbert, a Texas geologist working for Shell Oil. He argued that oil wells produced in a bell curve manner, and once their “peak” was hit, inevitable decline followed. He predicted the United States oil production would peak in 1970. A modest man, he named the production curve he invented, Hubbert’s Curve, and the peak as Hubbert’s Peak. When US oil output began to decline in around 1970 Hubbert gained a certain fame.

The only problem was, it peaked not because of resource depletion in the US fields. It “peaked” because Shell, Mobil, Texaco and the other partners of Saudi Aramco were flooding the US market with dirt cheap Middle East imports, tariff free, at prices so low California and many Texas domestic producers could not compete and were forced to shut their wells in.

Vietnam success

While the American oil multinationals were busy controlling the easily accessible large fields of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and other areas of cheap, abundant oil during the 1960’s, the Russians were busy testing their alternative theory. They began drilling in a supposedly barren region of Siberia. There they developed eleven major oil fields and one Giant field based on their deep ‘a-biotic’ geological estimates. They drilled into crystalline basement rock and hit black gold of a scale comparable to the Alaska North Slope.

They then went to Vietnam in the 1980s and offered to finance drilling costs to show their new geological theory worked. The Russian company Petrosov drilled in Vietnam’s White Tiger oilfield offshore into basalt rock some 17,000 feet down and extracted 6,000 barrels a day of oil to feed the energy-starved Vietnam economy. In the USSR, a-biotic-trained Russian geologists perfected their knowledge and the USSR emerged as the world’s largest oil producer by the mid-1980’s. Few in the West understood why, or bothered to ask.

Dr. J. F. Kenney is one of the only few Western geophysicists who has taught and worked in Russia, studying under Vladilen Krayushkin, who developed the huge Dnieper-Donets Basin. Kenney told me in a recent interview that “alone to have produced the amount of oil to date that (Saudi Arabia’s) Ghawar field has produced would have required a cube of fossilized dinosaur detritus, assuming 100% conversion efficiency, measuring 19 miles deep, wide and high.” In short, an absurdity.

Western geologists do not bother to offer hard scientific proof of fossil origins. They merely assert as a holy truth. The Russians have produced volumes of scientific papers, most in Russian. The dominant Western journals have no interest in publishing such a revolutionary view. Careers, entire academic professions are at stake after all.

Closing the door

The 2003 arrest of Russian Mikhail Khodorkovsky, of Yukos Oil, took place just before he could sell a dominant stake in Yukos to ExxonMobil after a private meeting with Dick Cheney. Had Exxon got the stake they would have control of the world’s largest resource of geologists and engineers trained in the a-biotic techniques of deep drilling.

Since 2003 Russian scientific sharing of their knowledge has markedly lessened. Offers in the early 1990’s to share their knowledge with US and other oil geophysicists were met with cold rejection according to American geophysicists involved.

Why then the high-risk war to control Iraq? For a century US and allied Western oil giants have controlled world oil via control of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or Nigeria. Today, as many giant fields are declining, the companies see the state-controlled oilfields of Iraq and Iran as the largest remaining base of cheap, easy oil. With the huge demand for oil from China and now India, it becomes a geopolitical imperative for the United States to take direct, military control of those Middle East reserves as fast as possible. Vice President Dick Cheney, came to the job from Halliburton Corp., the world’s largest oil geophysical services company. The only potential threat to that US control of oil just happens to lie inside Russia and with the now-state-controlled Russian energy giants. Hmmmm.

According to Kenney the Russian geophysicists used the theories of the brilliant German scientist Alfred Wegener fully 30 years before the Western geologists “discovered” Wegener in the 1960’s. In 1915 Wegener published the seminal text, The Origin of Continents and Oceans, which suggested an original unified landmass or “pangaea” more than 200 million years ago which separated into present Continents by what he called Continental Drift.

Up to the 1960’s supposed US scientists such as Dr Frank Press, White House science advisor referred to Wegener as “lunatic.” Geologists at the end of the 1960’s were forced to eat their words as Wegener offered the only interpretation that allowed them to discover the vast oil resources of the North Sea. Perhaps in some decades Western geologists will rethink their mythology of fossil origins and realize what the Russians have known since the 1950’s. In the meantime Moscow holds a massive energy trump card.