Below is an interview Political Analysis South Africa’s Managing Director and Political Analyst, Mzoxolo Mpolase, had with Geopolitical Analyst, Pepe Escobar, on the Trump Doctrine.
Interviewer: Trump made this address, and one of his salient themes was this idea of sovereignty and national interest, at least for his country; not this new axis of evil. And, of course, written on your Facebook, this notion of sovereignty for others and a play on this ‘Animal Farm’ like thinking. So, what is your sense of that thinking; is that what underlines the Trump Doctrine?
Pepe Escobar: Well, it is really Orwellian, because, sovereignty applies to who Washington decides must be sovereign. So, are considered a rouge regime, and we know the criteria across the beltway especially the Pentagon and the CIA. For them, I would say, at least twenty or thirty, governments all across the world are considered rogue regimes. But, we always come back to the main protagonists; right. So, no wonder that North Korea and Iran are part of the new axis of evil – because, they are part of the top five Pentagon threats. So, terrorism – ISIS, the Middle East, is not nearly as vicious as the Rennie regime according to the Pentagon. And, this past week, in fact, these past few days, we had the CENTCOM (the United States Central Command) come, under General Dunford, saying that actually the main threat is China – it is not Russia, anymore. So, you can see those crazies, those Dr Strange (love) replicas in the beltway refining their paranoia. One day they are aligned with Kissinger, the next day they are aligned with the dead Brzenski, the next day they everybody is a rogue regime, and of course Iran is always there for obvious reasons. Because, that famous old project of destabilising the greater Middle East, not only was frustrated in Syria, because of Russia of course, and because, of the Syrian population for that matter – because, they said “no, we are not going to be a new Turkmenistan, here”. It is best coordinated by foreigners, right. The whole plan collapsed and on top of that there was the Iran nuclear deal clenched in 2015. So, for the neocons, they always have to go back to the same thing – Iran is part of the axis of evil.
And then, they included South America, which – we have to take a longer view here. Venezuela is essential because they have the largest, unexplored oil reserves on the planet, not to mention they are close to the Amazon, as well. So, for (Durand Corporation) all those usual suspects in Washington and Maryland, Venezuela must be back in the fold; and since, (they) were already an unofficial member of the previous axis of evil. That is the main reason, and, no wonder, because there is an active, but not exactly subtle; it is subtle for people in the West, but people in South America are very much aware – the America are coordinating with the Colombian, Peruvian, and the currently, absolutely disgusting Brazilian government, held by the guy who owns a ninety-seven percent rejection rate; they are coordinating in the tri-boarder of Peru, Colombia and Venezuela. Military exercises there, are sort of a rehearsal for regime change in Venezuela, as soon as they have the ideal opening. So, it makes sense – the new triad, the new axis of evil, makes sense.
So, this has nothing to do with sovereignty, it has to do with America’s geopolitical interests, and of course those countries are judged to be too independent or not dependant enough because they are not part of the American, global, unilateral system. And we could add Syria, as well, but now they are trying to go for a plan B in Syria, using the Kurds. They tried and it did not work, and now they are going to use the Syrian Kurds, the IPG. And, the Syrian Kurds, they are foolish enough to fall into this trap. The war in Syria is far from over, and Syria, I would say, is the fourth unofficial member of the axis of evil, and there is the fifth, which is Cuba – which was actually mentioned in passing, by Trump in his address, right.
In your piece, you made mention to this notion of American carnage. You are articulating all of these geopolitical interests, and corporate interests, as it relates, for example, to South America, but the person in charge is perhaps not able to articulate it in that manner. So, I sometimes ask myself, and I guess many do ask themselves, is it a case of Trump being a useful fool, or is it just him trying to disrupt to no end, or is there some thinking or strategy to this? What is the end-game, for Trump, at least?
That is very, very good question because, let us say that in the first two or three months, many of us were thinking that he was not exactly a useful fool; that he wanted to implement what he had promised. And in terms of foreign policy, would be disengaging from regime change operations, trying to interfere in the Middle East, trying to at least compose with Russia. He was very ant-Chinese even before he took over, so we were more or less focused on “okay, he is going to start a sort of trade war against China. So, in the end, after those first three or four months, and considering the fact that his inner-team basically was expelled from the White House, including Steve Bannon. And there was, what is now more or less acknowledged by people who have no ideological prejudice, and they try to do an impartial analysis on what goes on in Washington. There has been a military coup, in fact, foreign policy now is run by three generals – it is a military junta. It is Kelly, and McMaster and that explains the new mini-surge in Afghanistan, which is a joke – four thousand extra soldiers are not going to do what the previous one hundred thousand, could never accomplish in Afghanistan. And if you have been to Afghanistan, at least once, you understand why it will never work; but, okay, from the Pentagon it is always a ‘strategic surge’ and what I always call “the global war on terror – the gift that keep on giving.”
And, in terms of Russia, obviously, there is no possibility of a reset with Russia, and the fact that now, what Dunford said this week is very, very important, in fact, because the number one enemy, until a few months ago, until last week, was Russia. And now it is China, which means that for the Pentagon, for the CIA, for the intel agencies; they are finally waking up to the fact that the loss of economic primacy by America is practically irreversible – it may take five years, it may take seven, it may take ten; they are already projecting 2025. That is eight years from now, it is nothing, literally; and they are absolutely terrified because, although you read in America, that China-Russia is an alliance of convenience – no, it is not. It is a real strategic partnership, and it is so complex and has been evolving, especially, for the past five years. Si Jinping and Putin, they meet four or five times in person, not to mention all those innumerable phone calls. They are aligned in terms of going for a multi-polar world inside the BRICS, except forget about Brazil, and forget about India – India is a mess; nobody can trust India, especially with that ruling class that they have over there, they will be playing double game or triple games; they do not even know what is best for their own country.
Russia-China, strategic partnership – the new Silk Roads merging with Eurasian Economic Union, they are doing business in their own currencies, buying oil or gas from Russia in Yuan, so it is an enormous, vast, complex, comprehensive strategic partnership. And this, from an American point of view especially, even if you follow Kissinger, or if you follow of the dead Brzenski doctrine, it is the ultimate nightmare – it is the emergence of a double (beer) competitor in Eurasia, it is not only China or only Russia. It is a monster, pure competitor that is going after with you with all the weapons that they have, especially economic and financial weapons. And, if we have the petrol Yuan, which is already taking shape a little bit of everywhere, can you imagine in the near future, let us say Saudi Arabia – they know that their future lies in business with China, and in fact, they are the number one supplier of oil to China, and there is a lot of Chinese investments in refiners in Saudi Arabia etc. Can you imagine the day that Saudi Arabia goes to the petrol Yuan? Obviously, the CIA is going to impose regime change in Riyadh – but, that is another story.
But, can you imagine the day when they actually start trading oil with China in Yuan, then that is it – that it is the end; and it could be only a few years away. Iran is already trading oil in Euros, and soon with China in Yuan. So, Qatar, which was outstanding now that they are practically split from the GCC .And, they are aligning with Iran more or less; sooner or later, they are going to start selling their oil, not in Dollars anymore, so you can imagine what it means for an exceptionalist mindset in Washington, especially after World War II. That is it; the unilateral order is practically dead, in fact. They simply cannot find recipes for “let us get our power back,” except from nominating all the pure competitors, or emerging powers, as threats – which is the case of Russia, China and Iran. North Korea is a completely different matter, of course, because it is a matter that was not solved in 1953.
Trump had built himself as this unconventional, against the establishment, candidate but whether that is just rhetoric is another point. But, he has really been willing and looking up to the military, so what is the motivation for him, at least, to look up to these Generals, whether retired, because, it is still the military, as you say? Why is he so willing to work with them, despite the fact that he had said that he was going to Washington to change a whole lot of other things, and basically has embraced the military, which is “part of the establishment,” I would imagine?
One of my best sources in New York tells me that it because he went to Military School, and he has had veneration for Iron Man since he was a kid – but that is the fun explanation, right. The obvious explanation, which I think is more plausible, is the fact that there was actually a coup; that the deep state cornered him, and it was a goal game against Trump, and trump does not know how to play goal, obviously. And, he was cornered by the Pentagon, everywhere, so in the end he has to yield, and let us say he was seduced, by the notion that his Generals know more about foreign policy than he does, considering that he knows nothing about foreign policy. It is not very hard, is it? And McMaster, I see, he was the brainchild; Kelly, was also a very, very clever operator; because, they are inside the White House, and the National Security Council, it was easier to, after a few months, convince Trump that, “look, leave it to us,” you know. So, Afghanistan, it is still complicated, we will find a solution, Middle East – same thing; obviously, they cannot say that, vis-a-vis China, of course. Trump does not see his cosmology, let me put it this way; he does not see China as a military competitor – he is obsessed by the fact the China, and according to him, China, Japan and Germany, are not playing the game by the rules, and they are sabotaging the American economy. This is what he, thinks.
So, if he subcontracts foreign policy to the Generals, at least he can concentrate a little bit more on what matters to him, which is internal problems of the U.S. Basically, what he did; this huge tax-break for the rich, who are people who put money in this campaign – this is what they voted for; “okay, we need more money. Okay, there you are.”
And, in creating these minor diversions with the NFL players; this is what he is good at, as a showman. He does not understand foreign policy, and it is too complex for him, because he will have to go to Foreign Policy 101, and there is no time for that. And, from the point of view of the Pentagon – Manna from Heaven, the problem is, how are they going to coordinate with him, for instance, on what to do with North Korea? Because, even the Pentagon does not know; they have a few facts hurled in front of their faces, and the facts were hurled by China and Russia, once again. China said, “Look, if North Korea attacks the United States, unprovokedly; we are not going to do anything, we are going to be neutral. But, if you attack North Korea, we are going to defend North Korea,” after all, they have a Security Pact for what, five decades now, and it is renewed every ten years or so. So, the Pentagon got the message – they are not going to start a war against China, in Northeast China, this is out of the question.
And, Russia and China, at the same time, have been working; it is very subtle but, very effective, trying to find a compromise with North Korea. Ralph, said that, a few days ago if I am not mistaken, we are having informal, sort of secret, contacts with North Korea, just to try to diffuse the situation. At the East Asia Summit, in Vladivostok, about two weeks ago, the two Koreas were there, and we had the South Korean delegation, and the North Korean delegation, talking to Putin face-to-face – nobody is doing this anywhere; only the Russians. Not even the Chinese had a meeting like this. And, the North Korean delegation said, “okay, look, we agree in principle, with the fact that there has got to be done some more economic integration between South Korea, North Korea, the Far East, the Russian Far East etc., but, not now. Meaning, first we need to solve the Korean War – this means a real Peace Treaty ending the Korean War, because we all know, there is just an armistice, lasting for sixty years; which is completely absurd. And, after that, they are willing to discuss anything, including South Korean investment, Russian investment, investment in North Korean imports, building that famous trans-Korea railway from North Korea, across South Korea, to the Russian Far East.
And this brings us back to what? The Chinese new Silk Roads, and the Eurasian Economic Union – connectivity, trade and investment, integration of Eurasia; this is the main project for the 21st Century, for all these countries, South Korea included, Japan included, Central Asia, Afghanistan – everybody. And, the Americas – the only thing they can talk about, think, and spread all over the world is, “okay, threats – Russia, China, North Korea and Iran; New axis of evil – China is still the main attraction instead of Russia; the Russia gage is still going on even though it has been “debunked, thoroughly, everywhere.” So, you see the difference in the priorities across Eurasia, including Africa, of course, because Africa is part of the neo-Silk Roads, the BRICS, and the Pentagon, CIA, Intelligence Community, Capitol Hill, priority. Now, the clash could not be more graphic, I would say.
One thing that I have noticed, even during the side meetings at the UN General Assembly, is that this transactional language of Trump, or this transactional thinking, seems to take hold; whether it be NATO – ‘they are not paying their way;’ whether it be the UN – ‘they are not paying their way,’ he would argue. ‘The Iran deal is a bad deal, because someone is not paying their way,’ he would argue. Even how he spoke of the Israeli-Palestinian process, he said that, if it works, it will be a great deal, so taking this sort of Trumpism, if you like. So, would you say, America is holding onto its uni-polar sense, and this changing nature of its hegemony, and new threats from Russia and China – what would be the value, or how will this sort of transactional thinking, that everybody needs to pay their way. Because, despite the fact that Trump might be a bumbling fool, one would argue, this transactional thinking seems to be taking hold, in that people are starting to think of cost and benefit, to international relations, to foreign policy, and to bilateral relations in general.
I would say that the test is going to be on October 15th, if he is going to back away from the Iran deal. If he does that, and all evidence that we have at the moment is that, he is going, at least, to ask for a negotiation of a deal, that is already a pretty decent deal. Look, I was there, in Vienna in 2015, following the negotiations themselves, and the Iranians were telling us all the time that, every day the Americans had a new Clause, or Sub-clause, or they wanted something else, and even Europeans were starting to be fed up with it. Obviously, Russia and China always said “no, these are the terms,” and the Americans, they were trying to modify the deal. So, once again, I think that Trump will at least, try to modify a deal that was agreed to by everybody. It is not ideal, but it is the best deal that they could come up with at the moment, and everybody agrees with it, and Iran is not expecting that, “finally, the sanctions will disappear.” No, the American sanctions will never disappear against Iran.
So, obviously they are frustrated, and said, “okay, if America pulls out, then we are going to pull out, our own way, as well,” and the Europeans said “no, no renegotiation of the deal.” Even that stupid Mogherini, she is dumb, but sometimes, at least, they tell her what to say, very explicitly. She said, explicitly, “No, you will not renegotiate the deal.” The Russians and the Chinese, we do not even talk about. So, it is going to be, once again, a unilateral American action disturbing, harassing or destroying a perfectly decent deal. And, it is going to send a message to everyone around the world, dealing on every setup – be it a nuclear deal, or an economic deal, NAFTA possible bilateral deals with Asian countries, you name it. And you cannot trust them, and this is what the relations have been saying for a while – you simply cannot trust them, on anything. And they are already fedup; even Ralph, who I think is the coolest pro in the business – he is already fed up with this, and now he is saying so, publicly, and on the record.
Putin already said, that “I cannot deal with people who cannot distinguish Austria from Australia,” because, that sums it all up. But, let us see what happens with the Iran deal – if nothing happens with the Iran deal, maybe, the transactionalist expansions will take hold, somewhere. But, the way I see it, most people are saying this to appease Trump, at least for a day for a few tweets, or a few days. Mahmoud ended up asking Trump to be an impartial mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian drama; it is absolutely out of the question – he just needs to look at who is surrounding Trump in the beltway, to see that it is a non-starter, in fact. The Iranians do not trust him, the Russians and the Chinese do not trust him, North Korea is contacting American Intelligence Officers to know how to deal with Trump. So, even if, there would be a peace negotiation between Washington and Pyongyang, the North Koreans, I am sure, would never trust this. He had no political capital to speak of when he landed. Now, he has, I would say, ‘six feet under’ political capital to deal with. The Europeans are absolutely horrified, especially, after that Congress thing of imposing sanctions on European companies dealing with Russian energy giants. They said, “no, there is no way we are going to follow this – you are interfering in our own Energy Policy,” which by the way – they do not have. But, at least they are in Europe still, so if you have Austrian companies, German companies, doing business with Gazprom; are they going to going to be sanctioned by the U.S. Which is completely absurd? So, I think it is all over the place – the fact that, it is an untrustworthy administration, because the system behind the administration is also untrustworthy.