British Defense Minister Questions America's Superpower Status

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace appears to be questioning whether the United States is still a superpower after its recent hasty retreat from Afghanistan. Wallace served in the British military prior to entering politics. 

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace


In an interview with Katy Balls recently published in The Spectator, Wallace said: "It is obvious that Britain is not a superpower. But a superpower that is also not prepared to stick at something isn’t probably a superpower either. It is certainly not a global force, it’s just a big power". "Britain hasn’t been able to field a mass army for 50 years — if not longer". "It was always part of a massive international effort — so I think our defense paper is in exactly the right space". Britain, he says, still has "a huge range of tools at our disposal: from soft to hard power, economic power, scientific power and cultural power".    

Wallace appears to be developing a reputation as a straight-talker who has angered some among the western elite. He recently defended British Defense Forces Chief General Sir Nick Carter's remarks supporting Pakistan. Responding to the familiar charge of "safe havens" for Taliban in Pakistan, General Nick Carter told BBC's Yalda Hakim that Pakistanis have hosted millions of Afghan refugees for many years and "they end up with all sorts of people". "We would be very worried if they heartlessly kicked out" the Afghans from Pakistan. He said that Pakistan's Army Chief General Bajwa genuinely wants to see a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. 

General Sir Nick Carter also called the Taliban "a group of country boys who live by a code of honor" and said that they wanted an "inclusive" country. When asked about these comments, Wallace said in Carter's defense: "He also said that he will see if they change. We are where we are, the Taliban are running the country." Asked whether he was defending Sir Nick, Mr Wallace said: "Of course I am defending him. Nick Carter knows more than I will ever know about Afghanistan and the Taliban and more than most people. He is a deeply experienced general. He also told the BBC it "may well be a Taliban that is more reasonable, less repressive and, if you look at the way it is governing Kabul at the moment, there are some indications that it is more reasonable".  

While Wallace is the first among top western leaders to question the United States status as a superpower, there have been others such as Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani who has been talking about it for sometime. 

Mahbubani, a prolific writer and speaker, believes that the western domination of the world over the last 200 years is "aberrant" when seen in the context of the last several thousand years of human history.  In his book "Has China Won", he writes that "we are also moving away from a black-and-white world". "Societies in different parts of the world, including in China and Islamic societies, are going to work toward a different balance between liberty and order, between freedom and control, between discord and harmony". 

Kishore Mahbubabi


In a recent interview, Mahbubani made the following points about US-China competition: 

1. The United States with about 240-year history likes to pass judgement on China which has over 2,400 year history. What makes the US think China would listen to the American advice? 


2. The West is in the habit of judging everyone, including the Chinese. The Chinese have just had the best 30 years of their history. Would the Chinese listen to the American advice on "democracy" and political freedoms after they have seen what happened to Russia when the Russians decided to adopt democracy in the1990s and their economy collapsed? 

3. More than 120 million Chinese tourists go to other countries freely and willingly return to China every year. Would they return freely if China was an oppressive stalinist regime? The fact is that while political freedoms have not increased there has been an explosion of personal freedoms in China over the last 30 years.

Global Power Shift Since Industrial Revolution



A recent post-COVID survey conducted by the Washington Post shows that Chinese citizens’ trust in their national government has jumped to 98%. Their trust in local government also increased compared to 2018 levels — 91% of Chinese citizens surveyed now said they trust or trust completely the township-level government. Trust levels rose to 93% at the county level, 94% at the city level and 95% at the provincial level. 

An earlier 2018 World Values Survey reported that 95% of Chinese citizens said that they have a great deal or quite a lot of trust in the national government. Comparatively, about 69% felt the same way about their local government. 

Here's a video of Mahbubani's interview:

https://youtu.be/KaPFmYxWMzI




Comments

Riaz Haq said…
#Tech #economy needs rare earths (#Lithium), and #Afghanistan has got a lot of them. "The #Chinese and the #Pakistanis and the #Russians are very much interested. And China has been dominating the critical, rare strategic metals market for the last decades"https://www.marketplace.org/2021/09/03/afghanistan-has-minerals-tech-economy-needs/

Ryssdal: All right, so make the turn here toward geopolitics for me, and I realize that’s not necessarily your specialty. But if the United States and the U.K. and most of Europe is not in the foreseeable future going to have business dealings with Afghanistan, as it’s run by the Taliban, but the Chinese are and the Russians might, that’s a balance of power thing.

Pitron: The Chinese and the Pakistanis and the Russians are very much interested. And China has been dominating the critical, rare strategic metals market for the last decades. So the fact that this potential is available, at least potentially to the Chinese, shows that after the 19th century, which was dominated by the English with the coal industry, and the 20th century, which was dominated by the Americans, thanks to their domination of the oil industry, then we’re moving to an age of where the Chinese are already controlling the metals industry for the [inaudible] energy revolution.

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The United States has pulled out of Afghanistan. But 11 years ago, Pentagon officials and American geologists discovered nearly $1 trillion in mineral deposits there, including elements and metals that are needed to power the growing tech economy. Lithium, for instance, is key material in making batteries for cellphones, laptops and electric vehicles. Getting those minerals out of the ground and building an industry around them is another issue in a country with deep political and economic instability.

“Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal spoke with Guillaume Pitron, a French journalist and author of “The Rare Metals War: The Dark Side of Clean Energy and Digital Technologies,” about the geopolitics of rare materials. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Guillaume Pitron: [Afghanistan] is said to be a country where you can find lots of copper, lots of lithium, rare earths elements, platinum, bauxite and other resources of this kind.

Kai Ryssdal: And the net worth, as it were, of those things even in the ground, before we get to actually getting them out of the ground in Afghanistan, the thing that makes it dynamic right now, is that we more than ever depend on those minerals — the lithium and the cobalt and all of that — for batteries and all of the things we need for this economy right now.



Pitron: The energy transition is a metallic transition. we would like to do away with oil and coal. But on the other side, we’ll have to tap into these minerals. And actually, the International Energy Agency, recently this year, published a report saying that our needs for these commodities will explode in the next decades for making the green revolution possible. And Afghanistan has these resources.
Riaz Haq said…
Afghanistan is rich in resources like copper, gold, oil, natural gas, uranium, bauxite, coal, iron ore, rare earths, lithium, chromium, lead, zinc, gemstones, talc, sulphur, travertine, gypsum and marble.



https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/what-are-afghanistans-untapped-minerals-resources-2021-08-19/


Returning to power in Afghanistan after a 20-year absence, the Taliban have regained control of natural resources that a former mines minister of the country once said could be worth up to $3 trillion.

That estimate was made toward the end of the last commodities supercycle in 2010 and could be worth even more now, after a global economic recovery from the coronavirus shock sent prices for everything from copper to lithium soaring this year.

Afghanistan is rich in resources like copper, gold, oil, natural gas, uranium, bauxite, coal, iron ore, rare earths, lithium, chromium, lead, zinc, gemstones, talc, sulphur, travertine, gypsum and marble.

Below is a breakdown of some of Afghanistan's key resources, as estimated by the country's mining ministry and the U.S. government, as well as their potential monetary value for the war-ravaged Afghan economy if security challenges can be overcome.


COPPER

A 2019 report by Afghanistan's Ministry of Mines and Petroleum put the country's copper resource at almost 30 million tonnes.

This giant asset is still to be developed but the 11.08 million tonnes of copper MCC estimates it to hold would be worth over $100 billion at current London Metal Exchange prices .

OTHER METALS The 2019 report also said Afghanistan had more than 2.2 billion tonnes of steelmaking raw material iron ore, worth over $350 billion at current market prices.

Gold resources were much more modest at an estimated 2,700 kg, worth almost $170 million, while the Afghan ministry also said base metals aluminium, tin, lead and zinc were "located in multiple areas of the country."


LITHIUM AND RARE EARTHS

An internal U.S Department of Defense memo in 2010 reportedly described Afghanistan as "the Saudi Arabia of lithium," meaning it could be as crucial for global supply of the battery metal as the Middle Eastern country is for crude oil.

The comparison was made at a time lithium was already widely used in batteries for electronics devices but before it had become apparent how much lithium would be needed for electric vehicle (EV) batteries and the world's low-carbon transition.

A 2017/18 report from the U.S. Geological Survey notes Afghanistan has deposits of spodumene, a lithium-bearing mineral, but does not provide tonnage estimates, while the 2019 Afghan report makes no mention of lithium at all.

The 2019 mines ministry report does, however, say Afghanistan holds 1.4 million tonnes of rare earth minerals, a group of 17 elements prized for their applications in consumer electronics, as well as in military equipment.

OIL & GAS

With hydrocarbon-rich Iran and Turkmenistan to its west, Afghanistan harbours around 1.6 billion barrels of crude oil, 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and another 500 million barrels of natural gas liquids.

That's according to the 2019 Afghan report, which cited a joint U.S.-Afghan assessment, and implies a value of $107 billion for the crude oil alone at current market prices.

"Most of the undiscovered crude oil is in the Afghan-Tajik Basin and most of the undiscovered natural gas is in the Amu Darya Basin," the report said.


GEMSTONES

Afghanistan has historically been a major source of lapis lazuli, a deep blue, semi-precious stone that has been mined in the country's northern Badakhshan province for thousands of years, as well as other gemstones such as rubies and emeralds.

The finest grades of lapis lazuli can fetch up to $150 per carat, according to the 2019 Afghan report, which notes, however, that the majority of gemstones mined in the country leave the country illegally, mostly to Peshawar in Pakistan, denying Afghanistan vital revenue.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan seizes chance to be #Europe’s best buddy in #Afghan crisis. Foreign ministers of #Germany, the #Netherlands and the #UK all visited #Islamabad. They made promises of prompt cash to Pakistani coffers for its assistance in the #humanitarian crisis https://www.politico.eu/article/afghanistan-pakistan-europe-crisis-refugees-trade/

Germany's Ambassador to Pakistan Bernhard Schlagheck said it would not have been possible to fly out German and Dutch staff without Islamabad's assistance, while Pakistan also received friendly calls from EU Council President Charles Michel, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, the Austrians, and the Slovenes, who currently hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.

This newfound affection for Pakistan is a significant shift in the diplomatic tides from this spring when the EU had eyes only for Pakistan's arch-enemy India. In April, the EU committed to an Indo-Pacific strategy that is meant to see increased European cooperation with India against (Pakistan's ally) China. In May, Brussels also launched free-trade talks with New Delhi.

The Taliban's return in Kabul now gives Pakistan a prime opportunity to put itself back in the game. It is using the attention to try to rebrand its image internationally, and leverage its position as the main destination for Afghan refugees to exact concessions for its own priorities like economic aid, trade incentives, freer travel to Europe, and diplomatic support for the disputed region of Kashmir.

The overtures come at a crucial time, as both Pakistan and Europe are contending with the U.S.'s retreat from the region. Washington has long been Pakistan's chief supplier of arms and aid as it sought Pakistan's help in Afghanistan, but as that relationship soured — especially as Pakistan provided aid to the Afghan Taliban even as the group targeted U.S. forces — Islamabad is looking to invest in other relationships. Europe, which was caught flat-footed by the U.S.'s decision to withdraw, must now secure its own interests in the region without American help.

Friends in need
Before the Afghan crisis, Pakistan was not popular in Brussels. The conservative Islamic country was routinely bashed for its human rights record and its duplicitous conduct in Afghanistan, where it simultaneously supported both NATO and the Taliban forces. While the EU is a major trading partner for Pakistan, the South Asian country is way down the EU's priority list.

But all that has changed since the Taliban took over Afghanistan last month, leaving European countries desperate to repatriate their citizens.


Islamabad has underlined its role in helping European and foreign officials leave Kabul, including 294 Dutch citizens, 201 Belgians, 216 Italians, and 273 Danes. In addition, Pakistan is also helping evacuate more than 4,000 Afghan nationals who worked with the U.S. and allied forces in Kabul. The country was able to do so because of its strong ties to the Taliban, which allowed it to continue flights and keep its embassy open, even as most countries were scrambling to leave the country.

"We have tremendous admiration and respect for Pakistan and we would like to reiterate our gratitude," Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag said at a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who was in the capital the next day, announced that the U.K. was sending teams to Afghanistan's neighbors, including Pakistan, to help process arrivals from Afghanistan and repatriate them to the U.K. He also announced that the U.K. was immediately sending £30 million to Afghanistan's neighbors, Pakistan chief among them, to help them deal with the humanitarian crisis.

"Pakistan is a vital partner for the U.K." Raab said.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan, #Qatar urge caution over #Afghan economy.
#US has blocked #Taliban's access to $9 billion in Afghan reserves, most of which are held by the New York Federal Reserve. https://news.yahoo.com/latest-qatars-fm-discuss-afghanistan-061733659.html?soc_src=social-sh&soc_trk=tw&tsrc=twtr via @YahooNews


Pakistan’s foreign minister says the world community should not take steps that risk an economic collapse in Afghanistan.

Shah Mahmood Quereshi on Thursday urged the international community to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets to enable Kabul use its own money to avert a worsening humanitarian crisis.

His appeal came two days after the Taliban announced an interim government for Afghanistan. At a news conference in Islamabad alongside Qatari counterpart Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qureshi did not name any single country. But Qureshi said no strings should be attached to humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan.

The Taliban government currently does not have access to the Afghanistan central bank’s $9 billion in reserves, most of which is held by the New York Federal Reserve. These reserves were blocked amid last month’s political turmoil in Afghanistan.
Riaz Haq said…
Is the world ready for the continued decline of the West?
By Song Luzheng

https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202109/1234036.shtml


What happened in Afghanistan last month has twice shocked the world - the Taliban's rapid victory and takeover of Afghanistan, and the US' chaotic withdrawal from the country.

Both events have proved the failure of the US. The country could no longer afford the war in Afghanistan and had no choice but make peace with the Taliban. This has kicked off unimaginable dominoes. The US' final withdrawal would have been an even greater calamity had the Taliban not kept their word.

The decline of the US-led alliance is not a new topic. Following the 2008 global financial crisis, Brexit, Donald Trump's election as president, and Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan, the West has shown one thing in common: It is ready to abdicate responsibility. What has happened in Afghanistan reinforces it.

The UK has turned its back on a troubled EU to fend for itself. Trump has turned its back on the world by quitting international groups to shore up his "America First," or even "US only." US President Joe Biden has categorically abandoned Afghanistan by insisting on the withdrawal.

Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the West scrambled for anti-epidemic materials around the world in the early stage by making use of their financial advantages. Later they rushed to stockpile vaccines. Some of them were found to have illegally intercepted masks that were planned to be transported to third countries. Canada ordered vaccines for more than twice its population. Now the West has begun to promote a third dose of vaccine despite the protests of the WHO. However, only around 3 percent of Africa's population is fully vaccinated.

During its decline, the US-led alliance has worried the world by abdicating its responsibility. More importantly, it has also been unwilling to share power with the vast number of developing countries. This is utter selfishness. More than that, it has even clamped down on high-performing emerging countries.

China's Huawei is a typical example of this. The US government has cracked down on Huawei baselessly. This seriously violates the principles of market and rule of law broadly advocated by the West.

The US' crackdown on Huawei is an assault on China's tech industry. Its attempt to lure and divide developing countries while playing geopolitical game with China has destabilized the world order and also endangered world peace. For example, the world has seen the US actively involved in the South China Sea. It has courted China's neighboring countries, but everyone knows that US' move is only to serve its own interests. It will abandon the region if needed, just as it did in Afghanistan.

The current West-dominated international order is unsustainable with the West's continuing move of shifting responsibility. It is refusing to share power with developing countries.
Riaz Haq said…
After the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, some of the harshest criticism of America’s credibility has come — surprisingly — from India.

https://warontherocks.com/2021/09/avoiding-a-collision-course-with-india/

One prominent (Indian) commentator projects the end of “Pax Americana” and another argues that the Taliban’s victory constitutes the “first significant setback” of America’s “Indo-Pacific project.” These Indian strategists see the end of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan as a sign of unreliability. Without U.S. troops on the ground, New Delhi will be challenged to contend with a Taliban government that tilts toward Pakistan and China. Afghanistan historically provided safe haven to terrorist organizations that targeted India, and New Delhi considers the Taliban’s ascendance as a direct threat to its security interests. Other prominent Indian voices, however, take a different view on the meaning of the U.S. withdrawal. C. Raja Mohan, an influential Indian scholar, believes that the U.S. withdrawal can “accelerate current trends in India’s relations with the United States,” while even the Indian foreign minister insists that the United States is still “the premier power” that retains a “very unique sort of standing.

Debates over the reliability of the United States are commonplace in New Delhi. Earlier this year, for instance, Indian commentators argued over the significance of unilateral U.S. freedom of navigation operations in India’s exclusive economic zone and the slow pace of U.S. pandemic relief. Suspicion of U.S. intentions has a long history in India, dating back to the Cold War and America’s longstanding ties with Islamabad. In recent decades, however, New Delhi has been able to count on Washington when in crisis. Last year, the United States rapidly provided supplies, expedited equipment, and enhanced intelligence during India’s 2020 border crisis with China.

Where India remains uncertain is whether Washington will steadfastly support India’s long-term defense and deterrence needs. These lingering doubts have intensified with the looming threat of U.S. sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which India could be subject to when it takes delivery of the Russian S-400 air defense system at the end of 2021. These doubts could abate if the Biden administration is able to work with Congress to issue India a sanctions waiver, and allow strategic and market incentives, rather than punishments, to shape India’s defense partnership choices.
Riaz Haq said…
After the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, some of the harshest criticism of America’s credibility has come — surprisingly — from India.

https://warontherocks.com/2021/09/avoiding-a-collision-course-with-india/


Over decades of close relations with the littoral nations of the Indian Ocean, India has accrued trust and influence the United States cannot match. India’s clear statements that it is a multi-aligned state, and not part of a Western bloc, also strike a chord among some swing states in Southeast Asia that seek a similar balance. By defending the maritime commons and a rules-based order, India offers these states a permission structure to align their stances on the core concerns of international order, not because they are promoted by the U.S. allies, but precisely because they are promoted by influential like-minded states outside that Western alliance structure. Former U.S. officials acknowledge many Southeast Asian states are uncomfortable expressing their concerns with China out loud but, if India affirms a set of international rules alongside the United States and its allies, these states could be emboldened to become similarly forthright. India’s early success selling jointly made Indo-Russian anti-ship cruise missiles to Southeast Asian states (something that CAATSA sanctions could also constrain) further emboldens Southeast Asian states to defend their territorial waters, contributing to a more stable Asian balance of power.

Tools like CAATSA sanctions that seek to force India into the mold of a U.S. treaty ally either compromises India’s perception of U.S. reliability as an Indo-Pacific partner or compromises the valuable currency of legitimacy India’s multi-aligned status confers. Most likely, though, it undermines both Indian trust and the perception that it is truly an independent and sovereign actor, a two-fold loss for U.S. regional interests. Such reliability questions will only be compounded as other states with defense industrial ties to Russia, like Vietnam and Indonesia, would then fear that U.S. support is conditional on their subordination to every U.S. foreign policy.

Looking Ahead

Washington may underestimate how much of a collision course it is on with India. The threat of CAATSA sanctions has already cast a cloud over U.S.-Indian relations and imposes a drag on many aspects of the defense partnership. Far more than the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, sanctions will cause India to raise fundamental questions about America’s reliability for years to come. The Biden administration can avert this by taking Congress into consultation to grant India a sanctions waiver.

Rather than diminishing Indo-Russian relations, CAATSA sanctions ultimately threaten U.S. interests by undermining India’s capabilities to defend the rules-based order and willingness to deeply coordinate with the United States in the Indo-Pacific. India’s capacity to support that strategy means the United States should prioritize allowing India to strengthen its capabilities, regardless of origin, rather than seeking to force India into the framework of an American ally that operates U.S. military equipment. While India’s multi-alignment policy can be frustrating to deal with, and trades off with some depth of U.S.-Indian defense cooperation, it remains one of Washington’s best bets for burden-sharing, balancing, and unique political currency among numerous Indo-Pacific littoral states.

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