As U.S. Secretary of Defense continues his victory lap around U.S. foreign bases, scolding NATO allies along the way for failing to pull their weight in the alliance, it is well worth noting that many of the NATO member states committed only under intense U.S. pressure to operations in Afghanistan, while Libya has generated even less enthusiasm in European capitals.
One of the great advantages of the end of the cold War two decades ago, coupled with the rise of the Internet is that readers worldwide now have an open window into the Russian press and society. Of course, there are ideological holdovers from the Soviet era, most notably Russian paranoia about hostile military groupings on their frontiers, most notably NATO, which Russia not unreasonably sees as dominated by the U.S.
Nowhere is the ideological gulf still separating Moscow and Washington more evident than in NATO’s mission in Libya. A leading Russian newspaper, Vedomosti, on 9 June published an editorial titled simply, “From the Editors: War With China.”
Lest an oilprice reader think that this is some covert cryto-Commie anti-Western screed, it might be noted that Vedomosti is owned by the Finnish Independent Media Company; published jointly with The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times.
After noting that congressmen questioning Libyan operations and their attendant costs are being criticized by Obama administration officials as "taking a non-constructive position," the editorial then moves on to quote Paul Craig Roberts, who served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under President Ronald Reagan, who wrote in the most recent issue of Foreign Policy Journal, Roberts wrote and article titled “Libya: The DC/NATO Agenda and the Next Great War” that commented, "judging by all, the protests against Qadhafi were organized by the CIA in the eastern part of Libya, where 80 percent of the oil reserves are concentrated and there are considerable Chinese investments into the energy sector."
Whatever Washington’s ulterior motives, there is no doubt that NATO’s military operations in Libya are harming China’s fiscal interests. According to information from China’s Ministry of Trade, by March, when the military operation began, there were 75 major Chinese companies operating in Libya, and they had concluded $18 billion in contracts. Because of the NATO operations in Libya, the Chinese companies are expecting gigantic losses.
It is beyond dispute that China has targeted Africa for major investment, which trade figures bear out. While in 1995 China’s trade with Africa was $6 billion, in 2010 it exceeded $130 billion. According to estimates of the South African Standard Bank, by 2015 Chinese direct investments into African nations will reach $50 billion. China is today receiving 28 percent of its oil import from Africa, a figure that will grow in the future.
China has also acquired great political weight in Africa, and it not only is free of the colonialist baggage of the European powers, it does not subject African political leadership to harangues about human rights like Washington. On a grassroots level, again unlike the U.S. and European nations, along with its business interests it is building infrastructure, such as roads, railroads and schools, much appreciated by the local populace. This presence gave the International Monetary Fund, headquartered in and dominated by Washington, a significant rebuff at the end of 2008, when, having spent several years discussing a loan agreement with Angola’s government, immediately prior to its signing IMF officials learned that Angola had already received a low interest $2 billion Chinese long-term loan and subsequently no longer needed IMF money. Similar things happened later in Chad, Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda.
So, is there any wonder that Moscow suspects Washington of using NATO as its muscle to demonstrate in Africa that uppity leaders had better take heed of American dictates and downgrade their business ties with the Celestial Empire? It is notable that the Libyan operation is the Pentagon’s AFRICOM command’s first outing. It is also of note that no African nation has offered to host AFRICOM, leaving it to be run out of a U.S. base in Stuggart. For reasons obvious to all but the most diehard American chickenhawks, Africans (which of course includes Libyans) apparently prefer Chinese goods and Chinese-built schools to hectoring human rights lectures, loans with interest fees and condition that would make a Mafia don blanch and a hail of bombs and bullets. Russia, which has not deployed its military outside its borders since the collapse of the USSR, is viewing events in North Africa with more dispassion and insight than the chattering punditry in Washington.
By John Daly for OilPrice.com