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Washington is positioning its assets at chokepoints across Central Asia to block critical rail corridors that link Beijing to Europe. It’s part of a US plan to isolate China from western markets following an outbreak of hostilities in Taiwan.
The destruction of Nordstream is the key to understanding how Washington plans to deal with China. The pipeline effectively erased the geographic borders between Russia and Germany creating a de facto free trade zone that spanned the continents and increased the prosperity of both trading partners. The arrangement anticipated a much larger commons area that would extend from “Lisbon to Vladivostok”, in fact, that was Vladimir Putin’s explicit goal. Washington saw this as a threat to its regional hegemony and set about to scuttle the partnership and the pipeline. As we pointed out in an earlier article:
In a world where Germany and Russia are friends and trading partners, there is no need for US military bases, no need for expensive US-made weapons and missile systems, and no need for NATO. There’s also no need to transact energy deals in US Dollars or to stockpile US Treasuries to balance accounts. Transactions between business partners can be conducted in their own currencies which is bound to precipitate a sharp decline in the value of the dollar and a dramatic shift in economic power. This is why the Biden administration decided to destroy Nordstream, because Nordstream was the main artery linking the two continents together into a mutually beneficial relationship that operated independent of the United States. Thus, Nordstream was a clear threat to the unipolar world and the “rules-based order”.
Bottom line: Nordstream had to be destroyed.
The question is: What does the Nordstream incident tell us about Washington’s plans for China?
What we’ve shown is that Washington is prepared to take radical action to defend its hegemony in Europe. But, of course, Germany was not the only victim of Biden’s attack. It was also a blow to Russia which not only suffered serious economic losses, but was also effectively blocked from western markets. Russia was clearly the more important of the two targets because it was Russia that challenged the central tenet of US foreign policy, which is “to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union.”
The quote above is excerpted from the Wolfowitz Doctrine that has appeared in numerous foreign policy documents including President Biden’s 2022 National Security Strategy. The words have been slightly tweaked in newer iterations, but the meaning remains the same. The US is going to prevent any “hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.” In practice, this means that Russia cannot engage in commercial activities with its neighbors if those activities are perceived to pose a threat to US regional preeminence. In the case of Nordstream, the Biden administration was quite clear that they thought the pipeline was a problem; they even admitted as much. And the only reliable way to eliminate the problem, was to blow it up. This is the logic that precipitated the sabotage of Nordstream.
But what does this tell us about Washington’s “China policy”?
It tells us that US powerbrokers are going to identify emerging threats in Central Asia and then remove those threats by hook or crook. And, while China does not have large supplies of natural gas and oil to sell to Europe, it is creating a vast network of China-to-Europe freight corridors that have economically integrated the Eurasian landmass while linking to major capitals across the EU. This far-flung cobweb of newly-laid track has put Beijing at a decided advantage over the US in local competition and is rapidly reinforcing its position as regional hegemon. Once again, we need to remember that the United States is fully-committed to preventing the re-emergence of a rival in the region it considers vital to its national security, that is, Central Asia. And, yet, China’s rapidly expanding freight rail system creates just such a rival. Take a look:
The China-Europe Freight Train (CEFT)
A crucial precursor to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and arguably its most prominent flagship project, the China-Europe Freight Train (CEFT) has already run through its first decade of 2011-21. With 82 routes currently connecting nearly 100 Chinese cities to around 200 cities across 24 European countries and more than a dozen Central, East, and Southeast Asian countries, the CEFT has formed a vast transcontinental freight system spanning both ends of Eurasia. While only 17 freight trains ran from China to Europe in the CEFT’s inaugural year of 2011, 60,000 trains cumulatively will have traversed the Eurasian landmass and its maritime margins by October 16, 2022….Eurasia’s Freight Infrastructure vs. Russia’s War in Ukraine, Global Affairs