During the slow, sunny days of summer, it may seem impertinent to ask: “What’s on your radar screen?” We assume that most people are worried about making sure they have enough sun tan lotion, at exactly what time their plane is leaving, what time is high tide, whether or not they have taken the right route up the mountain, how to get the children to their camp, how to ignore the emergency message from the office, what kind of bait to use to catch fish, how to dress for the barbecue, and so on.
Following the adage “It’s what you don’t think about that costs you money,” I have been trying to think about those things I have not been thinking about. While everyone says it’s best to think outside the box, it’s not easy to define what’s inside the box, and usually even more difficult to have the time to ponder that which we usually don’t ponder. The slow, sunny days of summer are ideal to re-prioritize the radar screen, to listen to the sounds of silence. The upcoming United States election is making lots of noise, as has the Iranian nuclear deal, the Greek/EU crisis, migration, the battle against ISIS, hot weather and climate change, racial violence, etc.
A recent article by Pepe Escobar entitled “The Eurasian Big Bang” seems a perfect place to begin thinking about those things I haven’t been thinking about. His challenge is to understand the interlocking relationships between the BRICS, the SCO, the EEU, the AIIB, and the NDB. Even for those familiar with NATO, the EU, the COE, and NAFTA, this is quite a challenge.
His point is that the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), the EEU (Eurasian Economic Union of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan), the AIIB (the new Chinese funded Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), and the BRICS’ NDB (The New Development Bank) are developing a new order in Eurasia that has enormous potential for changing the traditional Atlantic power domination.
The focus of Escobar’s analysis is the recent twin BRICS/SECO summit in Ufa, Russia. Not only didn’t I know where Ufa, Russia is, I have to admit I missed any mention of the summit in all the journals and reviews I read, except in Escobar’s article. From July 8 to July 10, the 7th BRICS summit and the 15th Shanghai Cooperation summit met in the capital of Russia’s Bashkortostan at the same time as the Vienna negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran were making all the headlines and in conjunction with an informal meeting of the EEU (Eurasian Economic Union).
In the final declaration of the summit, Escobar writes, the following was decided: The Russian, Chinese and Indian leaders will work to implement a series of interlocking “new Silk Roads.” The Indians agreed to accept more Chinese investment in their country and the two leaders pledged to intensify efforts to resolve outstanding border issues. The New Development Bank, the BRICS’ version of the West’s World Bank, was officially launched with $50 billion in start-up capital to fund major infrastructure projects in the BRICS countries. It also plans to finance similar projects in the Global South with a currency other than the dollar as the reserve currency as well as potentially helping non-EU member countries in Europe.
According to Escobar, little mention was made of the EU, which is narrowly focused on its own survival with the Grexit, migration issues, the upcoming vote in Great Britain and a paralyzing lack of a common vision among its members. At the same time Europe stagnates, the EEU has begun establishing free trade zones with India, Iran, Vietnam, Egypt and Latin America. At Ufa, India and Pakistan moved from observers to members of SCO. And the list goes on of increased cooperation among these Eurasian countries.
Escobar’s point is that while Washington focuses on the next election and Europe stagnates, Russia and China are developing robust relationships with a growing list of countries disillusioned with traditional transatlantic domination. Now this may not be something you might want to put on your radar screen, especially during the summer. Perhaps it is not even something you want to consider outside the box. But it certainly appealed to my sense of listening to the sounds of silence amid the screeching noises about Donald Trump, etc.