Russia’s ‘hybrid’ wars and China’s belligerent expansionism

A game about he Russian tactic of maskirovka, Moscow’s hybrid war

The Wikileaks revelations described the Russian Federation as a ‘Mafia state’, but is this really such startling news? It was obvious soon after a drunken Yeltsin virtually gifted the resource-rich state industries to highly-placed and cunning apparatchiks that Russia resembled the Wild West rather than developing a conventional system of government for the world’s largest state. Bloomberg’s article here details the the effect of hybrid wars on the Russian economy.

Yeltsin’s actions, and the failure of the political classes to stop him, robbed the extremely poor of the true value of the nation’s assets, running into hundreds of billions of pounds. The instability inherent in what amounts to an unsound economic policy brought about massive losses to these new super-rich a couple of years back because of the volatility of the Russian market. The last decade has also seen oligarchs being jailed or fleeing the country altogether, their underlings being murdered and press freedoms curbed – even to the extent of organised murder of journalists – to stifle debate and possible dissent. 

China is attempting to expand its territory and increase its natural resources, against the wish of smaller nearby states.. Artificial islands are under construction in the disputed South China Sea as the Chinese state makes relentless efforts to expand it’s geographical boundaries at the expense of its neighbours. In 2012 the Communist Party reclassified the South China Sea as a “core national interest”, placing it alongside such sensitive issues as Taiwan and Tibet. It means China is prepared to fight to defend it. 

Beijing’s claim includes the Spratly Islands, Scarborough Shoal and the Paracel Islands and the area it encompasses comprises an “expanse stretching right up to the coasts of the Philippines and Vietnam and even Borneo.” The vast majority of the South China Sea is claimed by the Chinese, in an area which is demarcated on maps by the ‘nine dash line’. 

This territorial ultimatum by China is yet another example of the Asian superstates flexing their muscles knowing that their surrounding neighbours are too small and weak to make a stand. To resolve this imbalance these countries are forced to align themselves with the US, or as in the case of Ukraine, the EU, in order to make the playing field more even. Of course, alignment with the US is deeply unpopular to the world at large, paradoxically because they see the US as ‘the bully’ or thinking of itself as ‘the world’s policeman’. Such arguments provide no resolution to the problem of the balance of power between smaller states and superstates, nor the possibility that China and Russia will almost inevitably seek to take advantage of the weaknesses of more democratic states and their unwillingness to stand up to them.

The most alarming aspect of this new world is that, in twenty-five, maybe fifty years, it will be Russia that will have the single largest economy – along with China – and they will probably be calling the shots (no pun intended). Many in Europe fear the spread of Islam, and their fear may be justified if it concerns those involved in terrorism. What the fundamentalists should fear – along with us – is the new world order that is about to emerge. The freedoms that we cherish and that the Islamic fundamentalists despise may be swept away by these countries as they expand, but the paradox will be that none of us will gain from a ‘Mafia’ overlord and fledgling democracy overseen by a proletariat in the coming generation. You only have to look at human rights in China, and the treatment of the Uighur Muslims in Urumqi, and what happened in Georgia and Azerbaijan to realise what the future may bring. These superstates are slowly expanding and will become larger as time goes on. We are feeding crocodiles here and weill will be on their menu in the future.


While the world is in turmoil over Iraq, Russia invades eastern Ukraine

A Russian convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine, behind a police escort, drives along a road in the city of Voronezh

Moscow has directed its military to move artillery units manned by Russian personnel into Ukrainian territory while the world has been distracted by the murder of James Foley, the US photojournalist in Syria. It is believed that this weaponry has already been used to fire at Ukrainian forces, NATO officials said on Friday.

The incursion amounts to a significant escalation of the Kremlin’s military involvement in eastern Ukraine, which preceded the illegal entry of a convoy of Russian lorries, ostensibly carrying humanitarian aid, crossing the border into Ukrainian territory without Kiev’s permission, thus violating Ukraine’s sovereignty.

The EU and the US have been accusing Putin of supporting the separatist forces in eastern Ukraine since the rebellion started in March of this year, but the NATO countries have not had hard evidence that Russian soldiers were fighting in Ukrainian territory.

However, since mid-August NATO has received several reports detailing the direct involvement of Russian forces, said Oana Lungescu, a NATO spokesperson.“including Russian airborne, air defense and special operations forces in Eastern Ukraine, Russian artillery support — both cross-border and from within Ukraine — is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces,” she added.

PR stunt to cover the Russian military incursion into Eastern Ukraine

PR stunt to cover the Russian military incursion into Eastern Ukraine

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO’s secretary general, criticized the Russian incursion in a statement issued in Brussels on Friday. His statement said

“I condemn the entry of a Russian so-called humanitarian convoy into Ukrainian territory without the consent of the Ukrainian authorities and without any involvement of the International Committee of the Red Cross,”

“These developments are even more worrying as they coincide with a major escalation in Russian military involvement in Eastern Ukraine since mid-August, including the use of Russian forces,” the statement continued, adding: “We have also seen transfers of large quantities of advanced weapons, including tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery to separatist groups in Eastern Ukraine. Moreover, NATO is observing an alarming buildup of Russian ground and air forces in the vicinity of Ukraine.”

The US announced its deep concern after the convoy entered Ukraine in violation of its sovereignty and urged Moscow to withdraw all its personnel and military hardware immediately. The Pentagon issued the following statement on Friday:

“This is a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia must remove its vehicles and its personnel from the territory of Ukraine immediately. Failure to do so will result in additional costs and isolation.”

Legal jurisdiction is legal jurisdiction: there appears to be no doubt to that, is there?

The United States has finally succeeded in extraditing Abu Hamza Al-Masri, Babar Ahmad, Syed Talha Ahsan, Adel Abdul Bary and Khaled al-Fawwaz. They were taken from Long Lartin prison in a police convoy.  Two armoured vans, a blacked-out police people carrier and three police Range Rovers arrived at the Worcestershire jail on Friday evening just before dusk.

At the same time, two US passenger airliners were waiting on the tarmac at an air base in the east of England. So that would appear to be that and the action is right and proper to a certain extent.

Abu Hamza, Adel Abdul Bary and Khaled al-Fawwaz stand accused of serious terrorist involvement and it is only right and proper that they should be extradited at the earliest possible opportunity. However, Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan are accused of  running pro-jihad website and of helping terrorists. The US government maintains that the  internet site was hosted there because it is a ‘dot com’ registration.

There are two points that I would make about this and the first is simple: UK law should take precedence over US law and Ahmad and Ahsan should have been tried here in the UK. I feel deeply uncomfortable that our government has subordinated UK law by giving precedence to US legal proceedings.

The second point is more complex but bears careful examination. The US are asserting that ‘dot net’, ‘dot org’ and ‘dot com’ registrations are classed as ‘being in the US’ because of their hosting on US soil. Here is some evidence of this argument from The Open Rights Group, which exists to preserve and promote legal rights in a digital context: “the U.S. Government claims jurisdiction because ‘’ used a ‘dot-net’ domain. They claim that the use of the ‘dot-com’, ‘dot-net’ or ‘dot-org’ domains gives them the right to assert U.S laws globally, because these domains are managed by American companies such as Verisign”.

Surely if that is the case, that the US government claims jurisdiction over these websites, then that must mean that all companies and organisations so registered are equally subject to US internal revenue laws too? They cannot cherry pick the bits they want and leave the bits that are not politically palatable. This would mean that companies such as B&Q and Tesco should be liable to pay tax in the US in respect of their online transactions, unless there is a law that clearly defines the liabilities that are attached to these internet registrations.

The US government has also stated that it may legally seize any domain ending in .com, .net, and other popular top-level domains, if it considers the action necessary because they are managed by Verisign, and that is based in the US. Equally, Slashdot observes that  the “State of Maryland prosecutors were able to obtain a warrant ordering Verisign, the company that manages the dot-com domain name registry, to redirect the website to a warning page advising that it has been seized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The message from the case is clear: all dot-com, dot-net, and dot-org domain names are subject to U.S. jurisdiction regardless of where they operate or where they were registered. This grants the U.S. a form of ‘super-jurisdiction’ over Internet activities, since most other countries are limited to jurisdiction with a real and substantial connection.”

It stands to reason that if a crime committed on a top-level domain name is legally uniquely under US jurisdiction, then if that constitutes a crime in the US, it must be actionable and enforceable in the US. Moreover, if the crime comes under US jurisdiction, surely purchases must too, in terms of taxation? That being the case, online transactions in companies such as B&Q and  Tesco surely must be liable to pay tax on their profits online to the US Internal Revenue Service?

I would like to see the US government taken to task over their seemingly discriminatory laws. You can imagine the uproar in financial centres across the world.