New Zealand should keep itself at arms distance from U.S., Russia


A while ago Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated that she thought the nuclear moment of our present time is climate change. She said it, stating that New Zealand needs to take a decisive leadership role in reducing our carbon emissions. An admirable thing and certainly something that needs to happen.

But it is not the nuclear moment of NOW. That is playing out in the Middle East and has the potential to become much more immediate than climate change, which – whilst affecting us already – does not (so far as I know)have the ability to usher in a global holocaust in a matter of ours. It does not have the ability to accidentally usher in a nuclear exchange before people even realize what is happening.

I honestly never thought, until about early 2014, when Russia began its military build up in Syria and started testing western resolve over Ukraine that the risk of an East-West military confrontation would revive in my life time. Whilst since 2000 the risk had certainly been growing from one year to the next, the immediacy of the danger was not there. It is now. And the causes of it are dubious to say the least.

Neither the United States or Russia are playing an entirely honest and responsible game in Syria. Both have agenda’s that are more about suiting their foreign policy ambitions than helping to end a bloody civil war that has gone on for much too long. Both have the power and the means to end it today, but the strangulation of their geopolitical objectives mean their peoples are captive to politicians being jerked around – willingly – by the military industrial complex. For this is not about Syria anymore, but about who will be the decisive power in the Middle East. This is about raw ambition.

Perhaps it is telling us something that Russia has used its veto power as one of the Permanent 5 in the United Nations Security Council to block 12 separate resolutions on Syria. Perhaps it is telling us something that none of the N.A.T.O. countries purportedly standing for the rule of international law attacked suspected chemical weapons sites before United Nations personnel could verify that that is what they actually were.

But also the danger level in this conflict brings the world as close to an international incident – an incident that could potentially trigger a nuclear exchange by accident – as any conflict during the First Cold War. An accidental attack by N.A.T.O. forces on Russia, or vice versa could very easily escalate into a world conflict. If it does not do that, at the very least it would result large scale deployment of N.A.T.O. and Russian forces including potential nuclear forces.

What the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters should be doing is telling our international partners in no uncertain terms we only abide by international law. If they want our cooperation, they need to abide by it too.

What New Zealand should be doing is four fold:

  1. Demanding all countries comply with international law – and telling them New Zealand will have no participation in anything judged to be against said law
  2. Demanding an immediate cessation to hostilities
  3. Letting United Nations inspectors in with unfettered access to all sites of concern in Syria
  4. Let Red Cross have unfettered access to all victims of war

Our nuclear moment I do not think is climate change. Our nuclear moment is stopping this war turning into a nuclear moment.

I know not what weapons World War 3 will be fought with, but World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones

ALBERT EINSTEIN

Syrian crisis shows no major players should be trusted


Around lunch time yesterday (N.Z.T.), France, Britain and the United States launched strikes against chemical weapon targets in Syria. The strikes which come after a chemical weapons attack against defenceless citizens in Douma a few days ago, have inflamed the rhetoric from both Moscow and Washington. But as we wait to see what kind of response Russia will make, it is also clear that the major media agencies in both countries have been far from freely dispensing the truth.

The only thing New Zealand should be relentlessly pushing aside from a truce of some sort is a neutral set of inspectors not from any U.N. Security Council country, being allowed to go in, unfettered and report direct to the Secretary General. I am specifically thinking or Switzerland or Sweden, New Zealand, Brazil and maybe Singapore – nations that are known for maintaining original foreign policy, but also crossing a diverse geographical and ethnic divide.

I do not trust the White House or the Kremlin. Nor do I trust RT or Fox. All of these networks have a degree of bias that undermines journalistic integrity. RT is known – by its own admission to talk direct to Kremlin. Its blind support of the incumbent suggests to me it potentially faces consequences if it writes an original thought. whilst Fox is a neo-conservative  channel that was established by Rupert Murdoch as a sort of light entertainment/news channel. The company they keep in terms of viewers and commentators in their comments section suggest a channel that supports war against Iran and North Korea, ignorant of the consequences and dismissive of anyone who raises a counter argument.

The spiels that the media feed the people, sometimes with a clear government spin, as is the case with Russia should be checked by a fact finder first. In the case of the suspect chemical weapon facilities in Syria, the French, British and Americans should have given the inspectors a chance to confirm them as chemical weapon facilities. Governments by default have the means to hide information so that it cannot be released. All Governments – western or otherwise have an agenda. Some are corrupted by money. Some have huge monetary resources to tap into.

In some respects Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reminds me of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Mr Castro became well known for his staunch anti-American rhetoric. Mr al-Assad might not be so staunch, but he is becoming well known for his contemptuous regard international norms and human rights. All of this has led me to wonder if he quietly agitates for a major strike by the United States so that Russia is somehow justified in a massive military retaliation – in order to deter the Americans from attacking Mr Castro got the U.S.S.R. to place medium range nuclear missiles on the island knowing there was no way the Americans would tolerate that kind of threat so close by. This is what triggered the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The Russian ambassador to the United Nations tried to divert attention when confronted at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

New Zealand needs to stick to its instincts. As a nation the only assumption we should make is that this is far from over as a crisis and has the potential to get considerably worse.

 

Chinese plan for a military base in Vanuatu dangerous for region


On Stuff yesterday, there was a report about China reportedly seeking to build or otherwise have a military installation in the Republic of Vanuatu. The purported move comes as concern grows about the militarisation of the Pacific by various nations.

To be fair Britain, France, the United States have all had military testing grounds for nuclear weapons in the Pacific. France and Britain, whilst no longer testing nuclear weapons in accordance with the Nuclear Test Ban treaty, have a number of non-nuclear military installations around the world. The United States operates a large number of military bases around the world – thought to be 900 in all. China has military bases outside of its sovereign territory, including the naval air station built on a man-made island in the South Pacific.

However this is a first for China, or any other military power to be establishing a military base in a south Pacific nation other than New Zealand or Australia. The location suggests a desire to expand its influence around the world. China, in much the same way America did when a neo-conservative think tank called “Project for a New American Century” formed in 1997, has a road map for global influence. The P.N.A.C. has a road map for achieving total global domination, and largely through military strength and using it as a force of influence.

Politicians in both National and Labour are expressing concern about the militarization of the Pacific. So is New Zealand First, whose leader and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters has acknowledged that the news is creating strategic unease. It will be interesting to see what happens because New Zealand needs to tread carefully between the interests of America, but also the growing influence and reach of China.

Position’s on international influence in the South Pacific vary and can be split into several groups:

  1. The first is staunchly pro-American/A.N.Z.U.S. and perhaps harks for the bygone era of a three nation A.N.Z.U.S. alliance – the people in this group generally have no problem with the U.S. nuclear umbrella, are reluctant to criticize American foreign policy mistakes and support increased defence spending.
  2. The second group is more likely to be Labour/Green supporters who find much wrong – and there is – with American foreign policy, but don’t always acknowledge the mistakes of others. They are not supporters of A.N.Z.U.S., do not believe in the need for more defence spending.
  3. The pro-China lobby. This no doubt exists somewhere. Mainly in political circles and trade – it might or might not be directed by Beijing or it could be Chinese New Zealanders who believe they are acting in Beijing’s interests. They oppose American influence for different reasons, but would be reluctant to criticize Beijing, despite the latter having scant regard for international law, committing appalling human rights abuses and suppressing its own citizenry.
  4. The third way – I think this group is a bit bigger than a figment of my imagination. It has little time for foreign power geopolitics, and believes most of New Zealand’s foreign policy and aid effort should be focussed on the South Pacific. Their view is that New Zealand Defence Force should be built around an understanding it might need to deploy in the South Pacific on its own with no back up from Australia, either to protect these nations from a foreign power or to stop local conflicts from spilling over.

I think I identify best with the fourth stance. Australia appears to not be thinking much about the influence of China around the world. More and more it has disassociated itself from South Pacific affairs. In the past it would have lead international efforts at disaster relief in the region. Their response to disasters in Tonga, Papua New Guinea and other places; denial of the humanitarian situation on Nauru and Manus Islands suggest a lack of empathy.

Will brave little New Zealand make a stand like we did on Rainbow Warrior, or will, like Australia, we meekly roll over?

Obama visit no gain for New Zealand


United States President Barak Obama was welcomed to New Zealand for the first time on Thursday. Mr Obama was on a whistle stop tour of New Zealand, which includes a game of golf with New Zealand former Prime Minister John Key before a dinner hosted by Air New Zealand, followed by a Q+A.

Before he was even President, former U.S. President Barak Obama was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

What for?

That is a damn good question. To this day I cannot think of anything he had done for the world in terms of reducing conflict and its origins. He had not yet signed or started talking to the Russians about reducing the nuclear weapons stockpiles in the U.S. and Russia. This to his credit at the time, he did, but a general deterioration in the international geopolitical climate undermined it. Mr Obama can also take credit for engineering the Iran nuclear deal that infuriates Republican hawks to this day – against the advice of American “allies” – actually nations that I believe do not have America’s interests at heart at all – Israel and Saudi Arabia, he engineered a deal with the help of Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France whereby Iran can have a nuclear reactor for power generation, but not to create weapons grade material.

Unfortunately that is where the credits stop

I do not think in all cold honesty that history will be dreadfully kind to Mr Obama. Here is a man who had 8 years to gain international respect by reforming the C.I.A. and F.B.I. but failed to push the chance. Here is a man who let Russia and China continue their massive military build ups. They also have an agreement which means that an attack on one would probably be construed as an attack on the other.

It will be Mr Obama’s failure to address the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and the sectarian violence in both countries that followed that most people will remember.

Sure Mr Obama came here on a private visit. Sure he needed more security than most others would need due to his status as an ex-President.  But none of this changes the fact that some truly dreadful things that a more moderate U.S. approach could have probably avoided, happened. They include the use of drones to assassinate suspected militants, only to find out later that wedding parties were being murdered by wayward rockets. These extendedinto Pakistan, which may help explain the deterioration of U.S.-Pakistani relations in recent years.

I am not sure who I am more frustrated with. Mr Obama for his failure to address the problems caused by his predecessor in the Middle East. Mr Obama also made the substantial misjudgement in enabling the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (T.P.P.A.)., a corporate agreement that effectively neutralizes the sovereignty of the signatory nations.

Or am I frustrated with the totally undue attention given by New Zealand media to a private visit where he clearly was not here for public engagements. The net value of this visit in terms of New Zealand gaining is zero (0). I do not think this will happen whilst New Zealand media favour infotainment, but this is a long way down from the truly award winning exposes of programmes such as Sunday. The primary responsibility of the fourth estate is to uncover stories and report them.

Either way other than marvelling at the wasted time burnt by obsessing over Mr Obama, New Zealand is not the benefactor.

Of trade deals and revived Cold War geopolitics


When New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters commented about trade with Russia earlier this week, there was mixed reaction. Our allies were surprised. Russia, probably grinning and the ordinary Jim and Jane wondering what just happened.

I wonder how many people born post-1989 would recognize that today we are in the midst of the very sort of Cold War geopolitical environment that our parents and grandparents found themselves living through. I wonder how many of the would realize how little it would take to cause an international incident that the whole world regrets. But above all, I wonder how much those in New Zealand who were spared the tensions of the Cold War, realize that just because they are nations that we have traditionally been good friends with does not automatically make Britain or the U.S. automatically right when they make a foreign policy decision.

Mr Peters highlighted the stark differences between New Zealands priorities and those of Britain. The New Zealand priorities which seem to be about securing trade agreements with European nation’s post-Brexit, include a potential deal with Russia, and another with the European Union.

Perhaps New Zealand is being a bit naive. The Russian Government is renown for it’s bullying tactics. It’s attempt at annexing Ukraine was a flagrant attempt at rebuilding the Russian empire of old, whilst also improving access to the Black Sea. Doing a free trade agreement with it sort of seeks to legitimise the activities of a country that violates international law as much as America does.

Whilst needing to be able to conduct trade with nation’s whose agendas and views are not compatible with New Zealand, it needs to be said that our values are too important to compromise for dollars. We were shocked when Russia carried out acts such as the attack on Alexander Litvinenko, and rightly so because the nature of the assassination was one that could only becarried out by someone in a very high position. We were shocked when Russia vetoed moves in the United Nations  to condemn the use of gas on civilians in Aleppo. We have been surprised by the apparent use of a military grade agent last week against a spy and his daughter.

At some point no one should be surprised if there is push back against Russia for this conduct. Russia’s conduct in many respectsrhas been similar to that of the United States. The latter can be accused of invading nation’s and has times propped up dictators such as General Augusto Pinochet, Saddam Hussein, and turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabias war in Yemen.

New Zealand needs to ask itself this:

  1. Does it want to remain blindly supportive of America and Britain even when they are not always right?
  2. Does it want to be seen supporting a nation (Russia) that carries out horrifying assassinations, annexations and most probably supplied the missile system used to down Malaysian Airlines flight MH7?
  3. Pursue an independent foreign policy including trade agreements with whomever we see fit? And at the possible expense or delay of deals with traditional partners?

Whilst wanting Russia to understand it is not helping its own reputation to be carrying out such poison attacks, history is littered with evidence of the other side committing atrocities  as well. When a weakened Prime Minister of Britain goes up against the nuclear power that is Russia and its leader says in a threatening voice not to threaten a nuclear power, who is prepared to continue with such a black and white threat?

Mr Peters and New Zealand First should learn from this.