Global Zeitenwende: an epochal tectonic shift unfolds #382

A Global Zeitenwende - an epochal shift - is going on in geopolitics. The US, China, Russia, Europe, India, Japan and the rest are reeling after COVID and Ukraine. What are the ramifications?

Global Zeitenwende: an epochal tectonic shift unfolds #382
Photo by Pooja Chaudhary / Unsplash
Patrick Hendry
Photo by Patrick Hendry / Unsplash
“Last night I dreamed about you. What happened in detail I can hardly remember, all I know is that we kept merging into one another. I was you, you were me. Finally, you somehow caught fire.” ― Franz Kafka

100 years from now, when historians look at our era they will consider COVID-19 to be the one event that ripped the sutures apart from the carefully put-together "global order."

A colonial extension era of the West dominating and ruling the world, though peaceful (on West's terms), has been recognized for its limitations and follies.

The world has grown up and found that the emperor (or emperors) have been walking around naked all the time!  The very recognition of their utter ignorance and blindness is probably going to enrage the rest of the world more than the actual act of emperor/s of fooling the global participants.

Too much is going on and the ramification of these tectonic shifts could be a cataclysmic event rarely witnessed.

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Poles up for grabs

French President Emmanuel Macron made a watershed trip to China last week.  

Years from now, this trip will take on the same significance that US President Richard Nixon's visit to China from February 21st through 28th, 1972 took on in the way the subsequent events and global configurations unfolded.  

As the Cold War was raging, his visit to China was shared by Nixon as - The Week that Changed the World.

It finally ended 25 years of no communication or diplomatic ties between the two countries and normalized relations between the two countries and indeed two different groupings.  More importantly, it began the rise of China to where it has become a competitor to the US in every way.

Nixon visit paved way for China rise: author
Almost 35 years after President Richard Nixon startled the world by visiting a hitherto hostile China, the boldness of the trip and his meeting with Mao Zedong still capture the imagination.
The French President visited China from the 5th through the 8th of April 2023. - A (half) week that will change the world?

On that trip, Macron talked about not just de-coupling Europe from the US, but also becoming another pole in the whole global geopolitical set up.

Source: "Macron sparks anger by saying Europe should not be ‘vassal’ in US-China clash" / The Guardian

For this trip and what transpired there, he has been severely criticized with some Europeans almost disowning him completely.

Source: "China hawks tell Macron: You don’t speak for Europe" / Politico

But Macron is not the only European who is disillusioned with the whole EU/US war propaganda and belligerence.  

Clare Daly, is an Irish politician and a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), has been raising the hatchet against the Military-Industrial Complex and how the Western establishments have been outright lying while unleashing one devastating war after another.


Well, Irish have a thing against EU anyway.  Here is Richard Barrett, another Irish politician who literally humiliates EU President Ursula von der Leyen when she was in Ireland. Video link

Is Europe not aligned with the US in this war?

The imposition of the Ukrainian war, without any buy-in from the Europeans who have literally been thrown under the bus due to the energy crisis and the inflationary impact, is breaking Europe apart.

But the 'little nuances' like these are hardly what the Biden administration or the establishment really cares about.  And, that is precisely what is creating and enlarging the rift in the most stable geopolitical arrangement since World War II.

Nobody says it better than the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán - who has been exceptionally vocal about the whole issue.

The Hungarian prime minister also reportedly said that European leaders are close to considering whether the EU can send peacekeeping troops into Ukraine. "The war is worrying and dangerous for the Hungarian people. Our security is in danger," said Orbán.  Since "the West is providing Ukrainians with more and more modern equipment, I am convinced that the threat of world war is not a literary exaggeration," he said. "When European and American leaders say that if this continues, we could end up in the third world war, it seems incredibly exaggerated at first, but where I work and where I see the events, this is a real danger at this moment, " Orbán said. Hungary has refused to supply Kyiv with weapons, despite appeals from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Western leaders for military supplies. (Source: "Europe Close to Deciding on Peacekeeping Troops in Ukraine—Viktor Orbán" / Newsweek)

Orban is openly saying that the EU is actually prolonging the war in Ukraine as opposed to helping to end it.

Hungary’s Orban accuses EU of prolonging war in Ukraine
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Saturday that the European Union is partly to blame for prolonging Russia’s war in Ukraine, doubling down on his government’s insistence that supporting Kyiv was a mistaken strategy for Europe.

Of course, he is being tagged as a "right-wing populist leader".  Because he is not following the line that Biden's US establishment is throwing around.

The fact is that the Ukraine war was imposed on the world by the West and NATO's shenanigans.  Watch this incredible lecture by Prof. John J. Mearsheimer who is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor in the Political Science Department at the University of Chicago.

The hypocrisy of the West in the Ukraine war is something that he brings out when he says -

“part of the Western world, a member of NATO and the European Union where, aside from us, everyone supports the war or at least acts like they do.”

You see, Europeans are not really in the Ukraine war the way the US had hoped the entire Western bloc would be.  And in that sense, the split within the US-Europe alliance is fairly obvious.

But is this split only because of the Ukraine war?


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The European Conundrum

The real issues between the US and Europe in the past few decades have been exacerbated by the takeover of the US security establishment by the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) and its impact on the security and competitiveness of the European defense industry itself.  To counter this, somewhat, EU had created its own Defence policy body in 2004.

In July 2004, the EU foreign ministers had voted for the creation of the European Defence Agency (EDA).  Its mission was to be the critical driver of the development of a European foreign and defence policy.

Source: European Defence Agency website

But that did not stop the top players in the global MIC establishment to pitch for more money to be earmarked in the European budgets, which of course they could use to increase their revenues!  

So they brazenly lobbied in Europe just as they were doing in the US.

Source: The emerging EU Military Industrial Complex (PDF download link)- Transnational Institute

The Ukraine war has brought the pressures on the Trans-Atlantic arrangements out in the open more starkly.  Europe is questioning where it stands because its almost helpless dependency on the United States is obvious.  And the US has opened more war theaters than it can defend against the likes of Russia and China.  So, the natural question that is at the top of every policymaker's mind (amongst the American allies) is - Can the US defense guarantee be really trusted?

Source: Strategic responsibility: Rebalancing European and trans-Atlantic defense / Brookings

This is a question that the American security establishment is acutely aware of and has been debating on.  The real questions here are -

What happens when the cost of securing an ally becomes more than US taxpayers can bear? Are the US security guarantees still bankable? Or should the allies start their own preparations for a world beyond the US security apparatus?

Here is an extract from a paper in the US Army War College journal that discusses the ramifications of the allies losing their trust in America's ability to defend them when someone comes knocking.

Source: Landpower and American Credibility (PDF link for Download) / The US Army War College Quarterly

Questions on trust for the US's ability to hold its side of the deal are central to the Trans-Atlantic arrangement.

Let us come back to these questions a bit later.  

But there is another element that is disturbing in the whole Trans-Atlantic security situation.  And potentially far more devastating in its portent.

Trans-Atlantic Arms Competition

In 2021, France had recalled its ambassadors from US and Australia due to a perceived snub and an obvious high-handedness on part of the Biden administration - calling it a "stab in the back"!

Do you know why?

Because France was to sell a fleet of 12 state-of-the-art attack submarines to Australia.  But US and UK undercut that deal and Australia canceled its French submarines in favor of the American ones.  And, this was part of a trilateral security pact called AUKUS (Australia-UK-US).

Source: France recalls ambassadors to US and Australia after Aukus pact / The Guardian

What that showed to France was that the American establishment is not opposed to cannibalizing its own (within NATO) when it came to the weapons trade.

That is a more serious situation to be in.

So you see Macron's visit to Beijing was the first major move of a realist amongst the allies who want to start their own journey for safety and defense in the post-lack-of-trust-in-US era! Whether the allies lack trust in the US is not even a question in Macron's mind anymore. That has been settled conclusively! The China visit was part of the "Now What?" plan.

Snubbed, disappointed, and felt unincluded in major geopolitical decisions, France clearly wants to set its own path.

Let us say it another way - In those actions lies another unsaid conclusion - that NATO is no longer relevant in the future alignments as France sees it.  In other words, France seems to have discounted NATO as its "go-to" security mechanism.

It is seeking its own.

To underscore that, one action spoke louder than anything else.  Acceptance of China's 12-point Ukraine Peace Plan.

The Chinese came up with a 12-point "Peace Plan" for Ukraine in an attempt to position itself as the mediator in the conflict.

China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis

But that plan was summarily rejected by the US and NATO.

The plan has been largely dismissed by the West due to China's refusal to condemn Russia for invading its sovereign neighbour. The United States and NATO have said China was considering sending arms to Russia, which Beijing has denied. (Source: "Macron seeks China's help on Ukraine, Xi 'willing' to call Zelenskiy" / Reuters)

But such strong opposition from the US and NATO did not stop Macron to accept some of its major components.

At the same time, Mr. Macron accepted several terms that China included in its 12-point proposal for the “political settlement of the Ukraine crisis,” issued in February and dismissed by the United States. Among them were the need for “a balanced, effective and sustainable European security architecture” and the need to prevent “bloc confrontation,” which the Chinese regard as reflecting a “Cold War mentality.” (Source: "French Diplomacy Undercuts U.S. Efforts to Rein China In" / New York Times)

The cracks and chasm between the Trans-Atlantic partners are fairly obvious now and it shows in the enthusiasm of the European allies to support the Ukraine war.

Yet, as the costs of support mount, old cracks in the relationship are resurfacing. Growing US frustration with the disparity between its support for Ukraine and that of key European allies — including France — is reigniting the longstanding transatlantic security burden-sharing debate. According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, EU member states and institutions combined have only provided slightly more than half as much support to Ukraine as has the United States. Paris, in particular, appears to be punching noticeably below its weight. For example, while the French government does not disclose all details of its weapons shipments to Ukraine, estimates peg its total support for Ukraine as a percentage of GDP below the European average. France has also trained far fewer Ukrainian troops than the United Kingdom, Europe’s other main military power. (Source: "RELATIONS BETWEEN THE US AND FRANCE ARE WORSE THAN THEY APPEAR")

When he came back, Macron contextualized his "vassal state" comment saying that being an ally does not mean being a vassal.

The French president stood by his controversial comments on Wednesday on a visit to Amsterdam, saying that being a US ally did not mean being a "vassal." "Being an ally does not mean being a vassal... doesn't mean that we don't have the right to think for ourselves," Macron told a press conference in Amsterdam with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.  (Source: "German defense minister calls Macron comments on US 'unfortunate'" / Le Monde)

The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, also echoed the French President's sentiment regarding the autonomy of Europe vis-a-vis the US.

Source: "Orban backs Macron over controversial US 'vassal' remarks" / Le Monde

Germans, however, are not on the same page with the French on this.  The German Defense Minister, for example, called it unfortunate.

"I found this comment unfortunate but I think the Elysée Palace has corrected it somewhat. We have never been in danger of becoming or being a vassal of the United States,"  (Source: "German defense minister calls Macron comments on US 'unfortunate'" / Le Monde)

You see, Europe is not the only power in the world that is aiming to become a pole.

India as the Voice of the "Rest"

So is India.

Listen to this viral interaction of Dr. Jaishankar last year.

And as India and its leaders find their own place to stand, as Dr. Jaishankar stated, it is creating the space for those who do not have a voice.  

As the leader of G20, India is using the time to amplify the focus on Global South.  

Source: "How India Plans to Lead Global South During its G20 Presidency" / News18)

But why Global South?

Because Global South carries the moral power with it.  More importantly, it is the mineral and natural resource reserves that countries covet.

China sees the Global South as an important vector for enhancing discourse power and has deployed a number of tactics to disseminate Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-approved narratives there. Two pillars of its strategy include “using international friends for international propaganda” (通过国际友人开展国际传播) and “borrowing a boat out to sea (借船出海).” The first pillar relies on co-opting the voices of foreigners (and foreign leaders) to spread pro-China messaging. The second pillar relies on using international platforms to spread Chinese propaganda in target environments. This includes expanding China’s media footprint, conducting propaganda campaigns, and leveraging Beijing’s influence to gain government support for its initiatives in international forums like the United Nations. (Soource: "China’s discourse power operations in the Global South" / Atlantic Council)

So China sees Global South as a propaganda battlefield that it needs to conquer.  China's agenda for the Global South and poor nations whether in Latin America, Africa, or Asia is no different that the Colonial West.  One calls it the Colonial West because nothing in actual substantive terms has really changed.

For example, France and its former colonies still have a similar arrangement where France has the first right over all the natural resources of its former colonies.  They are called CFA countries!

Source: The Fall of Europe / Drishtikone

The history of colonialization of the Global South by the West is a story of plunder, loot, and subjugation.  

West is rich not because it had great skills in the competitive business arena.  Rather because it had the ruthlessness of unleashing plunder upon other human beings for the last three centuries while it adopted a holier-than-thou attitude.

I mean think of it - aren't the French always preaching to everyone about democracy, human rights, freedoms, and every god-damned word linked to these things?  Yet, all these years - even NOW - it has its colonialism going on.  In a different name. But still actively nevertheless.

The rest are worse.

In a very interesting study published in 2021 in Science Direct, the researchers tried to calculate the imperialist appropriation from Global South to the North.  

The drain from 1990 through 2015 was a whopping $242 trillion! It could have ended the extreme poverty of the global south 70 times over!

That is the real nature of the Global north.

Source: Imperialist appropriation in the world economy / Science Direct

The question one needs to ask is:

If Global South is taken out of the imperialist influence of Europe, US and China - who amongst the imperialist powers would even survive? Global North is what it is because of its easy access to the riches of the Global South. Take away that access and you have NO Global North anymore!

And, one does not need to denude and plunder Africa or smaller African power.  One can create win-win relationships of equals based on the good of both parties and still benefit from the resources of the Global South while uplifting its people.

But that is not how the Colonial West has ever worked.

Preaching powers like European countries and the US have now reached an irritating level of senility.  The Global South is not ready to become vassals of the West anymore, if someone strong can speak and bat for them

That is where India comes in!

Vaccine Maitri - During COVID, India supplied 239 million doses of vaccines to 101 countries and UN entities. (Source: Outlook India)

The leaders of the countries in Global South have acknowledged the help that India provided during that time.

Nepal, Bhutan thank Modi for vaccines at UN General Assembly

Fiji PM thanks PM Modi for the vaccines

Dominica PM thanks India and PM Modi

Guyanese President "we owe you a debt of gratitude"

And Jamaica.

This kind of global response without any strings attached was unprecedented.

So, you see, India is creating another model of global inclusion.

You can either engage with the world via Conquest or Embrace.

West and China have followed the path of Conquest.

India demonstrated how the path of Embrace can be used with even better results!

What seems like a benign strategy, could in the end be the most game-changing one in the coming century!

Russia-China-US: Love Triangle

China is a country that is super aggressive and wants to take on adversaries on every front - Taiwan, India, the US, Europe, and the South China Sea.

And, all this is going on while Xi Jinping has just settled his internal politics with his adversaries vanquished.  Or so one would think.  They would be realigning and getting ready.  Or even the new adversary may be preparing for the next step.

Drishtikone Newsletter #363: Understanding Chinese Politics Intrigues
When Hu Jintao was thrown out of the 20th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Congress, many things were set it motion. So what happened and why? What is Xi Jinping up to?

China's troubles with the US have escalated in the last few years.

They hit a high last year when Biden's semiconductor hit on the Chinese and messed them up.

China has been the fastest-growing semiconductor manufacturer in recent years.  In just a few years, China has grown from nothing to almost second place.  And then in October, the Biden administration brought in the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022.  The aim of the bill was to bring manufacturing of the most advanced semiconductor chip back onto the US shores.

China did not have many options to retaliate against the US - Beijing chooses targets carefully as it goes on offensive in US chip wars - and that is why one thinks the chances are that it will find other avenues to get back.

And, the leaked documents recently brought out the preparation that China is doing to be ready for a war.

China has tested and deployed a new longer-range hypersonic missile that is probably able to evade U.S. defenses, according to an overlooked top-secret document among those recently leaked. Now, the public can see what the American intelligence community already knew: China is quickly improving its capacity to strike thousands of miles from its shores and prevent the United States from intervening. (Source: "China's hypersonic missile capability included in shocking intel leak" / The Washington Post)

Also, it is working with Russia to weaponize it for the Ukraine War.  Surreptitiously, of course.

Source: "China agreed to secretly arm Russia, leaked Pentagon documents reveal" / The Guardian

This, of course, hits at the foundation of what the US establishment feels it has the God-given right to do.  

Punish Russia.

Why? Because the US feels that Russia is a great devil for doing once what US has made a habit of - invading other countries and destroying the entire population!

Given where the US is, and how the geopolitical alignments are changing, the US Department of Defense is working to craft coalitions with Japan, Australia, South Korea, and India.

DOD is also looking to develop partners in the region. "Despite [China's] efforts to divide the United States from our allies and partners, DOD is focused on developing a constellation of coalitions to address emerging threats," he said. This means enhanced cooperation with Japan and Australia, and with Japan and South Korea. It also includes outreach to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations; "the Quad" partnership among India, Australia, Japan and the United States; and European allies that are increasingly worried about China's actions. (Source: DOD Is Focused on China, Defense Official Says / US Department of Defense)

Meanwhile, China is working with Russia to help Iran get the chemical for its ballistic missiles.

Source: "Iran in secret talks with China, Russia to acquire sanctioned missile fuel" / Politico

What these moves show is that a serious breach in the American world order is underway and things are moving really fast.

And, China+Russia is not the only headache around.

The Surprising Rise of the German Military

Yes, Germany is not on the same page with France and other Europeans who are questioning NATO, but that is not stopping it from seeking to enhance its own military capabilities.

Source: Bloomberg

Recent actions by German Chancellor Olaf Schulz have the potential to make Germany to build Europe's largest military.

The infusing of 100 billion euros would make Germany's forces to be the third-largest military on the planet! (Source: NPR)

In December last year, Olaf Scholz wrote a major authoritative piece in the Foreign Affairs journal -titled The Global Zeitenwende.  The word literally means times-turn or change of times.

The Global Zeitenwende
How to avoid a new cold war in a multipolar era.

This was preceded by a speech by the German Chancellor in February 2022.

Policy statement by Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and Member of the German Bundestag, 27 February 2022 in Berlin

To understand its significance in Germany's context, one needs to understand where the German population stood prior to that on the question of military deterrence!

Source: Zeitenwende—The Dawn of the Deterrence Era in Germany / German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF)

It is a tectonic shift in Germany for sure, but the overall geopolitical stances are bigger and more fundamental harbingers of a major earthquake in action.

Japan Breaks its Pacificist Shackles

In a newsletter edition last year in July, we had written about why Shinzo Abe was killed.

Drishtikone Newsletter #347: Why Was Shinzo Abe Killed?
Shinzo Abe stepped down in 2020 as the PM. So why would anyone kill him? Political and geopolitical dynamics in Japan are complex. A deep dive to make sense.

One of the central themes was the revision of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.  It is humiliating in the way it was imposed on Japan post World War II even when it was pounded into submission using nukes.

Source: Constitution of Japan

That is what Shinzo Abe was on a mission to change for his country.

Shinzo Abe also believed that Article 9, under which Japan really lost its sovereign rights (primarily the right to wage war and maintain armed forces) was humiliating. It was a continuation of Japan’s surrender to the United States. Specifically, with the threats from China and North Korea, that constraint was now extremely unfair.

In July 2022, Abe's party - LDP - finally won the required seats to be able to make the changes.

Following Sunday’s election, the pro-revisionist camp — the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito, as well as the Democratic Party for the People (DPP) and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) — now holds 179 seats in the upper chamber. The figure tops the 166-seat threshold needed to initiate the process of introducing changes to the Constitution — such as an amendment to the war-renouncing Article 9 aimed at clarifying the legal status of the Self-Defense Forces. (Source: Japan Times)

In March 2023, the Japanese Diet Commission on the Constitution met to eventually bring about those changes.

The Commission on the Constitution is the organization in charge of researching legislation, passing consideration for amendments, and arranging referendums. Fumio Kishida, incumbent Japanese Prime Minister and Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader has vowed to secure amendments to the pacifist constitution by the end of the term. Kishida passes particular attention to Article 9, which directly determines Japan’s military, self-defense and foreign legislation. Further, in December 2022, the LDP released the National Security Scheme, which directly strengthens economic policy as security threats – namely North Korea and China – maintain regional geopolitical pressures. (Source: Japanese Diet Commission on the Constitution to meet)

In preparation for this, the Japanese government had already started preparing its strategic thought.

Late in 2022, Japan's ruling government, led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, endorsed the makings of a pioneering national security policy. It is one that aligns with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's goal to amend Japan's postwar Constitution, which renounces "the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes" (Article 9). As part of the transition to such a grand vision, on December 16, 2022, the Kishida Cabinet released three defense documents, namely the National Security Strategy (NSS), the National Defense Strategy, and the Defense Buildup Program.  These will determine Japan's national security trajectory for at least the next ten years. (Source: Japan's National Security Strategy: On Road to Upending Post-War Pacifism?)

These are the major policy documents released in Japan.

Given this, the Japanese government has shared plans to increase its military spending by a whopping 50%!

Source: Japan aims to boost 5-year defense spending to $318 billion / Associated Press

The wish list that the Japanese military wants is all state-of-the-art high caliber weaponry.

The capabilities include research on hypersonic cruise missiles, the development of high-speed glide bombs for island defense, target observation munitions, Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) control technology, development of new sea mines, improved Type 12 anti-ship missiles, the mass production and deployment of high-speed glide bombs, mass production of the improved SH-60K anti-submarine warfare helicopter, a new anti-ship missile for maritime patrol aircraft, the mass production of torpedoes with a silent power unit and the acquisition of Tomahawk cruise missiles. The disclosure is in line with a 2019 MoD enactment on measures for clarification and transparency on new military equipment. (Source: "Japan Issues Military Equipment Wishlist That Includes Hypersonic Weapons, Unmanned Systems" / US Naval Institute - USNI)

It is not without any reason that Wall Street Journal shouted in late March recently that Germany and Japan are preparing for war.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Which war?

Epochal Shifts

Let us put some of the things we discussed here.

  • Saudis working with Israel.  
  • Saudis joined hands, however reluctantly, with the Iranians (via China)
  • Russia attacks Ukraine to push back NATO's brazen advance
  • US and West make it a loyalty test
  • China is solidly behind Russia
  • India does not fall into any camp
  • India bats for the Global South
  • BRICS countries together and China and India individually go for de-dollarization
  • France aligns with China leaving the American sphere of influence
  • Germany raises its own military deterrence
  • Japan takes off the Article 9 shackles and starts an independent foreign policy

What do these shifts signify?

Weakening of the American position, yes.  But something even more significant.

There is no one adversary that America can point its missiles at.  What is terrible from a geopolitical view is imperative in the world of trade and economy.

For example, it is critical for the US to de-couple from China in every which way. But if it does, its trade and economy will be devastated to the pre-World War I era!

What is true for the US is also true for the rest of the world.

In simple terms, the world no longer has a sheriff in the town. It may very well be a Wild West brawl in the offing.

Video Corner: Are you living YOUR Life?

These lessons have been shared in many ways.  This video, however, is very insightful.  Articulated in a contemporary way.

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