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Webcast: Peace Through Development! Ideas Change History, not Slogans

The bloodbath and deaths in Palestine continue unabated, with over 10,000 people, including over 4,000 children, already dead. UN Secretary-General António Guterres once again called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, lamenting that “Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children”.

Millions of people around the world protested against the bloodshed last weekend and many more actions are already planned, which more and more people will join — despite all the bans and attempts at intimidation.

Now is the time for solutions like the ones the Schiller Institute and the LaRouche movement have been working on for decades, because ideas have power, mere slogans not.

Proof that ideas can change the universe can be seen in the conference currently taking place and organized the Ibn Sina Research and Development Center in the Afghan capital Kabul, which is being attended by a seven-member international delegation from the Schiller Institute.

The reconstruction plan ‘Operation Ibn Sina: The Coming Economic Miracle in Afghanistan’, drafted by experts from the Schiller Institute and Afghanistan, will be presented and discussed in various panels.

The motto “Peace through Development” can and must become the driver in all regions of the world.
Join Helga Zepp-LaRouche and the Schiller Institute and support the implementation of the ideas and projects of the international LaRouche Movement.

Schiller Institute Participates in Conference on Afghanistan’s Economic Development

A groundbreaking conference is taking place this week in Kabul, Afghanistan, that is aiming to help Afghanistan be among the new paradigm of nations seeking a beautiful future of collaboration and economic development. Titled: “Creating the Afghan Economic Miracle,” the conference runs from Nov. 6-8 and has attracted scholars and guests from across Afghanistan as well as from other parts of the world. It is being hosted by the Ibn Sina Research and Development Center. The conference’s stated aim is: “to present a comprehensive plan for the economic reconstruction of the entire country, with the goal to turn Afghanistan into a middle level-income country in the foreseeable future.”

Reports from the first day of the conference are that some 500 guests were in attendance in the auditorium, with another 100 spilling out into the hallways. Xinhua reports that Afghanistan’s acting Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai kicked off the event, and called upon Afghan and foreign companies to invest in the war-ravaged country, and for Afghans living abroad “to return home and rebuild their country.”

One of the top organizers said that a common comment that he got from participants was that they now have a real sense of hope for the future of the country and its development. Participation was at a high level, including numerous government officials, such as deputy ministers and the Deputy Prime Minister. One participant said of the first days’ proceedings: “It’s been amazingly informative to speak with everyone. A real sense that Afghanistan is taking charge of its own future. No funding for this conference came from outside the country.”

A Schiller Institute delegation is among those in attendance, and will be making presentations during Tuesday’s proceedings on Nov. 7, focused on various topics of the economic reconstruction of the country.

The Ibn Sina Research and Development Centre’s Nov. 6 press release explained:

“Obviously, the alleviation and subsequent elimination of the humanitarian crisis must be a priority. But that is sustainable only if there is a nationwide program of basic infrastructure like transport, energy, water management, communications, education and health care. Only if these basics are built in the entire country can productive agriculture and industry be developed.

“For this goal, the Conference will present the economic plan called, ‘Operation Ibn Sina: The Coming Economic Miracle in Afghanistan,’ which has been worked out by the volunteer economists of the Schiller Institute, and provided to Afghan experts living abroad and in Afghanistan, to analyze and prioritize its goals.

“The transformation of Afghanistan into a stable, prosperous country is also in the interests of all of the country’s neighbors, since the geographic location of Afghanistan makes it an organic hub for much of the transport and trade between Central Asia, South Asia and Southwest Asia. The integration of Afghanistan into the corridors and infrastructure projects of the Belt and Road Initiative is in the interest of all Eurasia, as well as of Afghanistan.

“This program and outlook is in the tradition of one of the greatest sons of Afghanistan, Ibn Sina, whose father was born in Balkh, in the north of the country, and who is one of the greatest physicians and universal thinkers of all time. What an excellent metaphor for a rich and beautiful future for Afghanistan!”

Interview: The Last Gaullist in England — Prof. Richard Sakwa

Prof. Richard Sakwa – “The Last Gaullist in England”

Mike Billington:  Thank you for this second interview with EIR. Since the March 2023 interview, you’ve published a new book: “The Lost Peace — The Second Cold War and the Making of a New Global Conflict.”  

Prof. Sakwa: It’s due to be published in the United Kingdom on the 25th of October, and it’s due to come out in the United States in November. The title has slightly changed, zhelayushchiy ili ne zhelayushchiy as they say in Russian, “willing or unwilling.” It’s now called “The Lost Peace– How the West Failed to Prevent a Second Cold War.’ It’s out with Yale University Press. It’s available on Amazon, I think for pre-order.

Mike Billington: You also spoke at the Valdai Club. I watched some of that event, and we followed President Putin’s speech very closely in EIR. I noticed that you also participated in the press conference and had a question for President Putin, which I’ll bring up later on. You’ve generally been emphasizing the need to stop the rush to war before it gets out of control. Are there other things that you wish to mention about your current activities?

Prof. Sakwa: I’ve got another book coming out, with Edward Elgar Publishers. It’s called “An Advanced Introduction to Russian Politics.” It’s a short book, 60,000 words. And of course, it’s a bit of an ambitious or fool’s journey, to try to do this at a moment of huge flux. But it’s an attempt to establish some of the frameworks in which we can understand Russian politics today. Of course, in this incredibly polarized intellectual atmosphere, any attempt to deal with Russia or China today, and a whole stack of other countries in a dispassionate, objective manner, is condemned even in terms of methodology, quite apart from the content. The actual act of doing so is often condemned, even before people get to the substance of what the book actually says. As I think the Schiller Institute and others have argued for so long, we simply must have dialogue and we must have debate. You mentioned the Valdai Club, even my attendance there itself has provoked a certain degree of criticism. But I insist that dialogue, debate, open channels are absolutely essential, in fact more essential today than possibly at any other time, because the dangers of war and conflict are so high. So just to talk to people, not just in the formal sessions, but the informal discussions. People from across the world, good friends from China, from India, South Africa, so many other countries. I must say, the Valdai Club is always a very stimulating intellectual environment because the discussions are always measured, informed, reasonable, with a positive view on things. Never does it descend into simple attacks, denunciations, let alone personal ad hominem attacks.

Mike Billington: I listened to one of your presentations at the Valdai Club. You noted that there is a  growing momentum towards shifting the unipolar world to a multipolar world, which you noted was very important, but you also warned that such a multipolar world must not simply change one hierarchy, with some country in charge, for another. And you noted that the Westphalia Peace of 1648, which ended the 30 Years War, established the principle of sovereignty, but that a “Westphalia-Plus” — that was your term — was required. Helga Zepp-LaRouche, as I’m sure you know, has emphasized that the Westphalian principle of the “interests of the other” being more important, or at least equally important, as the self-interest of each nation. What do you mean by Westphalia-Plus?

Prof. Sakwa: I think it’s precisely the formulation of “sovereign internationalism.” Sovereignty, yes, that’s the core principle of Westphalia. But Westphalia left the content of what is within the states, as it were, and the model of relations between states, open. Westphalia didn’t put an end to religious wars. In fact, in some ways it may have facilitated it. We know that bloc politics continued. What we mean by Westphalia-Plus today means two things: First, a genuine and substantive positive mode of internationalism, which, based on the framework established by the United Nations and its subsequent protocols, charters, etcetera, of 1945. So that’s one of the Plus elements, which is just simply a substantive internationalism, which doesn’t deny some of the US led bodies, but it also suggests that  in some ways they have not served the cause of humanity, but they’ve often been rather more narrowly focused on maintaining the power of the previous or the hegemonic powers. Today I think that the Plus is going to say that multipolarity too often is seen as an empty slogan, whereas it has many facets. One of them is the maturation of the post-war state system. There are now 200 states in the world, 193 in the United Nations. Many, including the post-colonial states, have now matured.

Obviously, India is number one amongst them because when the United Nations was formed, it was not an independent state. Today, it’s a state, the third largest economy in the world, demanding that its voice be heard, quite rightly. And similarly, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, so many others, South Africa. But also the Plus sign means that there is still a normative dimension. Too often it’s simply reduced to the question of human rights. Obviously, human rights are important. Who would deny it? But human rights are within the whole framework of development, of unleashing potential. So the internationalism takes both an institutional form and a normative form. I think that when we’re talking about groups like BRICs or Shanghai Cooperation Organization, we should also remember that the UN system isn’t just a question of sovereign internationalism. It’s also a question of — I hesitate to use such a word as “values,” because it’s so often been cheapened and used as an instrument in geopolitical contestation. That doesn’t, though, ultimately mean that those values which are — and I’m talking about UN values, not those put forwards by a particular bloc — are genuinely human values. Rights are human. That includes, of course, social and other economic rights, which includes the right to life, clean water and development. So the Westphalia-Plus for me does quite a lot of work.

Mike Billington: You said that the UN charter was essentially intended as a solution to that issue of sovereign internationalism, but that the Charter is now under great threat due to the former colonial powers who have been  — and this is your quote, which I appreciate, “locked into a stupid, pointless, savage and tragic war.” We now have a new savage war in Gaza. So what must be done?

Prof. Sakwa: If I knew that, —  I think that it’s obvious that change begins with ourselves, with us, and we just simply have to do what we feel is right. Obviously, we must simply insist that without the UN system, without the charter, without that international system and its genuinely universal principles, then we are literally in unchartered waters. There’s a lot of condemnation of the UN, including calls for Russia, even China, to lose their veto powers and to be taken out, expelled from the Security Council. I think that’s madness. Of course, it’s impossible to achieve without the destruction of the system itself. The reason why I say that, the charter system, the 1945 system, is undoubtedly far from perfect and it needs reform. We need India, we need Brazil. We need a representative or two from Africa as permanent members of the Security Council. But even as it is, without it, we really will be in a totally anarchic jungle world. So I think the defense of the charter system is the number one. And then, of course, advancing its principles: peace, development, negotiated settlements, negotiation, diplomacy, all of those elements, because we certainly cannot slip back to a situation which held during the First and Second World Wars. But of course, we are very much in danger of slipping inexorably, unavoidably into a possibility of the foothills of the Third World War.

Mike Billington: You just mentioned the rising powers who should be part of the UN. Putin also said that — in fact, it was in response to your question, which I watched. You asked about the emergence of these post-colonial states, and that they’re coming together in new institutions like the BRICs and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. His response was that the 1945 framework no longer functions, and without a new framework, there will be chaos, which is pretty much what you just said as well. He called for new developed major powers like India, Brazil and South Africa, to be added to the UN Security Council. But is that enough, or are you implying in your last statement that it’s really not enough?

Prof. Sakwa: I must say that Putin did go on to say that the UN needs reform in a way we’ve just outlined, changing and expanding the membership of the UN Security Council. But he also said, however flawed the UN system is, there’s nothing waiting in the wings to replace it. And that is the absolutely crucial point. There is nothing in the wings. As I’ve suggested earlier, international politics takes place within the framework of this international system. But at the second level, if you like, international politics, leaving aside international political economy, transnational civil society, but at the second level of international politics, we’re seeing a reorganisation and a shakeup, the likes of which, to quote Xi Jinping and Putin in their meeting in March, the likes of which we’ve not seen since 1945. You mentioned the emergence of, let’s call them “post Western political alignments,” because they are characterized by a number of things: one, it’s absolutely mistaken to consider them anti-Western —  they’re “post-western.” They’re going beyond it. The goal is not to replicate the pattern of politics of what I call the Political West, but to transcend that bloc politics, the competitive dynamic, the attempt to defend hegemony. So these are counter-hegemonic alliances — not alliances, but alignments — not just simply to balance the existing system, but to transcend it. And thus they take some energy or certainly some intellectual affiliation with the type of politics outlined by Gorbachev in the late 1980s during perestroika, when he was launching reforms in the Soviet Union. The goal was not simply to make the Soviet Union like the West. It was to make the Soviet Union, along with the West, in more close alignment to those fundamental principles outlined in 1945. It is on this basis that he talked about there being no winners or losers at the end of the Cold War, everyone was a winner, and that is the similar language used by Putin and above all, Xi Jinping — win-win situations and so on. These aren’t empty slogans, but a substantive vision of how international politics should be conducted.

Mike Billington: We’re dealing with this continuing surrogate war in Ukraine against Russia. You’ve written extensively on the war, pointing to the fact that the 2014 coup against the elected government in Kiev, which was sponsored by the US, not only put a proto-nazi regime in power in Ukraine, but also collapsed the entire European security system. You said this marked the failure of the Western world after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s to create what you called an “inclusive, comprehensive peace order.” I think you know that Helga has referred to that period as the “lost opportunity.” And your new book is titled “The Lost Peace.” What is the theme of that book?  

Prof. Sakwa: A number of themes, but the main one is the assertion and the argument and hopefully substantiated, that there was an opportunity for a new pattern to international politics after the end of the Cold War, based within the framework of sovereign internationalism and the charter international system. Unfortunately, the political West, which is an entity — the European Union is part of it, but above all, NATO. It’s also the dynamic based on US primacy, leadership, call it what you will. The political West, instead of recognizing this opportunity to reset international politics, only intensified the logic and the pattern that had prevailed during the first Cold War, and thus that moment of opportunity — this isn’t an abstract, it was genuine, and a lot of people recognized it at the time — that there was an ability to transcend bloc politics, to make the charter system work better, to have in Europe a genuine, enduring peace. One of those elements would have had to have been a genuine pan-continental vision of security, instead of which we saw the intensification of the Atlantic power system, which by definition excluded Russia. So we have a dynamic which — and many other books have put it — Thomas Graham, I think is one of the most perceptive, has just argued similarly in his book, which just come out, called “Getting Russia Right” — the fundamental point is that we had an opportunity to establish a positive peace. And a positive peace is more than a negative peace, which is just simply the absence of war, but a positive peace, which would include developmental and other indices in it. Until his death last year, Gorbachev  stuck to that vision, surprisingly enough, because his vision was a powerful one. My book is rooted in how the first Cold War ended, creating the framework for the continuation of Cold War, if not intensification, without some of the guardrails, because after 1989, the political West radicalized itself. This is why the second Cold War is so much more intense and more dangerous than the first. Quite apart from the fact that it’s now focused in the first instance on Europe. In the first Cold War, Europe was relatively static and the Cold War was fought elsewhere, above all Korea, Vietnam, Africa. But this second Cold War, its epicenter, has come home to roost in Europe. And that’s something I’ve been warning against for 30 years. And of course, it’s utterly tragic for all of Europe and above all, for the Ukrainian people and indeed the Russian people.

Mike Billington: As you’ve just referenced, your histories of modern Russia portray glasnost and perestroika as efforts by Gorbachev in particular, and others, to create a “genuinely transformative program of change” — that’s one of your terms — but that the West rejected that, as you’ve just explained. What was Putin’s role in that dichotomy in Russia and internationally? And what is it today?

Prof. Sakwa: It’s important to understand that Putin’s thinking has evolved over the years. Certain base concepts which he stuck to all throughout — Russia as a great power and a statist inflection, things which we can criticize because of the failure, perhaps, to really envisage an independent public sphere. But in terms of international politics, he came to power as perhaps the most pro-European leader Russia has ever had. But because of the context, the structural context, which was this radicalization of the political West, ultimately there was no space to maneuver. We can chart the landmarks, the signposts: which include the US withdrawal from the ABM treaty in June 2002; the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003; the installation of anti-ballistic missile systems in Eastern Europe; Libya in 2011; then the events in Ukraine 2013-14. Ultimately in Russia, it isn’t just Putin — the elite, the Russian elite, or certainly the political-military security elite felt that the room for maneuver was becoming smaller and smaller.  That is, of course, quite clear because there was no transformation of the European security order after 1989. NATO was effectively an instrument of collective defense. What we failed to do was establish a pan- European institution of collective “security.” The United States quite clearly vetoed any substantive attempts to transform the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the OSCE, to move in that direction. So we ended up in the impasse in which we find ourselves now. As to the implication of your question about maintaining the power of the colonial powers — you call them that, I call it the political West, but it’s the same thing — they insisted on maintaining their powers. But what we see today, of course, is the intellectual exhaustion of the political west. There are no ideas coming from them. They had no idea of how to deal with the problems of Southwest Asia, as we nowadays call it — I noticed that you’ve been calling the Middle East “Southwest Asia” quite consistently. I think that’s right, actually. I’ve been doing so for some time as well.

Mike Billington: You’ve referred regularly in various publications to Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History,” which has been used as sort of a meme to justify the unipolar world, the neoliberal order. You may know that Fukuyama is being promoted again by the Council on Foreign Relations in an article published in their journal Foreign Affairs called “China’s Road to Ruin — The Real Toll of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative” a classic assault on the Belt and Road. How do you read these neoconservative efforts to demonize both Russia and China?

Prof. Sakwa: It’s a continuation of what we’ve seen over the last 30 years. There are two major streams which feed into this. There’s the neocon one, Fukuyama’s line. And of course, on the other side, we have this “liberal interventionism,” which have become fused effectively in the politics — there’s almost nothing to distinguish between them over the last few years, their interventionism, their lack of respect for Soviet internationalism. Instead of the principle being sovereign internationalism, it becomes “democratic internationalism” for the liberal interventionists. For the neocons, they couldn’t care less about the values and normative side — its power which they’re concerned about. But it’s a very substantive coalition from those two interventionists and activist traditions. Of course, in the United States, we have other traditions. We have the Pat Buchanan line. The Paleoconservatives, which, of course, in the best sense, I think the Schiller Institute finds itself in that, talking about a traditional American foreign policy based on conservative, small c conservative, engagement with the world, but without a sense of American exceptionalism and a messianic vision and need to lead.  These neocon and liberal interventionist ideas are, if the proof of the pudding is in the eating, they have been catastrophic. All they do in their thinking — I read Foreign Affairs Journal, you mentioned where Fukuyama’s article is published, some of the stuff is interesting. But one has to say that it’s a sign of intellectual exhaustion. To be honest, there is no positive vision of how to transcend the logic of conflict and how to move into a world which could allow genuine human development to take place. And this is all the more tragic, not only because the challenges that we face, given the challenges facing humanity, but also the enormous potential. I think this is what the Schiller Institute constantly stresses: the technological advances by humanity allow the possibility of so much positive good, a positive peace. And yet, what they call the foreign policy blob in the United States is still intent on relitigating the first Cold War today. And of course, one of the major tragedies of our time is the failure of Europe to devise and pursue an independent policy of its own. At Valdai, I met and had a really marvelous talk with Philip de Gaulle, the grandson of Charles de Gaulle, and was very keen to meet him because, as I introduced myself to him, I’m probably the last Gaullist in England today — there’s a few elsewhere. By Gaullist, I mean, not necessarily domestic politics, but that vision of pan-continental European unity, not against the United States, but as an autonomous and independent force sometimes guiding our American friends, but working, if there’s a positive agenda, on positive goals.

Mike Billington: In your 2022 essay called the “End of Endemism,” which also was referring to Fukuyama’s “End of History,” you referred to the “march of neoliberalism” in the late 20th century, which you defined as “neo-Hegelianism.”  I need to ask you to explain what you were referring to.

Prof. Sakwa: Let me explain it this way. The Hegelian logic is based on a dialectical approach to history, not just even thesis, antithesis and synthesis, but the dialectical approach suggests a certain ineluctable spirit of history, marching forwards, usually in the form of a state or constellation of states. I’ve long been highly critical of this determinism, this historicism, the idea that we can know the meaning and purpose of history and guide it on its way. I think that we have to understand international politics through the lens of tragedy, that a lot of human endeavors don’t achieve its lofty goals, and the loftier the goals, often the more disastrous the outcome. But above all, compared to the neo-Hegelian or the dialectical view of history I’ve been putting forward for a number of years a “dialogical” approach. The political dialogism obviously draws from people like Mikhail Bakhtin, but the key point is dialogue, diplomacy, openness to the experience of others, learning from others, and of course, political dialogism is a term which Bakhtin himself never actually used. But political dialogism draws on him. as in a novel of Dostoyevsky, where people talk and then talk some more and then talk yet more, and another 500 pages have passed, and they’re still talking, as in The Brothers Karamazov. But at the end they all change. That is dialogism political dialogism, and that absolutely repudiates Hegelian or neo-Hegelian thinking of dialectics of the Fukuyama sort, because Fukuyama is very much a neo-Hegelian, as filtered via Alexandre Kojève.   

 Bakhtin is a very, very important thinker. He developed an art and literary cultural criticism, the idea of dialogism. I’m pushing it a little bit further by talking about “political dialogism,” which could be the foundational basis for a more sustained vision of diplomacy today, and how we can get out of this mess through only dialogue and diplomacy. And that is one reason why I attended the Valdai meeting, because that’s what we do. We talk, open ended talk. And it really is genuinely why I’m talking with you today. And how to do these things? Because I don’t for a second pretend to have all the answers. But I certainly think that we just simply have to keep channels of dialogue open everywhere, and precisely where we have the deepest political differences. That is when perhaps it’s most important to return to diplomacy. And of course, that applies to the war in Ukraine as well.

Mike Billington: And the Mideast.

Prof. Sakwa:  And Middle East, of course. And Southwest Asia.

Mike Billington: This is clearly the view of the nations that formed the BRICs, that idea of bringing all nations of different continents, of different political outlooks and so forth, but to bring them together around the concept of mutual development.  They’ve now expanded with six new members, unless it gets sabotaged. In Argentina yesterday, the current government candidate won — there’s going to have to be a runoff election, but nonetheless, the people who were openly peddling that Argentina should not go into the BRICs, that they should break relations with China and so on, were defeated. But there’ll be a runoff. Clearly the BRICs is committed to that principle with the new countries that came in. They include Iran and Saudi Arabia, which of course, China played this amazing role in bringing these two fierce enemies together. And now they’re both part of the BRICs, if that proceeds. The BRICs meeting in South Africa, the G20 meeting in India, the Far Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok just this month — all featured discussions of the end of colonialism, that colonialism is essentially finished. The new system hasn’t really come into place, or at least it’s only there as a potential through the BRICs and the expanded BRICs-Plus. But there were also extensive discussions about establishing a new international financial system, which I think you know that  Mr. LaRouche and our organization have been deeply involved in this for many years. The Russian economist Sergei Glazyev, whom you certainly know, has promoted a concept which Lyndon LaRouche promoted in his 2000 article called “On a Basket of Hard Commodities — Trade without Currency,” breaking out from under the dollar hegemony and establishing a basis for international trade that is based upon the values of production rather than the values established by the speculation on currencies. Where does this discussion stand at this point, and do you expect that there will be a new policy in place in time for the 2024 BRICs summit, which is going to be held in Kazan?

Prof. Sakwa: Yes, Russia takes over the chair of BRICS-Plus on the 1st of January. So it’ll be up to it to devise policies. Can I add one more institutional organization to the list you mentioned and that is ASEAN, the ten countries (of Southeast Asia). For many years there’s been this concept of the ASEAN method, which is one precisely of focusing on development, focusing on trade, not trying to interfere in internal political matters. An ASEAN-Plus meeting also took place not long ago. It’s very important. So all of that, what you’ve just said, is absolutely right, the BRICs-Plus with the six new members. There were 17 others who were really keen to join, Algeria, for example, Indonesia’s membership was offered, but they have elections coming up as well and they thought they would be best to postpone it.

Can I just go back to Argentina. It’s fascinating that Argentina figured so heavily in the initial San Francisco conference, when the United Nations was established in 1945, and the question was then whether to invite Argentina or not. So there’s a certain pattern, and history seems to be emerging because Argentina clearly is faceing a fundamentally important runoff election in mid November between the populist Javier Milei and the incumbent Sergio Massa, from the incumbent party.

Mike Billington: “Populist” is a very polite term for Milei.

Prof. Sakwa: Yes indeed. Libertarian crazy guy. Yes, yes indeed.

Mike Billington: I might mention — In what you were saying about various things earlier, that LaRouche many, many years ago referred to some of the circles around the Rockefeller family as “fascism with a democratic face.” And I think that’s what you were getting at with the issue of, not the neocons, per se, but the so-called “liberal interventionists,” that this is a fascist ideology, but it’s portrayed as a democratic intervention.

Prof. Sakwa: I would avoid personally using the f word, fascism, but clearly it’s there. Some people do indeed characterize it. And I avoid the word fascism because one has to be very careful in delineating exactly what we mean. But the point stands.

As for the currency and economic change, I think that Jeffrey Sachs addressed the Valdai meeting online, but he gave a very powerful overview of this issue, precisely. And I agree. He didn’t say this as such, but there’s two things involved at the moment. The first step will be to de-dollarize and to conduct trade in a basket of currencies, including an alternative financial architecture to facilitate this. The actual development of an alternative currency is a far more challenging prospect. It took the euro at least two decades, if not more, to develop, and even then we can see its downsides. I think Putin, in one of his interviews recently said —  in fact, it was at Valdai — he said the alternative currency, a reserve currency, or a BRICs currency, as such, a new currency, is not on the agenda at the moment. What is on the agenda is the more effective utilization of the yuan, the ruble, the rupee, and facilitating mechanisms for trade.

It may come to it, but it’s an alternative. Financial architecture is clearly something that is happening. We can see it in the data. The percentage of global trade which is bypassing the dollar, is going up very fast. It’s remarkable how fast people are de-dollarizing because of the brutality with which the dollar has been weaponized recently. I just saw some figures today about the Chinese divesting themselves of US debt. Obviously, they’ve still got vast stocks, and this is going to take a long time. But it’s certainly happening. And this is, as we say, a shift in international politics and international political economy with huge consequences, because it will mean that the United States will not have that exorbitant privilege of the dollar being the unique reserve currency, which allows it to run what is now $32 trillion debt and of course, extensive trade deficits for year upon year. So clearly, De-dollarization is going to force the United States to get its own finances in order. And we just hope that they will be able to find the leadership to do that.

Mike Billington: A separate subject. A lot of discussion, including at the Valdai Club in part, in a back and forth with President Putin, about the issue of nuclear weapons. A lot of the Western press is claiming that Russia is threatening the use of nuclear weapons. And Putin responded to the proposal by one of the leading Russians who was essentially arguing that they should put the use of nuclear weapons back on the agenda as a way of reinforcing the fact that the West has, as you mentioned, canceled all of the treaty agreements to limit nuclear weapons and to limit tests and so forth. But Putin responded very strongly that that’s not on the table, at least not now, because there’s no threat to the existence of the Russian Federation, nor a threat of a nuclear attack on the Russian Federation, which are the only two bases on which there would be the use, by Russia, of nuclear weapons. But there are also people in the West who are pushing for the destruction of Russia and China. They make it very clear, and especially in the Ukraine case, they openly state their intention is to drastically weaken Russia so that they can never do the “nefarious things” that they do. That kind of talk, which means that especially with, essentially, the loss of the war in Ukraine and the failure of the counteroffensive and so forth, that they’re pushing towards open confrontation with Russia, which could very likely end up being nuclear. So what is your view on that?

Prof. Sakwa: The first thing is the ideas put forward by Sergey Karaganov about nuclear weapons. It’s a more nuanced and complex position than sometimes presented in the Western media. Sergei Alexandrovich, as we call him, Karaganov, has done 2 or 3 versions of it, including an extended version in “Russia in Global Affairs,” in which he is basically not calling for the use of nuclear weapons, but he is calling for is the return of healthy deterrence to avoid the use of nuclear weapons. He’s arguing that it is the West, as you’ve just suggested, which has lost a fear of nuclear weapons and indeed discounts the dangers of sliding into some sort of nuclear escalation. What Sergei is trying to do is to up the ante, in other words, so that the ante doesn’t have to be upped all the way. It’s a complex position, but I think it’s an important one. Putin of course, as you said, said that he understood that position, but he rejected it. And that is absolutely, fundamentally important. And he reiterated the two points that, as you’ve said, there’s only two Russian nuclear doctrine circumstances in which nuclear weapons are used, in response to another attack, a second strike and indeed, if the country’s existence was existentially challenged. That’s the standard nuclear doctrine. 

Of course, the United States has not signed the “no first use” declarations, which is interesting. So that means that everybody has to be constantly on the alert. And of course, the danger of accidental nuclear conflict is therefore always ever present. But you’re right that the political West seems to be on a trajectory with almost no limits. It’s been driven, of course, by the extremists in Ukraine, who for them there is no limit. They’ve always wanted to negate Russia. This is western Ukraine. As far as they are concerned, Russia, even the very name is illegitimate. Zelensky not long ago, and his adviser, said we should use the word Muscovy instead of Russia! This sort of attempt to cancel Russia, negate it, is clearly one of those issues in the political West today. Of course it won’t work. Russia is a nuclear power, and it’s actually expecting over 2% economic growth this year. It has survived the challenges of sanctions so far. Clearly it has difficulties. The economy has suffered, no question about it. But it won’t be going anywhere soon. And indeed, this is a point which a lot of. commentators make, including Thomas Graham, that even without Putin himself, the views of the Russian elite and a large section of the population maintain the position that Russia has to maintain itself as an independent great power.

The policy manifestations may be debated, but the fundamental principle is one shared by the elite and the population. Putin is now supported by, still, over 80% of the population. Well, you may say, how do you measure these things in war time? Clearly there’s methodological issues, but nevertheless Russia is not going anywhere soon, and neither is China. One is almost left — and I think that’s the logic of your question — is that we appear to have two trains on the same track heading inexorably towards each other. Before the time that the two collide, there are a number of junctions or sidings. Of course, the US presidential elections next year are one of those big events. The difficulties in Congress today is another one of those. There are also elections elsewhere in the world, in the UK next year. But that’s hardly of any significance to most people apart from us. So, nothing. Is inevitable, yet the dangers are unprecedentedly high.

Mike Billington:  You’ve written books and a great deal of material on the Ukraine war and the Ukraine situation. What’s your forecast at this point for what’s going to take place in Ukraine?

Prof. Sakwa: Well, in some ways this also depends what’s going to happen in Southwest Asia, because what we’re now seeing is a genuine global crisis, or certainly in Southwest Asia and in Eastern Europe.  

It’s very difficult talking now, because I’ve actually argued that certainly as far as Israel-Palestine is concerned, the next couple of weeks will be crucial. In some ways, depending on how that goes, this will affect the conduct of the war in Ukraine. As for Ukraine, obviously I just want the killing to stop, the war to stop. There has to be some sort of negotiated element. There’s no sign of that at the moment. My feeling is that in the next few months, Russia may move on to a more active offensive position. This is certainly the position, the view of some generals. It is not clear whether Russia actually has the military muscle power. For example, the fighting over Avdiyivka has been going on for several weeks. Of course, the Ukrainians have dug themselves in very, very deeply there, the coke plant and so on. And we thought that Russia was just about to take over. And yet it hasn’t even managed to close the access to the city. And of course, it’s from Avdiyivka that the Ukrainians were shelling Donetsk for the last seven or eight years. Now, how is it going to go? I think that we’re in for a long, dark period, and only in about 2025 will we begin to see the lineaments, the outline of some sort of post-conflict solutions.

Mike Billington:  If it doesn’t explode beyond those borders

 Prof. Sakwa: And it may do because this Southwest Asia crisis has got huge explosive potential. At the moment it’s all being kept in. But as developments in Gaza develop, then clearly it may draw in other actors. And thus we have an escalatory dynamic which may become unstoppable.

Mike Billington: We have a map of North Africa and the Middle East in EIR this week, which shows this very small country of Israel on the far eastern coast of the Mediterranean, surrounded by five huge countries that we have in bright gold, all of whom have just become members of the BRICs: Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, UAE. It makes you wonder what those two US aircraft carriers, now under Central Command control, are they just there as a warning regarding Israel, or are they there preparing for a war against the BRICs? This is the thing unfortunately, you have to consider at a time of such vast instability in the world today.

Prof. Sakwa: And also, Putin announced the other day that Russian planes will be on patrol in the Black Sea with the kinzhal hypersonic weapon, which, of course, you know, if utilized.

 Mike Billington: Can reach the Mediterranean.  

Prof. Sakwa: Yes. As Colonel MacGregor said, an aircraft carrier today is, is basically a target. And that’s really what it is. 

Mike Billington: Okay. Do you have any final thoughts for our readership?

Prof. Sakwa: Well, as I say, keep up the good work. I think that I quite like the new format of the EIR Bulletin (Daily Alert). And I must say it’s phenomenally informative and always a pleasure to read, for what’s to learn and the tone, the positive tone of peace and development. It’s in short supply nowadays, so keep up the good work.

Mike Billington: Good. And thank you very much. And I hope we can continue this process. 

Interview with Jeffrey Sachs: China Model For Africa — IMF Model’s Failure

Mike Billington: I watched an interview with you this morning. It was very interesting. You focused on the arrogance and hubris of the West, of being “out of date.” You referred to the UK this way: “It still thinks it is an empire which is long since gone.” I appreciated those sentiments. But you also said that there’s nothing stopping the US and Europe from changing, from joining with the BRICs and the Global South in development instead of the threats and war policies against them. I think there’s a huge irony in the fact that the Chinese are actually, in a very real sense, using the American system approach of economics, the policy of Alexander Hamilton, which focused on government directed credit for basic infrastructure and the general welfare, while the US has given up on the American System altogether in favor of adopting the British model of Hobbesian one against all and unregulated free market anarchy. The Belt and Road infrastructure you focused on — you indicated that the three aspects of the Belt and Road are: infrastructure; energy; and digital, and that China actually leads in all three of those areas. Would you agree that China is using this Hamiltonian approach to economics, perhaps coming from Sun Yat Sen, who was highly influenced by Hamilton?

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs: China has what I would simply call a mixed economy, which means it’s partly state directed, partly market directed. I think all successful economies are mixed economies and the US, even when it uses free market rhetoric, has a large role of the government, not necessarily an accurate role, but a large role of government in the economy. Different countries come down differently on how they carve up the relative weights and responsibilities of public, private and civil society sectors. It’s true that the UK and  US approach is relatively more on the laissez faire side. I’d say relatively more, with lower taxes, certainly as a share of national income, and much lower social outlays. The UK more than the United States, even though it started with laissez faire in the 19th century, the UK adopted a National Health Service, of course, after World War Two. The United States never did that.

China’s a very pragmatic and economically well-governed country, very impressive during the past 40 years, because they’ve had a planning model with a major role of state finance, combined with a very dynamic and competitive market sector and very entrepreneurial lead in many sectors as well. I was just in China and noted a huge rise of electric vehicles, and there are hundreds of electric vehicle companies right now, start ups. It’s expected that the number will whittle down quickly to perhaps between 5 and 10 such companies, but right now it’s named to be in the hundreds of companies producing electric vehicles, and it’s a fiercely competitive market inside China.

Now, when it comes to the international side, China’s just doing a lot of things that the United States did for a while after World War II, which was to help finance infrastructure abroad, make the way for us multinational companies, in fact. And China right now is doing that. The United States doesn’t do much internationally at all other than war, but it doesn’t do peaceful economic development activities. You could see in the rhetoric of American leaders, politicians, their resentment that China dares to help other countries to build infrastructure. The Belt and Road Initiative, which is a very valid and quite beneficial win-win program of China, together with more than 150 other countries, by the way, is badmouthed every day by the United States, mainly out of resentment and jealousy because the US doesn’t have that kind of spirit to make connections with other countries. China is making massive investments and working with other countries to help them with developing an electric power grid, basic renewable energy sources, fast rail, 5G technologies, paved roads and highways, and many other desirable things that those counterpart countries really need. Now Biden is talking about a road project from India to the Mideast, and he’s so proud of this one road. It doesn’t exist. It’s not financed. It may may be a good idea, but it’s a little pathetic, actually, to to tell you the truth, because China has dozens of projects like this all over the world. The United States has thought about one literally. I guess they took the the “One Belt, One Road” idea, but they took One Road, one! Whereas China is doing dozens of these projects. So the US is kind of looking on.

Mike Billington: I think this IMEC program [the road from India to the Mideast and to Europe] is dead with the war now in Gaza.

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs: Yes, I think that’s right. And we’re so paralyzed, so ineffective, so paralyzed with everything, so war driven that an idea of a road becomes about the best that we can do and a road that perhaps never will be built.. 

Mike Billington: I’ll come back to China. But I also knew that you were at the Valdai Discussion Club in Russia. I was told by Richard Sakwa, whom I interviewed yesterday, whom, you know and who was also speaking at Valdai, he told me that you were speaking there on the question of the discussion for a new currency and a new international trade mechanism that’s taking place within the BRICS. I think you know that Sergei Glazyev, who has been a key economist in this process of formulating these ideas, working with China and with the other BRICS countries, and now really the whole Global South, working on putting together this kind of idea. And you probably know that Glazyev has openly praised Lyndon LaRouche’s economic ideas and especially the article he wrote in the year 2000, which was called “Toward a Basket of Hard Commodities — Trade Without Currency.” So perhaps you can say a bit about where you think that whole plan stands today.. 

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs: Basically, I noted that having one dominant currency in the world, which has been the US dollar after World War two, and which was the pound sterling before World War One, it has certain advantages because money is just a means of settling transactions for the real economy, for the non-monetary economy. So having a single currency can be efficient. But the US has blown it up by weaponizing the dollar. The US had an advantage because other countries and international businesses use the dollar, and that does give benefits to the US, a so-called seigniorage benefits and other benefits, essentially the ease of borrowing abroad and very high liquidity of your own national currency. But the US started to weaponize the dollar, meaning rather than letting it be used just for transactions purposes, the United States used this special situation of having transactions pass through the dollar banking system and ultimately through the central Bank of the US, the Federal Reserve, to start confiscating the dollars of other countries that the US disagreed with in foreign policy.

This is really obnoxious behavior, by the way, because the idea of money is, again, as a transactions medium, not as a hostage to foreign policy. And because the dollar was so dominant, even after the US confiscated the reserves of Iran or North Korea, then Venezuela, now Russia, now many countries use the dollar, but they don’t like to use it because they’re a little afraid of saying a word that’s crossed to the US and then seeing the US government come down on them, even freezing their money. It’s pretty bad behavior in my view, but basically very ill advised because the BRICS countries now — it started with the original five, with Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — but now it’s going to include the the new six, which is Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Iran, is a big group of countries. And they’re saying we don’t want to use the dollar because frankly, we don’t want our money confiscated. And so they’re going to develop an alternative payments system. They will be successful at that because it’s not so hard to make payments in other ways, in renminbi or in rubles or in rupees or in an R-5 currency, so-called because the original BRICS five all have an R currency: the rial, the ruble, the rupee, the renminbi and the rand. So they call it the R-5. And they may just make a basket using those five currencies for denomination, and even for lending and borrowing in a bond denominated in a basket of currencies.

So I expect something interesting and good to come out of this. Again, it’s a little bit regrettable in a way. If having a single medium of exchange, it wouldn’t even have to be one country. Keynes had the idea that it would be the IMF’s currency — the bankcor he called it in a famous writing, would have certain convenience, but if it’s then used monopolistically for militarized or foreign policy or geopolitical purposes, it’s not going to last long, because there are always workarounds when it comes to trade and to financial settlements. And that’s what the BRICS are doing right now. They’re going to do a workaround.

Mike Billington: I sent you just before we got on this link, an article that was published by Glazyev today on this issue, in which he emphasizes that while the basket of currencies and the R5 are definitely being implemented already in various forms, but that eventually the idea of a separate currency, maybe the R5, but some separate currency, which would be also tied to a basket of commodities rather than just currencies, in order  to, in a certain sense, tie it to the actual cost of production in the real economy. He thinks this is something that it can be simple to finish completing it, that he’s hopeful that it can be done by next year when Russia is head of the of BRICS and will be holding the BRICS conference in Kazan, I believe. I’d be interested in your response to his his article.

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs: I haven’t read it yet. Let me just say that there are several different issues involved in our discussion. One is the privilege of the US to host the international currency. And I’ve explained why the US has misused that privilege and why it’s now going to lose a lot of the business from the settlements in dollars. But a second is the mechanics of the payment systems, and the third is the management of monetary policy. These are all distinct issues. On the payments mechanisms, we can do something that could never have been done before, and that is digital settlements. So we don’t even need a banking system now, and we don’t need cash in circulation or gold bars or gold coins and other mechanisms that were mechanisms of settlement, because now digitally, every transaction can be tracked. We know there are different ways to do it. Blockchain is one, but there are many others, probably more efficient ways to do it with central bank clearing, for example. And that means that even the method of payments, I think will likely be digital and could well be a central bank digital currency in the future.

Then the third question is the management of monetary policy, and this is a long debate. John Maynard Keynes wrote brilliantly about it in the 1920s and the 1930s. Should a currency, whether digital or physical, be convertible into something else, for example, gold or into some commodity basket? Or should it be what economists call a fiat currency, which is that it is only backed by the policies of the central bank or banks, that currency and its value depends on expectations about those policies. We’ve had more than 100 years of debate about that. The advantage of linking a currency to a commodity basket is it can’t be issued for political purposes, especially to finance government payments not backed by a flow of tax revenues, for example. So you can’t get a hyperinflation in a backed currency. And that’s been deemed to be the advantage, that it is a kind of straitjacket and focuses on the real economy, limiting the capacity to issue credit. But on the other hand, it proved to be highly disadvantageous in other circumstances. When the world was on a gold standard or a gold exchange standard. If there were long periods in which major gold deposits were not discovered, that gave, on average, a deflationary weight to the world price trends, and that was deemed to have a distributional and real economy effects that were not highly desirable, although it also had some desirable effects as well. It also made it harder for central banks to be lenders of last resort in financial panics. The Great Depression is a very complicated, fascinating and important subject to understand about central banking, and whether the gold standard was a contributor to the persistence of the Great Depression. Well, I don’t want us to get into long excurses about monetary theory, except to say that there are several questions on the table right now. First, whose currency? Second, the technology of settlement. And third, the organization of monetary policy. They’re all very interesting. I spent many decades studying them, and I think there’s no ideal systems here, which is why we continue to have these discussions decade after decade after decade.

Mike Billington: Well, getting back to China, I did listen to your presentation in Beijing, to the UN headquarters there, to international ambassadors and Chinese officials. You really focused on the Chinese miracle, the transformation of China over a mere 40 years, from one of the poorest to one of the richest in history, and the elimination of poverty and so forth. What I really found interesting was your discussion of the idea that the Chinese model would be the proper approach for dealing with the development of Africa, which of course, is also very much part of China’s policy with the Belt and Road. In particular, you contrasted that directly to the policies of the IMF, which I thought I’d ask you to elaborate on here, because it was a very interesting way of showing the failure of the IMF to bring about real development in Africa or any other part of the developing sector.

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs: To put it very straightforwardly, the rapid economic growth of China, which was, by traditional measures, around 10% per year growth of the domestic economy persistently between 1980 and nearly the year 2020. So an increase that was more than 30 fold if you accumulate in the size of the Chinese economy, came about by investment. What does investment mean? Investment means building the capital stock of a country. What is a capital stock? A capital stock means the productive assets of an economy. What are those as well? Those are three main categories. First, what we carry in our own bodies and brains, the so-called human capital. That’s the education and the skills and the health of the population. The second is the physical infrastructure, which is the roads, the power grid, the fiber optics grid, the water and sewerage systems and fast rail, highways, all of the networking that the economy depends on. And the third is the business sector, the manufacturing industries, agriculture and so forth.

Well, if you look at China’s growth during 1980 to 2020, the rates of investment were extraordinary. The rate of investment means essentially the share of the national income that is invested each year in new capital. And in the United States, the gross investment rate, which means the amount of investment that we undertake, not recognizing that some of it’s just offsetting depreciation, the gross investment is something on the order of 15 to 20% of the national income. But in China, it was typically 40 to 50% of the national income. So a super charged investment rate. Before our eyes, China built thousands of kilometers of fast rail, thousands of kilometers of a highway system, thousands of kilometers of an electricity distribution system, and on and on and on. Really impressive. And that’s what powered China. That plus the huge investments in education and skills. China started without much infrastructure at all. It started with very poor education levels. By the late 1970s, because China had had so much turmoil over the preceding 150 years. But then China finally, starting in 1978, said, okay, we’re going for it. Deng Xiaoping came to power. He was perhaps a modern history’s single most successful economic reformer. He pointed China in the right direction, said go for growth, open the economy, make a market economy, make a mixed economy, build infrastructure, invest in the people. And lo and behold, that extraordinarily high investment rate led to 40 years of rapid growth.

Now, the problem when it comes to the IMF is that the IMF does not have that vision in mind. The IMF’s vision to a finance minister of a poor country is “don’t bother us with your problems. Don’t get into excessive debt. Don’t get into a financial crisis and don’t bother us about your poverty, Thank you very much.” So nobody thinks very hard about the way for these countries to get out of poverty. But the way is just like China did, which is massive investments.

And then comes the question how to finance those investments. China partly borrowed in the early years, but also had a massively high saving rate internally. So as the income was rising, China wasn’t consuming it in a lot of household consumer spending. Chinese households were saving a lot of their rising income. Chinese businesses were reinvesting a lot of their profits. The government wasn’t running huge deficits on its current transactions and so forth. All of this meant a very high saving rate that could be turned into a high investment rate. Now, Africa right now has a very, very low saving rate. Because people are impoverished, they can’t save more. They have to survive. So they need some help with the financing right now by essentially some international financing, say from the African Development Bank or from the Belt and Road Program, in which China can provide some of the financing to build that infrastructure in Africa.

But that’s the advice that Africa should be getting. Invest, invest strongly, invest heavily, borrow where you need to borrow. Get your kids in school, electrify the economy, build the roads, build the fast rail, and so forth. And I think China can help to give some very good advice in that direction. China shows you can have 40 years of supercharged growth. And that’s what Africa needs.

Mike Billington: 40 years, I agree. You also spoke at Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius, which now is a shrine and a museum, I believe. Right, a major site.

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs: That temple, the Confucian temple, has been there for more than 2000 years, and each emperor has come and added a stone, added an inscription, added calligraphy. Because Confucius has been an intellectual hero and guidepost for China basically for 2500 years. So it’s really impressive to be there at a Confucius birthday party, which I was, because this goes back essentially 2500 years. There’s a large, large complex of buildings because Emperor after Emperor added their own building to it. So you really get the feel of China’s very long, remarkable history.

Mike Billington: Right. And you focus there on, on the idea that we find our common humanity by studying the great philosophers and thinkers of of every culture in particular. You looked at Confucius and Buddha and Aristotle. I think I would differ with you on Aristotle and would would have focused on Plato rather than Aristotle. But that’s that’s a discussion for another time. In any case, this idea of looking at the great cultures and the history, the best moments of the great cultures is the exact opposite of so-called geopolitics, which is what guides the Western leaders today, deriving from ideologues like Halford Mackinder and other ideologues of the British Empire. Their view is that the only way to advance is by putting down the other guy — the opposite of the interest of the other. This, of course, leads to the sanctions policy. You didn’t mention the sanctions when you talked about the theft of reserves. But even the sanctions policy, as I understand it, is based on the fact that people have to use the dollar in trade and that therefore the US thinks they have a right to impose these sanctions on countries. China, of course, is not looking to suppress anybody else. And the massive sanctions against China and Russia and many other countries, indicates a failure of thinking in terms of the great cultures and what can be done with a culture for the future. So how do we restore that process in the West, of looking to the great minds of antiquity?

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs: I think that there are two philosophical points that we really need to pay attention to that are quite fascinating, quite deep. One is the question of human nature. The philosophers that I referred to — I like Aristotle personally, but also I like the fact that Aristotle, Buddha and Confucius allow us to talk about the ABCs of philosophy. So it’s getting back to the core ABCs and what the ABCs, Aristotle Buddha and Confucius, had in mind about human nature is that it is potentially good, meaning that with proper cultivation, proper education, proper mentoring, living in a decent community, people can learn to be harmonious. People can learn to be fairer. Trustworthy people can learn reciprocity. So this is sometimes called “virtue ethics.” The idea that people can be decent, pretty good.

Now there’s another philosophical strain, which is deeply pessimistic. Augustine in Christian history is the exemplar of that. Man is fallen, and so man is a sinner and there’s no way out except perhaps by God’s grace. But the sinfulness can’t be washed away. And pessimists in history have believed that. And another pessimist like that, that had a huge influence is my second dimension, which is how people behave or how states interact. And Hobbes, in a way, is a follower of Augustine. Hobbes, of course, wrote in the 1600s, whereas Augustine was more than a millennium earlier than that. But Hobbes was a the quintessential British philosopher who said, people are rapacious. They are greedy. They are pushy. They are violent. And the best you can hope for is that someone controls them from killing each other. So he called for a very tight, centralized state for that purpose. But basically, the Hobbesian idea is that you can’t do anything in a state of nature, other than to defend yourself from being killed by someone else. And strangely enough, while British thinkers accepted that there would be a national government that would stop people from killing each other inside Britain, they took the view that internationally it is a Hobbesian war of all against all, that just countries fight with each other. And this is in the current thinking of international relations known as the the “realist school.” And our leading realist thinker in the United States is John Mearsheimer at University of Chicago. He’s a wonderful person and a tremendous gentleman and a great scholar. But he thinks that countries, and especially great powers, are inevitably at each other’s throats. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of empirical evidence that this is often the case. But John Mearsheimer says the implication of this is that the world is tragic. His most famous book is called “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics” because he says conflict is just about inevitable between major powers, because nobody trusts each other, you can’t trust each other. It’s a war of all against all. It’s eat or be eaten killer, kill or be killed. And so, yes, life’s tragic. And I debate him.  Again we’re friends and I admire him a lot. I want to be clear, but I say, “John, we can’t accept tragedy as our fate. We have to do better than that.” And so I go back to the philosophers and the philosophers taught, you know, you can have harmony. That was Confucius’s main message, which is it’s possible actually to be decent. It’s possible to observe what was famous for Confucius and in similar terms, for us in the Western culture, as the Golden Rule: “do not do to others what you would not have them do to you.” If you’re a Hobbesian, you say, “oh, there goes Sachs moralizing, but that’s not how the world is. I’m going to do what I can to the others, because otherwise they’re going to do something terrible to me, and I’m going to get there first.”

Mike Billington: Because that’s human nature. That’s what they argue.

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs: Because that’s the deep human nature. That’s inevitable. But I don’t believe it. It’s certainly not the case that we’re always at war against each other. We can be better than that. But by the way, China absolutely has a different history and a different mindset. This is also a fascinating point. It’s not just Confucius versus Hobbes, it’s actually history, 2000 years of statecraft. What have we learned? Well, in China, for most of the 2000 years, there was a centralized state. This is very important. For most of the 2000 years, there was the Han dynasty, or the Tang dynasty, or the Song dynasty, or the Yuan dynasty, or the Ming dynasty, or the Qing dynasty, or today the People’s Republic of China. And for most of that 2000 years there was one country, and while there were rebellions and there were a lot of invasions from the north, mainly from the nomadic peoples in the dryland grassland steppe regions, there was one country, big, big population. 

Now in Europe after 476 AD, when the Roman Empire fell in the West, there never again was one dominant power of Western Europe. So there was war nonstop. Think of Britain and France, for example. How many years were they at war during the past 1000 years? An incredible amount across the channel. Now compare that with China and Japan. How many years were China and Japan at war between, you could take it back before 1000 AD, but say from 1000 AD to. 1890. The answer is two years. I think it’s 1274 and 1281, if I remember correctly. And there was actually one incursion a third year. Now, two of those were when the Mongols ruled China, and they tried to invade Japan and failed on two occasions. Once was when a shogun, military commander of Japan, ridiculously tried to tried to invade China and was terribly defeated in the Korean Peninsula.

But my point is not that. My point is they didn’t fight for a thousand years. Barely a skirmish. By the way, when Japan industrialized, and was the first industrializing nation of Asia. Japan followed the realist approach, sadly, Japan said, “okay, now we’re part of the Imperial Club. Now we’re going to go invade China.” And the Chinese diplomats said, “what are you doing? We’re Asians.” And Japan said, “no, no, no. Now we’re part of the Western club.” This was back in the 1890s. So Japan really behaved badly by becoming an imperialist power for some period. But China never did in that way. And if we understand the different philosophical roots, this is crucial. If we understand the different experience of Europe and China, we can come to appreciate that our mindset in the West that, well, “it’s war all the time. So China is an enemy, so we better go at it,” is nothing like the way that China thinks. And when I said to John Mearsheimer, again, I want to stress a friend and, you know, and a brilliant scholar, when I said all this war mongering against China is going to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of war. He said “yes.” I said, “John, self-fulfilling. We don’t need to have that war.” He said “yes, but that’s how it is.” And I said, “no, we don’t need to have it that way. We can do better than that.” So that’s the debate.

Mike Billington: Helga Zepp-LaRouche issued what she calls the ten principles of for an architecture of security and development for the world as a whole. And most of them are sort of self-evident, that you need education, you need cultural training, you need health, so forth. But the 10th principle is exactly what you just brought up, that the nature of man is good, and this is the one that’s most difficult for people to accept or understand. But it’s the fundamental one. It’s really the issue as as I think you correctly just located this is what distinguishes the idea of being committed to global development rather than global war. And of course, as you said, also the Confucian concept of harmony and the concentration on education is really the center of the Chinese development of their own country over the last 40 years, and what’s now being taken out to the rest of the world through the Belt and Road. As you know, we just had the Third Belt and Road Forum in Beijing with 150 countries represented, which certainly demonstrates that the West has failed miserably in the isolation of China in the world, the idea that they could get countries to “decouple” from China has just forced most countries to say, “you’re crazy. This is where development is, rather than war and sanctions.”

The headline of our EIR this week is going to be on the fact that Xi Jinping offered $100 billion in new investments through the Belt and Road. At the same time that Mr. Biden was offering a $100 billion investment in wars, naming specifically Russia, meaning Ukraine, Israel, the genocide being carried out against the Palestinians and China. They included Taiwan as one of the places where this $100 billion is going. So it’s pretty clear that they’re talking about a global war. And the only question is, how can this madness be stopped and reversed?

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs: Well, it is so unacceptable, American foreign policy, and what I hope people are coming to understand is that the arrogance and the militarization of the United States that has been demonstrated time and again now over the past 30 years, is not bringing security to the US. It has busted the budget. We’ve spent trillions of dollars on these horrible wars that have accomplished nothing except violence and destruction and rising debt. And they’re not making America safer at all. They’re more and more wars that are a reflection of this arrogance, because the arrogance has meant that America, American policy makers, have thought “we can do what we want, and we don’t have to talk with anybody about it. We don’t need diplomacy. We just need our military.” And the military can’t solve political problems. We’re finding out again and again that the military approach  doesn’t work to solve the deeper problems of humanity. And can’t settle political issues. For that, you need politics. You need diplomacy, and I mean politics in the positive sense of getting together to work out arrangements for people to live peacefully together. So I think the failures of American foreign policy are on full display. Also the ignorance of it, because I would cite our National Security Advisor statement, Jake Sullivan, about a week before the violence blew up in Israel and Gaza with the Hamas attack and now the bombing of Gaza, Jake Sullivan said “the Middle East is the quietest that it’s been in two decades,” It shows they don’t know anything except what their own imagination is, and they don’t understand what’s happening around the world, and what’s happening around the world is that people want a different approach. They want development. They want social justice. They want the chance for decent lives. They don’t want the militarized approach.  

Webcast: Stopping the Horror in Southwest Asia

The horror unfolding in Southwest Asia today is the Bernard Lewis Plan in action: the deliberate promotion of religious strife and bloodshed throughout the region to produce the most bestial on both sides.

One is reminded of the anguished opening sentence of Nicholas of Cusa ‘s 1453 work De Pace Fidei (Peace in Faith) , an important philosophical study of the principles of the coming Golden Renaissance:

News of the atrocities, which have recently been perpetrated by the Turkish king in Constantinople and have now been divulged, has so inflamed a man who once saw that region, with zeal for God, that amongst many sighs he asked the Creator of all things if in His kindness He might moderate the persecution, which raged more than usual on account of diverse religious rites

But let’s also recall Cusa’s next sentence:

Then it occurred that after several days—indeed on account of lengthy, continuous meditation—a vision was manifested to the zealous man, from which he concluded that it would be possible, through the experience of a few wise men who are well acquainted with all the diverse practices which are observed in religions across the world, to find a unique and propitious concordance, and through this to constitute a perpetual peace in religion upon the appropriate and true course.

Helga Zepp-LaRouche, founder of the Schiller Institute and a leading Cusanus researcher, is convinced that Cusa’s method of “Coincidence of Opposites” is the only way out of the current civilizational crisis.

‘Whom the Gods Would Destroy …’On the Way to World War III

Join Schiller Institute founder Helga Zepp-LaRouche October 25 at 11am EDT for the Live discussion. Send questions to

Schiller Institute Emergency Statement: Westphalia, Not Versailles: The World Needs an ‘Oasis Plan’ in the Middle East!

The choice is no longer between violence and non-violence. The choice is between non-violence and non-existence.
— Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Riverside Church, April 4, 1967

Oct. 17, 2023—United Nations Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese warned Oct. 14 that: “In the name of self-defense, Israel is seeking to justify what would amount to ethnic cleansing.… Israel has already carried out mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians under the fog of war.” Southwest Asia is now the staging ground for what is the latest phase of the World War Three now being fought against Russia and China. Sometimes that war is called “Ukraine/Russia”; once it was called “Afghanistan”; today, it is called “the Middle East.” Few dare call it by its real name. As J. Robert Oppenheimer noted in an interview: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

The lives of millions—2 million people in Gaza, and millions of others, of different faiths and nations nearby—hang in the balance. Humanity must act; it is already nearly too late. The nation of China, now hosting 140 nations at the Belt and Road Forum, expressed a view last week with which all sane people would agree: “the UN has the responsibility and obligation to play its due role on the Palestinian question,” and that China “supports the Security Council in holding an emergency meeting on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, agrees that the meeting should focus on humanitarian concerns, demand a ceasefire, an end to violence and the protection of civilians, form a binding international consensus and take concrete next steps.”

Will this thinking prevail? Or will the Anglo-American-“NATO” financial alliance and war party, through its scheming, arrogant folly, destroy itself and most life on the planet through an “unintentional” thermonuclear war, triggered by religious fanaticism and the erupting orgy of “retributive violence” in Southwest Asia, otherwise still known by its British colonial name as “the Middle East?” The credibility and even the very survival of the United Nations is now on the line.

The cycle of perpetual violence, consuming generation after generation, once more pollutes and desecrates the holy places of worship and monuments in the common meeting ground of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is now being widely reported by publications of record that there was a compact between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and elements inside of Hamas to undermine peace. The Israeli daily {Haaretz} reported on Oct. 9 that “Between 2012 and 2018, Netanyahu gave Qatar approval to transfer a cumulative sum of about a billion dollars to Gaza, at least half of which reached Hamas, including its military wing.” {Haaretz} also quotes Netanyahu “according to the {Jerusalem Post}” as making the following statement on March 11, 2019: “‘Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas, and transferring money to Hamas,’ Netanyahu told his Likud party’s Knesset members in March 2019, ‘This is part of our strategy.’”

What really happened on Oct. 7 is still to be investigated. The timing of the attack could not have been worse—or better. Ongoing discussions among several nations of the region, including between Saudi Arabia and Israel, as well as with China and other out-of-area nations, are seeking to replace deep-seated, long-term conflict with a new era of international economic cooperation, through designs such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Whatever motivation was provided to the operatives of the Hamas-originated attack, its effect has been to interfere with the progress of that very sensitive process. Those initiatives are now threatened. Much, as with the events of Oct. 7, is now unclear.

What is clear, is the atrocities that have occurred on that day and since, and the atrocities that are to come. Will the world stand by now, as it did in the First Iraq War of 1991 and its aftermath, and watch the merciless killing of children as it did then, when 500,000 Iraqi children were murdered through sanctions and war over five years? On May 12, 1996, United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, responding to correspondent Lesley Stahl, after the reporter pointed out that “that’s more children than died in Hiroshima,” said, “I think this is a very hard choice. But the price, we think the price is worth it.”

Who is the “we” of which Albright spoke? Did that include the people of the United States, or Europe, then? Does it include you, now? Do you really believe, or accept, that the civilian population of Gaza, or anywhere, must be removed and sent to another country as a result of a “9/11”-style attack on Israel by forces that we are told were being financially and otherwise supported by Netanyahu, et al.?

In a macabre “simple twist of fate,” nearly 2 million people are now to be displaced by the armies of the nation whose ancestors were themselves displaced, and their whole communities eradicated, time and again, virtually everywhere in the world. The 19th- and 20th-Century British colonialists, who drew the lines of this present conflict on maps in 1916 and 1917, could not be more pleased. Colonialism, however, is over—or should be. Militarily-forced migrations of people must be vigorously opposed anywhere in the world, whatever the apparent justification. One atrocity should not answer another. The barbaric “purgative violence” that Hamas engaged in on Oct. 7, must be denounced by all—but killing thousands of the sick, elderly, and young as “collateral damage in the cause of just retribution” is an antidote worse than the disease. It will ensure that the disease will not be cured, but will instead spread.

When Yitzhak Rabin, who as Israeli Defense Minister fought Palestinians in the 1987-93 Intifada, realized, as one of his senior officers put it, that “deep in my heart I know that what we are doing will prompt others to react against us violently in revenge,” he changed his approach. Rabin, in his July 1992 speech after becoming Prime Minister a month earlier, said: “Security is not a tank, an aircraft, a missile ship. Security is also a man’s education, housing, schools, the street and neighborhood, the society in which he grew up. And security is also that man’s hope.”

Prime Minister Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres began the secret Oslo Peace Accords process with the Palestine Liberation Organization, and signed a Declaration at the White House, Sept. 13, 1993. There, Rabin said: “We who have come from a land where parents bury their children, we who have fought against you, the Palestinians, we say to you today in a loud and clear voice: Enough of blood and tears, enough!” Rabin’s most enduring words were uttered later, in his famous toast to all humanity: Let us toast “those with the courage to change their axioms.”

Rabin was assassinated by Israeli religious extremists—or was it the “International Assassination Bureau,” the people that killed Mohandas Gandhi, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and many, many others? The memory of Yitzhak Rabin should inform the investigation of the events of Oct. 7. There is something else that should be done, in the name of the martyred Rabin, and the martyred peace process for which he gave his life.

There must be a peace package, an “Oasis Plan,” that, instead of spreading weapons, gives economic stability and even prosperity to the people of Southwest Asia, including the Palestinians. Unless you put, not boots on the ground, but shovels in the ground, you will never upturn the roots of hate and division in that entire area, roots that precede and are even more deeply embedded than today’s Israel-Palestine conflict. Advanced energy, water and transportation infrastructure for Southwest Asia as a whole will be a central feature, around which hope can coalesce.

We must take a page from the new “Colonialism Is Over” movement that is the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa)-Plus nations of the world. Southwest Asian and African nations Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia and Iran are all about to join the BRICS formation. This will help to bring the voice of the Global South to bear, instead of only that of “Global NATO,” which is dominated by the old imperialisms of Europe plus the self-destructive foreign and financial policies of the United States.

Immediately, we must do what China and other nations are suggesting. We must stop the forced migration from Gaza. We must stop the daily killing through a ceasefire and even before that, by all means available. The United Nations must enforce its Resolution 242, adopted November 22, 1967 and affirmed by Israel on May 1, 1968, which consists of two propositions: “(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict; (ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”

Let it, however, be clear: There is no possibility of actually solving the British imperialism-originated “Middle East crisis” without the kind of long-term, meticulous, even tedious deliberations that took place from 1644-48 in Westphalia, Germany, to end the murderous Thirty Years War in Europe.

Speaking at Central Connecticut State University in 2009, the economist and statesman Lyndon LaRouche put it this way:

“There is a solution, a solution in principle. And the solution is: End this blasted imperialist system! And understand that we, as a people, must develop our spiritual culture; that is, the creative powers of mankind, to carry further the development of mankind, from some brutish character by a campfire a million years ago, or so, into mankind as we desire that mankind should develop today. That’s the issue.”

LaRouche’s solution-concept requires a change in axioms. Principle Ten of Schiller Institute founder Helga Zepp-LaRouche’s “Ten Principles of a New International Security and Development Architecture,” written in November 2022 following the outbreak of the NATO-Russia war in Ukraine, restates it. “The basic assumption for the new paradigm is, that man is fundamentally good and capable to infinitely perfect the creativity of his mind and the beauty of his soul, and being the most advanced geological force in the universe, which proves that the lawfulness of the mind and that of the physical universe are in correspondence and cohesion, and that all evil is the result of a lack of development, and therefore can be overcome.” This is the principle which must replace the suicidal axioms now held by the doomed combatants in the no-win “Israel-Palestine conflict.”

But Lyndon LaRouche also warned: “In the meantime, we will fight. We will do everything possible to try to get peace in this area, because we want to stop the killing. But we’re not going to tell somebody, we’ve got a solution that’s going to be accepted, that’s going to work. We’re going to say, we’ve got a hopeless cause, and we’re going to continue to fight for it.”

That hopeless cause is the cause of peace. Another warrior for peace, American President John F. Kennedy, said it this way, at American University, June 10, 1963: “First: Let us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable—that mankind is doomed—that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.

“We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade—therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable—and we believe they can do it again.”

The alternative to the “foolish” pursuit of peace undertaken by John F. Kennedy, Yitzhak Rabin, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and others, is World War Three, a war which has now already begun. We are already “become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” The question is: Do we, as did Yitzhak Rabin, have the courage to change our axioms in time to reverse what we have already begun?

Webcast: The LaRouche Solution to the War Danger in SW Asia

Without intervention, the Palestinian-Israeli situation is a cockpit for World War III. The strategic situation of Southwest Asia is one of incredible danger, now escalating in a way that the spill-over can ignite a global conflagration.

Over the weekend, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on a call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, stressed that the major nations must now support an international conference on the crisis situation. The United States has been informed.

This peace conference proposal goes back to last June when Chinese President Xi Jinping presented the need for an international peace conference to be held on the Israel-Palestine conflict. That proposal is now back on the agenda, with life-and-death urgency.

The proposal was raised by China with Brazil last week. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Oct. 13, that Wang Yi is coordinating on the peace conference proposal with officials from Brazil. Note that Brazil is the rotating chair of the UN Security Council this month. Wang conferred Oct. 12 with Brazilian President Lula da Silva’s Chief Foreign Policy Advisor Celso Amorim, about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Wang told Amorim, “China calls for an international peace conference with greater authority and impact as soon as possible to galvanize a more broad-based international consensus with the two-state solution serving as its basis, and to formulate a timetable and roadmap to that end.” Wang Yi added that the UN has both the responsibility and an obligation “to pay its due role on the Palestinian question.”

The on-the-ground situation for the 2.3 million people of the Gaza Strip amounts to conditions knowably leading to mass death. An estimated 1 million people are displaced within Gaza; among those are more than 500,000 who tried to leave the north for the south. The World Health Organization has issued a statement calling Israel’s order for people to evacuate from the north to the south, a “death sentence.” This affected 22 hospitals, many of whose 2,000 patients were too ill to be moved. There is no water nor sanitation for hundreds of thousands of people. Electricity is mostly down. Food scarcity is acute.

Secretary Blinken was back in Israel today, after a swing around six Arab nations since his first emergency visit to Israel last week. But with not only no solution, but furtherance of the crisis. Likewise EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made a visit. Pres. Biden will go to Israel Wednesday, according to a breaking report tonight. German President Olaf Scholz said today he may visit soon. Their litany: “Israel has the responsibility and obligation to do whatever it wants to protect itself.”

In contrast, the role of the International Peace Coalition (IPC), only five months in operation, is critical to galvanize decisive action internationally to intervene for security in all respects, for all nations. On Friday, Oct. 20, will be the second open (online) IPC meeting of world figures and network leaders for peace, after the first such dialogue last Friday.

There will be a world-important platform for thinking, proposals and collaboration on the emergency in Southwest Asia at the Belt and Road Initiative 10th anniversary forum in China Oct. 17-18. Already today, many heads of state arrived and important bilateral meetings took place, including that of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Among the thousands of people attending, delegations will represent 140 countries, and 200 of the participants will be ministerial level or higher. President Xi Jinping is expected to welcome the attendees at the beginning of the sessions, and also give a major address Wednesday at the plenary.

Schiller Institute founder, and co-initiator of the IPC, Helga Zepp-LaRouche conferred today with collaborators, on the focus of immediate demands. There must be an immediate end to the violence. There must be the process of a negotiated solution, which needs to take place in the context of a peace conference. To succeed, the Global Majority must play a leading role in this process. All of this is urgent, and can be understood as the first step towards a world-scale security and development architecture.

EuroAtlantic Hegemony Has Come to an End — Interview with Chas Freeman

This is the edited transcript of an interview with U.S.-China diplomat and scholar Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, ret.) conducted Oct. 9, 2023, by Mike Billington. Freeman is a visiting scholar at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. Subheads and embedded links to sources have been added.

Mike Billington: This is Mike Billington with the Schiller Institute and Executive Intelligence Review. Joining with me today is Chas Freeman, well-known for his role as the interpreter for President Richard Nixon during his groundbreaking visit to China in 1972. He then served in several positions in both the Defense Department and the State Department and then as the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the first war with Iraq. He was also appointed Director of the National Intelligence Council in 2009, but the appointment was undermined. 

%%The Israeli War on Hamas

Billington: I have two areas of questions that I want to bring up. One, on the war danger between Russia and the U.S. and NATO; and the other on the situation in Asia.  I’ll begin, however, with a question regarding the situation in Southwest Asia. The Schiller Institute is sponsoring a rally at the U.S. Congress Oct. 11, to demand: “No Funding for Ukraine! No War on Russia! We have learned that the neocons are sponsoring a counter rally demanding funding for two wars! So let’s begin by asking your view on the new Israeli war on Hamas, and perhaps also with Iran.

Amb. Freeman: We are seeing a disturbing tendency in our press to invent Iranian direction of this war; that somehow Iran put Hamas up to the attacks it has carried out. I think that is completely wrong and is very dangerous because it could be used to justify an Israeli or an American attack on Iran, as indeed we have threatened for years.

Palestinians have come to the point where many of them feel they have nothing to lose. This attack was an act of desperation and it came out of the blue. I analogize it to the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, which achieved objectives that no one had imagined. Namely, it convinced the public at large that the existing policies toward Vietnam were doomed to fail. And it ultimately produced a withdrawal from Vietnam by the United States. 

I think Hamas will lose decisively on the battlefield, but it may win the war, especially if Israel carries out its threat to reduce Gaza to the dimensions of the German city of Dresden in World War Two. I think that genocidal act would mobilize a lot of people against Israel who’ve been sitting on the fence.

So this is a very important moment in the history of the Middle East and in U.S. policy toward it. It’s quite clear that neither Israel nor the United States have any answer to the resistance by the Palestinians to their humiliation, eviction from their homes, and the attempted erasure of their presence from their homeland.

I might add that, unfortunately, this war in the Middle East probably greatly increases the risk of Donald Trump winning the 2024 election because it is yet another evidence of the ineptitude of the Biden administration in foreign affairs. It will also probably increase the prospects for an end to U.S. support for Ukraine. And while you may applaud the notion that that war would then end, it will end in a way that parallels the end of the war in Vietnam, where we basically encouraged a fight to the death and then walked away from it, leaving the Vietnamese to their fate. Not an act of great responsibility on our part. No accountability whatsoever for our withdrawal, as more recently, there has been none for our actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The difference in the third decade of the 21st Century is that during the Cold War, countries, allies, friends, faced a choice between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the Soviet system with all its brutality was so unattractive that that really was no choice at all. And now the world is not organized that way. It’s not bipolar. Countries do have the option of distancing themselves from Washington and they may well do so. In fact, they’re already doing it.

But it may be that this accelerates the process. So many political implications yet unexamined. I think it will play into the partisan divisions in the United States in such a way as to increase the prospect that aid to Ukraine will end, which of course is a very real prospect given the turmoil in the Congress and Republican opposition to that aid, which will probably strengthen now.

%%How to Assure Peace in Europe

Billington: In your presentation at Brown University last month, you noted that NATO no longer has any purpose based on its original creation as a buffer against the military threat from the Soviets. What do you think it will take for NATO to disband as the Warsaw Pact did? And for that matter, is there any reason for the European Union to continue existing?

Amb. Freeman: Your question gets to the question that we should all be discussing, but we aren’t, and that is: How to assure peace in Europe? The EU, in part, had its origins in an effort to reconcile historic enemies in Europe, that is, to reconcile the French-German divide, among other things, and produce a management system for Europe in the economic realm, ultimately in the political realm, that would ensure peace, stability, and prosperity.

NATO, after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union could have become what the Partnership for Peace promised: a management device for a cooperative security system in Europe, including a relationship with Russia, which was part of that program, that would replicate the Concert of Europe, which the Congress of Vienna created at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and manage relationships, security issues in the European area in a way that would prevent a great power war. That was an option before NATO. It did not choose it, and it chose instead to renew, in effect, a kind of Cold War with a resurgent Russia.

Russia has not sought to reassert a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, which it gave up at the end of the Cold War with the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, as you mentioned. It has instead sought to block the expansion of an American sphere of influence to its borders in the form of Ukraine’s membership in NATO, as membership in NATO is invariably followed by the forward deployment of U.S. troops and weaponry, which would simply be unacceptable to the Russians, as they have made clear.

I don’t think that NATO is going to disband. The best solution for it, frankly, would be for it to be Europeanized. Europeans should be in command of their own security. United States should backstop that but not lead it. I suspect that the unity of NATO, which the war in Ukraine has appeared to produce, is more superficial than long lasting. One can already see some NATO members, most recently Hungary and Slovakia, but others as well, who are deeply opposed to the inclusion of Ukraine in NATO and understand the Russian security perspective and are restive within the confines of NATO as it currently exists.

I suspect that when this war ends, however it ends, NATO will change, and the U.S. role in it is likely to diminish rather than increase. That is emphatically the case if Mr. Trump wins the 2024 elections, since he has no affection for NATO and no understanding of its collective security mechanisms at all.

%%The Contradictory Objectives of NATO and Russia in Ukraine

Billington: You have described NATO’s move out of area as a search for a “reason to exist,” to maintain the U.S. military superiority and sustain the military industrial complex. This included the wars in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and more. This now includes Asia. The main issue now is the danger of a full scale war with Russia, with the failure of the counteroffensive in Ukraine. It is increasingly being recognized that the Ukraine war with Russia is lost. Even the U.S. Congress is finally recognizing that the American people will not support a continuation of the massive funding of this meat grinder war in Ukraine. Your thoughts?

Amb. Freeman: Indeed, Russia is winning this war. Russia has had two objectives: One: to ensure that NATO never incorporated Ukraine. That is now very much impossible. As the Vilnius NATO summit demonstrated and as Jake Sullivan, the National Security Adviser, said, “To incorporate Ukraine in NATO would mean to have a direct war with Russia.” That’s not on the table yet. Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary General, has said that for Ukraine to join NATO would require a peace treaty between Ukraine and Russia, and there’s no such thing in prospect. So Russia has essentially accomplished that objective, the effective sidelining of Ukraine as a future member of NATO.

Russia’s second declared objective was the protection of Russian speakers in Ukraine. They have accomplished this by annexing portions of the Donbas and the Ukrainian southeast.

The war has produced a lot of dead Ukrainians and fewer dead Russians, but a lot of dead people. It has accomplished nothing beyond that, from the Western point of view.

Billington: In your presentation, at Brown University, you quoted President Joe Biden, saying that Biden’s open admission that the purpose for the Ukraine war was to “sap Russia’s economic strength and weaken its military for years to come.” So there’s no hiding the fact that this is a surrogate war against Russia. You also quoted Boris Johnson’s intervention to prevent Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky from carrying out the agreement which had been made between Kiev and Russia back in March of 2022, which would have ended the war based on autonomy for the Donbas. You didn’t mention in that speech the threat of an escalation to a nuclear war. Why not?

Amb. Freeman: Because Russia is winning. The only circumstance in which Russia would initiate a nuclear exchange would be if it were losing decisively and this threatened the integrity of the Russian Federation. President Vladimir Putin has been very explicit on this subject. The only danger of a nuclear war, therefore, is a Russian loss, which is not what is happening. 

The pattern this war has taken is that Russia has counter escalated in response to Western escalation. We keep saying to the Ukrainians, you can’t have this weapon system or that one. And then we provide it, and the Russians announce that they will counter that with an escalation of their own. So there’s no record of Russia initiating escalations. I just don’t think this is a very realistic possibility. Of course, it’s conceivable that as we lose, we will find some way to use nuclear weapons. But I think that would be insane and would be even beyond anything I can imagine in terms of American politics or policy.

%%Most Important: How To Restore Peace

Billington: You think popular support against such a thing would prevent it from happening?

Amb. Freeman: The military, among others, would regard that as madness. Popular support would not be there either. Of course, whichever side initiates a nuclear exchange will receive nuclear attacks from the other, so nothing is gained. The notion attributed to President Ronald Reagan, that “a nuclear war can never be won and should never be fought,” is very much in evidence here.

The question for me, as I said at the outset, is not the danger of a nuclear exchange. It is how to restore peace to Europe. This is the question the Russians raised repeatedly between 1994 and 2021, 20th December, when they proposed the negotiation of a security architecture for Europe that would reassure all concerned, including themselves. We rebuffed that offer of negotiations, and the consequence was the Russian attack on Ukraine. They felt seriously enough about this issue and the threat to themselves that they were prepared to go to war. We knew that. So the basic question that they posed, how to construct a security architecture for Europe that preserves the peace, and prevents the outbreak of war, remains the operative question. And it’s not being discussed at all in the West.

Billington: Four prominent Germans, including Gen. Harold Kujat (ret.) and Prof. Dr. Horst Teltschik, have proposed a negotiated peace [[plan]] [[]] for the war with Russia, arguing that it’s either that the parties involved begin negotiations now or it’s going to escalate.  Should the war escalate, the Germans point out, we are dealing with the dangerous possibility of global nuclear war. Their proposal is being broadly considered around the world. The Schiller Institute is helping to circulate it. Your thoughts on that?

Amb. Freeman: President Biden at the UN General Assembly repudiated any negotiation on the grounds that it would “reward Russia.” But wars are not decided at the negotiating table. They’re decided on the battlefield. There will be a negotiation sooner or later. And the terms that Ukraine will have to accept are not improving; they are deteriorating. Russia may well take additional territory, if only to trade it for a peace in a negotiation. Ukraine could lose its access to the Black Sea. That is not an impossibility, although it is militarily very difficult for the Russians to achieve. Ukraine’s bargaining position has been progressively weakened by this war, not strengthened.

Almost nobody in the West is talking about how to protect Ukrainians or give them peace or bring them to prosperity and clean government and democracy. All these issues are set aside in favor of punitive actions against Russia. But there will be a negotiation, and the outlines of what could be done if the Russians were wise, which they’re not incapable of being, or that the areas that Russia has illegally annexed in Ukraine might be recognized as independent of Ukraine for a period of a couple of decades, let’s say, following which there would be an OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] supervised referendum in each of these territories, asking them whether they wished to retain their independence, rejoin Ukraine, or rejoin Russia.

That would be a democratic process that respected the will of the people on the ground. Nobody ever asks what the people of Crimea want. Nobody ever asks what the people of the Donbas wanted. Why not ask? That would provide an interim buffer between Ukraine and Russia in the form of independent polities and set up a competition between Ukraine and Russia to attract them.

Now, this may be, in the case of Ukraine, impossible. It may be impossible to attract Russian speakers given the fact that the Ukrainian government now is committed to preventing the use of any minority language, even one as extensively spoken as Russian, for official purposes or for education. That was the first thing that the Ukrainian government we helped install in 2014 did: ban the use of minority languages. This is something that is guaranteed in the OSCE charter to people in Europe. It was guaranteed in the previous Ukrainian constitution. If it can’t be reinstated, then I don’t think Ukraine’s ever going to see peace with its Russian speakers.

%%The Relevance of Referenda in Crimea and Donbas

Billington: It sounds like you’re dismissing the status referenda in Donbas (May 11, 2014, and again Sept. 23-27, 2022] and in Crimea [March 16, 2014] as illegitimate or something. What’s your thought on that? Why don’t you recognize those as a voice of the people?

Amb. Freeman: I think they were probably an accurate reflection of popular opinion, but procedurally, they were illegal. Putting these under international auspices would give them a legitimacy they currently lack. There is an interesting contrast, of course, between the referendum that the Russians organized in Crimea—which I think accurately reflected the opinion of most people in Crimea, and accomplished a peaceful, bloodless integration of Crimea into the Russian Federation—and the NATO detachment of Kosovo from Serbia, which required a long bombing campaign and a lot of bloodshed. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say on the one hand that conducting a referendum in Crimea is improper when you’ve basically done exactly the same thing, but more violently, in Kosovo.

We need to return to some sort of sense of due process, legitimate process. The way for that to happen is for Europeans to ensure that they supervise and guarantee the fairness of whatever referendum ensues. Of course, at this point, the Russians hold those areas and they’re not going to give them up. I don’t think they’re going to go back to Ukraine. Nobody’s talking—I shouldn’t say “nobody,” of course, some people are talking—about the need for peace negotiations, but officially, both Moscow and Washington seem to be committed to the further destruction of Ukraine.

%%War Damage Assessment

Billington: You’ve also argued that Russia has been significantly damaged by the launching of the special military operation as seen in its economic and human costs. But you acknowledge that they were forced by NATO expansion to take action, or at least it’s legitimate to argue that. Looking at global results, you have noted a totally changed global geometry, with the BRICS nations now unified against the war policies and against the sanctions policies of the Anglo-Americans and NATO, while essentially the entire Global South is openly joining or at least cooperating with the BRICS and with the Belt and Road, and breaking from the U.S. dollar hegemony over world trade. In that light, aren’t Russia and the world generally heading in a potentially far better direction as a result?

Amb. Freeman: In many ways, Russia has been strengthened by this war. Its military production has increased dramatically. It has learned how to counter NATO’s weaponry and develop tactics for doing so. It has seen a reorientation of its economy toward China, India, the Middle East, and Africa that has actually enabled it to outpace Germany in terms of economic growth. Germany, of course, is being de-industrialized due to the absence of competitive pricing for energy, having lost Russian gas supplies. There’s now quite an argument between the French and Germans over energy. The French are heavily nuclear and their power generation is therefore much better, giving France a much more competitive industrial base. So the Russians have certainly gained a fair amount from this.

It’s clear that the United States has been weakened, as you suggest. We have set in motion antagonisms to our hegemony that are growing. So far, there’s more talk than action, but this is the writing on the wall. We haven’t gained any great credibility anywhere. And now, of course, the war in Ukraine appears to be going in favor of the Russians rather than in favor of us.

But Russia did lose a lot. It lost its connections to Europe, which are going to be very difficult to restore. It lost a good deal of its intelligentsia who fled the draft. This is something that happens periodically whenever Russia goes to war. Many, many Americans of Russian descent are here because they fled the draft in World War One. The Russians have seen their relationships with Japan and others deteriorate. And so they clearly paid a price. The regime in Moscow is more repressive than it was. It’s an elected autocracy, but more autocratic now than it was, and many Russians don’t like that. So there have been gains for Russia, there have been losses. But I think from the point of view of the United States, the losses far outweigh the gains.

%%A New Global Geometry of Nations

Billington: As to the coming together of the rest of the world, most of the rest of the world is against this. Do you think it’s too late to try to convince the Europeans and the Americans to get into the new geometry? Will the U.S. and Europe even survive if they fail to do so?

Amb. Freeman: Look at the division of the world that the United States is engineering, not just through sanctions on Russia and Iran and North Korea or China, but through active decoupling—somewhat euphemistically described as “de-risking.” Internationally, you can look at this as isolating Russia or China or whatever, or you can look at it as self isolation by the United States.

In many respects the G7 group of nations which the U.S. leads, and which is the club of former imperialist powers, does appear to be retreating into its own stockade. And as it does so, it appears to be abandoning much of the democratic system that made it admirable in previous days.

I suspect that Europe, one way or the other after the war, especially if it is able to compose some sort of peace with Russia and Ukraine, will indeed remain integrated, straddling both the American sphere and the Chinese sphere that is emerging.

I’m not so sure about the United States. We have terrible domestic problems now, which we’re not addressing. And we’re behaving internationally as though we were omnipotent, when clearly we’re not. We’re taking many risks. I note in particular that we’ve launched a technology war with China, which happens to have over a fourth of the world’s scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians, and is increasingly innovative and creative, at a time when our innovation is slowing down. Our economy is dominated by oligopolies that cooperate with the government—almost fascist, corporatist, if you will, in the way things work. Try to put in an unpopular opinion on the internet and you will be blocked by corporate media in collusion with the U.S. government. This is not what the First Amendment was intended to guarantee.

The net effect of changes in the world, our reactions to them are causing our own values to be deeply eroded in ways that I think are gravely damaging to our republic.

%%U.S.-China Relations, and Narcotics

Billington: I certainly agree with you on that. So let’s switch to Asia. You mentioned that the isolation, the decoupling, or whatever from China is continuing. The U.S. is also continuing its military buildup around China with the AUKUS agreement with the British and Australia; and then the Japan-South Korea-U.S. military deal; expanding military cooperation with the Philippines, and so forth. And yet the Biden administration has recently deployed three cabinet members to China who are talking about, “improving relations.” What’s the real story?

Amb. Freeman: We want to improve relations so we can continue to isolate China. It’s hardly a surprise that the Chinese don’t find this a very attractive proposition. We have a tendency to ask the Chinese to cooperate on things that we think are important while refusing to cooperate with them on things that they want us to cooperate on. You can’t have a relationship that works this way.

Sen. Chuck Schumer is in China at the moment. It’s a bit ironic, given China’s experience of two Opium Wars, which occurred a while back, for Schumer to be talking about American addictions and imploring the Chinese to stop the supply of fentanyl, which they don’t actually sell to the U.S. — they provide the precursors to the Mexican drug cartels. It’s not the Chinese government anyway. It’s Chinese business people. The Mexicans then make a pile of money off the world’s largest drug market, which is the United States.

There’s a lot of historical evidence that the only way to deal effectively with a narcotics problem is to address it at the demand level. We managed to get people to find smoking unacceptable, but we don’t seem to be able to apply that knowledge to marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, fentanyl, amphetamines, and whatnot. We’re not doing anything on the demand side. It’s all about suppressing supply.

I can tell you from my experience dealing with the narcotics issue in Southeast Asia, where I was the coordinator for our effort in the region based in Bangkok, that the markup from the farm head for a piece of opium to the streets of New York City is 300 fold. That is, you will make 30,000 times as much money selling that in New York, as you can if you’re a farmer in Burma [Myanmar].

With that kind of markup, there is no way on God’s Earth that you’re going to stop the market economy from meeting the demand. So you have to reduce the demand. There is no effort being made to do that. Now we have Republicans talking about bombing Mexico to stop fentanyl production, as if that’s going to solve the problem. It’s not. We have a tendency to blame the Chinese for all sorts of problems that are frankly caused by ourselves, for ourselves. And then we wonder why they don’t find this an attractive proposition.

Billington: Not only are there no efforts being made to stop demand, but in fact, there’s a massive move to legalize and expand the use of drugs quite openly. Sen. Schumer is in fact a leading advocate of legalizing drug use, a major target of LaRouche candidate Diane Sare in her campaign against Schumer in the 2002 election. 

Amb. Freeman: Of course. As I say, this is ironic, given the Opium Wars, where we insisted to the Chinese government at the time that we and the British and others had the absolute right to sell narcotics to the Chinese people, and that it was improper for their government to interfere. We actually went to war on that proposition, the Opium Wars in the 19th Century.

In 1949, when the Communist Party of China took over, they addressed this problem by, among other things, detaining ten million drug addicts, and arresting and either condemning to death or imprisoning the pushers. This solved the problem.

There’s a parallel experience in American history after the Civil War. A great number of soldiers were addicted to morphine. To feed their habit they engaged in criminal activity: burglaries and the like, and robbery. The federal government rounded them all up and made them go “cold turkey,” which was pretty nasty. Many died. But it solved the problem. Maybe there are answers to this that are less draconian than those used by the Chinese in 1949 or the United States in the 1870s. But no effort is being made to find those.

%%The Transformational Effect of the Belt and Road Initiative

Billington: On the positive side, we have the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative coming up. There’ll be a big conference Oct. 17–18 in Beijing, with people from all over the world joining in. And, of course, this goes along with the expansion of the BRICS after their Leaders’ Summit Aug. 22–24 in Johannesburg, South Africa, which, assuming this goes through in January, with six new member nations joining, will hold most or at least much of the world’s, oil reserves, helping to make BRICS the central development process worldwide. What are your expectations for this process?

Amb. Freeman: The Belt and Road Initiative has grown and changed as it went along. The Chinese began this program [in March 2013], essentially as an extension of China’s industrial policies domestically to the global level, initially directed at Central Asia, but now global. The Chinese authorized their policy banks to conduct due diligence and lend money to projects that are originated by their business people, whether they’re from state owned enterprises or the private sector, and foreign counterparts. No project is proposed except in cooperation with the foreign partner. No lending takes place without due diligence. The Chinese have learned a great deal about how to conduct due diligence, and their loan policies are now much more prudent than they were initially.

The transformational effect of this program has been immense in terms of increasing the efficiency of trade, not just physically through the construction of infrastructure, but procedurally as well, because a great part of the Belt and Road Initiative involves the conclusion of agreements for expedited customs clearance, bonded storage, transit without fees, and so forth, as well as industrial parks, and of course, fiber optic cable, airports, port improvements, all of which greatly increase the efficiency of trade and enable its expansion. I think the program has been a great success, although at the moment less money is flowing into it than before, for several reasons: global trade is down, the Chinese economy is not growing as fast as it once did, and money is a little short.

U.S. efforts to obstruct the Belt and Road Initiative have had some effect, but not a great deal, because the United States essentially offers only rhetoric and no money for competing projects. It is actually a fallacy to assume that if the United States builds a road or railroad, that somehow detracts from a Chinese road or a railroad. Anybody can drive down the road. Anybody can ship goods on the railroad, increasing connectivity that benefits everyone. It doesn’t hurt anyone. Arguably, doing that increases American or Chinese influence with the governments that benefit from the increased development. But I don’t see any governments anywhere kowtowing either to the Chinese or increasingly to the United States.

Going back to the original question you asked about Israel’s war on Gaza and Hamas’s attack on Israel, you can forget the American proposed trade route from Mumbai in India across Saudi Arabia to the port of Haifa in Israel. Not going to happen. Never was going to happen, very likely because of two factors: First, the political obstacles. Second, the absence of any American money or European money in this. But now it is certainly not going to happen, given the flaring up again, of the immiseration of the Palestinians, and the political reactions to that in the Arab Gulf.

%%Why the U.S. Won’t Join the BRI

Billington: Professor Jeffrey Sachs has been in China for the last few weeks. He gave a speech at the Temple of Confucius in Shandong. He spoke to diplomats at the UN office in Beijing. He describes the Belt and Road pretty much the way you just did, as really the greatest development program in the world, and emphasizes that this is the proper model for the development of Africa and the rest of the developing sector, but especially Africa. He encourages the U.S. and the Europeans to join it, to build the road as you just said, that the U.S. doesn’t seem to want to build. Why don’t they? Why won’t the U.S. and Europe join in this in this development process?

Amb. Freeman: Well, this is part of the basic antagonism the United States has developed with China as a result of China’s overtaking the United States in purchasing power parity terms, at least, as now the largest economy on the planet. Chinese industrial production is now twice that of the United States, and China is the world’s largest trader. What China is not is a power projector. It does not have the hundreds of military bases scattered around the world that the United States does. It doesn’t have any particular desire to pursue an American style hegemonic role of the sort we began after World War Two. And in fact, China explicitly denies any intention to do that. But, to Chinese development, the United States feels a rivalry which has become essentially enmity. We are trying to hold back Chinese development retard it, inhibit it, prevent China’s scientific and technological advance, and deny China foreign markets for its goods and services. This really began earlier in the Obama administration with the failure to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank [AIDB] and the effort to prevent others from doing so—an effort which I would note has entirely failed. That’s the first reason we won’t join this.

The second reason the U.S. won’t join is that we don’t have any money. We have to borrow $1.5 trillion just to keep our government going at the current level of operations. We won’t tax ourselves to pay for things we need: domestic and foreign aid, foreign assistance, which means lending for purposes of foreign development, which is a sound thing to do because it increases overseas markets, it raises prosperity and generates prosperity for Americans. We won’t do this, in part because we don’t have the money, we don’t have the revenue. We just saw a near shutdown of the U.S. government over this issue of whether we would pay as we go or not. So in a sense, we just don’t have the money. I would say, recalling Willie Sutton’s reason for robbing banks: that’s where the money is. Now, that today is in China and the Arab Gulf countries. These are the two great sources of capital today for two different reasons: In the case of the Chinese, a very high domestic savings rate; in the case of the Gulf Arabs, profits from hydrocarbon sales.

%%The Saudi-Iranian Reconciliation Agreement

Billington: President Xi Jinping co-sponsored a China-Africa Forum as part of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, co-sponsored with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, with at least many, if not most of the African leaders attending. The BRI was a major focus of that discussion. China had already organized the historic reconciliation between the Saudi Arabia and Iran. As a former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, what is your view of that agreement and its impact on the Middle East, and on history generally?

Amb. Freeman: The agreement began with mediation by Iraq and Oman, which led to the opportunity that the Chinese seized to achieve closure in the negotiations between Riyadh and Tehran. It was a very positive development demanded by the countries of the region as the role of Iraq and Oman illustrates. And it was an alternative to the American policy of unremitting hostility to Iran and maximum pressure on Iran. It was also an alternative to the effort by the United States and Israel to organize an anti-Iranian coalition in the region.

The agreement is of enormous benefit to the parties, that is to say, normal relations with Iran reduce the threat to Saudi Arabia from Iran, normal relations with Saudi Arabia, bypass the American embargoes, and provide Iran with a significant source of trade and capital. It also represents a weakening of the American position in the Middle East and a repudiation of the U.S. policy to which the United States has not reacted in any particular way. In fact, as tensions in the Persian Gulf diminished, we increased our deployments to the region. Now, of course, we’ve increased deployments again, this time in response to the Palestinian uprising.

It is a very significant agreement. China’s diplomacy proved to be adroit, and it is an illustration of the merits of maintaining dialogue, diplomatic dialogue, with all parties, whether you agree with them or not. It is in that sense, a direct counter to our behavior at the outset of the Ukraine war when we refused to conduct a dialogue with the Russians on the issues that they said concerned them so much that they might go to war. There is a parallel, I’m sorry to say, in the case of the Taiwan issue, where we will not talk about the issues of concern to the Chinese, but merely double down on military deterrence. Military deterrence depends on increasing the threat to China. Increasing the threat to China leads to an arms race with it. Far from reducing the danger of war, it increases it because it leaves the Chinese with no path to achieving their objectives other than the use of force.

But we don’t seem to understand how to do diplomacy these days. And we don’t have a lot of situational awareness, as shown in the idiotic remark of Jake Sullivan a week ago that things had never been quite so calm in the Middle East, which was a tribute to the magnificent policies of the Biden administration. I think events have caught him out. Sadly, this isn’t the only instance. We’re totally ignoring the fact that maximum pressure on North Korea, has succeeded only in producing nuclear armed ICBMs that can hit anywhere in the United States. We have created a nuclear threat that didn’t exist. We may be doing the same with Iran.

%%Taiwan and Mainland China Relations

Billington: Presidential elections are scheduled to be held in Taiwan Jan. 13, 2004. I’m very interested in seeing what you think that might lead to. Is there any possibility, in your view, that this could lead to a change in the policy toward the mainland to bring about some sort of reconciliation, if not reunification?

Amb. Freeman: Well, the leading candidate for President is Lai Ching-te, who is the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate. He is a staunch advocate of independence.

National Day in Taiwan, which is tomorrow, October 10th, “Double Ten Day” as it’s called, has always celebrated in The Republic of China, the official name of the state in Taiwan, that is not recognized anymore internationally. That has been replaced with a celebration of Taiwan, to the extent that the Guomindang former president, Ma Ying-jeou, has declined to join the National Day festivities.

The trends are toward confrontation. No accommodation. This is extremely dangerous because China now has the capability to take Taiwan by force, even over U.S. opposition. Of course, at a huge cost. But as we’ve just seen with the Hamas attack on Israel, sometimes the fact that huge costs will be incurred is not an effective deterrent to military action. The question of how to end the civil war in a way that reaffirms some form of one-China, is a matter of passionate concern to Chinese nationalists, and China is very nationalistic at the moment. So I don’t see the prospect as promising at all. The other three candidates in the race don’t have much of an answer either, on how to restore cross-Strait dialogue and rapprochement.

Billington: Is there a chance for one of them winning?

Amb. Freeman: At the moment, the chances are poor, and there being too many candidates in the field is very much to the benefit of Mr. Lai, and the cause of the independence-minded secessionists in Taiwan.

%%Normalization of Saudi-Israel Relations

Billington: Back to the Saudi issue. There’s now a lot of discussion about the idea that Saudi Arabia either has or at least is considering canceling its very large $70 billion nuclear energy deal with the U.S. and signing a similar deal with China. I don’t know if this is accurate, but it’s at least being discussed. On the U.S. side, the U.S. has as usual conditionalities. They’re saying that we’ll help you with nuclear energy, but you have to agree not to process any enriched uranium because we don’t trust you not to build a bomb, and therefore you can’t do it at all; and they are also demanding that the Saudis must trade with China in dollars rather than the current effort to move toward trading in local currencies or in yuan. There are other conditionalities that the U.S. intends to add to this deal as well.  So it looks like that’s falling apart.

At least up until this Israel-Hamas war broke out, the U.S. was trying to arrange a deal between the Saudis and Israel, but that’s probably on hold with what’s happening now. One of the Saudi demands was that the Israelis do something significant with the Palestinians. Quite the opposite of what they’re doing now. China, of course, in their proposal, has no conditionalities. They don’t use conditionalities. So where does this nuclear discussion stand?

Amb. Freeman: There has been no deal. Talking about a $70 billion deal is interesting, but there are several factors that have to be borne in mind. The conditionality on reprocessing nuclear fuel is one of them, because it is counter to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Saudi Arabia would have the right to reprocess. Saudi Arabia said that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, they will too. So a nuclear fuel cycle agreement that forecloses their matching Iran under circumstances where the U.S. is doing everything conceivable, as is Israel, to give Iran an excuse to develop a nuclear weapon, just isn’t very attractive.

Saudi Arabia has been trying to get whatever it can from Mr. Biden’s passion for normalization with Israel, which of course is not a foreign policy objective; it’s a domestic political objective, aimed at generating campaign donations. 50% of the donations the Democratic Party receives are from Jewish Americans. Although Jews in the United States are only 2.4% of the population, and many of that 2.4% don’t give a fig about Israel, you do have donors for whom Israel and support for Zionism are transcendent issues. Mr. Biden is appealing to them. I never thought this nuclear deal was likely to go anywhere.

It’s not just China that is prepared to provide nuclear reactors to the Saudis. So are the French. So are the South Koreans. So are the Russians. So, the U.S., if it wants to be the nuclear provider to Saudi Arabia it has very limited bargaining leverage. More broadly, I would say that the way the Saudis have treated this issue of normalization with Israel has been to play it for all they could get, just to see what they could get out of it.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has been quite prepared to engage in transactions with Israel. For example, the Saudis would like to have Israeli tourists bring their money to Saudi Arabia, to the new resorts being built on the Red Sea. That makes a lot of sense. Hence, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism was permitted to travel to Riyadh recently. So the Saudis will do what they see is in their interest, and they won’t do anything they don’t see as in their interest, and provoking internal dissent and uprising, possibly over the Palestinian issue in the kingdom is not in the interest of Mohammed bin Salman’s father, the King.

I never thought that normalization across the board was feasible. As you said, given the Israeli savagery against Gaza in retaliation for the Hamas attack, normalization is even less feasible now than it was.

%%‘Trade Without Currency’ Deals

Mike Billington: There’s another Middle East deal that’s in the works that has been signed: that between China and Iran, in which the Chinese are going to be adding a second terminal to Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport, in exchange for $2.7 billion (equivalent) in oil imports. This is not actually a barter deal, but it’s something like what Lyndon LaRouche promoted in his 2000 [[article]] [[]] called “Trade Without Currency,” where trade is based on some sort of a basket of commodities, which would include gold and oil and things of that sort. This is something that Russian economist Sergey Glazyev and other Russians, and now all the BRICS, are very seriously working on. This China-Iran deal tends is in that direction. What are your thoughts on that?

Amb. Freeman: There are many precedents for this kind of thing in the region. The one that comes to mind immediately is the so-called Al-Yamamah deal between Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom, which, of course, led to a great deal of corruption and embarrassment eventually. 

Billington: And wars! 

Amb. Freeman: That deal was, however, the commitment of a supply of oil [by Saudi Arabia] to Royal Dutch Shell and British Petroleum. The proceeds from the sale of that oil were then banked at the Bank of England to fund in an account managed by British Aerospace. This is an arrangement very similar to what seems to have been done between China and Iran. That is, the participating Chinese construction company would get paid from the proceeds of sales of Iranian oil, which presumably will then be banked in a Chinese bank. Which one? I don’t know. Maybe just the People’s Bank of China, which is the central bank. So this is an interesting development, but it is hardly unprecedented. It is perhaps a model for other transactions involving commodities.

%%De-Dollarization: Liberating From U.S. Policy Hegemony.

Billington: Do you have thoughts on this financial deal that I just referenced, the fact that the Russians and the Chinese and now really the whole BRICS and much of the Global South are actively negotiating ways of setting up alternative systems that are independent of the dollar, and that partially include local currencies. But it also is a discussion of a new system altogether. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Amb. Freeman: About 20 years ago, I remember having a conversation with a noted American pundit who writes for The Washington Post in which I said that the abuse of the dollar as American currency, but also the universal medium of trade settlement, would lead eventually to a search for ways to dethrone the dollar from that trade settlement role. And that is exactly what is happening because of the widespread use of American financial sanctions, the denial of access to the SWIFT clearing house in Brussels for dollar-based and euro-based transactions, the use of the dollar to interfere with trade between third parties, which has no connection to the United States, except that the trade settlement goes through the Federal Reserve in New York. 

Such practices are widely seen internationally as abuses of American hegemonic power, and they’re unacceptable. It’s hardly surprising that there’s quite an effort being made to find ways around U.S. use of the dollar to control other countries’ foreign policies and economic interactions.

At the moment, with a few exceptions, one of which is Sino-Russian trade, this hasn’t gone very far, but it is increasing. Oddly enough, the euro has been diminishing as an instrument of trade settlement as the yuan and other currencies increase. I don’t understand why that is the case, except perhaps that the European economies have been gravely damaged by the war in Ukraine, or more accurately, by the sanctions imposed on Russian energy exports as a result of the war in Ukraine. We keep saying, well, the war in Ukraine caused this. Well, we had choices about how we responded and we chose to respond in several ways, including probably blowing up the Nord Stream Two pipeline, which is an act of war against an ally, Germany. I think the European economies are paying the price for this in terms of future expectations of their viability. Maybe that explains why the euro is going down rather than up in terms of usage for trade settlement.

Billington: Is there anything you’d like to say as concluding remarks?

Amb. Freeman: No, I’ve incriminated myself enough, I think.

%%The End of Centuries of Colonialism

Billington: Thanks, then. I appreciate your taking the time for this interview. It’s a busy time in the world; that’s for sure. This is an incredible moment of crisis in civilization. Helga Zepp-LaRouche characterizes this as the end of the era of colonialism—the 600 years of colonialism as the structure of the organization of the world, which is coming to an end. What direction it’s going to go, it could go either well or ill, but it’s going to change. There’s no keeping this system any longer.

Amb. Freeman: I agree with her about that. Five centuries of EuroAtlantic hegemony have come to an end. The United States is the heir of European colonialism, and Japanese colonialism is also seeing its empire fray at the edges. And the events in the Holy Land are one indication of that—a violent indication. The war in Ukraine is another.

You have discussed the emergence of alternative institutions like the BRICS. One could also mention the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the New Development Bank under the BRICS, and the wide expansion of freedom of maneuver for middle power, middle ranked powers like the Saudis, who now have choices before them that are no longer constrained by fealty to the United States. We see this with Turkey as well. So I think she’s correct. This is a Zeitenwende as somebody said—a turning point in history, a pivotal moment.

Billington: Okay. Well, thank you very much. I hope we can repeat this. It would be very useful if we could have regular discussions of this sort. They’re very much appreciated by our audience around the world.

Amb. Freeman: Give my regards to Helga!

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Please read and distribute the Schiller Institute Statement for International Distribution: No More Money for Arms in Ukraine! No World War with Russia or China!!

Schiller Institute founder Helga Zepp-LaRouche said in dialogue with associates on Monday, Oct. 9, “You cannot look at any one of these situations individually. You have to look at Ukraine in respect to NATO expansion and the danger of that leading to World War III in the short term. Now, we have the situation in Southwest Asia. Other conflicts are looming, like the Taiwan issue with China and Global NATO. And then you have a lot of smaller conflicts, which nevertheless are very severe for the people it attacks, like Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. And not even to start to talk about Haiti and Afghanistan, and all of these other terrible situations.

“So our approach must be, we absolutely have to catalyze this whole thing into a new paradigm, because only if you establish a new security and development architecture which takes into account the security interests and development interests of every country, can there be a peaceful resolution. And that has been our policy since the beginning of the Ukraine war, and I think that that just goes for the Southwest Asia situation as well.”

The Schiller Institute has posted an international statement as a call to action. In Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, October 11, midday outside Congress, the LaRouche Organization will hold a rally, on the theme of, “No Money to Ukraine, No World War III with Russia, China.”

A Schiller Institute spokesman reported tonight, “In the next hours and days, the Congress of the United States, the parliaments of Canada and Europe, the presidencies of Central and South America, and the governments of Asia and Africa must hear and see the people of the world stand up for humanity against world war with Russia/China, and the ‘theater population wars’ that are part of that world war. We need to get on the phones and into the offices of public officials, we need to go into the streets and in front of governmental institutions, to say that war is not the answer; that imposing war upon the dispossessed and poor is a crime against humanity; that not one more dollar should be spent on weapons for Ukraine.

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