John Sigerson, tenor
Michael Gründler, piano
Alexander Nagorny, of Russia, is deputy editor of Zavtra weekly newspaper and a member of the Izborsk Club. He is a historian who has specialized in relations among China, the United States, and Russia for several decades. He delivered this speech during the opening panel of the Schiller Institute conference near Frankfurt am Main, on April 13.
First of all, I would like to express my great gratitude to the Schiller Institute, and to Lyndon LaRouche personally, for organizing such an interesting, large, and timely conference.
We represent a new intellectual club formed in Russia approximately six months ago, the Izborsk Club, which brings together various experts and specialists, with various ideological outlooks, who are thinking about the future—about what Lyndon LaRouche has just discussed here in such a profound and interesting way.
The topic of my short presentation may be situated as a continuation of the propositions set forth by Mr. LaRouche. Its title is “The Chinese Dimension of the USA-China-Russia Triangle Today.” I think that this topic should perhaps be somewhat expanded: The triangle should incorporate also the European Union, or Europe as such, insofar as these are the players in international relations which essentially determine the current political situation in the world, and the prospects for the future that the world and mankind are facing—as Lyndon LaRouche has just discussed.
The Korean Crisis
In order not to give you merely dry, theoretical considerations, I would like to begin my presentation by describing the dramatic situation taking shape in the world today, which is being trumpeted in mass media like CNN, ABC, Euronews, and so forth. Almost everybody is focussed on the Korean situation. Just now, before leaving the hotel this morning, I was watching the latest news from CNN, which reported on the special statement made by U.S. Secretary of State Kerry in Seoul, South Korea. He said that the United States, like the entire world, is extremely concerned about the nuclear threat from North Korea, and that the USA is extending its hand for dialogue with North Korea, and cancelling a number of maneuvers. Then Kerry got to the core of his speech, saying that he was now going to fly to Beijing, and that it was the Chinese leadership, the Chinese comrades, who should play the decisive role in settling the current crisis, which includes the threat of a military conflict with the use of nuclear weapons.
I think that this episode expresses the entire situation taking shape within this big triangle, or quadrilateral, that I’m talking about. What we see here, is that the United States, as the hegemonic world power and the player in international relations which has virtually an absolute concentration of military-strategic power in its hands, and which effectively runs the policy of such international economic policy organizations as the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, etc., was forced to turn to the People’s Republic of China—one could say, to fly to Beijing and kow-tow to the Chinese emperors—and request that they do something, somehow, to settle the situation between North and South Korea, in order to prevent Pyongyang from using nuclear weapons and placing the world on the brink of a nuclear cataclysm.
Herein, in my view, lies the secret of Chinese diplomacy. If we follow the logic, then certainly North Korea’s high degree of dependence on China, for both energy supplies (80-85%) and food, not to mention the technology side, has created a situation in which the United States, although it has both military-political and ideological power far in excess of China’s, is forced to appeal to the Chinese Emperor and plead with him to do something to help prevent a military clash.
Now, if we review the entire situation as it comes together, we see that this Korean crisis has eclipsed the situation in Iran and the situation in Syria, with everything being concentrated on this Korean segment. China thus has demonstrated that the United States has lost face, politically. And this is something very important in the Asia-Pacific region, where China traditionally, and continuing now today because of its very high development rates, lays claim to the dominant position.
Dangerous Return to Geopolitics
This episode is a particular case, but it’s one which easily allows making broader generalizations about the world situation. What have we seen, during the past several years? The world is returning to geopolitics. There is a resurrection of the lines typical of the traditional geopolitical constructs known to world politics in the 19th and 20th centuries, which had been on the back burner after the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, when the socialist bloc lost its place in international relations. It was in 1991 that the USA gained the ability to take a completely new approach to world issues. LaRouche talked about this. The USA would have been able to take the lead in addressing the global problems, which had been so much discussed in the 1980s. Instead, the USA focussed on strengthening its egotistical positions.
As a result, we witnessed an entirely new alignment, especially as we entered the 2000s. This involved, above all, the astronomical growth of the economic, political, and military power of the People’s Republic of China.
Here I should say a few words about Russia. Although in 1991-93 Russia came under the practically total political influence of the United States, under Putin this situation began to change. Now, Russia has begun to play an increasingly independent role within these geopolitical constructs.
It is quite clear that this rebirth of geopolitics is based on egotism on the part of the players in international relations. Under these conditions, each participant in these complex geometrical constructs—the triangle or the quadrilateral—is seeking his own benefit and attempting to achieve it, directly or sometimes indirectly (as in the case of Syria, where the USA and Europe are essentially smashing the secular state in order to shape a completely new situation regarding energy supplies to Europe).
This narrow egotism characterizes just about every player. This is an obstacle to any attempts at finding a common approach to solving the global problems Lyndon LaRouche was talking about. After all, it’s difficult to believe that such diverse players in international affairs as China, Europe, and the USA could be brought together around a single program. Yet the need for such a single program is absolutely clear and is hanging over the head of mankind.
Because of this, we can say with absolute certainty that the rise of this geopolitical thinking impedes the possibility of finding a common program. If we look at the countries involved, we can see that, in order to find a common position, the United States will need to give up its orientation toward maintaining de facto hegemony in both the military-political and the economic domains. All the countries in question will need to reconsider those positions and principles which are based on national egotism, in their relations with their neighbors. And what LaRouche mentioned is extremely important: to reject the now dominant theories of monetarism and liberalism in international economic relations.
Is it possible to bring about the rejection of these things? It seems to me that this will be difficult to achieve.
Effects of the ‘Asia Pivot’
Look again at the situation in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States has announced the Asia pivot, that they are shifting the center of gravity to the Asia-Pacific region. What does this mean for Beijing and the Chinese comrades? It means that they are beginning to sense that the United States, slowly but surely, is creating a system of restraints and counterweights, which in effect is a system for the military-political and military-strategic isolation of China.
China views this situation from the standpoint of the fact that the United States may, at any moment, cause a cut-off of hydrocarbon fuel and energy supplies to China, thus strangling the Chinese economy and creating socially unacceptable conditions for the existence of the Chinese people. From this standpoint, Beijing naturally has to look for a way out of this situation—some kind of guarantees. They need to look for a way to break out of the harsh system being constructed at the present time. This is the motivation for China’s seeking involvement in major economic projects in Central Asia, in countries like Kazakstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, and the bid by the People’s Republic of China to achieve an abrupt spurt in relations with the Russian Federation.
It was no accident that the new Chinese leader Xi Jinping made the Russian Federation the destination for his first foreign trip. A number of fairly important agreements were concluded. Even more important is what was discussed behind closed doors, and what Xi and Putin would have agreed upon. Naturally those talks would have revolved around how successfully to defend their interests, as much as possible, in the face of American and European pressures.
Thus, what we see coming together, perhaps gradually, is new blocs. Without question, the creation of this new geopolitical system is driven by the inflection points in the economic and financial crisis, and much will depend on what happens with the culmination of the second wave of that economic and financial crisis. Very unpredictable scenarios and alliances are entirely possible. But it is absolutely clear that if each of the players fails to overcome its national egotism, then the natural process by which international relations, and these new blocs, become chaotic, may quite easily not only place the world on the brink, but actually plunge us into military-political clashes, perhaps starting at the regional level, and moving to a mega-regional level.
Move Toward Strategic Cooperation
In this setting, I believe that our conference has a very important role to play, and that, to a significant degree, it can demonstrate to the leaders of the major geostrategic centers, that it is necessary to move in a completely different direction: not toward construction of this new bloc scheme, but rather toward strategic cooperation projects, for which each country could contribute the financial, human, and cultural-ideological resources it possesses.
It seems to me that this kind of an approach, this kind of new political thinking—I don’t like to use that term because of its association with Gorbachov, and we know how Gorbachov’s experiment ended up in Soviet Russia, but, nonetheless, the need persists precisely for this—is something which Putin does have a certain sense of, and he is attempting to find points of tangency with Europe, with the United States, and, above all, with the People’s Republic of China.
I view Putin’s, and Russia’s, relations with the European Union with a fair degree of skepticism, especially after the situation that developed in Cyprus, when Germany in effect stabbed Putin in the back. I think that he will not forget this, in shaping his approach to Chancellor Merkel, although outwardly he will maintain his diplomatic smile. But life has demonstrated that Russia’s approach to relations with Germany will not be what it might have been, had a more civilized approach been taken.
As for relations between the United States and Russia, it is also difficult to discern great positive prospects. The proposal Washington is now making for radical nuclear strategic and tactical force reductions are essentially unacceptable for the Russian Federation, insofar as they affect the very foundations of our security. After the Soviet military machine was shrunk and effectively broken, our nuclear missile forces are left as the clearest guarantor of the inviolability of Russia’s borders. Therefore, while the situation with Washington will of course go forward in the form of diplomatic contacts and smiles, at the same time both sides will be preparing for the worst-case scenario.
In that context, the proposals Lyndon LaRouche was talking about could break this ice, if each of the participants were to adopt an absolutely and fundamentally new approach to the most important aspects of their statecraft. In this sense, I repeat that this means giving up American hegemonism, and, for regional powers, giving up their national egotism. And it means a new approach to how the world economy is organized.
Translated from Russian by Rachel Douglas
Mr. Benediktov submitted the paper published here to the April 13-14 Schiller Institute conference, held near Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The version he delivered April 13 was shortened for time reasons; the full translation presented here is supplemented at the beginning by the author’s spoken remarks to the opening session of the conference.
First of all, I would like to thank the Schiller Institute, and Lyndon LaRouche and Helga Zepp-LaRouche personally, for inviting me to speak at this prestigious conference. My prepared remarks begin with a historical overview, but some events that occurred just yesterday have changed my plan. I shall begin, therefore, by telling you what happened yesterday.
Yesterday was April 12, which is marked in Russia, and worldwide, as Astronautics Day, because it was on this day [in 1961] the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made man’s first flight into space. Yesterday, it became known that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin had sent a letter to President Putin, proposing to make the keynote topic of the upcoming G20 summit, the prevention of threats from space.
Secondly, President Putin announced that financing for the Russian space program will be increased to 1.6 trillion rubles by 2020. This is quite a hefty figure, essentially comparable with NASA’s budget.
After this short introduction, let me proceed to a characterization of the topic toward which Rogozin has proposed to shift the G20 agenda. This is the problem of the comet and asteroid threat. For quite a long time, mankind has been very sensitive to the existence of a threat from comets. Asteroids, of course, were not yet in the picture. People were thinking about comets, which have quite a frightening appearance because of the tail.
The ‘Horrible Star’: Halley’s Comet and the First Outbreak of Panic, 1910
The first periodic comet known to mankind is the famous Halley’s Comet. Observations of it are depicted in Babylonian astronomical diaries and in Chinese chronicles from the Era of the Warring States [203-221 B.C.]. The fiery “broom star” already then was considered a herald of impending trouble—the Roman Sibylline Books say that the comet will be a “sign of the sword, famine, death, and the fall of leaders and great people.” The appearance of the comet in the Fifth Century A.D. coincided with the invasion of Attila the Hun, and in the 11th Century, with the Norman conquest of England. The latter event is depicted in the famous Bayeux Tapestry (Figure 1). Russian chronicles of the 13th Century talk about “the horrible star,” with its rays extending to the east, the direction from which the Mongol hordes soon invaded Russia.
The Bayeux Tapestry
But it was only in 1910 that the approach of Halley’s Comet first caused a wave of panic, enveloping the entire civilized world. Ironically, this was the direct result of scientific achievements: for the first time, spectral analysis of the comet’s tail was done, revealing the presence of poisonous cyanogen gas, as well as carbon monoxide. It was known that on May 18 the Earth would pass through the comet’s tail, and this sparked a kind of “comet hysteria,” with people waiting for the end of the world. There was panic demand for “anti-comet pills” and “anti-comet umbrellas” (Figure 2). The famous Arthur Conan Doyle, inspired by this lunacy, wrote one of his best science fiction stories,The Poison Belt, in which the Earth passes through a “belt of poisonous ether,” and humanity for a few days becomes immersed in a deep sleep.
It is now obvious that the fears of 1910 were unfounded. The concentration of harmful substances in the tails of comets is so low that they do not have any effect at all on the Earth’s atmosphere. Yet at that very time a real, terrible danger was close at hand. Neither scientists nor science fiction writers of that era saw it, although it loudly made its presence known.
From Tunguska to Chelyabinsk: 1908-2013
Two years before the panic caused by the passage of Halley’s Comet, in 1908, something exploded in the very heart of Siberia, near the Podkamennaya Tunguska region. Astronomers cautiously described it as a space object of cometary origin. The force of the explosion was 40-50 megatons, and its effects were seen even in Western Europe, where for several nights there was a ghostly phosphorescence in the sky. The brilliant Russian scientist Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky, whose 150th anniversary we celebrate this year, very precisely defined the “Tunguska wonder” as “a clump of cosmic dust” (Figure 3).
But even this “clump of dust,” when it collided with Earth, flattened a forest area of more than 2,000 sq km, and it was only by good luck that there were no casualties. If the object that exploded over Tunguska had come four hours later, as a result of the rotation of the Earth around its axis it would have completely destroyed the city of Vyborg and reduced the beautiful palaces of St. Petersburg to ruins.
That was an ominous warning. But since the disaster befell one of the most uninhabited regions of the planet, rather than densely populated areas of Europe or the Americas, mankind simply ignored it.
Meanwhile, the “shelling” of the Earth from space continued. Especially noteworthy are the “Brazilian Tunguska” of Aug. 3, 1930, when the fall of a celestial body in the rainforest on the border of Brazil, Peru, and Colombia ignited fires that raged for days, and the jungles were depopulated for hundreds of square kilometers; and the Sikhote-Alin meteorite in 1947, whose fragments weighing a total of up to 80 metric tons fell in a meteor shower in the Soviet Far East.
But while these events occurred in sparsely populated areas, an asteroid that nearly exploded over the United States in 1972 could have led to a large-scale catastrophe. With a diameter of 80 meters, it entered the Earth’s atmosphere over the state of Utah, at a speed of about 15 km/s. If it had reached the surface of the Earth, the explosion would have been comparable in scale to the explosion at Tunguska, but instead of the 2,000 sq km destroyed by the Tunguska wonder, this time it would have been right at the center of a high-technology and densely populated country. Fortunately, the trajectory of the asteroid was very shallow, and, after flying above the Earth for 1,500 km, it exited the Earth’s atmosphere over Canada and was lost again in the vastness of space.
The most dramatic was the recent Chelyabinsk incident, when an explosion of a meteoroid over Chelyabinsk injured at least 1,613 people, mostly with minor traumas and cuts (Figure 4). The meteoroid itself was relatively small—about 17 meters in diameter and weighing about 10,000 metric tons (Figure 5).
It is worth noting that during the week of Feb. 11-18, 2013, the number of celestial bodies falling to the Earth increased dramatically (in fact, anomalously). Bolides were seen in the skies of Russia, Kazakstan, Japan, Australia, Cuba, South Africa, Morocco, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Britain, and Latvia. There were also peculiar silvery clouds, similar to those observed after the Tunguska meteorite impact. Perhaps Earth’s orbit was passing through an unknown meteor swarm at that time.
A crucial fact here is that the astronomers who were observing near-Earth space did not know about any meteor swarm. It was suggested that it could have been related to asteroid 2012 DA14, which passed by Earth on the evening of Feb. 15 at a distance of 28,000 km, but the trajectories of that asteroid and the Ural bolide were completely different. Thus, in February of this year the capabilities of modern Earth science to provide early detection of threats of cosmic origin were tested—and the results, unfortunately, proved totally unsatisfactory.
Surprisingly, the threat from outer space that had become apparent long before the fall of the Chebarkul meteoroid ((Lake Chebarkul in Chelyabinsk Region has been identified as the epicenter of the meteorite’s impact—ed.)) was not taken seriously for a long time. In fact, only the directors of disaster movies were interested, and it was not seen as something really important by either politicians or the majority of scientists. It is possible—although it is unlikely that anyone will ever prove it—that there were quite earthly, political reasons for that situation. For example, it would seem logical that development of the Strategic Defense Initiative, as it was put forward by the United States during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, would have to have inevitably led to the creation of at least an early warning system against threats from space intersecting Earth orbit.
But of course this did not occur. After the Cold War ended and the United States lost its main strategic adversary—an adversary which had spurred the development of the U.S. military and aerospace industry—people preferred to forget about the SDI. The price of this oblivion was the complete unpreparedness of the most technologically advanced countries on Earth to solve problems related to asteroid and comet threats.
Nonetheless, individual scientific teams have been doing research on the threat from asteroids and comets. There are about ten projects of different countries and organizations that have found 1,311 potentially hazardous asteroids (PHA). That calculation is based on observations from both ground- and space-based observatories, such as NASA’s WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer).
Although Russia has a vital interest in technologies to prevent and protect against the asteroid and comet threats simply because of its vast territory, the western countries hold first place here. However, in Russia too, there have been and still are groups and organizations working on both technologies for early warning and possible strategies for planetary defense. Among these organizations are the Expert Working Group on Space Threats of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Council on Space, which is part of the RAS Institute of Astronomy and is directly subordinate to Director of the Institute Boris Shustov; and a number of companies in the aerospace industry, primarily the S.A. Lavochkin Research and Production Association. The Aegis, AKO [Asteroid-Comet Danger], and Apophis special groups are under contract with the RAS Council on Space and with [the Russian space agency] Roscosmos. The following information is based mainly on materials from these organizations.
Possible Ways To Counter the Threat
In the entire history of observations, scientists have only once predicted a collision with a space body. This was asteroid 2008TC3, which observers discovered on Oct. 6, 2008, and within just 20 hours, in the early morning of Oct. 7, it exploded at an altitude of 37 km exactly where and when had been forecast: in the desert over northern Sudan, not far from the border with Egypt. The discovery was made using the 1.5 meter Catalina Sky Survey telescope. However, all experts agree that it would have been impossible in such a short time to destroy an asteroid or change its trajectory, even if it had been falling directly on New York City.
And then on March 2, 2009, a boulder with a diameter of 50 m flew by the Earth at a distance of 66,000 km—asteroid 2009 DD45. Had a collision with Earth occurred, it would have been a catastrophe several times worse than the Chelyabinsk incident. This asteroid was observed on Feb. 28—that is, three days before its passage—and by an amateur astronomer, not at a national observatory.
Obviously, the problem of preventing comet and asteroid threats has two components: a) improving the means of surveillance to allow (at least in theory) the detection of the most dangerous space objects in advance, and b) creating means of planetary defense.
The first task is completely solvable for large space bodies, such as the asteroid Apophis, whose dangerously close encounters with Earth are expected in 2029 and 2036 (Figure 6). Even in the case of Apophis, however, it is not absolutely certain that its orbit will not change as a result of factors not yet considered, and that it will not lead to a catastrophe on a planetary scale.
And it would be overly optimistic to assume that only Apophis constitutes a threat to our planet. The total number of undetected objects with a diameter of more than one kilometer is estimated by Russian scientists as “fewer than 40,” or less than 20% of the total number of potentially dangerous space bodies that are still unknown to mankind, but that “reside” in the Solar System. According to RAS Institute of Astronomy Director Boris Shustov, however, the total number of potentially Earth-threatening objects is between 200,000 and 300,000, and only 2% of those have currently been identified by astronomers (Figure 7).
In order to detect even these “lost” objects, we need to significantly increase the effectiveness of currently available early warning systems. First of all, we need to create a single planetary network for detection and prediction of asteroid and comet hazards. The network should include both already existing centers—the Minor Planet Center (funded by NASA under the auspices of the International Astronomical Union), the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (United States), the laboratory of the University of Pisa (funded by the European Space Agency)—and also new ones, with the widest possible geographical coverage. It is absolutely necessary to establish the elements of such a network in the Southern Hemisphere. As for Russia, the work ongoing within individual institutes and research institutions should be systematically organized; a single coordination point has to be set up for data collection and processing. This center should be formed initially as a node of the global (supranational) network.
Of course satellite telescopes, such as those launched by NASA and the ESA, can be extremely advantageous. But, just as in creating a system of planetary defense, it should be clearly understood that such devices will only be effective if they become components of a global planetary strategy, not just individual projects. On March 12 of this year, speaking before the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, Boris Shustov identified the main problem facing Russian astronomy: the lack of funding. It will require at least 58 billion rubles (about $2 billion) to create a comprehensive program for protection against the asteroid and comet threat, he said. As we shall see, these figures are quite comparable to the cost of one ambitious NASA mission. For Russian science, however, this sum is extremely large. But the event in Chelyabinsk could play a positive role here.
Most regrettably, up to now, all the projects in the field of space security could be classified as part of a “passive” strategy of making observations and calculations about these dangerous objects. The only example I know of the influence of man on a space object, is the bombardment of the nucleus of comet Tempel-1 during NASA’s Deep Impact experiment, in the Summer of 2005. Russian experts do not rule out that in this experiment, while studying the comet and ways to intercept it, results were obtained that could be used to develop new types of weapons. The experience of intercepting the comet’s nucleus at a speed of about 10 km/s could be used to create BMD systems. It is possible that there was also testing of models of hypervelocity strikes, needed to assess the effectiveness of new kinetic weapons known as “Arrows of God” [in English also “Rods from God”].
However, even if this is so, there still does not exist a single approved mission including development of a “counterstrike” against an asteroid. The Apophis mission, which is being developed at the Lavochkin bureau, does not yet have clear deadlines (other than the obvious approximate time of the asteroid’s approach to Earth). Ten days ago the head of Roscosmos, Vladimir Popovkin, did say that NASA has proposed to Russia a joint project to capture and transport to lunar orbit a small asteroid (500 metric tons). The idea is to capture this object somewhere in outer space, and use tractor technology to pull it into lunar orbit, where it can be studied with the help of robots or even during manned expeditions.
However, as far as can be understood from an article in Aviation Week, this is not an approved project, but only an initiative for which NASA plans to request an additional $100 million appropriation. The project, developed by the Keck Institute for Space Studies, provides for the capture of the asteroid with a special “bag”; it would then be towed into an elliptical lunar orbit or to a Lagrange point in the Earth-Moon system. If the project is indeed approved, the cost could reach at least $2.65 billion. Technologically, such a capture might look like what is shown in (Figure 8).
The possibility of countermeasures against potentially dangerous space objects, strictly speaking, comes down to two basic strategies: deflection and destruction. Deflection, of course, is preferable, since, first of all, the effects can be calculated more accurately, and secondly, because no irreversible actions are taken.
The means of deflection could be either soft (tractors, sails) or hard (targeted explosions, mine-laying, kinetic effects). The means of destruction involve powerful military technologies, including nuclear ones. This creates significant challenges for a planetary defense system, since using nuclear weapons in space could increase international tensions and create additional challenges to the security of the planet.
Therefore, we will have to proceed with a supranational project under the auspices of the UN. This is exactly what Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin, who was then still Russia’s representative to NATO, has said repeatedly, (( See EIR, May 11, 2012.)) in motivating the Russian initiative for an international project of global anti-missile and anti-asteroid planetary defense.
Rogozin proposed the establishment of a civilian-military system for defense of the Earth from threats from outer space, of both military and natural origin, the latter in case of a dangerous approach to Earth by comets, asteroids, and other space objects.
Rogozin stressed that the idea of such a major project under the auspices of the UN, among other things, gives Russia an opportunity to seize the strategic initiative from the USA in deploying a global BMD system, including its segment in Europe. It will also make it possible to “package” a decision on establishing a truly unified and joint European missile defense system, into a major civilian project for space exploration, in which Russia has its own unique scientific, practical, and industrial role to play. Essentially, Russia and the United States could take on a noble mission to save the planet.
The draft initiative stated: “This humanitarian project for saving civilization pushes its military component to the background and places in a different light the role of the UN, which would have to become its ‘political sponsor.’ Planetary defense of the Earth could become an important stimulus for international research and military-industrial cooperation among the countries of the West and the BRICS, with a leading role for Russia.
“Those who decided to publicly reject participation in such a project would risk contempt in the eyes of the world, being perceived as short-sighted reactionaries, and even worse, as potential aggressors who are indifferent to the future of civilization and are pursuing narrowly national goals of domination in outer space.”
Given Rogozin’s increased political weight and authority, as well as his strong support from the Russian military-industrial complex, there is reason to hope that such a system will be a priority of the Russian space program in the next few years.
It should be noted that Russia definitely has something to offer in the creation of a global system of planetary defense. I am referring mainly to the Citadel system, developed at Lavochkin (Figure 9). This system was worked out “on paper” more than a dozen years ago; it was assumed then that it would take no more than 7-8 years to implement the hardware. The political decision to create the Citadel Planetary Defense System (PDS) was not made at that time, however, perhaps because it would have required effective cooperation among different countries and space agencies.
Schematic of the Citadel Planetary Defense System
The Citadel PDS is a complex, layered system, but with fairly simple basic elements. Moreover, all its major elements (or their prototypes) were already developed in the Soviet Union.
These include many types of rocket and space technology, nuclear weapons, means of communication, navigation, and control, etc. Now we have a unique opportunity to use these tools, many of which were developed for military purposes, not for destruction, but to protect humanity from dangerous celestial bodies.
To prevent a collision of dangerous celestial bodies with Earth, the plan is to use interception, based on the infrastructure for space flights (space launch complexes, means of control, etc.). It will use, inclusively, special reconnaissance satellites and interceptor spacecraft capable of acting upon the dangerous celestial bodies.
Reconnaissance spacecraft are a small class of apparatuses, such as the American Clementine, created on the basis of SDI technology. The light weight of the reconnaissance spacecraft will allow them to accelerate to high speed and thus reach a dangerous celestial body faster than a heavy interceptor. During the flight to the object, they ascertain its characteristics and transfer the data to ground control, to refine the interception plan and its effect on the dangerous space body. After that, the necessary commands are communicated to the interceptor spacecraft, which maneuvers closer to the object and impacts it for the purpose of deflecting it from its Earth-bound trajectory or destroying it. Experience acquired during efforts to create missile defense may be useful for this. Kinetic impact or a nuclear explosion will be used against the dangerous object.
It is proposed that the basis of the planetary defense system will be the Citadel-1 operational reaction echelon, intended for protection against objects of less than 100 m in diameter—the type that most often collide with Earth. Due to their small size, their detection will be possible in the range of several days to several months before collision. This places severe restrictions on the timing to ready the interceptors, primarily the launch vehicles.
A Launch Vehicle Available
Currently these requirements are met by the Russian-Ukrainian launch vehicle (LV) Dnepr (a conversion of the RS-20 intercontinental ballistic missile, code-named SS-18 by NATO) and the Zenit LV. The time required for preparing to launch—from a few minutes with the Dnepr to 1.5 hours with the Zenit—makes them the only ones in the world that could be used in the operational reaction echelon.
The Russian-made launch vehicles have quite large capacities: if an interceptor is launched using the Zenit LV, the mass of a nuclear device delivered to the asteroid can be about 1,500 kg. The power of such a nuclear device would be no less than 1.5 megatons, which could destroy a stony asteroid [S-type asteroid] with a diameter of several hundred meters. If several blocks were docked in Earth orbit, the power of the nuclear device, and therefore the size of object to be destroyed, could be substantially increased.
Initially it was assumed that the basic spacecraft for creating reconnaissance satellites and interceptors could be vehicles such as the Mars-96 and Phobos-Grunt, developed at the Lavochkin bureau. However, quite a number of failures have plagued vehicles made by Lavochkin, significantly reducing the probability that the Citadel system will be built by the Russian space industry alone. Probably the best option would be combined missions, whereby Russia would provide the launch vehicles, and the spacecraft would be built by NASA and the ESA.
Interception of large asteroids and comets at great distances from the Earth will require implementation of a long-term response echelon, comparable to the function of the operational reaction echelon. There will, however, be important differences. In particular, these means of interception will generally not destroy dangerous space objects, but rather deflect them from a collision course with the Earth. Therefore, depending on the characteristics of the dangerous celestial body, its orbit, and the time available, not only nuclear devices but also others could be used to deflect it—kinetic (“Rods from God”), reactive, “space billiards,” etc. For this we will need to have large payloads of various types for assembly in Earth orbit of heavy interceptor satellites with multi-stage propulsion units.
Thus, to deflect cosmic threats will require resources from the whole world, and especially from countries possessing space and nuclear technologies (Russia, the United States, Western Europe, China, Japan, India).
There will obviously have to be a continuous cycle of project design and other work. This could be done on the “green wave” relay principle, whereby the results of work initiated in Europe, for example, would be continued in the Americas (after transmission over computer networks), followed by Asia, etc.
Of course, for such work to be quickly organized, mankind must prepare beforehand a kind of Mobilization Plan for the Defense of Earth, in case a threatening situation arises.
A base in resources, science, and technology will not ensure success in the fight against threats from space, unless we develop and implement a planet-wide strategy of indirect actions to avert threats. This shifts the problem of defense against asteroid and comet threats from the purely scientific domain to the political. We need to develop an effective strategy for systemic prevention/deflection of threats to the very existence of civilization on Earth. Otherwise, humanity will continue to play Russian roulette with the Cosmos, and in this game, as we all know, you cannot win every time.
Translated from Russian by Susan Welsh
Contrabass Concerto No.2 in E major
Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739-1799)
Josef Semeleder, double bass
Lukas Rodharth, piano
Askary is EIR’s Arabic Editor and chairman of the Swedish European Labor Party. He gave this speech at the Schiller Institute’s April 13-14 “Forum for a New Paradigm” in Frankfurt, Germany.
As many of you might remember, last November we were in this same place, and Helga Zepp-LaRouche presented an idea of how to deal with the danger of war in Southwest Asia, incluidng the terrible developments in Syria, and the barbaric attack, not only on the Syrian people, but on a whole culture, a whole civilization, from inside Syria. And also the threat of an attack on Iran. She presented a concept for how to find a common goal for all nations to work toward together, and I, with some of my colleagues, collaborated to elaborate what we could present as a solution, and also as a goal, to unite the nations of the region. And also to get international powers, who now otherwise will end up in conflict—the United States, the whole British Empire, in conflict with Russia, China—through a world war.
This was the original idea, and then we had a discussion about how we could deal with the extension of deserts, from Africa to Asia, which is a threat to societies. And also how to work, scientifically, politically, economically, to limit the effect of the desert, and eventually to green the deserts. That this would be a planetary program, where all nations can cooperate.
Just be forewarned that this project cannot be implemented today, as it is. It’s impossible right now to finance any infrastructure project, industrial project, of this magnitude, or even any other magnitude, because of the present financial and economic system. So the first prerequisite will be to eliminate the current financial system by what Lyndon LaRouche said: solving the mystery of money, with Glass-Steagall. That is the first requirement.
The second point is that the nations of the region cannot stop these wars. There is nothing Syria can do, other than defending itself, to stop the war. Libya could not do anything to stop the invasion. Iraq could not do anything. Because there was an intention, there was a policy, to invade Iraq. There was a policy, which was not Saddam Hussein’s intention. And it was the same thing for Qaddafi. There is also an intention to attack Iran. Iran cannot do anything to stop an attack on Iran, or a war, other than trying to defend itself.
It reminds me of the story of a young man who was run over by a car, and his father went to the prison to meet the driver, and to ask why he did it. And the driver said, “Well, I tried to warn your kid; I honked at him; I sent a signal with a light; I waved at him, but he did not get out of the way.” So, the father went to the hospital and told his son, “The driver says he did all these things to get you out of the way.” And the boy said, “I know he did these things, but how could I get out of the way? I was sitting in a restaurant.”
So, these nations are sitting there. They can’t get out of the way.
We have been having discussions with government representatives in the region, with experts, with the organizations, to bring this idea into the forum of discussions where people try to talk about solving political problems. Because we cannot have peace without economic development, and that this should be included in every peace initiative. And also it’s very important that Russia, China, other nations, that discuss with the United States or Europe, any discussion about peace in Southwest Asia must include a perspective for improving the living conditions of the population.
I have a message that I’ll show after my presentation, from an Iraqi official [see next article]. We have been getting in contact with many officials and experts on water and desertification, and so on. As I said, we have to have a new economic order. We have to stop the war policy, as LaRouche and [LaRouche candidate for governor of New Jersey] Diane Sare said, by impeaching Obama; but we cannot wait for the future, like people wait for a bus to come and try to get on the bus. We have to build the bus; we have to prepare for the future.
Intervention in Iran
The first qualitative response we got from Helga’s and my presentations, which we continued as a campaign, was from the Iranian government. Helga and I were invited in March to a conference organized by the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s International Center for Political Studies, to present these ideas. The conference was about the security of the Persian Gulf after the Arab Spring and revolutions, and what implications that had.
Unfortunately, Helga could not attend the conference. I attended, but Helga’s paper was published with the conference proceedings. The problem at the conference was that all the discussions, which reflect the danger in the region, were about the threat of sectarian war, the geopolitics, and the Shi’a/Sunni divide, and all these horrible things that take place. People are living inside that hell right now, and of course, it’s difficult for them to see a solution other than trying to survive and maneuver within that situation.
Rough outlines of the Schiller Institute’s proposals. The circle at the center designates the Bering Strait bridge/tunnel, which would connect Eurasia with the Americas.
But I had the chance to speak and present our idea. I actually started by bringing up the meterorite explosion over Chelyabinsk to the audience, to get their attention. But when I presented the perspective for greening the deserts and the Eurasian Land-Bridge (Figure 1) as the Schiller Institute’s Peace Plan, there was a change in their minds. Because if people are down there looking at the horrors of war, but then you bring them to a higher platform to see the world from a different viewpoint, then the mind opens up, and says, “Great! Why didn’t we think of that ourselves?”
This is the impact of getting out of the smaller issues, and getting to the global planetary aspect of this.
Hussein Askary, left; the governor of Hormozgan, right.
This conference was organized not in Tehran, the capital, but in Bandar Abbas. This is the governor of Hormozgan (Figure 2). We have an interview with him; it’s in the EIR, and a report from the conference. Hormozgan is the province which controls the islands which lie in very important Hormuz Strait. There was a discussion yesterday about the flow of oil from there. The Gulf—people call it the Arab Gulf on the Arab side, the Iranians call it the Persian Gulf—but 40% of all oil exports from the Gulf to international markets go through the Hormuz Strait. Ninety percent goes to primarily China, Japan, Korea, and India. Japan increased its imports of oil as a way of diversifying there, because this was the easiest and quickest to get more energy, after Fukushima—to import more oil from the Gulf. So, they’re getting more dependent on that.
Strait of Hormuz
And it’s in that narrow area where all this is taking place (Figure 3). I visited these islands on the Iranian side. You can see that this is one of the most important and most sensitive areas in navigation and transport, in the world, but it also can become one of the most terrible places on Earth. When American aircraft carriers pass by there, people can see them from the Iranian side. Somebody was telling me that there might a hotline between the American and Iranian military, or an indirect hotline, to avoid an accident that could lead to a major outbreak of fire, and that could lead to an outbreak of war.
So, the Hormuz Strait is very, very important. And you have these three islands, Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa—these are contested by Iran and the United Arab Emirates. The Emirates claim that these belong to them, and the Iranians have sovereignty there.
A British Game
This was a British game. In 1971, when the British left, they handed over the place—not handed over, but they left the Shah of Iran in control of these islands, and now the British are encouraging the United Arab Emirates to take it back! So, the Hormuz Strait has the potential of becoming a major breakout point for war.
|Figure 4: Shaheed Rajaei container ship port complex near Bandar Abbas, Iran.
Now, Hormozgan, the Iranian province, is one of the fastest growing provinces in Iran, because the Iranian government has built a railway which extends from Northern Iran to Bandar Abbas, and they built this port, Shaheed Rajaei, a container ship port, a very, very large port (Figure 4). And now, many nations in Central Asia are totally dependent on cargo and trade going from Bandar Abbas, coming from Asia and elsewhere, to the land-locked countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakstan. So this has become one of the most vital trade routes between the Indian Ocean region and Central Asia. We can call this the “Silk Road strategy.”
The Iranians, in spite of all the economic sanctions, threats and so on, have been very consistent in building infrastructure projects which have transcontinental significance.
|Figure 5 Regional railroads.|
In 1996, they built a small section to connect with the old Soviet railway system, and to China (Figure 5). China had simultaneously built a connection to Kazakstan, so the old Silk Road was rebuilt. And later, Iran built a connection to Turkey, where Europe and Asia were connected through this. And then there’s the North-South Corridor, which goes from Russia to India. There’s an agreement among Russia, Iran, and India to build a trade route through the Caucasus, through the Iranian railway network, and this is being built right now to Chah Bahar on the Arabian Sea.
India is very interested in this, because shipping by sea takes about three weeks to the Black Sea, while the railway system through Russia takes one week. So this is an enormous change.
The Iranian strategy has been to position itself in an economic way, in a peaceful economic way, to make other nations dependent on it for their trade and livelihood. This is a very good strategic defense method. They’re also bulding gas pipelines to Turkey, and they have just built a gas pipeline to Pakistan, which is very important to get Pakistan on board, to solve the problem in Afghanistan, and leave the Anglo-Saudi party, which is destabilizing Iran, by creating economic cooperation.
Most of the Iranian officials at the conference were actually speaking about getting an agreement in the Gulf, among all the Gulf countries, a peace agreement, based on economic cooperation. And also cultural cooperation.
So they all realize now that the way to get out of this is not religious agreement, is not strategic or political agreements, but economic dependency among nations.
The Economic Sanctions
|Figure 6 Ships waiting near the Hormuz islands.
I want to talk about the sanctions. I was going to one of the Hormuz islands by ferry, and there were many, many ships in the sea, just standing there (Figure 6). There was a man sitting next to me from Customs, and he said, these ships, they’re not there waiting for something. They’re just parked there because of the economic sanctions. And he said that along Iran’s 2,000-kilometer coast there are about 5,000 major ships standing still because of the economic sanctions. Because the Iranian Central Bank cannot have contact with international banks, and the ships cannot get letters of credit, they can’t get insurance. This is an enormous loss for Iran, but also an enormous loss for world trade.
The Iranians are hit hard by the sanctions. The Iranian currency has gone down 300% against the dollar. Capital is flying from the country. Young people are trying also to find ways to go out of the country to find jobs for the future. But despite that, the Iranians are trying, with the little resources they have, to do something for their country, with the hope that there will be peace, that their country will be able to continue its economic development.
Global Casino Economy
I just want to show you the insanity of the current economic system.
|Figure 7 Dubai.
On the other side of the Gulf, we have Dubai (Figure 7), the allies of the British; and besides being one of the largest drug-money-laundering centers in the world, it’s also the shopping capital of the world. But it’s a completely arid country. And this was not built by the rich Arabs. This was one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in modern history, because Dubai doesn’t have many resources—Abu Dhabi has the resources, the neighboring city. But in order to build these things, they were selling future projects to investors with brochures.
This is one of their ideas (Figure 8). Instead of greening the desert, they offer to build artificial islands in the sea, for tourists, nightclubs, shopping centers, and so on and so forth. You have all these fancy things, by dredging the sand and building artificial islands. (Actually the environmentalist movement said nothing about this, although they are burying all the corals.)
|Figure 8: The Dubai islands.
|Figure 9||Figure 10
This is, for example (Figure 9), one of the projects they tried to sell in 2006. You have artificial islands, and you can buy a country, and build whatever you want on that country! Seventy percent of it was sold to international so-called developers, billionaires and so on, but this is what the brochure looked like. But the company in Dubai, with the economic crisis hitting it big, was not able to finance it anymore, and the real estate prices in Dubai collapsed in 2008, and they were not able to get any new money for the future projects to finance the current projects.
So, this is how it ended up (Figure 10). It’s sinking in the sea! There are only two islands which are built, and there are more lawyers who are working to solve this than engineers. Because all the people who bought the islands—they can’t do anything. There’s no infrastructure. And it’s also destroying the waters of the Gulf.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
So, one more thing that we have in the Gulf, which is connected directly to the international financial system, is the so-called sovereign wealth funds (Figure 11). The Arab sovereign wealth funds, jointly, make up about $2 trillion. And this makes a lot of big bankers and financiers in the City of London and Wall Street drool over it. China is the largest one in the world, but the Chinese are using their capital in a wise way. They’re not included in this.
Sovereign Wealth Fund Transactions
But the Arab countries were lured into supporting the financial bubble, and also the bailout bubble (Figure 12). This is a list of the transactions that were made by these sovereign funds between 2007 and 2008. Like the Kuwait Investment Authority: They bought shares in Citigroup; 2012, a billion dollars in Citigroup also; Abu Dhabi, $7 billion; Merrill Lynch—Kuwait, $6 billion, and so on and so forth. But the oil money and all these things are going. I mentioned this to our friends from Norway, and the Norwegians have the same situation with their oil fund.
View full size
And this is called the new Global Wealth Machine (Figure 13). The diagram shows you where the money comes from, and where it ends up. And it’s all British and Wall Street banks. And then to the left, you have the advisors: You have Lazard, you have all kinds of so-called advisory groups; and you have the lawyers on the right. These are the people who are advising the Arab Gulf states on financial affairs, and where to invest their money. And it’s completely British-controlled, by the City of London or Wall Street.
FIGURE 14: Investments in Dubai
And this is where the money went (Figure 14): financial transactions—$160 billion since 2008; real estate—$60 billion; infrastructure and utilities. And this is not building new infrastructure and utilities—like Dubai Ports Company, they buy ports that are already built in Europe, or in the United States. (They couldn’t buy one in the United States, because people in Congress were talking about national security.) And at the bottom of the list, you have investments in health care. This is where all the investments are going.
|FIGURE 15 Who advises investors in Dubai|
And the people who are advising them: This (Figure 15) is from the London School of Economics, Mark Thatcher. But this is not the infamous son of Margaret Thatcher, the arms dealer. This is another infamous Mark Thatcher who works in the London School of Economics.
And it’s an interesting study, because it says that the United Kingdom gets the most investments from the Arab countries, because they follow free trade. The United States gets very little Arab money because it is more cautious about national security and allowing the Arabs to come into its system. But in spite of that, they did pay.
So, this is how the show is run on the Arab side.
Potential for Development
But this is not the end of the road. Most of the money is gone, but to hell with the money. We have nations in these regions. In Dubai, you still have one of the world’s largest airports. You have the largest port. In Abu Dhabi, they’re building four nuclear power plants, with the help of South Korea. So, you still have potential for development. And it’s not that we are not talking to them; we are trying to talk to these governments on this side of the Gulf, but it’s difficult to have a dialogue with Saudi Arabia, for example, when the national security chief is Prince Bandar bin Sultan! They will not allow anybody to talk to us.
|Figure 16 Mr. Lyndon LaRouche in Abu Dhabi in 2002.
This is Mr. Lyndon LaRouche in Abu Dhabi in 2002 (Figure 16). This was a very big conference on the future of oil and the international economy. The Oil Minister of the United Arab Emirates is there, and Mr. LaRouche was treated as a guest of honor. And actually, the United States, Britain, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia—all the ambassadors—sent letters to the Zayed Centre asking them to disinvite Mr. LaRouche, that he should not come to attend this conference. They even got threats. But they didn’t care about that; there were some interesting people there at the time.
Mr. LaRouche issued a very strong warning to the people—and there were people from Saudi Arabia, from all the Gulf countries, very important people—a very strong warning about the coming financial collapse. That was in 2002. And he said that we should get to the lifeboats! (I remember LaRouche said that, because I translated the speech.)
But he also, in a very friendly way, advised them on how to invest in their economy by focusing on nuclear power, focusing on petrochemicals instead of selling oil as a raw material, focusing on greening the desert, water desalination, and building a real industrial economic base.
Of course, they lost these years, and the whole region has lost these years, as Japan lost ten years, as Europe is losing time. We have been losing time; but the issue is, that we still can go back there and have a totally new policy. But we have to have a new world economic order, based on the principles that we discussed here, the Glass-Steagall, and stopping the war policy.
When I was in Bandar Abbas—because if you stand somewhere new, you see things from a different viewpoint—in this region, from Iran to Turkey to Iraq, Syria, the Gulf States, Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan, you have about 400 million people, and these are potentially, very, very rich countries. The population is very young, and actually in many of these countries, people are very well educated, but the current policy is killing this region, and also killing the possibility for other nations to invest, or to have this as a market for both capital goods and consumer goods.
As I said, 90% of the oil in the Gulf goes to Asia. But in return, 80% of all imports—capital goods and consumer goods—also come from Asia. So Asia is dependent to a large extent on trade with this region. But imagine, if you develop this region in the correct way, which we have proposed—to have 400 million people with great resources, and also in a very strategic position between three continents, you could create an economic miracle in that region.
‘People Want To Live’
And also, when you talk to people there, and you see the children, you see that people love life there. They love beauty. I was standing in Bandar Abbas on a huge boulevard, and the people around, they love to have picnics, but usually they have picnics in the evening because it is hot there. And you see all these kids playing, you look at the Strait of Hormuz, the water, and you imagine that there may be an aircraft carrier there the next day. And totally horrendous thoughts came to my mind. But people there want to live, they want to have a future.
On the flight from Tehran to Bandar Abbas, there was a young Iranian man, 24-25 years old, sitting next to me. And he was studying a huge map of an electric device or machine. It seemed that he was going there to work. And then before we landed, he put it away and quickly took out a notebook, and started writing things in Persian. I’m not good in Persian—I can manage, but—. He was looking out the window, and then he was writing something and smiling.
And then, from the shape of the lines, I realized that he was writing a poem. He was smiling and looking through the window, and then writing things. It really moved me to see those young people—and this is where the issue of culture is coming in here. Because it’s not material things we are talking about. We are talking about uplifting the human soul. And I think the ingredients are there, both in Iran and Iraq, in the Arab world. We do have the Renaissance, for which we are grateful to the Greeks and Plato.
But we have the ingredients for progress, for a cultural renaissance in the region. But the problem is that we don’t have a just world economic order, and I think this is the challenge which is presented today, and we have to all work to that end.
I want to say something about my country which is close to the theme of my speech. We have a situation of disarray at the top of the institutions and the parties, including the Five-Star Movement, ((A new political party, led by the (not-so-funny) comedian Beppe Grillo.)) with which I collaborate—a situation which is the reason for my early departure today. We have an important bill, a government bill, concerning debts owed by public administrations to enterprises or private producers, that need to be paid as soon as possible. And we will pay them.
But the question is, that the top managers—I mean the Ministry, the Prime Minister, and other people—don’t want to understand the question, that if the state, or administration of public institutions, has a debt for works performed by private enterprises, that they are on the balance sheet of the state. And after we pay them, we have to issue other bonds, and pay more interest. It is a very wrong and stupid way to manage things.
So, I must fly back this evening to try to teach this to my friends of the Five Star Movement, and other people. In my professional experience, I have had to work with them about these problems of management of public expenditures.
So, I want to give a speech on the problem of currency, credit, and finance for Mediterranean, Atlantic, and beyond.
The Three Great Routes
Three Great Routes involve the Mediterranean: from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean; from North Africa to the Middle East (through Sicily); and from the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea toward the Balkans, the Black Sea, and beyond.
A new geopolitical dynamic, based on increased cooperation among peoples, and the acknowledgement of a regional power of reference, along the above-mentioned three routes, could lay the basis for new financial, monetary, and credit strategies, more suitable to the needs of economic development.
The dialogue between the United States and Russia along the general axis going from the Atlantic to the Black Sea and beyond, according to the three directions considered, could therefore see as reference powers, respectively, Italy, Iran, and Turkey. Currently such an hypothesis could seem futuristic, but in the mid- to long-term—that is to say, from 5 to 10 years—perspectives for peace, development, and justice cannot but come from a cooperative solution to current financial and social unbalances. This means that, within 5 or 10 years, either a solution can be found, or the international situation will irreparably worsen.
Concerning the first direction (from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean), Italy is seen as a region responsible on the basis of the estimate that the current EU system—by the way, historically and deliberately weak and indifferent to African problems, and contradictory and ambiguous in its relationship with the United States—is not sustainable: A disaster will ensue, i.e., a further aggregation of northern countries, which would cut Europe in two parts along the Alps.
Concerning the second direction (from North Africa to the Middle East going through Sicily), the acknowledgment of Iran as a power represents the only way to establish equilibrium and peace at the level of the Middle East sub-region, overcoming the conflicts which direct U.S. intervention has not been able to solve.
Last, concerning the third direction (Adriatic, Ionian, Balkans, Black Sea, and beyond), it is clear that a dialogue between Turkey and Russia would open new cultural and development perspectives.
Culture, collaboration, good will, professional training, infrastructure, and solving the problem of financing development, represent a decisive road map.
In this forum I would like to start with the issue of infrastructure in order to focus on finance and credit, leaving to another opportunity, the discussion of other major issues, such as education of human resources necessary to implement projects, or the elaboration of a culture able to reconnect youth, and its hopes for the future, to the recent and ancient history that has characterized the anthropologic evolution of those regions.
The large cultural, economic, and, obviously, geographic directions, suggest the construction of infrastructure able to facilitate trade and relationships, and represent a condition for development. However, they demand and suggest comprehensive, strategic, and ambitious plans; otherwise, single works, detached from the strategic context of the large planetary directions, risk becoming a “white elephant.”
Therefore, proceding with our line of thought, the upgrading of the Mediterranean and extra-Mediterranean port network, the construction of the underwater tunnel between Capo Bon (Tunisia) and Mazara del Vallo (Sicily), the Messina Bridge [linking the Italian mainland and Siciliy—ed.], and the consequent upgrading of road and railway networks represent a unity with the development project.
Those infrastructure projects can be financed largely by the income from transit fares once the structures are ready and functioning; those fares could be used as travel assets and increase value in time, or be turned into liquidity with a gain for their owners. Of course, everything depends on how correct the estimates of the income generated by the project will be; it is also obvious that state intervention can move enormous financial capital for use in development.
To do this, current obstacles to development must be removed. In the first place, re-establish a clear separation between institutions operating on speculative financial markets, and banks destined to supply credit to the economy. That’s the Glass-Steagall Act, of course.
In the second place, we need to freeze the enormous amount of circulating toxic and derivative assets, which represent a threat to the entire world economy, turning them—through agreements and guarantees among states—into long-term, low-interest credit to finance development projects.
Thirdly, we need to re-establish levels of functioning for credit and currency which bypass current wrong approaches: both the approach claiming a scarcity of liquidity (impossible, once currency was fully decoupled from gold), and the approach pushing an unlimited expansion of liquidity (“quantitative easing”) not pegged to concrete projects for the real economy.
In conclusion, the strategic features of development are: sound projects and the availability of sufficient human and physical resources, while financial means can be supplied by government and banks (including public banks), with the only limitation being, as we said, their usefulness and their reasonableness.