Gas at the Centre of Imperialist Manoeuvring

The Recent Accord between Russia and China Consolidates the Strategic Axis between Moscow and Peking

The whole world economy is based on the growing consumption of energy and, consequently, oil is at the centre of imperialist conflict. The USA is the first in line in cornering the oil market for itself by force of arms, as we have said so often in the context of its military interventions in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq. It is a vital matter for every advanced economy as each of them depends almost completely on imported oil. The approach of the so-called “peak” of world production, when half the estimated world resources will have been already extracted, which is the moment which will cause the black gold economy to pass from the realm of abundance to that of scarcity, will produce a battle without scruple between the imperialist powers. It is within this framework, already one of grave tension, that the question of natural gas is emerging. This is another important source of energy, used primarily for the production of electricity. Already grand imperialist manoeuvres are developing around this precious raw material, both for the intensification of its exploitation and to have control over it, and every country, whether producer or consumer, is dedicating the maximum attention to this question. The information reproduced in the other article on gas in this edition of Battaglia Comunist [and also translated in this issue of RP, page] amply shows how much attention gas is getting today: behind all the various agreements reported there, there is always the unscrupulous conflict between the different economic blocks present in the international line-up, since what is at stake is their very survival in terms of energy.

We want to dwell upon the recent agreement between Russia and China. The papers reported on 22nd March the news of the agreement between the two national energy giants, Gazprom and CNPC for the construction of two gas pipelines which will link Siberia and the Far East to transport 80bn cubic metres of gas per year: this is a considerable quantity, equal to Italy’s annual consumption, which will affect the delicate international balance concerning energy supplies and, in particular, Europe’s energy security. The agreement, which requires an investment of $10bn, plans that the pipelines will be constructed in five years. It is in addition to the two previous agreements, which aim at the constitution of a joint venture for the supply of oil to China and the extension of the oil pipeline, which today runs between Russia and Japan, to China. As can be seen, it is a question of strategic treaties for China’s energy supply and for the diversification of the outlets for Russian gas, which are at present tilted towards Europe.

Beyond the economic content of the agreements, it is important to stress the political value of them. On the one hand, Russia is seeking to escape its asphyxiating dependence on European markets for the sale of its gas by diversifying and intensifying its exports to the East, and this will allow it to increase its weight in the determination of the price of its gas sales to Europe. On the other hand, it solidifies and intensifies the strategic axis with Peking, following up another important step in that direction which was completed when the two countries, for the first time in decades, carried out joint military exercises. It is impossible to avoid understanding that a new anti-American imperialist axis is emerging in the East with the objective, in the middle term, of chasing America out of Asia, and, in particular, out of the whole Caucasian zone (which is rich in oil) and, in the long term, of presenting itself as a power capable of opposing in every way the present dominance of the Stars and Stripes. We do not forget that Russia and China together have at their disposition a terrible nuclear arsenal, the army which is by far the most numerous in the world, a conventional military apparatus which is prospectively not inferior to that of America, two economies which are rich in raw materials and industrial apparatuses which could be impressive within a short time. Thus, this is a policy which has as its strategic objective the questioning of the present imperialist order dominated by the USA.

There have been two recent significant events which reinforce the thesis of a large degree of fluidity in the present international equilibria. On the question of a nuclear Iran, Russia and China discovered further unity of intent when they lined up with Iran so that they did not lose the chance of having a precious ally in an area of strategic importance and to oppose the American manoeuvres which view the possibility of the birth of a new nuclear power in the area as a smokescreen. How can it not be seen that the cloth of anti-US alliances in Asia is being patiently woven...

Moreover, on 5th April there was the news that Japan had written a proposal to be shortly presented to China and India, for the constitution of a free-exchange area on the model of the European Common Market and the North American NAFTA. It dealt with an area to be constituted by 16 countries with half the world population! The proposal would involve the whole of East Asia: China, South Korea, the ten countries of ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations), India, Australia and New Zealand and would have as its ultimate aim, to be realised around 2010, of the creation of an economic community of East Asia. The idea will be rapidly submitted to consideration of Japanese state institutions so that it can be quickly approved and turned into a policy objective of the government for the near future. It is a question of a hypothesis whose realisation is not a simple certainty, because of the opposed Japanese and Chinese interests in the area, but it is very significant that it is beginning to be discussed. For the US, it is a question of a dangerous threat which risks, in the future, destabilising and greatly reducing its influence in a vast economic area, and it is significant that it is being proposed by Japan, its most faithful ally in the region since World War II. This is because this means for Japan the launch of a foreign policy characterised by a more marked autonomy for the USA. Thus, the Asian scenario is coloured by further important elements of the redefinition of economic equilibria, which might, in the future, also change political equilibria. We are faced with epochal facts which it is necessary to follow with the maximum attention as they are heavy with important repercussions.

In this framework, Europe, at present in difficulties on the road towards its political centralisation, hasn’t got much choice if it is not to be ground to pieces by such titanic clashes. In order to be a candidate for the third great imperialist pole, it absolutely must take again the road towards its political unity despite the recent hesitation. Only in this way can it aspire to have an autonomous role among the imperialist fronts which are emerging on a global scale.


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