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Are China, Russia, Iran & Turkey Exploiting The ‘Collapse of the US’ Amid Violent Riots & COVID-19 Pandemic?

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While the US struggles to deal with COVID-19 and violent protests at home, China, Russia, Iran and Turkey have taken potshots at Washington and are celebrating the ‘collapse of the US’, according to an OpEd in Jerusalem Post. 

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The United States has enjoyed the position of the global superpower ever since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its satellite states in 1989. Since then, countries such as Iran, Russia, China and Turkey have on lurking in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment to strike i.e. when the US is at its weakest.

To coordinate efforts against the US, these countries have state media that is well funded, such as RT,  TRT, Iran’s Tasnim & Fars News and numerous Chinese media outlets. The policy of these nations is to slowly undermine the US and wait for moments of US weakness to push their agendas.

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This moment seemed to arrive after as protests ripped through the US last week after the killing of George Floyd. The first to celebrate the chaos unfolding in the US was Iran, as its media pushed stories that highlighted the “collapse,” while quoting Russian sources portraying that the US is flailing about as its world order comes crashing down. Iran’s former president also comments about the declining US “order.”

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s President, was next to follow as he sought to capitalize on the recent riots in the US, claiming that America is part of an “unjust order” in the world.

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The leadership in Turkey and Iran view their goal as undermining the US through a more religious lens linked with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Muslim Brotherhood that influences Tehran and Ankara respectively, writes Seth Frantzman for the Jerusalem Post.

According to Frantzman, Ankara is a nominal US ally but has drifted away from Washington and inked deals with Russia to acquire the S-400 missile system. Additionally, it seeks to partition Syria with Russia and Iran.

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Ankara and Tehran share a close relationship as they coordinate in efforts against Israel, support Hamas and work together against other US partners, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt.

Moscow, Washington’s enemy from the cold war days, might have dwindled in its size, economic and military might since its collapse but it has not stopped being a thorn in the side of the US.

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After the turmoil in the United States escalated, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the US was now having to deal with its police misconduct and said the US compared unfavourably with Russia.

“Thank God things that happen in America do not happen in [Russia],” he said, according to Russia’s TASS media.

Aleksey Pushkov, a senator in Russia’s parliament and an expert on foreign policy, took to Twitter to comment on how the US is crumbling. He used the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Syria, Turkey as examples of American decline.

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Pushkov also pointed out that the US was crumbling due to COVID-19 and the inability of the US to help Europe or its allies at the peak of the pandemic. He said America has been on a “hysterical” tirade against China and now faces an internal schism and racial rebellion.

Iran was pleased with Pushkov’s words, writing an article about them at Tasnim as if to affirm the Iranian regime’s own view. Meanwhile, Iran’s IRGC said it was stronger than ever and that it was resisting the “pharaonic, dictatorial, terrorist United States.’’

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Taking advantage of COVID and domestic turmoil

Franztman argues that Russia, China, Iran and Turkey are all taking advantage of the US being in a vulnerable position and using it to forward their interests. Ankara has flooded Libya with weapons and Syrian mercenaries during the crisis.

China has pushed up against India in Ladakh. Iran is flexing its muscles at home and sending tankers to Venezuela. Russia has sent warplanes to Libya and Syria.

All these countries want to also leverage the economic crisis of the COVID-19 to their advantage. Turkey is designing a new fighter jet that Russia’s media heralds as a possible replacement for the F-16.

Russia is pushing its defence systems, and Turkey wants to work with Tehran, Malaysia and Pakistan to improve economic relations and expand its role in the Mediterranean.

The ‘decline’ of the US has its allies worried and rushing to counter-balance. Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, the UAE and France as seeking to counter Turkey’s growing role in the Mediterranean.

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Globally, American allies are concerned that the chaos in the US, where the army is now being deployed, could represent a decline of US ability to concentrate abroad. That will mean all those that have been waiting for the US to reduce its footprint will be running to fill the vacuum.

China is making headway in the South China Sea and India, Iran and Russia are turning towards Afghanistan with Moscow and Ankara eyeing Libya. From eastern Libya to Afghanistan to Asia and Africa, everywhere the US may appear weak, the adversaries are preparing.

The big four – China, Russia, Turkey and Iran – are poised to exploit and emerge stronger.

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Americas

Beijing calls Japan’s F-35 deal with the US a big threat to China, Russia

China acknowledges that Japan is buying the US’ F-35 jets out of practicality as Tokyo needs to upgrade its ageing jets but accuses the US of hunting like wolves and not like a tiger.

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The US recently approved the sale of F-35 joint strike fighters to Japan at a whopping cost of $23 billion. China, a traditional foe and close neighbour of Japan has expressed concern of having such advanced jets in the region which could be detrimental to the security of both China and Russia.

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Chinese state media  – the Global Times acknowledges for once that Japan is buying the US’ F-35 jets out of practicality and as Tokyo needs to upgrade its current F-2s and F-15s jets.

GT also accepts that Japan could be facing pressure from China and Russia and Tokyo has rationally opted to go for the most advanced jets in the world – the F-35s to counter the dual challenge of Beijing and Moscow.

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It goes on to say – Japan has made substantial improvement in its military modernization program. The first of the Izumo-class helicopter carriers, Izumo, has marked a milestone in its transformation into Japan’s first true aircraft carrier since World War II. The other Izumo-class carrier Kaga is also under transmutation. Both ships will be transformed into light aircraft carriers on which approximately 20 F-35s can be stationed.

But light aircraft carriers have restricted combat capabilities. Due to political issues, the reformations are concerning in certain quarters because they represent “the first time” that modern Japan has had fixed-wing aircraft carriers.

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Japan is approving a strategy of taking rapid moves in carrier development. Of special interest will be any plan by Japan to develop real carriers over 50,000 tons. If they acquire a large number of F-35Cs, it will imply a new stage of Japanese aircraft carrier development.

Such a massive military advancement in Japan will bother its neighbours i.e. Russia and China. There are apprehensions that Japan will amend its peaceful constitution. This could turn Japan into an aggressive, hostile force and nations that suffered in World War II because of Japanese expansionist policy will be closely watching.

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Japan is a key defence partner of the US. It is also part of Washington’s so-called global alliance that targets China. Tokyo is also collaborating with the US by developing an anti-missile system, which will affect the strike capabilities of China and Russia and endanger its security, writes the GT.

Without self-sufficient defence capabilities, Japan is incapable of holding by itself and will only end up being commanded by the US. Although Japan has its own strategies and doesn’t want to be fully commanded by Washington, the US will unquestionably tightly its grip over Tokyo and use it against China and Russia.

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GT accuses the US of hunting in a group, indirectly referring to all the alliances that Washington has all over the globe. Japan has limited military capabilities and is only capable of integrated combat with the assistance of the US, the report says.

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Americas

US outraged with India for neglecting American F-21s for Russian Jets

According to US experts – the F-21 merely resembles the old F-16 but rather is a new aircraft with new cockpit display, a larger airframe spine to accommodate additional electronics and a new infrared sensor and refuelling probe that is compatible with India’s Russian made aerial tankers.

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India recently signed a 2.43-billion deal with Russia for the acquisition of MiG-29s and Sukhoi Su-30MKIs while overlooking American fighter jets including F-21s that the US claimed was a lethal combination of stealth F-35 and F-22 jets.

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Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported, US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin also said that it will not sell its newly rolled out F-21 fighter jet to any other country if India places an order for 114 planes, an offer aimed to counter other US, European or Russian jets.

Recently, amid escalating border tensions between India and China, New Delhi approved to spend billions to purchase Russian fighter jets. Moscow will sell New Delhi 33 new fighter aircraft including 12 Su-30MKIs and 21 MiG-29s along with up-gradation of 59 MiG-29s.

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The MiG 29 procurement and up-gradation from Russia is estimated to cost Rs 7418 cr, the Su-30 MKI will be procured from HAL at an estimated cost of Rs 10,730 cr.

Rahul Bedi a senior journalist and defence analyst write – the piddling issue of the US potentially sanctioning India under CAATSA for acquiring Russian military hardware including fighter jets to meet its urgent needs simply refuses to go away.

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In a statement to the UK’s Jane’s Defence Weekly after India declared its intent to procure Russian fighter jets, a senior US State Department official ominously announced that India was not ‘safeguarded’ from penalties under CAATSA.

Bedi quotes the US defence official – We urge all of our allies and partners to forego (defence) deals with Russia that risk triggering sanctions under CAATSA.

He further added that though the US could not “prejudge whether a specific transaction would result in sanctions, it was important to note that CAATSA did not have any blanket or country-specific waiver provision.

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There are stringent guidelines for considering a waiver, and each deal is assessed on a case-by-case basis,” Jane’s quoted the US official as saying. US Secretary of State (Mike Pompeo) has not made any judgment regarding the significance of any deal (with Russia) involving India, he added, but did not elaborate.

Bedi writes that the veiled CAATSA threat by the US, targeted at India for purchasing Russian fighter jets seems to be more a commercial bludgeon than a lawful effort to punish a politically intrusive Russia.

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Accordingly, it also leads to the clear picture that the CAATSA stems largely from US’ resentment with the Indian government for not acquiring US fighters like Lockheed Martin’s F-21 and instead opting for Russian Su-30MKIs and 21 MiG-29s.

The US has long been craving to sell the customized F-21s to India which was unveiled at Aero India 2019 in Bangalore.

Bedia writes that little more than a re-branded F-16 that dates back to the mid-1970s, it makes great economic sense from the US perspective to ‘sell’ India to licence-build this fighter for the IAF to meet its requirement for an additional 114 combat aircraft to make up for the depleted fighter squadrons.

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With F-16s being phased out of the US Air Force, and their plant at Fort Worth in Texas closing down, moving the ageing fighters’ manufacturing unit to India, would keep the line going for few more years, while also providing employment opportunities in the US under Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ drive.

India going with Russia and French fighter jets has exasperated the US and could well be the motive behind its veiled threat of invoking CAATSA against India.

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US threatens Russia with consequences for paying bounties to Taliban in Afghanistan

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The US has threatened to respond if the Pentagon confirms reports of Russian bounties to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan. While Russia denies its involvement in any such operation, US-Russia relations could further deteriorate if the reports are confirmed.

The Pentagon is investigating reports of Russian bounties to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan and if found to be true, the US has promised to retaliate. Moscow on the hand has denied involvement in any such operation.

Speaking in front of the House armed services committee, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said that the Pentagon was committed to discovering whether Russian military intelligence had paid the Taliban for attacks on American soldiers in Afghanistan.

“We’re going to get to the bottom of this bounty thing. If there are bounties, I’m an outraged general, just like every one of us in uniform is,” Milley said. “That’s a real big deal. We don’t have that level of fidelity yet, but we’re still looking.”

Despite vowing to retaliate, Milley suggested that the US may not be responding to the reports as robustly as necessary in non-military ways. The 62-year old admitted that the US was perhaps not doing enough.

The issue is at the strategic level,” he said. “Is there diplomatic, and informational and economic … sanctions, are there démarches, are there phone calls, is there pressure, those sorts of things. And I can tell you that some of that is done.’’

Mark Esper, the defence secretary, was also testifying to the House armed services committee. Esper said that the reports did not come from any of the nine of the total of 17 US intelligence agencies under Pentagon’s authority, implying the information leaked to the press in recent weeks came from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or another civilian agency.

The reports first came to notice in January and were ignored because they lacked credibility. It was only in February that Gen Kenneth McKenzie and the defence secretary became aware of them in February.

Milley confirmed that the investigation is not over and promised to get to the bottom of the situation. President Donald Trump has insisted he was not briefed on the Russian bounties.

Russia Denies Involvement

While American intelligence agencies work to confirm reports, Russia denies the existence or its involvement in any such operation. Moscow says the U.S. is trying to portray Moscow as an all-purpose bogeyman.

“I would like to say officially that these allegations, distributed by the media, are downright lies. No concrete evidence has been presented,” Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, said this week in an online forum with the Center for the National Interest.

Other Russian officials point out that Moscow would have little incentive to establish such a program given the high risk of getting caught.

According to NPR, the Russian military intelligence known as the GRU is believed to be behind the suspected Russian bounty program in Afghanistan. The GRU has an aggressive and high-risk culture and is hence preferred by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The New York Times was the media outlet to report about Russia secretly offering money to the Taliban in exchange for killing American soldiers in Afghanistan.

If confirmed, it would be the first time the Russian spy unit was known to have orchestrated attacks on Western troops and could have a severe impact on Washington-Moscow relations.

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