The nations of the Anglosphere have become increasingly deindustrialised and outsourced, and Europe’s once instinctive vision of ‘the West’ and its future has begun to seriously falter. In a time of new, far-reaching trade agreements – redrawing lines in the sand that may have long been taken for granted – many once second-rate world powers are emerging from America’s shadow, broadening their horizons, and dreaming big.
Since at least 2013, China has been hard at work establishing their dream of a new ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ of global development and investment with their Belt and Road Initiative, and much has been said of Russia’s ‘pivot to Asia’ for some time now. But what has been overshadowed in this discussion of shifting power structures and new trade blocs is our Western ally Israel’s own pivot, towards both Russia and China.
A year ago in Moscow, in April of 2018, Israel launched negotiations with Russia to sign a free-trade agreement with the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union  – a political, military and economic union that also seeks camaraderie with Iran, Egypt, India, and Singapore. In the lead up to a third round of negotiations in March, Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov spoke with Russian News Agency TASS. In the interview he praised Israel for not following the lead of the US and other Western countries in imposing sanctions on Russia “despite strong external pressure”.
“We hope that our Israeli partners will continue to adhere to this line,” he added.
At the same time, Israel has been actively pursuing a free trade agreement with China, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said will be finalised within the year. Speaking at the fourth meeting of the China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation back in October, Netanyahu emphasised the “very powerful” and mutually beneficial potential in combining “Israeli technology and innovation with Chinese industry expertise, innovation and markets”.
He noted the history of both countries, describing the Chinese and Jewish people as both being “very conscious of our traditions and very connected to our homeland, but equally eager to develop new approaches.”
“We have two ancient civilizations that seize the future” he said.
This partnership is nothing especially new either. While their ties may not exactly be historical, Israel has periodically sought to establish a trade relationship with China since at least the late 70s  – sometimes in secret, and often against the ostensible wishes of the United States.
China – a Rocky Relationship
Shaul Eisenberg, an Israeli businessman noted for being the primary catalyst for commerce between South Korea and Japan to Western countries, lead the drive for diplomatic ties with China back in 1979. Riding on his own unmarked Boeing 707 late one night in February that year, Shaul Eisenberg, Gabriel Gidor of Israel Aerospace Industries, and an undefined number of senior representatives from Israel’s foreign and defence ministries, met with a Chinese delegation at a military compound on the outskirts of Beijing.
Israel’s Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, had approved the trip. After a number of previous meetings with Chinese representatives, Shaul Eisenberg had returned to the Prime Minister with a shopping list of demands; everything from missiles and radar to artillery shells and armour. After ordering Defense Minister Ezer Weizman to review the list, and personally approve what Israel could and could not sell, he approved the meeting. Shaul’s team was provided with brochures of Israeli weapons on offer to present to the Chinese delegation. The Chinese were reportedly impressed but did not rush into any commitments.
This apparent apprehension became the pattern of a number of additional trips the Israeli’s took over the next year until eventually an agreement was met, and in 1981, Israel’s first shipment of tank shells arrived in China. Even after agreeing to sign hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts, the Chinese still refused to visit the Israeli companies’ factories, let alone Israel itself, and their relationship continued to remain a secret to the wider, multilateral world.
But in 1985 this began to change, and for the first time China agreed to issue visas to nine executives from Israel’s agriculture industry. The Chinese still remained reluctant to establish an open relationship, but in 1992, after an encouraging Madrid Peace Conference between Israel and multiple Arab nations (and reportedly a couple of visits from Israeli ministers Moshe Arens and David Levy), China was finally ready to begin official diplomatic ties. Trade between the two nations quickly soared, and today China is one of Israel’s biggest import and export markets, second only to the U.S.
This is not to say their partnership hasn’t hit a few America-shaped snags along the way. On the 1st of July 2000, only a couple of weeks before he was set to meet with US president Bill Clinton and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat at the Camp David summit, then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak met with director-general of the Ministry of Defense Amos Yaron, and his security adviser Danny Yatom, at Yatom’s home in Kochav Yair. The three men had convened to discuss a topic which they felt would be inevitably raised at the summit – a contract Israel had already signed with China for the Israeli-Russian built ‘Phalcon’ Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), which the US was now demanding they walk away from.
Pentagon officials had warned that the system would give China a dangerous advantage in a potential confrontation in the Taiwanese straits, and also claimed that the system being sold was remarkably similar to America’s own AWACS technology. But the main problem was that Israel had already signed a guarantee to compensate China in the case of a breach of contract – which, in the event of, the US had pledged to compensate Israel. And now, a previously apprehensive China was feeling scorned, and was demanding $1.2 billion from Israel. Meanwhile, a US congressman with control over aid spending, Sonny Callahan, was announcing that he would withhold some $250m of Israel’s annual $2.82bn in aid if the deal went ahead.
Deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh described the affair as the most severe crisis in the history of Israel’s relations with the United States, and had also cautioned Barak that “the Chinese are slow to exact revenge, but when it comes, it is harsh.” The incident caused a loss in confidence for Israel and the US’ leaders from both their respective governments, and the Phalcon deal was officially dead in the water, with Israel concluding a $350-million compensation package to China in March of 2002. However, with the Chinese-Russian ‘KJ-2000’ AWAC serendipitously entering into service two years later, one could argue that the original plan those three men had suggested that day at Yatom’s abode – to go ahead with the installation of radar systems on the ‘Ilyushin’ Russian transport plane, and deliver it to China at a later date – has since been enacted.
A similar dispute arose later in 2004, when the Israeli Aerospace Industries’ ‘Harpy’ loitering munition systems, which had previously been sold to China in 1994 for around $55 million USD, were returned to Israel under a contract to be upgraded. In their continuing bid to restrict military arms and technology transfers to China, the George W. Bush administration demanded Israel seize the munitions and again nullify the contract. This time Israel openly proceeded with their contractual obligations, and as a result the US suspended Israel from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project, and demanded the resignation of General Amos Yaron. Their suspension was brief, being re-admitted into the program in November 2005, but Yaron did later retire.
Most recently causing paranoia for the US , Israel has sealed a contract with the Shanghai International Port Group. The contract will lend the keys to Haifa – Israel’s largest port, and allegedly stocked with nuclear-armed submarines – for a generous 25 years, starting in 2021.
Established in 2015, the Haifa project has been subsumed by China’s Belt and Road Initiative as part of its ‘Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road’. Other Israeli infrastructure the Belt and Road Initiative has in its sights includes the proposed ‘Med-Red’ highspeed railway  connecting Eilat to Ashdod. In Ashdod itself, China also have one of the biggest overseas investment projects in lsrael – a $3 billion seaport infrastructure contract with the company China Harbor Engineering.
These major maritime and general infrastructure contracts in Ashdod and Haifa, including the joint research arrangements between China and Haifa’s Technion research university, have left the US concerned. They fear China will use the port to improve its standing in the Middle East, potentially gather intelligence on US interests, and continue to receive leaked Israeli-American technology. The US Navy has also been forced to reconsider future naval exercises in Israel.
US Vice President Mike Pence, in a speech to Washington’s conservative think tank the Hudson Institute on the 4th of October last year, said that the US “had hoped that economic liberalization would bring China into a greater partnership with us and with the world. Instead, China has chosen economic aggression, which has in turn emboldened its growing military”.
“Beijing has prioritized capabilities to erode America’s military advantages on land, at sea, in the air, and in space.”, Pence noted.
As the U.S. Sixth Fleet withdraws from the eastern Mediterranean, and the United States’ strategic action continues to rely heavily on Israel’s naval capabilities, a growing Chinese maritime and naval presence in the region would heavily impede on these strategic partnerships. In the event that the U.S. Senate were again to bring these trade deals to mainstream attention and find them actively pernicious or enabling of Chinese power and influence, one could assume that the result would once again be economic punishment, with sanctions against certain Israeli-Chinese companies or a limiting of military aid. Further still, if an American aircraft were ever downed by a Chinese missile and these contracts could be traced as the prime catalyst for the incident, it would have serious repercussions for the Israeli government and the bilateral US-Israeli relationship.
Israeli officials have maintained that the government has long been reviewing these Chinese contracts and processes to prevent adverse impacts on the US and its interests, but the Knesset’s official position appears vague and conflicting. Defense and Foreign Ministry officials are reportedly upset that the Haifa agreement was completed without a thorough, full government review, yet one senior Transportation Ministry official who spoke to The Times of Israel  told a different story. The official dismissed US concerns as being like the plot of a spy movie, calling them politically motivated, and asserted that Israeli authorities did due diligence before signing the deal.
“We warned that this would be an issue,” he told the paper in December, under an agreement of anonymity.
“So why did we do it? I don’t have the answer to that. I am sure that this decision wasn’t made haphazardly and that there were serious discussions about it. It probably has to do with financial considerations. The Chinese can do it faster and better, and we needed someone to operate our ports quickly.”
Ultimately, Netanyahu holds the defense and foreign affairs portfolios, but evidently he has not been communicating sufficiently with the US on the issue, despite the Trump administration’s repeated support and contact.
Russia – Old Comrades
The weighty ‘Russian question’ – whether individuals or companies working for the Russian state had influenced the media, narrative, or electoral processes of the 2016 US Presidential election – properly entered the mainstream dialogue after Hillary Clinton raised the theory of Russian collusion at a campaign speech in 2016 in Reno, Nevada .
In a speech centred on the offensive and radical views of Donald Trump, and how they mirrored the views of the figures and groups that he supported (such as Steve Bannon, Nigel Farage, and Breitbart), Clinton described how these people were brought together by “Race-baiting ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-Immigrant ideas – all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right’.”
“The de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump Campaign represents a landmark achievement for the ‘Alt-Right’, she added. “A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party”
“This is part of a broader story — the rising tide of hard-line, right-wing nationalism around the world.”
She then went on to describe Russian President Vladimir Putin as the “godfather of this global brand of extreme nationalism”, noting how Nigel Farage had appeared regularly on Russian state media programs, and adding that Trump was himself a fan of Putin and his policies.
“He talks casually of abandoning our NATO allies, recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and of giving the Kremlin a free hand in Eastern Europe more generally”, Clinton continued.
“American presidents from Truman to Reagan have rejected the kind of approach Trump is taking on Russia. We should too.”
Like most conspiracy theories, such as the Alt-Right theories that Clinton herself rails against in her Reno speech, the extrapolation may be wrong, but the scepticism and suspicion usually first arises from at least one key fact or question that can’t be explained by any official narrative. So even as the Special Counsel ‘Mueller report’ is finally concluded and submitted, and Attorney-General William Barr’s recently released four-page summary seemingly exonerates Trump of deliberate collusion with Russia, it is not illogical to review the connections that have been made, nor to predict that the full 300+ page report, well over a year in the making, will raise further questions at least about Trump himself.
This entire Russian investigation will start to make more sense when we view it in the context of Israel and China, with whom Russia have had a close relationship for decades now at least, and with the idea in mind that many of the accused in this case did not have Russian backgrounds as much as they had Russian-Israeli backgrounds.
Israel itself is home to a fairly large community of Russian immigrants. In the almost 30 years since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, over a million Russian citizens have migrated to Israel, and today Russian-born Israelis make up roughly 20% of the total population. The waves were so overwhelming that they caused a severe housing crisis for Israel at one point.
While many came to escape anti-Semitism, around 30-59% did not identify as Jewish. The rest mainly came for better economic prospects, or to pursue the great Zionist dream, and went on to have a significant entrepreneurial influence on society, including high-tech industries, education and the government of their adopted country.
Channel 9 on Israeli television, founded by controversial chairman of Africa-Israel Investments, Lev Leviev, provides an almost 100% Russian-spoken programming schedule. Right across from Safra Square and the Jerusalem townhall you can pop into ‘Bar Putin’, a bar created in homage to the Russian leader, and a popular hangout for the local Russian community. Even Israel’s third largest political party, the right wing Yisrael Beiteinu, was founded by Soviet-immigrant party leader Avigdor Lieberman, and owes a large amount of its success to its support from Russian-Israelis. Coincidently, the Chinese-invested port cities of Haifa and Ashdod are both home to major Russian enclaves, with Ashdod being known colloquially as ‘Little Moscow’.
Even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, although most Russian Jews were prevented from emigrating, Israel has always been home to a contingent of Russian-allied, or at least Bolshevik-friendly, elements . Socialist Zionism is the left-wing of the Zionist movement, and for many years was the leading ideal of Zionist groups. It was responsible for the push for Jewish agricultural settlements in Palestine, known as ‘kibbutzim’, and Labor Zionists played a leading role in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Leading figures in the movement included founder and first Prime Minister of Israel David-Ben Gurion, second and longest-serving President of Israel Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, and fourth Prime Minister, Israel’s first and only female Prime Minister, Golda Meir. David-Ben Gurion once famously returned from a visit to the Soviet Union in 1923 and declared: “I am a Bolshevik.”
On the 6th of May 1953, the daily paper Al Hamishmar published a death notice written by the United Workers Party (or Mapam) — a similar kibbutzim-based Labor Zionist group which made up the second largest faction of the first Knesset — for Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The notice declared that the party was “shocked upon hearing of the great disaster that befell the peoples of the Soviet Union, the world proletariat and all of progressive humanity, with the loss of the great leader and illustrious military commander, Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin.”
Stalin’s Soviet Union was once at the centre of Israeli identity – one of Mapam’s two leaders, Ya’akov Hazan, once said in a Knesset speech that “For us, the Soviet Union is the fortress of world socialism, it is our second homeland, the socialist one.” Although Meir Ya’ari, Mapam’s senior leader, did later express distaste for this statement, he did go on to favourably describe the People’s Republic of China as “a dictatorship that safeguards democracy there,” adding: “This is the doctrine we have been nurturing for decades.”
The first nation to recognise Israel’s independence in the UN was the USSR, and the USSR was home to arguably the first Jewish state, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in Far East Russia, founded in 1928. In fact, most of Israel’s founders, prime ministers, and leaders of all types, have been of Eastern European, if not Russian, descent.
After thorough investigation of this history of ties, it is safe to conclude that there are at least two common threads running through all of these Chinese, Russian, and Israeli contracts and relations – Putin’s entrepreneurial friends in the Russian oligarchy, and the Russia-birthed, global Hasidic Jewish movement known as Chabad Lubavitch.
Ukranian-American philanthropist Alexander Levin, for example, founder of the aforementioned Israel Plus channel, was voted Man of the Year by the Jerusalem Chabad organization in 2013.
Lev Leviev — a close friend of Vladimir Putin, and the current chairman of Israel Plus’ widely-boycotted parent company, Africa-Israel Investments — is of Uzbek Bukhari Jewish background and is known as the ‘King of Diamonds’. Although he has been embroiled in multiple scams and money-laundering over the years, including a dodgy real estate deal with Trump’s son-in-law and Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, he once received the personal blessings and support of Chabad Lubavitch’s seventh and most famous Rabbi, Menachem Schneerson – a widely and highly regarded figure, most famous for greatly expanding global Jewish outreach, and for having a vast number of followers who believed he was the Messiah, even after his death. Leviev is still a major supporter of the Chabad movement to this day, and was recently involved in a dispute between Russia and the US over which nation would be home to the Schneerson Library collection.
Another interesting biography is that of Viktor Vekselberg, the fourth richest person in Russia and the owner and president of the conglomerate Renova Group. Vekselberg is close to the Kremlin and heads the Israel-partnered Skolkovo Innovation Center – Russia’s ‘Silicon Valley’ of businesses dealing in everything from information, energy, nuclear power, biomedicine and telecommunication. He heads the venture with former Intel CEO Craig Barret, who is also a former member of the Hong Kong Chief Executive’s Council of International Advisors.
In April last year, Vekselberg and his Renova Group landed on the U.S. Treasury Department’s SDN sanctions list. In 2015, Renova Group’s sole US subsidiary Columbus Nova, had made large investments in ‘Fifth Dimension’ , a real-time, “deep learning” predictive analysis firm used by security agencies. Fifth Dimension was founded by Doren Cohen and Guy Caspi of Comverse/Verint, the Israeli-founded company allegedly responsible for the security camera systems used over here by Sydney Rail, among other ventures.
Fifth Dimension was also chaired by former deputy head of Mossad Benny Gantz, until that April when they were forced to shut down, as it was found that Columbus Nova had made payments of at least $500,000 to a bank account maintained by Trump’s then lawyer, Michael Cohen. Columbus Nova’s CEO, Andrew Intrater, is a cousin of Viktor Vekselberg, and although he has so far avoided repercussions, for these donations Vekselberg was sanctioned by the US Treasury – along with an extra six of Russia’s wealthiest and most powerful business leaders, including metals tycoon Oleg Deripaska.
From 2007 until 2012, Vekselberg was a shareholder and chairman of the board of Rusal, Oleg Deripaska’s aluminium company, and the second largest in the world by primary output. Deripaska notably founded Rusal with the help of Roman Abramovich – the richest man in Israel, a Russian-Israeli businessman and politician who has also donated to Chabad Lubavitch.
Deripaska has many controversial business ties, to figures like Vladimir Putin, Nathaniel Rothschild, and Peter Mendelson, but it was his ties and alleged donations to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort that saw him added to the US sanctions list. In March 2017, the Associated Press published a report alleging that Paul Manafort had negotiated a $10 million annual contract with Deripaska to promote Russian interests in politics, business, and media coverage in Europe and the United States, starting in 2005. Although both men confirmed working together, they denied the contents of the story, and Deripaska went on to unsuccessfully sue both the Associated Press for defamation and libel, and Manafort for a soured investment deal.
Vekselberg’s Renova Group was initially co-founded with the help of Ukranian-born philanthropist Leonard Blavatnik, the richest man in the United Kingdom and good friends with Benjamin Netanyahu. In 2017, Blavatnik was also brought up by the Special Counsel’s Mueller investigation for his $1 million donation to Trump’s inauguration fund. But he has also donated $1.8 million to Super PACs supporting Republican presidential candidates Scott Walker and Lindsey Graham, and brought business closer to home by recently buying James Packer’s stake in RatPac Entertainment. James Packer himself is also a close friend of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Blavatnik, too, is a supporter of Chabad, sponsoring a ‘Colel Chabad’ food bank and warehouse in Kiryat Malakhi, Israel.
Even the previously mentioned Ashdod, the destination of 90% of Israel’s international maritime traffic, is not only home to Moshe Keret’s Israeli Aerospace Industries subsidiary ‘Elta Systems’, but also multiple Chabad centres.
Chabad Lubavitch has been found to be the intersection of a web of ties between Putin’s government and Trump’s, but we will expand more on this later when we properly come to the subject of Trump. For now I would like to discuss one individual in particular who has become a close friend of these same Russian oligarchs, as well as Putin himself – Aleksandr Dugin.
Given the history of these deals and these nations, one might ask how long our new possible hegemons have had these dreams, and if China, Russia and Israel are simply focused on rekindling once lost Soviet ties. But Russia’s possible collusion in the 2016 election brings a new dimension to the story, and we may begin to ask if a weak and destabilised America might not just be temporarily advantageous for Russia at this moment, but actively sought by them in the long term.
Aleksandr Dugin  is a seemingly anomalous celebrity in modern ‘dissident’ and alt-internet political circles. When he’s not hanging out with the Russian Orthodoxy or capitalist oligarchs like Konstantin Malofeev – a man sanctioned by the EU and the US over accusations of financing pro-Russian forces in Ukraine – he can be found writing or conducting numerous interviews, spreading his ideas of ‘National Bolshevism’ and ‘Eurasianism’. As well as many Eastern European and Western news programs, Dugin has appeared in interviews with radical and ‘alt-right’ commentators such as Alex Jones of Infowars, and Lauren Southern and Brittany Pettibone of Rebel Media and Red Ice.
Aleksandr Dugin’s ideas seem to hold a sizable sway over these organisations and online communities, with his Traditionalist rhetoric and pro-Russian arguments winning over everyone from fellow Soviet nostalgists, to Trump supporters and those in the new wave of nationalist groups. Whether or not these supporters have actually read any of Dugin’s material is concerning no matter the answer, because if they are aware of his distinctly anti-American and anti-democratic plans, this should raise many questions for these influential figures, who make arguments of patriotism and liberty, all while implicitly supporting Duginist ideas.
But assuming Stalin or Trump supporters are no less naïve or foolish than the average person, it will be informative for both them and us to review Dugin’s writing and better clarify his positions.
The most interesting and particularly relevant book in Aleksandr Dugin’s bibliography is “Foundations of Geopolitics: The Geopolitical Future of Russia”, published in 1997. The book has had a large influence within the Russian military, police, and foreign policy elites, and has been used as a textbook by the Russian military. Subsequently it brought Dugin many relations in these circles, like General Nikolai Klokotov of the Academy of the General Staff, who said it would “serve as a mighty ideological foundation for preparing a new military command”, and former speaker of the Duma Gennadiy Seleznyov, who “urged that Dugin’s geopolitical doctrine be made a compulsory part of the school curriculum”.
In Foundations of Geopolitics, Dugin declares that “the battle for the world rule of Russians” has not ended and Russia remains “the staging area of a new anti-bourgeois, anti-American revolution”. He calls for Russia to use tactics of destabilization and disinformation to create new annexations and alliances, all to forge a new ‘Eurasian Empire’, based on “the fundamental principle of the common enemy: the rejection of Atlanticism, strategic control of the USA, and the refusal to allow liberal values to dominate us.”
The book states that “the maximum task [of the future] is the ‘Finlandization’ of all of Europe” – referring to Finland’s political position after WW2, when Russia did not annex all of Finland, and allowed them to retain a level of independence and a national government, while nonetheless keeping them in a state of limbo and de facto Russian control. Notably it also calls for Russia to utilise their gas, oil, and natural resources to bully and pressure other countries into supporting their strategies.
Among many, many other extremely specific and openly defined strategies, the book calls for the creation of a “Moscow-Berlin axis”, of a “Franco-German bloc” with a “firm anti-Atlanticist tradition”, for the United Kingdom to be cut off from Europe, for Ukraine to be annexed, and for Poland to be granted “special status” within the Eurasian sphere.
It recommends that Russia see China as a danger, yet offer China help “in a southern direction”, and provide them “Indochina (except Vietnam), the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia” as geopolitical compensation.
It also emphasizes that Russia must spread Anti-Americanism everywhere, and that “the main ‘scapegoat’ will be precisely the U.S.”
On page 367 of Foundations of Geopolitics, Dugin writes “All levels of geopolitical pressure must be activated simultaneously[…]It is especially important to introduce geopolitical disorder into internal American activity, encouraging all kind of separatism and ethnic, social, and racial conflicts, actively supporting all dissident movements – extremist, racist, and sectarian groups, thus destabilising internal political processes in the U.S. It would also make sense simultaneously to support isolationist tendencies in American politics”
With Dugin’s close connections to the Russian government, to multiple Eastern and Western parties – including Syriza in Greece, Front National in France, and the Freedom party of Austria – and to gas and oil oligarchs, it would be wise to not only take the influence of his writings seriously, but to conclude that his strategies are currently in action.
While the book may also call for China to be ‘dismantled’, Russia’s contracts with China and support of Iran and Israel – whom China both rely heavily on – show that Russia may have changed their positions, or at least current priorities, to capitalize on China’s economic developments.
Whether or not the Belt and Road Initiative and Russia’s Eurasian geostrategy were originally individual processes, they have become one and the same through Israel – and an Israel that is both economically booming, and shifting away from certain US elements towards Eurasia, signals a major disruptive change in world politics and power structures.