T Nation

Russian/Chinese Military Alliance


#1

From a military standpoint this one could actually prove as problematic as the Old Soviet Union, leading to who knows what.

A strong economic powerehouse teemed up with a substantial military power, production capabilities and a nuclear aresenal.

Russia, China looking to form 'NATO of the East'? By Fred Weir, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
Wed Oct 26, 4:00 AM ET

MOSCOW - Russia and China could take a step closer to forming a Eurasian military confederacy to rival NATO at a Moscow meeting of the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Wednesday, experts say.

The group, which started in 2001 with limited goals of promoting cooperation in former Soviet Central Asia, has evolved rapidly toward a regional security bloc and could soon induct new members such as India, Pakistan, and Iran.

One initiative that core members Russia and China agree on, experts say, is to squeeze US influence - which peaked after 9/11 - out of the SCO's neighborhood. "Four years ago, when the SCO was formed, official Washington pooh-poohed it and declared it was no cause for concern," says Ariel Cohen, senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. "Now they're proven wrong."

Wednesday's meeting is expected to review security cooperation, including a spate of upcoming joint military exercises between SCO members' armed forces. It may also sign off on a new "Contact Group" for Afghanistan. That would help Russia and China - both concerned about increased opium flows and the rise of Islamism - develop direct relations between SCO and the Afghan government. While this will be highly controversial given the presence of NATO troops and Afghans' bitter memories of fighting Russian occupation throughout the 1980s, the Russians have an "in" because they still have longstanding allies in the country.

In attendance Wednesday will be prime ministers of member states Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, as well as top officials from several recently added "observer" states, including Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, and Iranian Vice President Parviz Davudi.

The SCO's swift rise has been fueled by deteriorating security conditions in ex-Soviet Central Asia, as well as a hunger in Moscow and Beijing for a vehicle that could counter US influence in the region.

"Moscow is seeking options to demonstrate - to Washington in the first place - that Russia is still an important player in this area," says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a partner of the US bimonthly journal Foreign Affairs. "China's ambitions are growing fast, and it also wants to turn the SCO into something bigger and more effective."

Russian leaders blame the Bush administration, with its emphasis on democracy-building, for recent unrest, including revolution in Kyrgyzstan and a putative Islamist revolt in Uzbekistan. "Washington wants to expand democracy, which it sees as a panacea for all social and geopolitical evils," says Sergei Karaganov, head of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policies, which advises the Kremlin. "But it is clear to us that any rapid democratization of these countries (in Central Asia) will lead to chaos."

An SCO summit last June demanded that the US set a timetable to remove the bases it put in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan with Moscow's acquiescence in the wake of 9/11. In July, Uzbek leader Islam Karimov ordered the US base at Karshi-Khanabad to evacuate by year's end.

But two recent visits to Kyrgyzstan by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appear to have secured the US lease on that country's Manas airbase indefinitely - albeit with a sharp rent increase.

"There is nothing to cheer about," says Mr. Cohen. "Washington has signaled to the Russians that we won't be seeking any new bases in Central Asia. Basically, we are doing nothing to counter the moves against us."

In joint maneuvers last August, Russian strategic bombers, submarines, and paratroopers staged a mock invasion of a "destabilized" far eastern region with Chinese troops. This month, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov proposed holding the first Indian-Chinese-Russian war games under SCO sponsorship. "In principle, this is possible," he said. "The SCO was formed as an organization to deal with security issues."

Should states like India and Iran join, the SCO's sway could spread into South Asia and the Middle East. "India sees observer status [in the SCO] as a steppingstone to full membership," says a Moscow-based Indian diplomat who asked not to be named. But he added that India, which has recently improved its relations with the US, does not want to send an anti-US message. "We would hope the Americans would understand our desire to be inside the SCO, rather than outside," he says.

While the SCO's potential looks vast on paper, experts say internal rivalries would preclude it from evolving into a NATO-like security bloc. "What kind of allies could Russia and China be?" says Akady Dubnov, an expert with the Vremya Novostei newspaper. "The main question for them in Central Asia is who will gain the upper hand."

Still, the idea of a unified eastern bloc has strong appeal for some in Moscow. "It's very important that regional powers are showing the will to resolve Eurasian problems without the intrusion of the US," says Alexander Dugin, chair of the International Eurasian Movement, whose members include leading Russian businessmen and politicians. "Step by step we're building a world order not based on the unipolar hegemony of the US."

Says Cohen: "Eventually they'll wake up to this challenge in Washington. But will it be too late?"


#2

It would be a good thing for the world, as it would restore a balance of power.

A balance of power ensured 50 years of relative peace during the cold war (i.e. never went really hot).

Of course there are plenty of Armageddonists on every side that would need to be brought to heel.


#3

India is more in our orbit than theirs, and I wouldn't be that worried about Russia, its demographics are terrible.

Mark Steyn:

Russia?s export of ideology was the decisive factor in the history of the last century. It seems to me entirely possible that the implosion of Russia could be the decisive factor in this new century. As Iran?s nuke programme suggests, in many of the geopolitical challenges to America there?s usually a Russian component somewhere in the background.

In fairness to Putin, even if he was ?very straightforward and trustworthy?, he?s in a wretched position. Think of the feet of clay of Western European politicians unwilling to show leadership on the Continent?s moribund economy and deathbed demography. Russia has all the EU?s problems to the nth degree, and then some. ?Post-imperial decline? is manageable; a nation of psychotic lemmings isn?t. As I?ve noted before in this space, Russia is literally dying. From a population peak in 1992 of 148 million, it will be down to below 130 million by 2015 and thereafter dropping to perhaps 50 or 60 million by the end of the century, a third of what it was at the fall of the Soviet Union. It needn?t decline at a consistent rate, of course. But I?d say it?s more likely to be even lower than 50 million than it is to be over 100 million. The longer Russia goes without arresting the death spiral, the harder it is to pull out of it, and when it comes to the future most Russian women are voting with their foetus: 70 per cent of pregnancies are aborted.

A smaller population needn?t necessarily be a problem, and especially not for a state with too much of the citizenry on the payroll. But Russia is facing simultaneously a massive ongoing drain of wealth out of the system. Whether or not Dominic Midgley was correct the other day in his assertion that the ?migr? oligarchs prefer London to America, I cannot say. But I notice my own peripheral backwater of Montreal has also filled up with Russkies whose impressive riches have been acquired recently and swiftly. It doesn?t help the grim demographic scenario if your economic base is also being systematically eaten away.

Add to that the unprecedented strains on a ramshackle public health system. Russia is the sick man of Europe, and would still look pretty sick if you moved him to Africa. It has the fastest-growing rate of HIV infection in the world. From virtually no official Aids cases at the time Putin took office, in the last five years more Russians have tested positive than in the previous 20 for America. The virus is said to have infected at least 1 per cent of the population, the figure the World Health Organisation considers the tipping point for a sub-Saharan-sized epidemic. So at a time when Russian men already have a life expectancy in the mid-50s ? lower than in Bangladesh ? they?re about to see Aids cut them down from the other end, killing young men and women of childbearing age, and with them any hope of societal regeneration. By 2010, Aids will be killing between a quarter and three-quarters of a million Russians every year. It will become a nation of babushkas, unable to muster enough young soldiers to secure its borders, enough young businessmen to secure its economy or enough young families to secure its future. True, there are regions that are exceptions to these malign trends, parts of Russia that have healthy fertility rates and low HIV infection. Can you guess which regions they are? They start with a ?Mu-? and end with a ?-slim?.

So the world?s largest country is dying and the only question is how violent its death throes are. Yesterday?s Russia was characterised by Churchill as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Today?s has come unwrapped: it?s a crisis in a disaster inside a catastrophe. Most of the big international problems operate within certain geographic constraints: Africa has Aids, the Middle East has Islamists, North Korea has nukes. But Russia?s got the lot: an African-level Aids crisis and an Islamist separatist movement sitting on top of the biggest pile of nukes on the planet. Of course, the nuclear materials are all in ?secure? facilities ? more secure, one hopes, than the secure public buildings in Nalchik that the Islamists took over with such ease last week.

Russia is the bleakest example on the planet of how we worry about all the wrong things. For 40 years the environmentalists have warned us that the jig was up: there are too many people (see Paul Ehrlich?s comic masterpiece of 1970 The Population Bomb) and too few resources ? as the Club of Rome warned in its 1972 landmark study The Limits To Growth, the world will run out of gold by 1981, of mercury by 1985, tin by 1987, zinc by 1990, petroleum by 1992, and copper, lead and gas by 1993. Instead, poor old Russia is awash with resources but fatally short of Russians ? and, in the end, warm bodies are the one indispensable resource.

What would you do if you were Putin? What have you got to keep your rotting corpse of a country as some kind of player? You?ve got nuclear know-how ? which a lot of ayatollahs and dictators are interested in. You?ve got an empty resource-rich eastern hinterland ? which the Chinese are going to wind up with one way or the other. That was the logic, incidentally, behind the sale of Alaska: in the 1850s, Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich, the brother of Alexander II, argued that the Russian empire couldn?t hold its North American territory and that one day either Britain or the United States would simply take it, so why not sell it to them first? The same argument applies today to the 2,000 miles of the Russo?Chinese border. Given that even alcoholic Slavs with a life expectancy of 56 will live to see Vladivostok return to its old name of Haishenwei, Moscow might as well flog it to Beijing instead of just having it snaffled out from under.

That?s the danger for America ? that most of what Russia has to trade is likely to be damaging to US interests. In its death throes, it could bequeath the world several new Muslim nations, a nuclear Middle East and a stronger China. In theory, America could do a belated follow-up to the Alaska deal and put in a bid for Siberia. But Russia?s calculation is that sooner or later we?ll be back in a bipolar world and that, in almost any scenario, there?s more advantage in being part of the non-American pole. A Sino?Russian strategic partnership has a certain logic to it, and so, in a darker way, does a Russo?Muslim alliance of convenience. In 1989, with the Warsaw Pact crumbling before his eyes, poor old Mikhail Gorbachev received a helpful bit of advice from the cocky young upstart on the block, the Ayatollah Khomeini: ?I strongly urge that in breaking down the walls of Marxist fantasies you do not fall into the prison of the West and the Great Satan,? wrote the pioneer Islamist nutcase. ?I openly announce that the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the greatest and most powerful base of the Islamic world, can easily help fill up the ideological vacuum of your system.?

In an odd way, that?s what happened everywhere but the Kremlin. As communism retreated, radical Islam seeped into Afghanistan and Indonesia and the Balkans. Crazy guys holed up in Philippine jungles and the tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay which would have been ?Marxist fantasists? a generation or two back are now Islamists: it?s the ideology du jour. Even the otherwise perplexing enthusiasm of the western Left for the jihad?s misogynist homophobe theocrats is best understood as a latterday variation on the Hitler/Stalin pact. And, despite Gorbachev turning down the offer, it will be Russia?s fate to have large chunks of its turf annexed by the Islamic world.

We are witnessing a remarkable event: the death of a great nation not through war or devastation but through its inability to rouse itself from its own suicidal tendencies. The ?ideological vacuum? was mostly filled with a nihilist fatalism. Churchill got it wrong: Russia is a vacuum wrapped in a nullity inside an abyss.


#4

smart move on russia's part.. i think they want to get on friendlier terms w/ what may be the worlds next super-power. Look at it this way, a super-power will want land, which russia has but won't want to secede.


#5

The treaty between the USSR and Nazi Germany worked so well.

Neither of these countries are trustworthy. This is an uneasy alliance.


#6

Exactly. The Russians fear the Chinese more than they dislike us.


#7

http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=731836


#8

http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=712418


#9

This is concerning if the US economy tanks and we quit importing so many Chinese-made goods. Then we worry.


#10

If it weren't for the U.S., China would still be exporting firecrackers as their main commodity.

Removing MFN status and shopping elsewhere would crush the "Next Superpower".


#11

It would be painful for us, crippling for China.

I worry about China for the short term. If we get through the next 10 years or so we should be good.

When the old assholes running the show die off we should be better off.

People generally don't war with trade partners, which is of course why France and Germany wouldn't help in Iraq.