Monday, December 13, 2004

A Beijing and Moscow Alliance? Our Greatest Nightmare

"There are at the present time two great nations in the world, which started from different points, but seem to tend towards the same end. I allude to the Russians and the Americans....The American struggles against the obstacles that nature opposes to him; the adversaries of the Russian are men. The former combats the wilderness and savage life; the latter, civilization with all its arms. The conquests of the American are therefore gained by the plowshare; those of the Russian by the sword. The Anglo-American relies upon personal interest to accomplish his ends and gives free scope to the unguided strength and common sense of the people; the Russian centers all the authority of society in a single arm. The principal instrument of the former is freedom; of the latter, servitude. Their starting point is different and their courses are not the same; yet each of them seems marked out by the will of heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe."

Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835

"After a brief flirtation with democracy, Russia is retreating into tyranny ... nothing, however, could be more mistaken than to write Russia off ..."

Jacob Heilbrun, LATimes, October 3, 2004

Joint military exercises will be held between China and Russia (link via DrudgeReport), a Sino-Russian alliance is in the making; mission accomplished -- the neoconservatives have finally driven Putin into the arms of an eagerly awaiting Beijing -- or have they?

The very idea of a Beijing-Moscow alliance is a nightmare almost beyond imagining to the American sensibility (to be frank, at least to mine), a combined threat that globally checks US power (and may, quite possibly, be met, tragically, with a sense of absurd relief in the capitols of Old Europe -- how soon will they come to regret that sense of ease?), but, in the process, presenting us a vast nuclear threat (no mention of trade).

The Neoconservative lust after riling Russia is unnerving to say the least and quixotic at best. Why? There is this strange pleasure neocons take in bating and humiliating Putin, not a democrat -- "small D" -- by any means, but The Corsair still doesn't see the point in planting thorns in the side of a most recently bellicose nuclear power in decline. A nuclear power quite conscious of its decline, like a middle-aged man questing after his lost sexual precocity.

The Corsair studiously tries to avoid agreeing with Pat Buchanan in matters of international politics, as a general rule, but sometimes, the Paleoconservative position is just plain right, steady, politically realistic, as when he said, in April 2001:

"As President Bush decides whether to arm Taiwan with advanced U.S. warships, and Beijing's belligerence mounts, why are we antagonizing Russia? ... Why are we driving Russia into the arms of China?

" ... A decade ago, Moscow marched the Red Army out of Eastern Europe, allowed the captive nations to dump over their Communist regimes, and let the Soviet Union dissolve into 15 nations. Ronald Reagan, who had decried the 'evil empire,' was being cheered in Red Square.

"Yet since Russia called off the Cold War, we have broken our word and moved NATO to its borders, smashed its old Serb ally and now collude with Azerbaijan and Georgia to cut Russia out of the Caspian oil trade. Bush aides talk of bringing Baltic states into NATO and forging new military bonds with ex-Soviet republics.

"How would we react if a Russia, victorious in the Cold War, invited Cuba into the Warsaw Pact, handed a war guarantee to Panama and cut us out of the oil trade with Mexico?

"But U.S. arrogance is matched by Muscovite folly. If Tony Blair is complaining of spies, Putin is overloading the circuits. Russia is also selling weapons to Iran and providing Beijing with destroyers, anti-ship missiles, submarines and fighter-bombers to contest the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

"Putin must know that America, its superpower hubris aside, does not threaten Russia. But the Islamist regime in Iran is a threat in the Caucasus; and after Hong Kong and Taiwan have been digested, China will look to recover its lost lands in Russia.

"In the treaties of Aikun and Peking in 1858 and 1860, China was swindled by agents of Alexander II out of 350,000 square miles along the Amur and Ussuri. On that territory today sits the trans-Siberian railroad and port of Vladivostok. In 1969 Soviet and Chinese troops clashed on both rivers. Chinese settlers are slowly moving in, just as Americans once moved south into the Mexican province of Texas.

"Russia is a dying nation. Its population is down to 145 million, and Putin has said it may fall to 123 million by 2015 -- a 15-year loss as huge as all the dead in the Great Patriotic War. By 2025, Iran will have as many people. Russians are today outnumbered by Chinese 9 to 1. East of the Aral Sea, the ratio is closer to 50 to 1. In the 1990s the quarrels that exploded into wars within and between nations were ideological, territorial, religious and tribal. With Bolshevism dead, no such quarrel exists between America and Russia. If there is any vital U.S. interest, it is that Russia not be dismembered by the warriors of Islam or by a China which, by 2025, will have 1.5 billion people.

"Bolshevik Russia was an enemy, but Orthodox Russia is part of the West, a natural ally. Why, then, treat it as a potential enemy? Would we really prefer the Chinese across the Bering Strait?"

This Saturday The Corsair wrote:

"When is Russia going to break out of its outmoded Cold War thought processes and start thinking of itself as a more pro-European (or, at least pro-US, as Russia and Europe have recent historical antagonisms) power than a Pan-Asian?

"Since Peter the Great (ed note: though cruelly stalled by Stalin), Russia has veered more Westwards than towards the lure of the East. Where else can Russia go? To China? Alone, it is an isolated piece of draughts in Outer Europe, a Second-World kleptocracy with nukes -- nothing more -- a seedy and disturbing but marginal player in the Community of Nations.

"Russia will never ally itself with China -- or could it? possibly? Maybe?-- too much bad history, methinks. The most rational course would be some sort of Russo-American alliance (we buy their nukes and natural resources, we give them credibility, status and a framework in which to exist), like the often wise Gore Vidal actually proposed as the Cold War ran down."

And now, the nightmare of a Sino-Russian alliance quite possibly realized, according to Joe McDonald of the AP (link via DrudgeReport):

"China and Russia will hold their first joint military exercise next year, the Chinese government said Monday, as President Hu Jintao called for an expansion of the rapidly growing alliance between the former Cold War rivals.

"The announcement came during a visit to Beijing by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who was expected to discuss expanding the Kremlin's multibillion-dollar annual arms sales to China.

"The exercises are to take place on Chinese territory, the official China News Service said. But that report and other government statements didn't say when they would take place or what forces would be involved.

"'We want ... to promote the development of the two countries' strategic collaborative relationship in order to safeguard and promote regional and world peace,' CNS quoted Hu as telling Ivanov."

And if it wasn't odd enough that The Corsair quoted rightward Pat Buchanan, let me throw in Gore Vidal, from the left, for good measure and in the interests of rhetorical symmetry (for, don't the far right and the far left, in theory at least, unite at a certain point?), in an essay written, January 11, 1986, at the tailend of the Cold War, for The Nation:

" ... There is now only one way out. The time has come for the US to make common cause with the Soviet Union. The bringing together of the Soviet landmass (with all its natural resources) and our island empire (with all its technological resources) would be of great benefit to each society, not to mention the world. Also the Soviet Union and our section of North America combined would be a match, industrially and technologically, for the Sino-Japanese axis that will dominate the future just as Japan dominates world trade today. But where war was thought of as the supreme solvent, we now know that war is worse than useless. Therefore, the alliance of the two great powers of the Northern Hemisphere will double the strength of each and give us, working together, an opportunity to survive, economically, in a highly centralised Asiatic World."
Since 1986, Japan has fallen out of the mix, and a Sino-Chinese alliance against the US appears to be far fetched, not discounting altogether the possibility of a strong Japan sometime soon in Asia, but China is indeed very much rising. And a China and Russia together contriving against American interests spell an ominous future.


(S)wine said...

It's the people. I remember about 5 years after the "curtain" fell, their economy was complete shite, and people were saying that they were better off under Communism. Extortion and mafia activity now run rampant on the streets of Moscow--well, since Putin took over (and we all know who HE was back in 'da day--hmmm, can you say Llubjanka?) illegal activity has curbed somewhat...but anyway, people wanted to go back to oppression even as far back as '94.

So...there. I bet Russia is thinking, also, economically...aligning itself w/China is a good move (from their pt. of view). Putin probably looks at the Chinese model (political combined with economics) as Utopian for his country.

The Corsair said...

I think you are absolutely right. There was a poll recently where Russians favored a "strong man" over a "small d democratic leader." And, lest we forget, Putin won on a mandate to be militant in Chechnya.

I have to say that with all that, the neoconservative humiliations of Putin utterly confuse me, and I do not consider myself a "Realist," in the Thucydidean sense.

Russia has that internal love of authoritarianism, but, I believe -- perhaps naively -- that with lots of carrots and less sticks, Aa beneficial Russo-American alliance could have been formed. Alas, those Confucian Generals appear to have seen farther than those unwise and overly idealistic Neocons.

(S)wine said...

Ron, I agree with you on the possibility of a Russo-American alliance, however, that would only be possible about a generation, or a generation and a half removed from the Wall falling (they Youth have the right idea). Unfortunately, we're talking about 20-30 years. I think (clearly)by then, they'll be back to where they were in the 20th Century.

My people (Romanians) are going through the same thing. Poverty runs rampant, corruption is widespread, the "leaders" are ex-Communists, and now the People are hemming and hawing about how much better it was when the Communists were around.

Only the Youth can get these countries out of the shite. But it's going to take a few decades. Fingers crossed.

The Corsair said...

It is hard to imagine a Cold Warrior accepting such a Russo-American alliance, no matter how rational sounding ... let's hope a generation or a generation and a half isn't too late