One of the premises in The Counterpoint Trilogy is the Sino-Russian alliance against the U.S. For example, in The Outer Circle, China and Russia are conducting joined naval maneuvers designed to oppose the American navy. In the “life imitates fiction” manner, a recent newspaper headline announced: “Chinese, Russian Navy to Hold Drills” (see http://www.manilatimes.net/chinese-russian-navies-to-hold-mediterranean-drills/179897/). This is the first time ever that Russia and China will conduct joint naval exercises. But probably not the last time.
The China – Russia alignment has accelerated in the past year, partly driven by geopolitical tensions between Russia and the West and the conflict in Ukraine. Other factors pointing to the rapid formation of a Sino-Russian alliance are the $456 Billion gas deal, cooperation on advanced weapons, high-speed rail, satellite navigation systems, large infrastructure projects, Chinese investments in Russia, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (sources: http://www.cnbc.com/id/102106704, many others).
I am both surprised and dismayed by the views on the current tense Russia vs. the West standoff expressed by the Western political elite and the media. It’s easy to say that “our leaders know what they are doing, trust them.” Given our recent invasion of Iraq, this seems like a dangerous assumption. Do we always fully understand what the battle is about? What drives the other party? What comes to mind is Robert McNamara’s interview in The Fog War documentary, the part where he remembers meeting North Vietnamese foreign minister Nguyen Co Thach and being told: “You must never have read a history book. If you had, you’d know that we weren’t pawns of the Chinese or the Russians. We were fighting for our independence. And no amount of bombing, no amount of U.S. pressure would ever have stopped us.” Ideology, together with ignorance of history, blinded McNamara and the whole U.S. administration of the time, to the fundamental issue at hand. Countless lives were lost. And so was the war.
Sadly, this reminds me of our approach to Russia. No, Putin is not a pleasant character. But portraying him as someone feeding misinformation to his citizens that otherwise would not support his policies and that a bit of economic pressure would lead to his downfall is a dangerous fallacy. Putin has 86% approval rating at home precisely because the population there believes that they are defending themselves. Russians believe that the U.S. broke promises it made after the fall of the Soviet Union and that it is deliberately undermining Russia. Numerous participants in the Malta summit of 1989 and in subsequent discussions confirm that there was a promise to not expand NATO to Russia’s borders. See, for example, “Superpower Illusions” by Jack F. Matlock, Jr., 2010 by Yale University (http://www.amazon.com/Superpower-Illusions-Jack-Matlock-Jr-ebook/dp/B00492CRVU). Also “NATO Enlargement: Illusions and Reality” edited by Galen Carpenter and Barbara Conry, 1998 by the Cato Institute, especially “The Perils of Victory” by Susan Eisenhower (http://www.amazon.com/NATO-Enlargement-Ted-Galen-Carpenter/dp/1882577590). Instead, NATO has steadily marched to Russia’s borders. Russians’ approval of the United States collapsed from 60% to low 20’s. In Russia, we are facing a nightmare of a determined opponent convinced that they are fighting for their independence. It’s a nightmare of our own making.
China’s ambitions to become a superpower to rival and eventually overcome the United States are well known. China and Russia are not natural allies, they fought wars, they are suspicious of each other. But both now view the U.S. as the enemy and, as a saying goes, “enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Together, China and Russia own most of Eurasia, with massive population and natural resources. They are afraid of the U.S., they need each other in order to oppose the U.S., and they are moving closer together.