By Dr Subhash Kapila
Russia and United States estranged relationship impinges on global security and stability with China as a ‘revisionist power’ being the major beneficiary of this estrangement and with vested interests in sustaining this trust-deficit.
Strategic rapprochement between Russia and the United States can fully materialise only when both these global bipolar powers shun playing the ‘China Card’ against each other. Russia and the United States must recognise that any Chinese diplomacy or policy initiatives aimed at currying favours from either Russia or the United States are only ‘temporising moves’ awaiting the full materialisation of its military power by 2020 at the earliest. That could be the earliest that China can throw a military gauntlet against the United States.
Russia needs to recognise the strategic reality that the Russia-China relationship is not a cemented relationship based on enduring strategic convergences. United States too needs to recognise that China as a revisionist power chiefly aims to engineer initially the United States exit from the Western Pacific which is already in evidence. China’s end-game is to prompt the United States abandonment of the Asia Pacific so that Asia is left at the mercy of Chinese dictates. In sum, by such strategies China aims to create a new bi-polar global power structure and thereby emerge as United States ‘strategic equal.’
Russia needs to recognise the above reality more forcefully as implicit in the above Chinese strategies is displacing Russia’s existing strategic equivalence with the United States and a return to the US-Russia bipolar global management of security and stability that held the peace during half a century of the Cold War, even though that peace may have been imperfect. China since 2008 or so, and more particularly since 2012, has only indulged in disruptive aggressive military brinkmanship.
The onus of strategic rapprochement against the gathering storm unleashed by China’s not so benign military rise lies squarely on the shoulders of the United States. It was the United States policy and political establishment weighted by Cold War mind-sets that pushed Russia into a corner and further refusing to recognise during the whole of the last decade that Russia was on a resurgent trajectory under the leadership of President Putin.
Rather strange, but true, is the reality that the United States was ever-ready to respect China’s strategic sensitivities but the United States was not ready to concede the same respect to Russia, even though Russia was still a reckonable global power.
United States needlessly pushed Russia into China’s strategic embrace which after the two Gulf Wars of US humanitarian military interventions had made China extremely nervous and was looking for strategic partners to counter-balance United States emergence as the Unipolar Power.
United States unwarranted strategic permissiveness and molly-coddling of China for nearly two decades just to strategically discomfit Russia has resulted in creating the Chinese Dragon spitting fire in the South China Sea towards achieving the ‘Chinese Dream’ of evicting the United States from its Forward Military Presence in Asia Pacific and rendering redundant the US security architecture existing in the region for six decades or so.
In mid-2016, the overall strategic picture obtaining in Asia Pacific is that no strategic gains have accrued to either Russia or the United States with their strategic dalliance with China. The foregoing discussion would indicate that China has no intentions to play second fiddle to either Russia or the United States. The ‘China Card’ is therefore rendered redundant for both Russia and the United States.
In fact, China has displayed all signs that in the pursuit of the ‘Chinese Dream’ enunciated by President Xi Jinping China’s Maritime Strategy 2015 and the Chinese President’s directives to all branches of the PLA Armed Forces to be prepared to fight modern wars under informationalised warfare, China has no peaceful designs to be absorbed in the global community as a responsible and benign stakeholder, in keeping with the strategic halo bestowed on it by United States and Russia for their vested interests.
China’s new strategy of One Belt One Road in addition to the strategies enumerated above is nothing more than a subtle rope-in of all and sundry small nations with economic inducements to further her strategic designs to girdle Eurasia and the maritime expanses of the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean by client states. It would be notable to point out that none of the major nations have opted for this Chinese design.
More significantly, China virtually stands isolated in East Asia by her disruptive aggressive brinkmanship in the South China Sea and in the East China Sea. China is at odds with the other two major nations of Asia, namely, India and Japan, with which it has disputed border problems foisted by China.
If that be the case, can Russia and the United States strategically be perceived in proximate relations with China or being overly sensitive to China’s strategic pretensions? No strategic logic justifies such Russian or American policy attitudes.
Concluding, it needs to be stressed that global security and stability imperatives ordain that Russia and the United States make concerted moves for a strategic rapprochement. The alternative would be a disruptive militarily rising China playing Russia and the United States against each other and exploiting their bridgeable strategic deficit to disrupt global stability.