By Dr Subhash Kapila
Grave geopolitical consequences are likely to flow for global security and stability by the ongoing confrontation between United States and the West with Russia. Highlighted in my past SAAG Papers was that the United States cannot afford two sets of Cold Wars with its global predominance under challenge.
Singularly invisible in United States & West geopolitical discourses is the total lack of an assessment that in 2018 which is the most long-range and potent threat to Western democracies— China or Russia?
Obviously, China is the most potent threat to US National Security interests’ intent on challenging United States global predominance and endangering the security of US Allies in the Indo Pacific and its strategic partners.
The United States in 2018 must be ruing the day in 1972 when then US President Nixon and his Sinophiles advisers like Henry Kissinger inflicted the “Nixonian Moment” on the United States. In the decades that followed American strategic permissiveness has resulted in China emerging as United States most potent adversary—a fact conceded by present US President designating China as such.
The United States is in the danger of repeating the Nixonian Moment once again by pushing Russia into China’s strategic embrace by renewing all over again another Cold War with Russia.
China is a revisionist power with aspirations to attain strategic equivalence with the United States and hence the major source of military confrontations with the United States. The United States and China are destined for an inevitable military conflict in the coming decades.
Comparatively, even a resurgent Russia has a historical record of management of the global system with the United States by limiting regional conflicts even at the height of the first Cold War spanning 45 years.
Ingrained in this strategic push-over of Russia are two grave consequences for the United States & West. The first that Russia would be pushed into a full strategic embrace by China much that Russia resents being viewed as a satellite of China.
Secondly, what may have ended up as two sets of different Cold Wars embroiling the United States by its adversaries now has ingrained in it the possible fusion of the two Cold Wars with China and Russia into one larger global Cold War between United States & West and the China-Russia Axis so emerging.
Two sets of geopolitical and strategic dangers hover on the horizon for the United States more pointedly. While Asian countries because of their fears of a militarily threatening China have recently pivoted towards the United States in the China-induced confrontation spanning the Indo Pacific, these very Asian nations would not line-up with the United States & West Cold War confrontation with Russia. Simply, for no other reason because Russia by itself does not figure in Asian threat perceptions.
The other danger for the United States is that West European countries lining up with the United States and in sympathy with Britain may have in solidarity expelled Russian diplomats but when it would amount to a full-blown Cold War confrontation with Russia, these very West European nations would chicken-out from a confrontation with Russia prompted by economic reasons and their dependence on Russian gas supplies.
With a Cold War against the United States generated by China since 2001 to which the United States was dismissive for most part of the decade and now shaken out of its reveries by China’s attaining full-spectrum dominance of the global commons in the South China Sea, the year2018 was an inopportune time for the United States to get embroiled in yet another different set of Cold War with Russia.
The United States & West perceptively appear to have been spoiling for a confrontation with Russia as the Russian provocation on British soil of a poisonous attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter was hardly the stimulus for the breakout of an all-out confrontation between United States & West.
US President Trump in his first year made wise moves to reset US relations with Russia but was ambushed by the Cold War gladiators on Capitol Hill who have not yet got over their earlier post-World War II Cold War animosities with Russia.
In this ongoing Cold War confrontation between United States & West and Russia the major question that begs an answer is that who would blink first to de-escalate the confrontation? The question brooks no easy conclusions keeping in mind that Russia in a resurgent mode is intent on carving its own spheres of influence and the United States& West trying to limit Russia within confined limits.
Overall, China is the biggest gainer and must be smiling all the way from Beijing to the Great Wall of China. At no geopolitical or strategic costs to China itself, China has gained on two counts. China gains an existential strategic weight of Russia on its side and which has the potential of the China-Russia quasi-strategic nexus turning into a full-fledged China-Russia Axis.
More importantly, China will be strategically comfited as the ongoing United States & West Cold War confrontation diverts global strategic attention away from the China Threat menacing Indo Pacific Asia.
In Conclusion, one would advise caution for the United States & West not pushing Russia into a geopolitical corner as a full-fledged Cold War by the United States & West with Russia carries more grave challenges for the United States having to contend with two simultaneous Cold Wars with powerful adversaries which it cannot afford. Strategic prudence would dictate to the United States to stop the ongoing escalation with Russia.