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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Putin and Xi’s nutty world disorder

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin shake hands at their first meeting in Moscow in March 2013.
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin shake hands at their first meeting in Moscow in March 2013.
It’s probably fate that brought Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping to the pinnacles of power in the world’s two largest authoritarian regimes. And it’s probably delusional ambition that had pushed them to the throes of nuclear conflagration. And it is for these reasons that many countries – particularly those close by Russia and China — are distancing themselves from them lest they could be the next victims of these marauding superpowers.
What is ironic is that post-Soviet Russia and post-Mao China have gained their economic, political, and military power through their economic association with the world’s wealthiest developed nations, collectively known as the Group of Seven (G7).
G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June 2013. Vladimir Putin walks behind the original G7 members.
G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June 2013. Vladimir Putin walks behind the original G7 members.
Originally formed in 1975 as the Group of Six (G6) — United States, United Kingdom, France, West Germany, Italy, and Japan – it was expanded to G7 with the inclusion of Canada the following year. In 1998, Russia was included and the group came to be known as the Group of Eight (G8).
Interestingly, the European Union is also represented within the G8 but could not host or chair summit meetings. The G8’s heads of government meet once a year and their finance ministers meet four times a year.
Seven of the G8 leaders meet at The Hague on March 24, 2014 where they expelled Russia from the group.
Seven of the G8 leaders meet at The Hague on March 24, 2014 where they expelled Russia from the group.
The next meeting would have been held in Sochi, Russia in June 2014. However, due to Russia’s invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea, the G8 members sans Russia held an emergency meeting last March 24 at The Hague, Netherlands, to discuss the crisis in Crimea. The group then decided to expel Russia from G8; thus, once again the group is known as G7. Russia’s expulsion infuriated Putin.
Putin Doctrine
Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin
After Crimea was annexed, Putin’s move was to deploy tens of thousands of Russian troops to the border of Ukraine. He also deployed troops to the borders of the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) as well as Finland.
Putin had long dreamed of the grandeur of Mother Russia in the days of the czars. Since his ascendancy to power in 2000, Putin had over the years developed an agenda with the objective of recovering the political, economic, and geostrategic assets that the Soviet Union lost when it collapsed in 1991. He consistently pursued this goal, which had come to be known as the “Putin Doctrine.” As part of his agenda, he pursued the formation of a collective economic and political system known as the Eurasian Union (EAU), which would rival the European Union (EU).
NATO
NATO
But the problem with that is that most of the former communist East European states are now members of NATO, to wit: Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. In 2008, Ukraine and Georgia applied for membership in NATO, which was supported by the U.S. However, Germany, to placate Russia, blocked their entry insisting that Ukraine and Georgia should go through a Membership Action Plan. They were then promised that they would be accepted at a latter date, which never came. Had NATO accepted them, NATO would have been obligated to defend Crimea.
Meanwhile, the neutral Nordic states, Sweden and Finland, have become fearful of Russian invasion and occupation. Swedish Prime Minister Jan Björklund and Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen reopened the debate about joining NATO. Since they are members of EU, their entry to NATO would definitely be welcomed.
The Baltic and Nordic states are crucial to NATO’s geostrategic advantage over Russia. Russia maintains two naval bases in the Baltic Sea. One is in St. Petersburg in the Gulf of Finland, which flows into the Baltic Sea. The other is in Kaliningrad in the Baltic Sea sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland with no land connection to the rest of Russia. If Sweden and Finland joined NATO, NATO would have total control of the Baltic Sea including the Gulf of Finland, which would render Russia’s Baltic Fleet virtually useless if hostilities broke out between Russia and NATO.
China Dream
Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping
Meanwhile, Putin’s new best friend, Xi Jinping, is busy plotting his next move to fulfill his dream of restoring the glory of imperial China. To achieve his “China Dream,” China must extend undisputed sovereignty over the East and South China Seas and achieve total control of the First Island Chain, a line that extends from Japan through Taiwan, Philippines, Borneo, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Incidentally, the nine-dash line, which is the basis of China’s claim of 90% of the South China Sea, runs parallel to the First Island Chain. But that is easier said than done. If China attempts to grab the contested Senkaku Islands from Japan and the Kalayaan Islands from the Philippines, she risks the military intervention of the U.S. who is treaty-bound to defend Japan or the Philippines in the event of Chinese invasion into their territories.
First and Second Island Chains
First and Second Island Chains
During the past two years, the U.S. has been reinforcing military alliances with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Singapore, Australia, and Thailand. She is also strengthening her relationships with Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and India. America’s strategy known as “Pivot to Asia” is a plan to deploy 60% of U.S. naval and air force assets to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020.
The U.S. and the Philippines are now in the final stage of working out an agreement to increase the “rotational” presence of U.S. forces on Philippine territory. The signing of the agreement is expected to occur during President Barack Obama’s visit to the Philippines on April 27 and 28. His trip is part of a four-country itinerary where he will also have bilateral talks with Japanese, South Korean, and Malaysian leaders.
Senkaku Islands
Senkaku Islands
Recently, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida briefed Japanese lawmakers that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could make exceptions of Japan’s policy against processing, producing or allowing nuclear weapons with her borders. The question is: does that mean that Japan would allow the U.S. to bring nuclear weapons into Japanese territory in the event of a serious threat to her security? With Japan being the only country that had been bombed with nuclear weapons in the history of warfare, she would be remiss if she allowed nuclear threats from North Korea or China without the capability to strike back in kind.
And this brings to mind, what’s this world coming to? It would seem that what we’re looking at is Putin’s Doctrine and Xi’s China Dream knotted into a nutty world disorder.
(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

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