Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dmitri Trenin — Russia's Great-Power Problem

Emotionally, the centerpiece of Putin’s intervention was the lack of respect in the West for Russia and its interests: a recurrent theme with him for the better half of the decade. Essentially, he told the international audience of scholars and journalists: when Russia called itself the Soviet Union, was arming itself to the teeth with nuclear weapons and had leaders like Nikita Khrushchev, who famously banged his shoe at the UN General Assembly and came close to banging the United States with nuclear-tipped missiles, Moscow was respected, and its interests taken into account—if anything, out of fear. Now that Russia has shed communism, gotten off the backs of a dozen satellites, allowed its own fourteen borderlands to form independent states; embraced capitalism and begun moving toward democracy, its interests are being wholly ignored.

This diagnosis is generally correct, but the analysis needs to go deeper. Putin, a self-avowed student of history and a champion of the Westphalian tradition in international relations, certainly understands that the balance of interests—a phrase he should not have borrowed from Mikhail Gorbachev—rests on the balance of power or equivalent. This, by the way, is well understood in Beijing, where I heard—also last week—that the talk of multipolarity is just talk, for the lack, now or in the foreseeable future, of multiple poles. In reality, the world was moving toward new bipolarity, this time between the United States and China, with all other countries aligning themselves with either of the two poles. Thus, Europe and Japan would side with the United States; and Russia would go to China.
The way the Chinese see it, Russia is not an all-round “major power.” It has territory, resources and a sizable nuclear arsenal, for all that is worth today, but it lacks real economic strength. Unless it deals with this massive deficiency, Russia will not be able to play in the global top league. And, given the present circumstances, it will have nowhere to go other than to China. Exit Greater Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok; enter Greater Asia from Shanghai to St. Petersburg.
The geopolitical and geostrategic question now is whether Russia will align with the West under the US as the pole or with the East under China as the pole. Previous to the Ukraine crisis, Russia was leaning strongly westward. Now the push is toward the East.

The working out of this is crucial to the geopolitics of the 21st century, in which the US and Europe's economic dominance is beginning to be offset by the emerging nations, where development is now strongly outpacing that of the West as the Global South plays catch up with the Global North, leapfrogging on technology. The US is already trying to restrain the growing power of the BRICS alliance by undercutting the proposed BRICS bank as an alternative to Western dominated international organizations, in particular the IMF and World Bank.

The National Interest
Russia's Great-Power Problem
Dmitri Trenin | Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good liberal Russian propaganda. All good useful idiots will believe it. See the Saker's latest article for a little dash of cold water.