Augusto Manzanal Ciancaglini
China today has the lowest growth rate of the last decades and its economic voracity, with the predatory indebtedness that it generates, suffers the commercial war with the United States. At the same time, it still lacks, due to prudence and lack of strength, a platform of military bases abroad to develop a full hegemony through the String of Pearls.
The expansion of China suffers significant obstacles: the maritime power of the omnipresent US Armed Forces and the surrounding historical rivals or those with control of the bottlenecks; starting with Japan, which is shaping its rearmament plan valued at 242,000 million dollars over the next 5 years, passing through South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam or India, a key actor for the flow through the Straits of Malacca of the resources needed by China.
With its stagnant economy, Russia’s methods and purposes are more convoluted: in its area of direct influence it squeezes its neighbors through dependence or sponsorship of unrecognized states such as Abkhazia.
As for the West, with the Gerasimov doctrine, Russia increasingly uses hybrid methods to achieve its objectives. The confusion has been shown to be an effective weapon and expels a kind of Northern Sentinel Island syndrome, in reference to its inhabitants, who immediately kill the strangers.
On the other hand, Moscow often shows a certain pragmatism in its foreign policy: the recent and surprisingly effusive greeting of Putin to Prince Mohamed bin Salman in last G-20 summit portends Saudi Arabia can become part of that strange geopolitical glue secreted by the Kremlin to prevail.
At the same time, US fracking pushes Riyadh to a closer cooperation with Russia in managing the price of crude oil. And the CIA has made public the support of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Al Qaeda for the past 15 years, which has served as an excuse to keep the pulse with Tehran. The entry into force of the new sanctions has caused the Persian shutter to fall again.
For all this, the partnership between Washington and Riyadh is still valid. It is true that it has always been controversial and now, with the famous assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, it would seem even more execrable. However, this growing focus on Saudi actions forces us to find some justifications for mitigating the scarcely credible image projected by the alliance between the oldest democracy in the world and one of the few absolute monarchies of today.
Along with the timid reforms that Prince Salmán has undertaken, there is another moderately useful excuse: Saudi Arabia, a bastion of Sunni and Wahhabism, directly and indirectly, has financed extremists all over the world. However, although the effects are similar, there is an important difference with its main enemy: the supreme command of Iran is in the hands of the Ayatollah’s Shia clergy, while the Saudi royal family is above the religious, which has been seen clearly in the recent purges.
A thalassocracy like the United States is obliged to navigate between theocracies and dictatorships to deploy and maintain the divide et impera between friends and enemies, ostensible or symbolic. A Europe that is hungry for gas has a positive identification in this game.
Despite the rhetoric, little has changed in the direction of the Pentagon in the Trump era; deployments of troops in Europe have increased. However, with the constant swap of faces in the White House, it is difficult to predict the next moves: the resignation of the Secretary of Defense and the verbalization of a withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan once again shake the checks and balances.
However, beyond the current government and its tendency to retreat, the Pax Americana does not gravitate on a purely economic power or an opaque disintegrating influence. The impossibility of a balanced multipolar world lies in the multiform character of the supremacy of the United States, the exclusive capacity that makes it the sole superpower.
40 years after the reforms of Deng Xiaoping and the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen repression, China should deepen, beyond the material, other aspects of its openness. Similarly, Russia, almost 30 years after the start of the Soviet collapse, will have to reconfigure its proposal to try to pass from a sharp power to a more constructive one.
Meanwhile, 50 years after the inauguration of Richard Nixon as President, the United States, in addition to try to mitigate the traditional isolationism of part of its population today embodied in its profane president, has the obligation to sell better some alliances and remember the most important. Here is Europe, which, with the Treaty of Lisbon turning a decade old, is going through a key moment to see if it is closer to sinking in the Channel or returning to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
16/01/2019. @ All rights reserved