Mosaic of the summer 2021 in great power relations
There have been interesting and revealing events and processes, regarding the great power relations, in this summer 2021. Some selected pieces here below.
Biden’s crusade in Europe, in June
I have analyzed this topic in my article on this website June 24, 2021. Biden’s trip to Europe can be seen partly as an anti-China crusade and partly a sales trip of “American democracy and idea of liberty” but so far with very minor results.
Dimitry K. Simes had a laudable article “Dangerous Illusions” in the National Interest, August 19, 2021. He stated that “after more than six months in office, the Biden administration seems inclined to adopt the utopian vision of democracy promotion as a guiding principle of US global strategy.” He continues by saying that the creation of an assertive alliance of democracies, by the US and EU, would push China and Russia even more close partners realizing that they must work together to oppose the danger of Western democratic hegemony.
It really seems that Biden, or the EU leaders, do not comprehend some simple behavioral facts in the international relations or the content of Realpolitik.
New policy makers in Israel and Iran, in June
A new era came in Israel, when Netanyahu’s long period of ascendancy ended in June 2021. The new power duo, Naftali Bennett and Jair Lapid, forms a new government, where Bennett will be the first-round prime minister. The composition of the government is such that no long-term endurance can be estimated to this cabinet.
Netanyahu held close contacts with Russian top leadership on a continuous base and Israeli and Russian military (in Syria) had very close and permanent coordination in order to avoid undesired accidents. Now, during last few weeks, Syrian air defense units, equipped with Russian-made Buk-M2 and Pantsir-S systems, have successfully intercepted nearly twenty missiles fired by Israeli fighter jets against the targets in Syria. Military analysts assume that partly this is due to better equipment of Syrian air defense (supplied by Russia) and partly it is due to political reasons. Some political fracture may have taken place between Israel and Russia.
Iran has got now the new and more conservative president, Ebrahim Raisi, which won presidential election in June 2021. He promised, in his inaugural speech, to advance the Iranian economy and military might. Iran’s position is slowly strengthening due to cooperation with China and likely memberships in SCO and EAEU. China sees Iran’s position as very important in its BRI project. Now, the US leaving Afghanistan in full disarray, will highly likely enhance the power position of China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan.
Putin and Ukraine in “historical context”, in July
President Vladimir Putin has a new historical focus. He analyzed and commented the historical ties between Russia and Ukraine, criticizing recent Ukrainian laws on indigenous peoples and the distribution of agricultural land. Putin decided to write this article, when Ukraine passed a law earlier this month about indigenous peoples of Ukraine, among which Russians were not included on the list.
Published on the Kremlin website, Putin lamented that Ukrainian policy-making has been dictated by nationalist extremists with aggressively Russophobic views. The law caused a storm of indignation in Russia. The country’s delegation submitted a protest with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Russian human rights ombudsman said the law violated the rights of Russian speakers and called on the United Nations and the Council of Europe to intervene. The Russian Orthodox Church also got involved, saying the law was “nonsense”.
President Zelensky and the other leadership of Ukraine, naturally, condemned Putin’s article and his statements, which only indicates the present thoroughgoing confrontation between two nations with long common history behind. I have analyzed the situation in my article “Ukraine, Again!” April 8, 2021 on this website.
Nord Stream 2 – still going strong, in August
After years of various US sanctions and other punitive measures in order to totally destroy the project, finally this “Fenix-bird” is approaching its final realization. The definite decision was made in Washington during Merkel’s farewell visit to Biden. The only discord, at the moment, may be Zelensky’s (president of Ukraine) loud protests.
Germany’s catastrophic energy supply security (nuclear and coal energy out, windmills and solar energy in, natural gas the only available secure alternative) will be so vulnerable in next ten years that total outages of electricity supply are highly likely, covering the continental Europe. “Green alternative” may turn into “Black alternative”.
Consequences of Afghan collapse in great power relations, in August
I have analyzed the Afghan situation in five articles on this website, now only short summary regarding major consequences in great power relations.
Growing number of Western analysts and experts share a view that soon in the post-US era, China is poised to swoop in and enlarge its cooperation with Afghanistan, subsequently filling the void left by the departing US and NATO forces. Russia will follow the suit fast. China’s BRI and Russia’s EAEU as well as regional security arrangements in the context of SCO will take place in the near future. A special “Afghan Eldorado” is waiting China in REE mining.
China has used this episode as a warning example to Taiwan against acting as the US puppets, calls Afghan pullout a “Lesson” for them. They should wake up to the reality that, if a war breaks out in the Strait – the island’s defense will collapse and the US military won’t come to help.
Similar message came from Russia to Ukraine. America’s hasty retreat from Afghanistan should be warning to Ukraine that it can’t count on Washington – Russian security chief Nikolai Patrushev stated, adding that Afghanistan had the status of a US ally, while not being part of NATO and the similar situation awaits supporters of the American choice in Ukraine.
Vice president Kamala Harris and the US administration has faced harsh criticism over her Asian tour, organized amid the problem-stricken US withdrawal from Afghanistan and chaos at the Kabul Airport, as well as the failure to evacuate all of the Afghans who helped NATO forces.
Harris has stressed that the US will continue to keep the Indo-Pacific region “free and open” during a visit to Singapore, however, adding that Washington is currently preoccupied with issues in Afghanistan. When the withdrawal finally ends, America will be shifting its focus on the Indo-Pacific region. US vice president promised that Washington will work closely with its local allies and partners in order to “uphold the rules based international order and freedom of navigation, including in the South China Sea”.
No doubt, the autumn 2021 will show more confrontation and more turbulence between China and the US in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.
The role of the EU in Afghanistan collapse has been so far almost nonexistent. Joseph Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, expressed his opinion to MEPs that the EU must take immediate steps in the country and not allow Russia and China to take control of the situation in Afghanistan and become the main players in Kabul.
Borrell added “Faced with the disturbing images of Taliban takeover, we Europeans and the international community have to ask ourselves what went wrong. What we cannot do is let the Chinese and Russians take control of the situation and be supporters of Kabul, and we become irrelevant.”
Borrell’s statement seems to be more a cry of alarm than any well-formulated action plan, unfortunately proving total disarray in the EU foreign and security policy.
Latest military-political events and processes in this summer 2021 indicate and confirm the positions of three present great powers – the US, China and Russia. At the same time, they confirm the naïveté of EU leadership and also some American and European academic researchers, who argue that realism is dead in the great power relations. This reminds me of early 2010s when the EU showed off “leading by values”.
EU’s anemic stance in the Afghan collapse indicates that “leading by values is leading by nonsense”, only military might matter.