Cold War Two has begun, with China, Russia, and Iran as the key players in the new “Axis of Evil” and the US, English-speaking nations, Europe, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and India the opposing Allies. The Axis has been emboldened by seeming dysfunction in the US and recent electoral setbacks to President Trump and his Republican allies, but passage yesterday of the House tax reform bill may mark a turnaround moment in the administration’s fortunes.
There’s no official announcement yet that Cold War Two (CW2) is underway, but the signs are clear. Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn said as much Nov. 14th in his keynote address to a security conference. But paleo-conservative and former presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan questions whether US leadership is necessary in the face of the Chinese threat, or up to the task.
China is rapidly becoming the leader of the Eurasian “heartland” trio, but spheres of conceded influence are already clear:
China — East and South Asia
Russia — Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean
Iran — the Mideast.
The Axis powers have their satellites or allies:
China — North Korea, Burma, Cambodia
Russia — Belarus and some of the Central Asian “stans.”
Iran — Lebanon, Iraq
The Russians and Iranians share condominium in Syria for now.
Turkey and Pakistan, especially the former, both lean toward the Axis camp but are not card-carrying members.
Let’s see how this has been playing out in recent events.
China’s close ally Cambodia has just outlawed the main opposition party, ending democracy in that country and aligning its polity with China’s authoritarian “one party only” system.
Chinese foreign policy strongly prefers to be surrounded by loyal one-party proxy states and is terrified of revolution. Cambodia has served in loyal subservience to China for many years, as has North Korea. It is therefore unlikely China will move in any decisive way against North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, despite the fact that in so abstaining from acting, China is creating a military alliance opposed to it, that otherwise would not have come into being.
“In a historic development, Russian President Vladimir Putin will be hosting his Turkish and Iranian counterparts – Recep Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani – at a trilateral summit on November 22 in Sochi,” Asia Times reports.
“Iran, Turkey have own plans for Iraq’s strategic Sinjar,” according to al-Monitor.
“Russia is stronger than Europe, US State Dept says in new ‘Russian aggression’ pitch,” the Russian government publication RT’s headline reads. “‘The threat to [the West’s] collective security posed by Russia is clear, and we on both sides of the Atlantic cannot ignore it,’ Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning and a senior adviser to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, said.”
Allies’ policy response
The Wall Street Journal writes that “An underreported theme of President Trump’s Asia tour was his attention to a regional flashpoint overshadowed by North Korea: the South China Sea….This presidential trip sent the welcome message that the U.S. has a vital national interest in keeping shipping lanes open and deterring Chinese territorial expansion.”
But Axios’ China expert Bill Bishop writes of “Trump’s Jekyll and Hyde approach to Asia“:
“President Trump’s trip to Asia displayed a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde approach to security and economics in the region. Militarily, he is reassuring allies to stand against China’s growing military might, but economically Trump is turning his back on broad trade pacts with those same allies.”
Indeed, on trade issues, the Progressive Daily Beast writes that “Donald Trump Is Quietly Building an Alliance With Liberals on Trade.”
President Trump has stated a number of times that he doesn’t think the World Trade Organization (WTO) is capable of handling China’s trade aggressions against the US. The pro-free-trade thinktank Cato disagrees:
“The key point here is that what China is doing is not some novel approach to industrial policy that no one has ever seen before. Rather, it is classic protectionism that WTO litigation has handled for years….Thus, governments who are concerned with China’s policies should try to work within the WTO system to address their complaints.”
Japan’s Prime Minister Abe has been playing a leading role in pulling together China’s threatened East Asian neighbors on trade, through his TPP-11 initiative; in supporting Trump’s Indo-Pacific and Quadrilateral Alliance; and domestically, within Japan itself, in mobilizing Japan to realize the grave security threats it now faces. These will require a strong defense response that breaks from Japan’s post-WWII pacifist traditions.
“King Salman of Saudi Arabia is planning to step down next week and name his son Prince Mohammed bin Salman as his successor,” the Daily Mail reports. The Prince is a key ally of President Trump in the effort to contain Iranian expansion in the Mideast. The US has been providing support for the Saudi effort to suppress the Iranian-backed Houthi insurgency in Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbor, Yemen, despite rising congressional opposition.
Gadi Eisenkot, head of the Israel Defense Force (IDF), has also offered intelligence support to the Saudis:
“’With President Donald Trump there is an opportunity for a new international coalition in the region. There should be a major regional plan to stop the Iranian threat,’ said Eisenkot.
“’We are ready to exchange experiences with moderate Arab countries and to exchange intelligence to confront Iran,’ he added. ‘There are many mutual interests.'”
hat tip: Nicomachus
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