THE QUADRUPLE ENTENTE: REVISION AND EXTENSION OF REMARKSJuly 9, 2020
Last week, you'll recall, I blogged about what I am calling the "Quadruple Entente," a geopolitical realignment that I believe is emerging in response to Communist China's increasing threats and aggressiveness. To me, the parallels now with the period immediately prior to World War One are there for all to see: Mr. Xi, like Kaiser Wilhelm II, has proven to be an erratic leader, lashing out, rattling his saber, issuing threats to other world powers, and, through a skillful incompetence in the wielding of these blunt instruments, has managed to box China in with something between an alliance and a network; he has managed through bungling mixed in with a grand dollop of the dishonesty, ham-fistedness, and corruption that accompanies all socialist and communist regimes, to have his country surrounded by world powers that have had enough; India, Japan, and the USA, not to mention the regional powers being threatened by China (oftentimes through outright border intrusions or interference with shipping or fishing): Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, you name them, there's not a single country bordering that regime that has not been threatened, as recent Indian television broadcasts have made clear. I call this emerging geopolitical situation the "Quadruple Entente," an entente because it is an understanding of the major powers in the area - the USA, India, Japan, and Russia, not to mention the smaller powers - that China is the problem.
Some people took issue with my inclusion of Russia into that mix, arguing rather that economic circumstances - the West's economic sanctions and so on - have forced Russia to hitch its car to the Chinese locomotive. Citing various other things, they have argued that Australia, rather than Russia, is the other major player in that "Quadruple Entente." There's much to be said in favor of that point of view. Australia, like Japan, has been quietly considering the development of its own strategic preemptive strike capability. That could be more easily developed than one might first think, for in the wake of BREXIT, I argued that one would see the United Kingdom - a thermonuclear power, let us not forget - attempt to revivify the Commonwealth and cement ties with its two biggest members, Canada, and Australia. Recently the UK reached out to the Australian space ministry, and is seeking to ink deals with that country on space matters, which could easily morph into deals of a more military nature. Similarly, China's bluster could force other regional powers to overcome their colonial memories - Indonesia and Vietnam for example - to reach out and revivify their historical ties to Europe. The motivations here could be very similar to the reasons Australia and Japan are considering the development of their own deterrence capabilities: the long-term untrustworthiness of the USA as an ally, coupled with their likely observations that the domestic situation in the USA is not going to be resolved with the next cycle of elections.
So, that is a way of saying "I take your point" to those arguing that Australia is the real fourth member of the Quadruple Entente.
That said, I'm sticking with my idea that Russia has more to lose, and much to gain, by a reconsideration of its posture toward the west, and vice versa; the West now has ample reason to reconsider its attitude to Russia. Think about it: in the 1970s, Richard Nixon played the "China card" against the Soviet Union, then at the height of its power. Perhaps it is time to play the Russia card against China. Doing so would also have beneficial spill-over effects with other American allies, Germany and Japan in particular. As I've noted in past years, German businessmen have been seeking some way around the sanctions regime, since Russia represents a good market for Germany. Similarly, Japan could supply the capital and technology to Russia that Russia needs to build out its infrastructure in Siberia. Indeed, I strongly suspect that the pressures in evidence now will lead to precisely such a "change of attitude." Let us also recall that Mr. Trump, prior to his election, also voiced concerns that we needed to reevaluate our attitude to Russia. Should he be re-elected, such things might become more possible. Should he not be, then Japan and Australia will inevitably have to develop their capabilities.
All this brings me back to Russia, and why I think Russia is the real de facto fourth member of that Quadruple Entente, if not now, then it may soon be. China, as I noted in my original blog on this subject, is, like Germany in the first half of the 20th century, a "revisionist" power, i.e., it seeks to rebalance the world's geopolitical situation in its favor by challenges to the premier power and its allies: Great Britain then, and the USA now. In both cases, Russia was the "unexpected ally," since both British and American geopolitics have been obsessed since the 19th century to keep Russia hemmed in... that is, until another much more immediate threat emerged: Germany then, China now.
In this respect, Russia, like Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, India, Khazakstan and so on, has also felt the wrath of Chinese expansionist claims, which now, absurdly, have reached out to claim Vladivostok, Russia's major naval base in the Pacific!:
It's important to grasp China's "revisionist logic" here:
Chinese internet users, including diplomats and officials, claim that Vladivostok used to be a part of China. They claim it was Qing’s Manchurian homeland but was annexed by the Russian empire in 1860 after China was defeated by the British and the French during the Second Opium war.
Shen Shiweim, a journalist at the Chinese State-run broadcaster, China Global Television Network (CGTN) tweeted, “This “tweet” of #Russian embassy to #China isn’t so welcome on Weibo. The history of Vladivostok (literally ‘Ruler of the East’) is from 1860 when Russia built a military harbor. But the city was Haishenwai as Chinese land, before Russia annexed it via unequal Treaty of Beijing.”
The "logic" here ignores the old legal maxim, "possession in 9/10s of the law," and more resembles the Nazi Ahnenerbe idea that wherever there was evidence of an "Aryan" settlement in history(which surprise surprise, turned out to be pretty much everywhere in Europe, and a great deal elsewhere besides), the Third Reich therefore had a claim to reincorporate it into the Reich! The problem of course is that China has applied this elsewhere in its territorial claims; it's not a one off:
But China’s claims over Russia’s Vladivostok are not limited to the state-owned media. Even Chinese diplomats have jumped in. Zhang Heqing, a wolf-warrior from China currently stationed at the country’s Mission in Pakistan said, “Isn’t this what in the past was our Haishenwai?”
Meanwhile, the CCP IT cell too has gone berserk. A Weibo user wrote, “Today we can only endure, but the Chinese people will remember, and one generation after another will continue to remember!” SCMP quotes another user as saying, “We must believe that this ancestral land will return home in the future!”
It is outrageous how an expansionist China is making claims based on what happened in the middle of nineteenth century. No one ratchets irredentism as fondly as Beijing.
If Beijing keeps going ahead with this logic, it will claim the territory of every other neighbour. China has border disputes with 18 countries, including Brunei, Tajikistan, India, North Korea, Nepal, Bhutan, Malaysia, Mongolia, South Korea and the Philippines. It claims territories based on historical precedent dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries.
However, that's not all. This article contains a juicy little detail towards the end that, indeed, makes me think that Russia is quickly emerging as the quiet "fourth member" of that Quadruple Entente:
What this really does is bring an end to the ostensible show of Russia-China camaraderie that was playing out over the past few months. We always knew that Russia doesn’t want to be friends with China, and is forced to maintain seemingly close ties with Beijing only because it has been sanctioned heavily by the West and its top companies pushed out of the dollar-based financial system.
Moreover, Moscow is apprehensive of Chinese investments in the Russian Far-East. This sparsely populated Russian territory boasts of abundant natural resources, and traditionally looks at it as vulnerable to Chinese influence or even colonialization.
China has been eager to invest here in a bid to gain influence but Russia wants to counter this dependence on China that was also writing on the wall with India’s US $1 billion line of credit to Russia for development of the Far East region. (Emphases added)
Notice the implication: the West may have sanctions on Russia, but it doesn't on India, and can ill afford to allow India to succumb to China. India thus becomes the way around those sanctions, and in the long-term, could become the "go-between" for that re-evaluation of attitudes... Imagine if Mr. Modi decides to host the leaders of Japan, Russia, the USA, and Australia...
... in other words, prepare for things to get very, very interesting, with, or without, the USA...
See you on the flip side...