IS THE QUAD BECOMING A QUINT?
During the whole discussion over Brexit a few years ago, I offered the speculative prediction that if Great Britain were successful in leaving the clutches of the Brusselsprouts and their European (dis)Union, that one would see it turning to the British Commonwealth for new markets and security arrangements. According to this article shared by K.B., something like that may be in the works:
I've blogged before about "The Quad" and my version of it, which I've been calling "the Quadruple Entente." In the popular version, the "Quad" is an ad hoc group of nations - the USA, India, Japan, and Australia - that are banding together in the face of growing Chinese power and influence in east Asia and the western Pacific. The geopolitical and economic motivations for the emergence of such a group are fairly evident. My own version, the "Quadruple Entente", is a bit more subtle, and depends on one basic principle of analysis, namely, that while America's allies in the region may publicly proclaim solidarity with it and with its economic and geopolitical concerns in the region, privately they have come to the conclusion that the USA is an increasingly unstable and dubious ally, and that in the worst case scenario, they must prepare their own geopolitical and economic security arrangements. One development that led me to this conclusion was watching the moves of Japan under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government. Abe moved Japan towards a more vigorously defense posture, even pushing for an amendment to its postwar "pacifist" constitution and limitations on its defense budget. Additionally, Abe opened a round of negotiations with Vladimir Putin that, astonishingly, tabled discussion of the Kurile islands for trade deals with Russia. The geopolitical reasoning behind both nations' rapprochement were clear: Russia has energy resources "close to hand," and less readily interdictable by China, resources that don't have to "run the gauntlet" through the South China Sea. Japan, in turn, has the technological infrastructure and cash Russia needs to build out and improve its infrastructure in Siberia. One story that cemented this analysis in my mind was the little-noticed story that Japan, at the request of the Russians, had run some rolling stock over a section of the Trans-Siberian railway, a move I interpreted (and still do) as an exploration of what would be needed to upgrade that rail system to high speed rail and expanded freight service. Similarly, when the West threatened to remove Russia's access to its SWIFT financial clearing system, Japan offered its own credit card clearing system, in wide use in the Pacific, to Russia. Russia accepted.
What all this suggested to me at the time, and still suggests to me, is that Russia is the real hidden player in the "Quadruple Entente", not Australia. Notwithstanding their public face of cooperation, there are tensions between Russia and China (most of which, let it be noted, are caused by China, from espionage, to assertion of Chinese claims over Vladivostok, and so on). The tensions last year built to the point that not only did Mr. Putin increase the number of missile batteries in Siberia, but that it suspended sales of its S400 Missile system to China, while allowing the same system to be sold to India in the wake of the Indian-Chinese border clashes last year.
The bottom line here is that China wants to use its one belt one road system to dominate Eurasia, and Russia simply will not allow itself to be dominated by anyone, Swampington DC, or Beijing. Putting it country simple, the more China pushes, the more Russia will seek to increase its ties to the "Big Two" in the Quad: India, and Japan.
All of this brings us to the United Kingdom and the article. Note the following:
THE UK could join a historic bloc including four of the world's biggest economic powerhouses, with a new groundbreaking defence and foreign relations review is set to be published.
It will also suggest whom Britain should look to enhance economic development and world standing.
Whitehall officials told Express.co.uk the review would be a “major turning point” in UK relations.
But the review is expected to receive backlash as it urges the UK and Britain to snub traditional alliances with EU countries.
One of these options could be joining the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which includes Japan, the United States, India, and Australia, and was launched in 2007 as a defence forum
Australia and India are, of course, Commonwealth countries, so there are two basic ways to interpret Britain's move, and while there are many other ways to interpret this possibility, I want for "high octane speculation's" sake to focus on two that seem to emerge from the analytical context outlined above: (1) as a means of shutting Russia out of the quad, or (2) Britain's own private (but never publicly voiced) fears of the unreliability of the USA as an ally. The first response certainly would be in keeping with Britain's long geopolitical and adversarial relationship with Russia. Unfortunately, the bilateral diplomacy already conducted by the "big Two" - India and Japan - and Russia's long and friendly relations with India, not to mention the Indian military's reliance on Russian systems, means that this first alternative may run afoul of the realities on the ground, and come to failure. The second option is intriguing, because the current press in the USA to turn over control of the nuclear arsenal to a committee (of whom!?) is bound to unnerve not just potential enemies but allies as well.
So, crazy as it may sound, I suspect we may, in fact, be on the verge of a fundamental inflection point for British policy, one which allows one to make certain specific predictions if true, for if that prediction is true, then Britain will enter into similar types of negotiations on a bilateral basis with the other members of the Quad, not just Australia, not just India, but Japan. The rhetoric of "the special relationship" will, of course, remain. But it will come to sound increasingly hollow. Indeed, as the article itself points out, the United Kingdom has already inked a trade deal with Japan. The real tell will be bilateral security arrangements between Britain and those nations, similar to the one signed only last year between Japan and India...
And given Japan's and India's openness to Russia, don't be surprised if some of that even eventually bleeds through to Whitehall...
See you on the flip side...
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