Monday, September 15, 2008

Thank You, Russia

I hope I don't spoil things by thanking Russia for attacking Georgia. Oh, I'm sorry that Georgians suffered. But in the bigger scheme of things, Russia is making the world a better place for us.

And I'm not talking about the reaction of Russia's so-called Near Abroad that has become alarmed at Russia's assertiveness and is reaching to the West for protection. That's all good, but the really important impact is on China.

Consider what Strategypage has reported:

The Russian invasion of Georgia last month made the Central Asian members (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), nervous. It reminded them that they are at the mercy of the Russians, and now the Russians have demonstrated a willingness and ability to revive their ancient imperialist attitudes. China, however, has been reassuring the Central Asian states that they can look east for protection from Russian aggression. This adds to the tensions between Russia and China. ...

The Central Asian nations refused to condemn Georgia, as Russia urged them to, because these nations are wary of Russian intentions. The Central Asian countries have Russian minorities (left over from the Soviet Union period) that are not treated well. There are also other minorities from neighboring countries (Russian conquerors drew the current borders in the 19th century, with a few 20th century tweaks by communist officials.) Russia has recently stated that it would defend Russians, and Russian business interests, wherever they are.

So China is being sucked into Central Asia in competition with Russia.

This is good. The Great Game is on, and we must encourage more shoveling the snow north:

The Russians are already playing the game and have been successful in keeping China pointed towards Taiwan and therefore America, Taiwan's ally. As a reader noted, the Russians did this once already in Operation Snow, which succeeded in getting Japan to go south in World War II instead of north into the interior of Asia where the Soviet Union was.

We have reacted by trying to arm Taiwan with better weapons and to whip the Taiwanese military into shape to actually fight off an invasion. We've pulled Japan into the arena with a commitment to defend Taiwan and we are making a major play toward incorporating India into our alliance system. We have Australia on board and our forces are based in Central Asia. While all this looks good for building an alliance to fight and defeat China, this is not playing the Great Game. This is making the best of a worst case scenario--war with China. Sure, if we must fight I'd rather win, but just going to war is going to cost us in lives and money.

One can say that we hope that by becoming strong enough we deter the Chinese but this is still only second best. A deterred China will always be on the verge of attacking, just waiting for the moment when we cannot stop them for one reason or another and so cannot deter them for even a short window of opportunity.

No, defeating China makes the best of the worst case and deterring China makes the best of the second worst case. We need to shovel the Snow back north. We need to play the Great Game in Asia to achieve our best case--a China pointed away from the south--Taiwan and the United States and our other allies--and pointed toward the north and the interior of Asia.

Split China's strategic focus and they will fail to dominate the continent or the Pacific even if they rise in power to rival us. More and more, this problem may plague Chinese strategy:

China is splitting its resources between efforts to secure sea imports and land imports for their energy needs. They will end up having insufficient resources to protect both sources.

So we may gain an advantage over China as they react to Russia's invasion of Georgia by being pulled into Central Asia to bolster ex-Soviet republics that don't want to endure the Georgia treatment.

Heck, if the Chinese start to threaten closer Russian interests and not just the distant Far East, Russia itself might come to its senses and join the West out of self preservation.

I'm beginning to think Putin isn't ex-KGB as much as he's a CIA agent, bending Russian actions to benefit America. Surely Putin couldn't be as clueless as this makes him seem, right?